Edmodo and custom RSS feeds from Pinterest and Pocket

(This is a cross-post. Original blog URL is http://familysimpson.postach.io/post/edmodo-and-custom-rss-feeds-from-pinterest-and-pocket)

 

In just over a month I will be running a workshop at the CAS Scotland conference about using Edmodo to help deliver CPD to staff. One of the first things I want to cover is custom RSS feeds which can populate an Edmodo group or small group.

It is easy enough to set up Edmodo to receive posts from an RSS feed. Once you have decided which group to populate simply click on the cogwheel next to the group name and select “Subscribe to RSS feed”. Paste in the RSS feed URL then click Subscribe to add as many feeds as you want to that group.

This has worked really well in the past with student groups when we have added a BBC news feed, but, at times, I felt that some of the stories have been ill suited to the class or current topic. I began to investigate different services that would allow me to quickly populate an Edmodo group with links, videos or stories relevant to the student or teacher.

Please remember that pasting a new feed into Edmodo will not work instantly. It takes about an hour for feeds to begin to appear in the timeline.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a wonderful visual catalogue of resources and can be used to populate an Edmodo group. First find or create a board containing links you want to share with your class. Then open a new tab or webpage which only shows that board. If you change the URL a little you will see the RSS feed.

The advantage of Pinterest is that you can create as many different boards as you need and have different RSS feeds populating different Edmodo groups. This is great for student differentiation, but also for subject specific information fed into staff Edmodo groups.

(with thanks to http://blog.dlvr.it/2013/06/how-to-find-your-pinterest-rss-feeds/)

Pocket

Pocket is an invaluable service which allows you to quickly add content you want to read at a later time to a list. Articles can usually be accessed offline, tagged and archived. At the moment, Pocket is my CPD reading list and is linked through IFTTT to Wunderlist (which reminds me that I have specific articles to read at some point and tracks my reflections after reading).

The default setting for Pocket is to password protect your articles and archived lists, but this can easily be turned off. Once this is done you can get the RSS feed in the following way:

Right-clicking on the three links Unread List, Archive and All and selecting Copy Shortcut will give you the URL for those RSS feeds. You can then paste them into Edmodo as before.

This is limited to one feed, but offers speed over Pinterest as you can email articles into Pocket.

Edmodo

Of course, in some cases it isn’t necessary to go to the trouble of creating a workflow. Edmodo allows you to post links directly to a group and, if you only intend to post a few, this might be the most efficient option. An added bonus is that posts can be scheduled for later so you can make sure the links arrive at the right time in the course.

Can two VLEs work together?

I’ve just updated a short VLE comparison document I created in March last year. Since then my school has moved forward with a locally hosted Sharepoint 2010 installation which, in the next few weeks, will become available to staff to allow them to populate department and extra-curricular group sites, create blogs and wikis using the built-in templates and begin to explore what opportunities Sharepoint provide to enhance learning and teaching across our junior and senior school. The Sharepoint solution also aims to improve or simplify the work processes of administrative staff but, as these features are outwith the scope of a traditional VLE , I haven’t included them in the document (or the remainder of this blog post!)

 

I’ve now used Edmodo for over eighteen months and, more recently, have been involved in training staff at my school in how to get started with the site. Usually I don’t have to follow up because it has proved to be a really easy system to learn and I’m happy to say that a number of my colleagues are now more adept at utilising Edmodo for their courses than I am! I’m looking forward to learning from them in the coming months as I plan how I intend to use Edmodo next session.

 

My worry was that when the Sharepoint installation went live we would be prevented from using Edmodo, much along the lines of some local authorities banning services which reduced teacher use of Glow. However it looks as if both services can sit nicely together – Sharepoint providing version-controlled lesson resources and a fixed entry point for each of the student’s courses and clubs, Edmodo allowing device agnostic discussion, flexible student assessment options and an achievement system that allows awarding of badges for … well, any behaviour or accomplishment the teacher wants to award a student for! I’m now looking forward to seeing how both VLEs can work together to allow student access to resources outside of the classroom, improve staff-staff, staff-student, and staff-parent communication, provide useful feedback on work submitted and enhance learning and teaching in all subject areas.

 

I’ve included my updated document below, just in case it is useful. Please feel free to post a comment if you think there is anything I have missed or misrepresented.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/135882407/VLE-Evaluation-Ian-Simpson-April-2013

Using an iPad and Pages app to improve student attainment #RGCdevicetrial

Recently my Higher pupils sat their Computing prelim. In previous years I have gone through the marking scheme question by question, describing the ‘best answer’ where possible and highlighting which my students answered a particular question well. Unfortunately their peers rarely see these answers, so have to rely on what I say or put on the board.

This year as I marked the prelim I created a spreadsheet showing how many marks each candidate gained for each question (using the CloudOn service for iPad). I do this to help me highlight areas of development when discussing prelim performance with individual students, but this year used it to help create a document the whole class could use:

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Part of the document, shared with students via our Edmodo group

The document replaced the marking scheme and allowed them to see the ‘best answer’ as written by their peers. There was one occasion where no student managed to achieve full marks for a particular question so I selected the best answer from the class and added some suggestions for improvement.

It was very easy to create using the Pages app for iPad and, although a little time-consuming on my part, took as long as going through that section of the prelim with the class. The advantage here is that I know all pupils have a permanent and consistent revision aid and I can use it when working with individual pupils on their areas of development. I also hope to use it next year to prepare students for their prelims by getting them to assess other student answers.

I entered the questions into the Pages app first, then used my spreadsheet to identify which student answer to add into the document. Taking photographs of their written answer using the iPad rear camera was so simple thanks to the ‘tap to focus’ feature and I was then able to crop the image quickly in Pages. The document auto-saves, which was very useful later in the process as the iPad ran out of memory a few times and crashed the Pages app. It caused a nervous moment the first time it happened but, once I was confident no information had been lost from my document, I put up with the inconvenience until all questions were associated with an image of a pupil answer.

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Exporting the document from Pages as a PDF file was a straight-forward process, however the file size was a whopping 40MB! The file can be sent to a variety of apps as a Pages file, PDF or Word document. Uploading that size of document from a home Internet connection takes a long time, especially galling when I compressed the file on a desktop PC to 1.4MB using Adobe Acrobat. If anyone has worked out how to compress PDF files on the iPad I’d love to hear from you.

Once complete I shared the document with the class via Edmodo. I immediately made use of it by setting homework with similar questions. The average score in that homework was over 30% higher than their prelim score. In a few cases it was over 50% up! Obviously you have to take into account the fact they had access to their textbooks and the Internet while completing the homework task, but I feel that this type of document has definite value in improving student attainment.

Opportunities for ICT for learning, video tutorials and RSS feeds in Edmodo

It’s been a busy month. The new role is bringing great opportunities for collaboration, communication and consumption of caffeine! However I’ve been neglecting my blog a bit – ok a lot – and felt that tonight was as good a night as any to post an update!

 

Today was a successful day for sharing the opportunities Edmodo offers both individual teachers and departments. I was lucky enough to be invited to spend time with colleagues from the drama department and offer input on how they could make more effective use of ICT in their learning and teaching. It was an interesting scenario: 1 teacher PC and a course that could make great use of multimedia to enhance an individual’s learning experience. A network folder for pupils seemed a daft idea as students could not access it at the point of learning and would have to find a computer during break or lunch to copy files to a USB drive if they wanted to revise lessons at home. Edmodo offered access to pupils via their smartphone, unlimited storage space for files, anywhere access and a means of communication with their subject teacher and classmates. Flipped classroom possibilities were also discussed and I’m really excited to see what the drama department can do with its features.

 

At the end of the day I also ran a short 1:1 training session in setting up and using Edmodo and discussions during the training spurred me on to create a series of short videos. I use AVS4U to record and edit these videos and, so far, have found this package £43 extremely well spent! There are a great number of tutorial videos available on YouTube if you want to see what you can do before splashing the cash.

 

The video below quickly shows how to set up an RSS feed in an Edmodo group. Hopefully it is clear enough to understand although I think on reflection that I’ll up the screen capture quality to allow me to use the Ken Burns effect to pick out detailed parts of the user interface. Comments are welcome, by the way!

 

The weekend is going to be busy. I want to make a weekly video for my Higher Computing class to experiment flipping their classroom and focussing on improving their application of knowledge rather than the lecture-style delivery.

Higher Computing, Programming and Edmodo Badges

40 days since the start of term and my Higher Computing class are now comfortable using Edmodo. We have explored notification options and most of my students seem very quick to check the site when replies and new posts appear. I was online this evening and noticed that a few of the students had logged on as well. (I wonder if it was to see if anything new had been posted or to recap previous posts and resources? I’d love Edmodo to introduce a feature that showed a student’s active time on the site). I realised that I could quickly provide them with a pre-lesson task as well as explain what is to be covered in the coming week and posted the following:

 

 

The new scheduling feature in Edmodo is excellent. I’ve lined up my resources to appear tomorrow morning just before class begins so I know any response to the above is a result of the student’s own work or Internet research. For example, this was posted soon after:

 

 

 

This isn’t quite right but gave me the opportunity to intervene before the lesson tomorrow with a quick reply:

 

 

 

 

 

I would have loved more responses this evening but I have to admit it was a little late when I posted the message. I intend to try this again, but set up the message to appear on Friday afternoon to maximise the opportunity for all students to contribute.

And win those badges of course.

Digging deeper with Edmodo

I learned a lot about Edmodo today. I used it and talked to other teachers about it a lot too.

In fact, in the past week I think I’ve taught more classes through Edmodo than in the whole of last term!

My learners have, on the whole, been fantastic adopters of the new system. My Higher Computing students have curated information sheets on flow charts, pseudocode and structure diagrams and risen to the challenge of completing homework quizzes through Edmodo; Advanced Higher students have received timely notifications on classroom changes, avoiding the need for paper signs and crossed fingers and are beginning to access the simple but well-designed audio player to revisit concepts or catch up on lesson podcasts; My S3 class have been making use of digital cameras to record their learning and have been accessing the notes folder to read up on concepts before, during and after class. I had a quick check of the analytics this evening – there has been 225 visits to our various class groups by pupils and teachers since we introduced them to the system 6 days ago. It has been a really good start, echoing  sentiments from this eSchool News article from August 2011:

“They also want more time to reflect on what they learn… Too often, because we have so much to cover in the curriculum, deeper understanding is lost in the milieu” – Mike Larzelere, Teacher at Port Huron Area School District, Michigan

 

The feedback I’ve received from them has been great too – highlighting issues with sharing links which were posted directly to me (I’m still working on a solution to that one) as well as pointing out that the quiz timer doesn’t stop when you navigate away from the questions. I solved that one by increasing the time limit for my quiz to 24 hours (1440 minutes seems to be the maximum allowed by the quiz module) but may need to use the assignments option rather than quizzes in the future, although I do like the feedback mechanism of the quiz more.

 

I’m excited about the new ways we are going to take responsibility for our own learning over the coming weeks. We are awaiting installation of AVS Video Editor on first teaching and then all student desktops in the Computing department. I can’t wait to see what my classes can do with the HD video capabilities of the digital cameras we purchased last year to document their individual learning and to share their work with others. Recap and revision podcasts – historically recorded by me and consumed silently by learners (both rewarding because they are being listened to and frustrating because of the passiveness of that act) – will now be a shared responsibility which should highlight and celebrate their learning achievements as well as increase engagement in the learning process. I’m also keen to experiment with the dialogue opportunities Edmodo offers through its Facebook-style interface. For example, tomorrow afternoon my Higher Computing class will be role-playing System Analysts who have to extract as much information from a variety of clients using direct posts and replies. I’m not sure how easy it will be for me to carry on all of those conversations at the same time, but in an attempt make it a little easier I’ve created sub-groups of pupils in Edmodo. I hope to post again soon with the results of that experiment.

Using Edmodo to Engage Learners From Day 1

Over the past week I have been introducing my S3, S5 and S6 pupils to their myriad Edmodo groups and getting them to set up their profiles, communication preferences and folders. Compared to last session (BE: Before Edmodo) the learners have hit the ground running with regard to interacting with their peers and making a contribution to class discussion.

I introduced Edmodo as an electronic extension of their classroom. This helped set out my expectations quickly without having to labour through lists of rules. Over three quarter of the 31 pupils surveyed found setting up their pupil accounts straightforward and our mechanisms to ensure an element of data privacy (if not protection) – first name and initial of surname only, and no real profile photographs – were easy to implement.

Opening tasks were straightforward but promoted collaboration and contribution. For example my S3 class were investigating the different graphical user interfaces encountered on mobile devices and making notes in their jotters for a future lesson. While they did so I took photographs of their devices and uploaded each one to Edmodo. The class were then encouraged to either log in or use the mobile app from home and claim the photo of their device and say why they liked or chose that particular make or model. So far, over half of the class have successfully completed the task (and the follow up dialogue!) and been awarded the “Alert” badge I created for learners who keep up to date with their group posts outside of class time.

My Higher Computing class, who began today by learning how to play and then extend the card game War, Shove Ha’penny and Penny Football, were then set a paper-based challenge entitled Mia’s Maze. This task was a Primary 2 homework  sheet dutifully completed by my daughter a few years ago but is, I think, perfect for reinforcing the need for establishing good boundaries before developing winning strategies. The target is zero or lower. I used Edmodo to successfully share a video of the solution but want to encourage my learners to start submitting their own screencasts or video responses in the coming weeks.

Out of all the benefits to me as a teacher I think the top one is the quick construction of positive relationships with the classes. Already I feel I know more about my S3 and S5 classes than I usually would at this stage in the term (less than 1 week in!). Also all my learners are included in the dialogue. They can take time to formulate and express their opinions and connect more with the lesson objectives. I’m excited to find out if continued use of Edmodo will help deepen their understanding of the course.

I thought I’d finish with a quick Edmodo tip: if you want to award badges to multiple pupils from your group. Right click on each desired pupil name in the posts section of Edmodo and select “Open in a new tab”. This allows you to award the pupil their badge and then close that tab while still being able to see what is going on with the rest of the group.

Improving learner-teacher dialogue using Edmodo

On Friday afternoon I heard some great news. My school is to extend the trial of Edmodo until Christmas, allowing other teachers in my department to experiment with using Edmodo to positively impact their learning and teaching. This may prove to be the beginning of a big change in whole school policy as, up until now, use of external websites was limited to passive teaching resources such as YouTube and Prezi – only teachers were allowed access.

As part of the approval process I wrote a report on how my Higher Computing class made use of Edmodo in their classwork, homework and preparation for assessment. I was able to answer the concerns of the school’s IT manager with regard to data protection and responsible use. I’ve embedded the document below for anyone else who is interested in investigating Edmodo further.


If the extended trial proves successful Edmodo could become the main resource for allowing external access to pupil resources and, most importantly, providing learners with a permanent record of their knowledge development in a place where it is much less likely to be lost or damaged. Learner-teacher dialogue can be referenced and revisited; gaps in knowledge due to absence could be filled; knowledge could be pulled from the class group rather than pushed. I intend to share my experiences in using Edmodo with my colleagues and blog readers in the coming months.

I’m excited about the possibilities but know Edmodo is not a magic bullet. As part of my research into how Edmodo is used worldwide I set up a Twitter search via TweetyMail and received hourly summaries peppered with disillusioned, confused and angry students who were being forced to use the service simply because it was there, not because it enhanced the classroom experience. I can see the benefits of opening classroom discussion with carefully crafted questions on Edmodo, where every learner has the opportunity to contribute not just the one who thinks fastest. However I can also see the potential for misuse by the minority who want to use Edmodo to keep their classes quiet or too busy to realise that their needs are not being met. It needs to be used in a carefully considered way where it should enhance the learning and teaching of all students in the classroom, but teachers also need to bear in mind that it offers the advantage of being able to hold a 1:1 discussion over a long period of time. The teacher has to make time to read the comments and adapt their usual classroom practice to best serve their learners.

So, in short, it offers the opportunity to deliver a flipped classroom model of education. I’ll investigate this further in future blog posts.