Listen to Ms. Thompson read this post on Podomatic!
I signed up for Edmodo in spring of 2011, while working full time as an integration specialist/teacher mentor. At the time, I did not foresee what an integral part of my life this learning management system (LMS) would become. I made a couple of teacher connections, figured out ways to earn badges on my profile, and set up a few sample student accounts--that was about it. But my perspective changed over the summer, as I made preparations to teach three brand new middle school technology courses.
The first marking period of use served as an experiment for my students and me. We learned how to navigate our class page and to filter messages and assignments. We learned that carefully choosing and recording usernames and passwords helped us avoid having to repeatedly sign up for new accounts, due to forgotten log-in information. Students socialized on a special group I created, the Tech Ed Lounge, rather than clutter our class group feeds with unrelated comments. Meanwhile, I continued making connections with other teachers and exchanging educational ideas on the community pages.
During the second marking period, we discovered intricacies of the library backpack and small groups. This is when major collaboration and peer editing efforts began. Students started storing files in the backpack, using it as an online flash drive. They posted URLs of Google Docs and other real-time collaborative editing (RTCE) tools on their small group pages, so that only four or five group members would have access, for working together on assignments and for commenting constructively on each other's essays. It was around this time that I began discovering teacher-created groups, such as Flip Share.
By the third and fourth marking periods, our Edmodo use was in full swing. Students turned in all project tasks, classwork, and homework using Edmodo assignment boxes. Suddenly, my desk was neater, my tote-bags--lighter, as paper became obsolete in the computer lab. In exchange, I found myself taking time--normally spent socializing on Facebook with family and friends--to grade, create new assignments, moderate the tech lounge, and exchange ideas with teachers from around the world on Edmodo.
What did not work?
-Projecting Edmodo group codes on the white board and having students copy
This was my attempt at keeping codes private. I knew that posting on the class website was not an option. The result: I would have to display the codes daily--time consuming.
-Keeping track of awarding badges
I was inconsistent about awarding badges, and this was unfair to my students.
-Procrastinating and allowing turned in assignments to accumulate
Having 300-400 notifications is not fun.
-Spammers and trolls
Some students found it funny to post inappropriate or nonsensical comments.
-Attempting to demonstrate Edmodo functions, step-by-step, during direct instruction
Students were at varying levels of ability.
What did work?
-Posting Edmodo codes on signs around the classroom
I observed a colleague doing this and have done the same ever since (I don't know why the idea did not occur to me before).
-Assigning Edmodo guidelines review as the first homework assignment of the marking period
This assignment effectively communicated the expectations and consequences in advance.
-Setting all new members to "read-only" until verifying identities
This helped to eliminate spammers and trolls. Students are less willing to post inappropriately under real names.
-Using the Flip Teaching Strategy to demonstrate Edmodo functions
Students were then able to complete my teacher-made tutorial at an individualized pace.
What is not working?
-Students having difficulty understanding where to turn in assignments
Work is occasionally sent to me via direct message or posted on the general class page. Another common error: students click "Reply" instead of "Turn In" on the assignment boxes.
-Moderating the tech lounge is time consuming.
I feel obligated to watch every goofy YouTube video my students post. Pink Fluffy Unicorns, Nyan Cat, and the like have been true winners this marking period. Sometimes I find videos depicting violence or other inappropriate topics. Offenders are immediately set to "read-only" until we have an opportunity to conference. Students posting on the tech lounge during school hours is an occasional problem, as well.
-Spammers and trolls
They have figured out that accounts set to "read-only" can still send direct messages to the teacher, so I have received a couple of harassing direct messages this marking period.
What is working?
-Keeping track of awarding Edmodo badges
I now use a special daily log that I have developed over the years. Each student has a unique number and I can easily check off recipients and make brief notes. I will share the daily log in a future blog post.
I have stopped procrastinating, cold turkey, when it comes to grading. Not only is it daunting to see 300-400 notifications waiting, I realize that I am required to give students feedback in a timely manner.
-Stopping spammers and trolls
A member of the Edmodo Support Team advised me to lock my group codes, once all students have joined a class group. This strategy has countered our spammer/troll problem, for the time being.
-Edmodo's new format
I look forward to transitioning to the new format with my second marking period group. This means I will have to re-record my Edmodo tutorial.
For the first time, we will use Edmodo to collaborate with students around the world as part of the Global Classroom Project 2012-2013. I look forward to connecting with classrooms in South Africa, Australia, Canada, and Ireland, to name a few. Our participation will serve well as one aspect of my students' introduction to the International Baccalaureate, which we will fully implement beginning
-Students posting in the tech lounge during school hours
I made a suggestion in the Edmodo Support Community for a pinning feature, so that important messages can be pinned to the top of the message feed. Hopefully, this is in the works. Meanwhile, I have been using alerts to notify students, in bold print, of important messages and reminders--such as "No posting in the tech lounge during school hours, under any circumstances".
-Students understanding guidelines and where to turn in assignments
My son happens to be highly skilled at computer programming. He is currently working on a Java Script game that we will host on Weebly. The game will quiz students on the Edmodo guidelines in a fun interactive way. I hope my son finishes soon--I'm paying him by the hour and per page.
I am also working on an assignment tracker. Click the link in the left column to view. I shared a mock-up with my sixth and seventh graders and received positive reviews. Hopefully, the game and this tracker will help my students to better understand how to successfully use Edmodo as a learning management system.
Thank you for reading!
This is my second year teaching technology literacy courses to students in grades six through eight. In some ways, I feel that it is actually my fifth. During 2011-2012, I taught all 800 children of the school. Each of the four marking periods was a new beginning, as I acclimated two hundred new students and perpetually groomed the newly written curricula to keep up with ever-changing technologies and course-related resources. My classes meet for approximately twenty 50-minute sessions, which take place every other school day. Sixth graders study "Technology and Social Responsibility", seventh graders, "Introduction to Computer-Aided Drafting and Design (CADD)" and eighth graders, "Television Production".
For my seventh and eighth graders, this marking period is the next twenty days of technology class. Two things amaze me--how much my students accomplished last year in such a short amount of time and how much knowledge they have retained since then. On the very first day of school, after a warm greeting, I said, "Okay, you know what to do." And they immediately got to work navigating the class website to find my directions, opening and sharing Google Docs, and joining fresh Edmodo class groups. It was breathtaking to watch!
For my new babies, my sixth graders, it is an entirely different story. For them, this is technology boot camp. I have been describing these courses as hybrid--partially in-class, partially online, somewhat traditional, mostly flipped, not as difficult as the core subjects, yet more challenging than the fine arts, physical education, and health classes. Rarely does a student earn a "D" or an "F" in my class, but nobody earns an "A" for merely showing up, either.
There are twelve to fifteen graded assignments, including homework, classwork, and project tasks, all weighted differently to formulate the final grade. Everyone works on their project within a self-selected group. However, grades are a reflection of what the individual has contributed to the group. There are numerous opportunities to meet with me throughout the week for extra time/help: during my preps and during conference period (the last period of the school day). All of this--not even factoring in all of the URLs, user names, and passwords to remember--can be quite intimidating to my little sixth graders and their parents. "Don't worry," I recently soothed a concerned parent during Back to School Night. "The first few weeks of technology class are always a bit. . .chaotic. Eventually, students learn what to do."
This is the first post concerning my adventures teaching technology literacy, year two. My topics will include: implementing flip teaching, implementing International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP), and (of course) new technologies enhancing education. I refuse to commit myself to a specific day or amount to blog, because I don't want to feel defeated if I can't live up to my own expectations. So, please be patient and stay tuned for my updates.
Meanwhile, I invite you to explore my class website:
Thanks for reading!
This blog, "The Perfect Course", is to document my efforts in refining the various courses I teach.
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