It's one of those tools your learners will love and — as I'll be suggesting — one of those tools you the teacher don't need to know all about.
If you suggest it to your learners, possibly as homework, possibly to your fast finishers and/or to those in verymixed ability classes with a much higher level of English, I think you'll be amazed by the results.
You might want to suggest that the animations are kept private and then displayed only in class, a solution that could also be adopted if you are uploading videos to YouTube. Privacy, as I'll also be suggesting, is a big issue with young learners.
This, from the excellent Edmodo Blog, shows teachers and students at Meadowbrook High School in Richmond, Virginia, making use of Edmodo in a number of interesting ways. Using Edmodo as a book discussion group is an idea I've found to work particularly well.
On TechLearning.com, Lisa Nielsencompares Edmodo to Facebook and makes the point that "Facebook is the platform where our students and parents are already communicating".
My experience of using Edmodo is that there certainly always seems to be a learner who eventually puts their hand up and says "Couldn't we do this on Facebook instead?" but, more than anything else, it's Edmodo's greater (ie. total!) privacy that makes it my preferred social learning platform.
The 6 secret letters I take to class are the access code to the very best of the "Web 2.0 tools" that I've tried with learners: Edmodo.
Edmodo allows you to set up groups [see Edmodo Help section] which then give you a private walled garden, a digital space in which your learners can do and share things. It's very easy to use, very like Facebook, and thus immediately familiar to anyone who might already be a Facebook user, with one big difference: greater privacy.
In my APABAL session I demonstrated the following activity, which has proved very successful with both teens and adults, the idea for which came from an article on Yahoo News about how much can you tell about someone's personality from his/her shoes.
The article is read and discussed first, either in class or from home, using Edmodo for the discussion
Learners take photos of each others' shoes; if this is done outside class time, photos can also be of shoes of parents, siblings, friends etc.
(Optionally) If the photos are taken outside class, the learners edit them with the excellent Pixlr Express
Photos are pooled and then distributed at random (assigning a kid or kids to deal with this saves the teacher a lot of work); optionally, the teacher can add a few photos of his/her own (self? friends? willing colleagues…); no one should get their own shoes, though it doesn't matter if they do
In class, assuming access to computers is available, in pairs, learners post one or more pictures to the Edmodo group, describing them and commenting on whether or not they are fashionable; who would wear them; and what the shoes say about the wearer's personality
Learners comment on what other people have posted (and, with any Edmodo activity, we want our learners to write lots of comments!)
Note that, particularly with young learners, you might want to warn them in advance not to say anything unkind or hurtful; and that no one should be identified at any stage as the wearer or owner of the shoes.
Instead of using Edmodo, the same activity could also be done on a class blog.
Largely because I've come across a number of links suggesting how Twitter could be used in education (see below), I've been having another play with it — and frankly I'm not impressed.
Unless I've missed something, there seems to be a major privacy issue. Either spammers are forcing me to "follow" them or else Twitter itself has decided that I've got to follow a certain number of people, whether I'm interested in what they're twittering about or not. Within 24 hours, I found myself "following" (that is, receiving updates from) 24 people, only 3 of whom I'd actually chosen to follow, all of them with over 500,000 "followers".
The result? That when I log in, I am first forced to read the equivalent of junk email, and worse, have to choose to stop following each of the spammers individually, before I start to see the updates from people like Lance Armstrong (1.6m followers) that I am interested in.
An unnamed US study reckons 68% of school pupils using Facebook got "significantly lower" exam marks than those who didn't, according to The Week, the study referred to probably being that of Ohio State, according to TIME.
What it doesn't say — though I haven't personally read the actual report — is whether or not the exams themselves were actually testing what the learners know, or were relevant to their learning styles or actual real-world needs, and I suspect that quite possibly they weren't.
I might just be tempted to use Facebook rather than e-mail as a means of communication with learners as — says my daughter (13) — no-oneever uses e-mail now, at least not young learners.
What would put me off would be the privacy issues. While creating a new Facebook profile recently, I got asked did I want to be friends with these 25 people — all of whom looked suspiciously young, and none of whom I recognised…
Hold on, I did recognise them: they were all 13, all girls, and all my daughter's friends. If you're going to use technology with young learners, you want a network that is a whole lot more secure than that…