Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Guest Blogger - Three Weeks in edmodo

When Richard sent out a tweet asking for guest bloggers, my initial thought was 'what an opportunity, what a great idea!' Now that it's Wednesday, I'm thinking 'what have I got myself into?' So, thank you Richard for your trust in having me as a guest blogger. My name is Colin Becker and I'm an ICT Co-ordinator in the K-7 section of an Independant boys school in Adelaide, Australia. My own blog We Can Work It Out is here.

Two weeks ago I wrote about my experience as a new edmodo user in this blog post. For those of you who have not seen edmodo, it is a little like Twitter, a little like Facebook and a little like a learning management system. It is quite difficult to describe it and I'm still confident that it does a whole lot more than what I'm doing with it.

This is my third week of using edmodo with my Yr 7 Maths Class.
Not having used edmodo before, I also have been using a maths blog to organise and set tasks for the students. It may well be, that edmodo could allow for both - anyone know?

Each day I write a post on the main page of the maths blog describing briefly what the tasks for the lesson will be, and include things to do with edmodo - I think this will end up as a useful and accurate account of my program. We are currently doing a unit on 'whole numbers' and all the main learning points are covered on a page of the blog called 'Unit 1'. This is where I summarise the main learning points, include links to my teaching videos that support new skills and processes, and set tasks from the text book. There is also a secure page that has a pdf copy of the text, so that students can have access without carrying the book home.

'The good': I'm fortunate this year that I have access for my maths classes to a room that allows one-to-one computing. The boys love the idea of coming in, logging on and starting straight away. The few times when the boys have beaten me to class, I have been pleasantly surprised to see them on task - this would not have been the case last year!
They love the messaging side of edmodo and I've heard comments like 'it's just like facebook'.
Each day, (while they are still getting used to using edmodo), I have asked them to use it to send me a message of how far they have got with their homework questions. Those that do, recieve 2 maths bonus points (it's a reward, not a bribe).

I have also been encouraging boys to use it to ask for help, and I have had a handful ask me questions via edmodo. This is definitely one of the pluses as when a message is sent to me, no other boy can see it. So, it allows them to ask questions that they may not be brave enought to ask in class.
I have used the 'assignment' part of edmodo twice. This is where the teacher can attach an assignment and set a hand-in date. Students download the file, complete the answers and save it and then they hand it in via edmodo. The teacher then marks it and gives a mark, all via edmodo.

'The could be better': After three weeks, there are still a small handful of boys who gain great pleasure by posting innane messages. I tend to delete the worst of them.
I find the navigation through the messages a little clunky. It can take a while to sift through 22 messages, particularly if you are responding to each one. I think this could be organised better. I'd like to be able to put them into bundles.
The assigmnet part has not had a high turn-in rate. Both times, 2 out of 22 used edmodo to hand it in. This is partly because the technology is new to them and partly because I haven't made the assignments compulsory - they have been set as bonus tasks.
I have also been surpised with the 6-8 boys who continually seem to ask 'what are we supposed to be doing?' This is not related to edmodo or the blog, but to the students themselves. I mean, it's written on the blog! They can read. They have the internet at home. They have it in class. How do they get on in classes without technology? Frustrating!

At three weeks, I'm still learning and discovering what can be done with edmodo. I am really enjoying being able to use technology for my class. I am lucky to have access to one-to-one computing, to an IWB and to the internet with flexible filtering. I will definitely be continuing this journey and developing both the blog and edmodo further.

Parent Engagement in the 21st Century Guest Blogger Lorna Costantini

I want to thank Richard for his invitation to share some ideas about parent engagement and how to use technology to connect parents to the classroom and support student learning. I am the facilitator for Parent Reaching Out project for the Niagara Catholic District School Board in Welland, Ontario, Canada.

I am also the moderator for the Parents as Partners web cast at and recently joined the “Live” conversations at Classroom 2.0 as a co-host so I am totally immersed in using Web 2.0 tools. I have shared some of my thoughts and experiences in these two blogs at and

Over the past three years, I have been working with parents and schools in a project focused on increasing parent engagement. In the first phase of the project, a video was produced to capture what we saw as a reality. All too often the relationships between teachers and parents are broken. Take a look at the seven minute video. It might be a familiar picture. We are in the third year of the pilot program and at this stage I will be working with teachers to help them build technology into a program developed by the National Network of Partnership Schools called Teachers Involving Parents in School Work.

There has been tremendous discussion about how parents’ negative reactions interfere with the use of tools such as classroom blogs, podcasts and the like. The lack of accurate information fueled by negative media coverage has made all to many administrators hesitant to embrace the read and write era for fear of the repercussions from parents. While many, many good teachers are working to prepare their students for the 21st century, I believe that there is an opportunity that should not be ignored.

The TIPS program offers a vehicle to create experiences that directly involve parents in schoolwork. Parents become active participants in schoolwork that reinforces learning without expecting parents to be teachers. Parents do care about their child’s learning but most just do not know how or what is expected. The task – challenge, if you will - is to use podcasts, classroom blogs etc. to enhance this program. I know that this blog has a great following of excellent educators and I am hoping that you might just take up the torch.

As part of this challenge, Parents as Partners will be hosting an Elluminate session Monday February 23, 2009 at 8:00 PM EST (GMT-5). “Connecting with parents using Facebook – what it means to be a digital parent.” You can find all the details to participate in this post.

Please join us and share your experiences supporting students and parents in the 21st century.
image by Karl Herman on Flickr