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.

#edchat Summary: How does giving students more control of their education affect the quality of the education?

I’ve hovered around #edchat fringes for a couple of years now. Adding the occasional link but never really sure when to take part as people post using that hashtag all the time. I was chatting with @drdouggreen and he was kind enough to give me some more details about when the scheduled chats take place (5pm / midnight GMT on Tues in UK).

So on Tuesday I took part in my first #edchat. I hadn’t realised that they had two different topics for the weekly #edchats and had been expecting discussion on the flipped classroom, but I was more than happy with the alternative: how does giving students more control of their education affect the quality of their education?

I really enjoyed the hour and noticed a few familiar faces from the UK join in as well. I think it worked well for me as I’m on October break and this makes a 5-6pm chat feasible. Usually I’d just be getting in the door and I don’t think the family would appreciate me disappearing with the laptop instead of finding out about their day. I don’t think I’d like that either, so perhaps a midnight #edchat is the way forward – for me at least!

I’m a big believer in promoting learner choice in my classroom. I teach to the planned outcomes (sometimes in a round-about way!) but in a way that suits the class. That one class. It means a lot of work for me at times, but I get a huge kick out of the enthusiasm it generates amongst my learners. What works for one class or child may not work for another and I would not be doing my job properly if I ignored this fact. Yes, you have to retain your role as troubleshooter (I typed behaviour manager first but that sounds far too controlling!) and facilitator but sometimes – and as much as possible – you have to let your class take charge of the learning. I didn’t do this based on any educational research or current policy, I remembered the best and worst lessons of my own school years and remembered that when we were given the freedom to play within the boundaries of the topic we enjoyed it and saw relevance. With that in mind I want to share with you a TED talk by Alison Gopnik. She explains a little about what babies are thinking.

You may think this is a strange choice of supporting video. Please watch it, I hope all becomes clear.

http://www.ted.com/talks/alison_gopnik_what_do_babies_think.html

Here are some of the main themes from the discussion:
  • Personal learning
  • Project-based learning
  • How to learn
  • Motivation
  • Passion
  • Learning through making mistakes
  • Open and honest discussion with learners
Here is a selection of some of the comments:
  • “Hopefully we do not give students “much” control over content…but give them some control over how they demonstrate mastery.” – berryed1
  • “It will improve quality from the child’s point of view. What else matters?” – drdouggreen
  • “If kids rely on the teacher for the answers, then we have failed them as teachers. ” – stumpteacher
  • “Ownership ups the ante of the student’s interest, involvement and motivation.” – drmcgettigan
  • ” ‘Children should be given a voice not only about the means of learning but also the ends, the why as well as the what.’ Alfie Kohn” – cybraryman1
  • “I would love the concept of Personal Learning Networks to be introduced to, and used by students early on.” – tomwhitby
  • “We have to stop thinking we are the only experts/teachers/leaders in our classroom” – pernilleripp
  • “Listen outside clssrm door: Who’s voice do you hear? If solely tcher’s voice: Tcher-Directed. If studs’ voices: Student-Centered.” – prlowe91
  • “Teaching kids how to learn is more important than what content to learn. If they commit to the content, the how to becomes easier.” – tomwhitby
  • “good for teachers to say “i don’t know”, brings in whole class and dilutes the idea that the teacher is the source of all answers.” – familysimpson
  • “Stdnts need 2 feel “allowed” 2 make a mistake or get something wrong & comfortable enough 2 try again. That’s when learning happens.” – KristinHenry1
  • ” the goal matters & it’s got to be their goal” – inquirebook
  • “Yes, I hope to make poor choices! Makes me human & helps me learn! I’ve learned more from poor choices!” – davidwees
 
To follow the complete discussion see here
As ever, there were some great links shared:

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 1,000 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat

Challenge:

If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat.

What do you think? Leave a comment!

Ian Simpson is a Scottish secondary teacher, specialising in Computing. His particular passions include: mobile learning, web 2.0 & games based learning.