Edmodo: transforming the way we teach

If you're not familiar with Edmodo, it describes itself as being "a secure social learning network for teachers and students" — a sort of private Facebook, if you like, which it certainly resembles in appearance and functionality. The video here comes from their "About" page.

In the video, Edmodo co-founder Nic Borg says "Everyone is connected everywhere they go now except for within the classroom. They enter this void where the tools that connect them to one another don't exist any more". It may not (yet) be true that everyone is connected everywhere, but it's certainly crazy for the "technology" used in language teaching still to be limited to the printer and the photocopier.

Since first starting to use it on our Cert ICT course last year, Edmodo has become my favourite Web 2.0 tool. Again in the video, Jeff O'Hara says that for teachers "Edmodo is transforming the way they teach".

One change using Edmodo has meant for me is that, since I set up my first group I've never made another photocopy. I'm old enough to remember the pre-photocopier days when we cranked out copies on a mimeograph and I later spent years swamping my learners with bits of rainforest pulped into photocopied A4 sheets, which were handed out, used, but never seen or used again.

No one ever "replied" to a photocopy. Edmodo changed that.

Debate guaranteed: football vs rugby

Warning: video contains violence

The Rugby World Cup starts in New Zealand today and the video above might spark an interesting class discussion: which is more despicable — what the video shows happening in football, or some of what it shows happening on the rugby field?

It will certainly go down well with classes in football-obsessed Barcelona, where we've had plenty of recent unsavory incidents like those in the first part of the video, and which classes will talk about for hours.

I'm not sure I'm actually going to use this in class, but it's definitely something I'll be posting to groups created with my favourite Web 2.0 tool, Edmodo, where the discussion can take place informally, outside of class.

Facebook profile pix: a fun class project

Picnik: Auto-fix your photos, and lots more!

Here's a class project I suggested the other day and which teens loved (thanks, Sandra, for feedback!).

  • In class, 15-16 year olds looked at real examples of their Facebook profile pictures, with a view to using Edmodo (not Facebook, which is less private).
  • At home, they did a web search for ideas on what makes a good social media profile picture
  • In class, they presented their results (some using Prezi to accompany their oral presentation)
  • In class, and later at home, they took better profile pictures, which they edited and improved further, using Picnik)
  • At home, photos were added to their new Edmodo profiles

It was then Sandra's idea to take the project further:

  • In class, her original class presented their web search results and new photos to another class (with another teacher), one two years younger (also using Prezi)
  • In class, the older learners helped the younger ones take profile pictures of each other
  • At home, the younger learners then uploaded their photos to their Edmodo profiles (and quite a few, apparently, also to Facebook!)

The cameras were compacts belonging to the students, and 5-7 were available, for groups approx. 25 in size.

Technologically, it was real easy for the teacher to set up and run, the kids loved it and they got a lot of language use and learning out of it. Great project!

Learning to use Edmodo (or any other technology)

We're currently half way through the 10-week face-to-face part of the blended CertICT technology course at IH Barcelona, being run in conjunction with The Consultants-E. I'm observing (and participating in) the sessions with a view to then tutoring the face-to-face component in 2011 [next dates, 4-15 July intensive and 7 October-16 December part-time, with a 10-week online component following after each].

To be honest, before we began, at the back of my mind there was a tiny nagging thought that, having spent much of the last 15 years literally in front of a computer screen, I wasn't going to learn a lot from the course.

Predictably, however, that hasn't proved to be true, and in fact I've learnt a lot. All teachers should spend at least part of the year learning something; I don't think it really matters what — so long as it forces you to think, and to think about what you are yourself doing in your classroom, and the course has certainly done that for me. And, being such a huge subject, technology is something you can always learn something else about…

One of the things we're using on the course is Edmodo. I've known about Edmodo for some time (having first heard about it when José Picardo mentioned it at a conference as one of his 10 tried and tested internet tools for teachers) but until now had never actually used it.

Whether we're talking blogs, or podcasting or Edmodo or whatever, the best way to appreciate how technology might work with your own learners is nearly always to try it out yourself. It's then that you start to see what your learners could do with it — and with Edmodo there seems to be lots!

Like all good technology, certainly any I'd want to use in the classroom, Edmodo is simple, easy to use, and it's both private and Facebook- and Twitter-like. I love it and my students are enthusiastic too.

Now, that's got to be a good sign.