Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Edmodo in Action! Improving Communication and Collaboration

          A couple of months ago, I hosted two Edmodo employees, Dan Carew and Irina Blok, during classroom visits to Egan Junior High.  Both Dan and Irina wanted to see Edmodo in action in classrooms.  They were wondering....“How are students using Edmodo? How are teachers using Edmodo to communicate with their students? How is Edmodo creating a community in the classroom? How do students like Edmodo?”

Within a few minutes of their visit, Dan and Irina had broad smiles-they were impressed. Karen Kehlet and Julie Jenkins deftly led their classes using Edmodo as a foundation to weave digital resources within their English lessons. By logging into Edmodo, students had quick access to instruction documents, their digital assignment and a collaborative Google presentation.  
Students create a slide for a collaborative
Google presentation during English class.
Student Learning Challenge
Using Edmodo and Google presentation, students had to demonstrate their understanding of compound sentences by creating a slide to add to a collaborative Google presentation within 15 minutes.  While students were working, teachers and students could see each other’s progress and collaborate. At the end of class, students had time to review each other's work.  The students in Karen and Julie’s classes are using Edmodo in an approach that integrates Google Drive products, allows students to submit work “paperlessly” and encompasses high levels of collaboration at the same time.   
Can Edmodo transform the way that we communicate and learn from each other? Absolutely! 


Edmodo Across Los Altos School District
These teachers aren’t the only ones that are using Edmodo in Los Altos. Since we introduced Edmodo in August, all teachers created Edmodo accounts. Many teachers use Edmodo to connect with grade level colleagues across the district and to share resources and innovative curriculum ideas. Principals and administrators include important documents within specific folders on Edmodo.  As part of our iLearn classes, participants join specialized Edmodo groups to gain access to a wealth of resources and conversation forums to discuss their ideas online...even after our class time is over!  At last count, at least 42 of our 225 teachers have launched Edmodo within their classroom. And more are planning to start! With Edmodo, powerful conversations and collaboration don’t end when the class time is up, Edmodo allows people to continue the conversation and continue their learning.


So how are other teachers using Edmodo? How might a teacher get started with Edmodo in their classroom? How do we go about enriching and strengthening our use of Edmodo and taking it to the next level?

Just Getting Started...Edmodo as a Communication Tool
Edmodo implemented at a basic level can be an excellent communication tool for a classroom community.  Many teachers are using Edmodo to inform students of class assignments, tests and homework. What is the benefit? How is this different from a standard class website? Edmodo goes beyond the traditional one-way communication strategy of most teacher websites and incorporates the student interaction opportunities.  Within Edmodo, students can ask their classmates questions, ask for help or respond to another person’s inquiry.  For classes that meet for short periods of time or rotations, Edmodo is useful to extend the learning beyond the class time frame. If questions aren't answered or need a followup, Edmodo is a great forum! Edmodo allows for teachers and students to communicate within a closed online classroom community which is only available to their class. By using Edmodo, students are building cooperation skills and learning how to reach out and support their peers.  

More Opportunities for Student Participation and Interaction
Edmodo provides opportunities for more student interaction within a classroom community. In particular, students who may not interact in class, may in fact, respond to each other’s posts within the group discussion. Recently, an interesting comment stream took place in a fourth grade class at Santa Rita, all related to books! One of the students asked her classmates to recommend books for her to read. Lots of students chimed in! Girls and boys alike, shared titles they enjoyed or aligned with her interests. With Edmodo, students that may be shy or less likely to speak up in class, have another means of communicating with their peers. Edmodo gives a new venue for students to communicate with each other in a safe manner. As students use Edmodo, they practice digital citizenship skills and learn how to be a part of a safe, online community.

Many of LASD iLearn Classes are Powered by Edmodo! By using
a Group Code, teachers gain access to a wealth of resources and
a built in network of LASD teachers interested in
learning and discussing the same concepts.

Using Edmodo to Post Digital Resources such as websites, videos and more!
Edmodo features are effective for sharing digital and multimedia resources.  Mary Hamilton, the Chorus teacher at Egan, is using Edmodo to post music files for her class. Her students listen to their musical parts, download the sound files and practice their choral parts. 

Chris Patterson, a fifth grade teacher at Oak, regularly posts video links and relevant websites for his fifth grade teaching colleagues across the district. Occasionally, Robin McLaren, a fifth grade teacher at Santa Rita, will pass along Chris’s recommended resources to her students. In fact, Robin commented recently that Chris “is gathering such a following” from her own students! Why is this unique? Even though these teachers are at different schools, by virtue of Edmodo, students in Robin’s class are benefitting from Chris’s insights and research! Thank you Chris!


Fourth grader Amanda shares an article
with her classmates on Edmodo. 


Students are sharing online resources with each other as well!

By linking a URL or website to a note, students can share interesting articles, videos or websites with each other.  A student DJ group at Egan uses Edmodo to share their student created music projects with each other! Students love to hear their classmates' musical compilations.

Just last month, I beamed with pride when a fourth grade student from Santa Rita posted a link to an article about a teenage innovator from Africa to all the students in her class.  Students read the article and commented on it within their class. Was this an assignment? Nope! These students are learning and reading interesting articles recommended by their classmates...just for fun! With Edmodo, even nine and ten year olds can share digital resources to extend the classroom dialogue with their group of peers. 

If students are hesitant, some teachers require student contributions of relevant websites or video lessons at specific times throughout the year. Julie Present, a sixth grade teacher at Springer, had her students create and share Educreations lessons that reviewed concepts before a test. In this case, students not only shared the website link, but were also creators of the digital content as well!

Going Paperless is A Reality with Edmodo
“Going paperless” is something many teachers are striving to achieve.  However, relying solely on Google drive and Google drive sharing features can be a digital management nightmare. Especially if a teacher has over ninety students! Luckily, Edmodo has a system in which teachers can create a digital assignments and have organized rosters for their classes. When students complete their assignment, whether it is a Google presentation, document, Glogster poster or Pixton comic, they simply click on the “Turn It In” button and submit it to their teacher.  In fact, Karen Kehlet, Egan Junior High teacher commented, “By using Edmodo, I get a greater percentage of work turned in and on time. And instantly, I can see who has done it.” Edmodo’s process for digital assignments submissions streamlines the process for teachers; so teachers can quickly provide feedback to students versus sorting papers and tracking missing student assignments.
In order to submit an assignment online,
students simply click "Turn In" and
link their digital product. Teachers immediately can see
which students have turned in an assignment with Edmodo.

Getting Creative: Edmodo Used For International Student Collaboration
Some of our teachers are getting really creative with Edmodo! Julie Present linked classes with Erin Zaich, a former sixth grade teacher at Covington Elementary, who now teaches in Korea. The teachers formed a TransPac Book Club, using Edmodo as a platform for five online book club discussions within their classes.  After students shared ideas and responded to questions on Edmodo, they held five separate Skype sessions over several afternoons. Students were excited to share their insights with other kids their age.  They were also curious about how students in Korea would relate to characters and themes within the novels.

By utilizing the small groups feature in Edmodo, these teachers facilitated online discussion groups to create a valuable student international learning experience.  Especially since all students needed to communicate their ideas in an appropriate and polite manner to participate in virtual discussions with people they have never met face to face. What an incredible experience!
Dan Carew, Product Engineer from Edmodo, speaks to
Egan students about working at a start up company and
how his team is recreating the Edmodo iPad app.

Spotlighting the Innovation in Los Altos
Just last week, Edmodo reached 15 million registered users.  It is clear that the students and teachers in Los Altos aren’t the only ones harnessing the benefits of Edmodo. Yet we must be doing something special! As Edmodo is updating their site, they requested to photograph a few classes to feature innovative learning and collaboration on their redesigned website.  I’m delighted to share that Dan Carew, Irina Blok and I will visit Karen Kehlet and Julie Jenkins’ classrooms again this week.  This time we’ll have an accompanying photographer who will capture some of the powerful learning and collaboration within these classes.

It is More Than the Tool, It Is How Teachers Integrate the Tool
Interestingly, the photo shoot isn’t just for taking pictures of students using Edmodo. The photographer is trying to capture the essence of what is created by thoughtfully integrating Edmodo: an engaging, participative and enriching learning experience. Photos will be focused on raised hands, groups of students working together and teachers working with small groups of students.  For it isn’t about the tool, but how hard-working and innovative teachers integrate tools like Edmodo within their curriculum to create an ideal learning environment.  The most skilled teachers mold, shape and stretch tech tools to new bring learning to new heights. They use tech thoughtfully to enhance and enrich student learning.   We are fortunate to have such creative minds at work here in Los Altos.

If you’d like to learn about more ways to use Edmodo in your classroom, check out 20 Ways to Use Edmodo or the Edmodo Teacher Roll Out Resource page. Feel free to contact Ellen Kraska for individualized support to get started with Edmodo in your classroom. In addition, two Edmodo classes will be offered as part of the iLearn Winter and Spring Series in the Los Altos School District.

Ellen Kraska is the Technology Integration Instructional Coach within the Los Altos School District. She is passionate about edtech, creativity and collaboration within innovative learning environments. You can email her at ekraska@lasdschools.org and/or follow her on Twitter @kraskae. 

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