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.

FIFA Thursday

It is nearly the end of term and the assessments for the year are finished. The restructured S3/4 course has been designed so that the pupils are engaged in creating their own multimedia applications – hence there have been few calls for a rest day as they have been making and playing each other’s games for the last few weeks. More on that in another blog post I think as their work this year has been pretty inspirational…

I set up an old laptop (resurrected by my Advanced Higher pupils a year ago and still working well!) as a machinima station in my class, permanently hooked into the data projector feed to record walkthroughs from the ps3. The plan is to allow pupils to explore Fifa 2010/11, collaborate in multiple player games and coach new players (including me!) in how to play well. I also wanted them to try recording matches or training to build up video guides or to edit game highlights.

The two PS3 consoles were set up at either end of the classroom allowing space for the class to move around freely. It also allowed those not playing to watch or use the iPods or their own PCs. Too late I realised a selection of games (including FIFA) could have been preloaded on to the iPods. A large number of the audience chose to play The Sims 3 while waiting and I observed the same kind of peer coaching between small groups as occurred with FIFA. They organised a fair length of game (3min each half) and an inclusive practice to ensure as many of their classmates got the chance to play a game within the single periods.

Two pupils brought their own controllers and supplied the FIFA game disks which allowed at least two players on each PS3. Compared to the single player Heavy Rain which I used (selectively) with my Higher class earlier in the year and Little Big Planet (which allows multiple players but is viewed by a number of pupils as too childish unless they are building their own levels) I felt that the pupils were sharing more expertise, were more deeply involved in the experience and that the audience got more out of passive participation. For example, a number of the songs in FIFA 11 interested pupils enough to complete a complex web search to find the track and look for further songs by the same artist.

Discussions about local teams were also well informed. One pupil was attempting to show me how to round the goalkeeper by using L2 and the right analogue stick – a skill I have yet to master – and he softened my failure a little by pointing out that Aberdeen players in Fifa are probably too slow to manage tricks successfully!

If there was an obvious difference between the two main games played in my class today it was that the girls in the class preferred The Sims 3 and were more vocal in their coaching. The majority of the boys played Fifa silently, even when they were on the same team! They all responded well to the challenges set by the game and I can safely tell you that even after a free period of practice I was only hitting the net 20% of the time. Pupils will be running virtual rings around me for a while yet!