Thursday, November 19, 2009

Experiments with Edmodo

I came across Edmodo about 6 months ago. It was described as an educational Twitter site which is a little misleading. Yes you have the ability to post messages but there is much more to it than that. It is getting close to a VLE but without all the baggage. You can set assignments, have discussion threads, set up RSS feeds, post links and conduct polls. You can set up groups for each of your classes and entry to the class is via  class code. This gets over the issue I have encountered with some VLEs which link to SIMs where students can only access the materials if they are on the classlist.

I trialled Edmodo first with our IT lab - a small group of students who test out web 2.0 applications after school. Feedback was positive - for a start it was not blocked by our filters and the students liked using the application. Now I needed a context in which to introduce it.

The opportunity came with a project for year 9 which focused on Social Media and how it is changing such things as how companies interact with their customers, how news is reported and how governments control information. I had a series of case studies and questions for the students to think about. Edmodo seemed a good way of getting all the class to contribute to the discussion. 

I started by setting up some questions and polls and soon realised that I would have to post them in reverse order as most students would start at the top of the page not the bottom. I am a firm believer in allowing students to use back channels providing they are also working on the task set so set the ground rules that students could post one comment to the whole group but should use direct messaging after that to communicate with individuals. However I soon realised that students do not have the option of direct messaging. All communication was to the whole group. I soon had trouble tracking the posts I had asked students to respond to as they all posted comments to each other and there was not an option to filter on my posts. The images they were choosing as avatars was also causing concern. It was proving difficult to control the physical class in front of me at the same time as the virtual class online. I also discovered that while I could post comments to individual students the students could only post to the whole group.

However when I struggled through the smog of chatter I was getting some good work. I used this story as a case study lost phone ( as detailed in Clay Shirky's book - Here comes everybody ). Here are some of the responses:-

The poll function also proved useful

A quick refinement - post your questions as alerts - you can filter on them and find the responses easily. More fundamental refinement - I set an end of unit assessment as a google form - one of the questions I set was what ground rules should there be for using Edmodo in class. Fairly honest and sensible rules proposed:-

Only use it for the work set not as a messenger.

no swearing or bad words.

I think there should be the rule that you should use it for working not just for havin a random chat not about work

dont be silly

I think that the chat should be sensible, nothing rude or Inappropriate and must have something to do with the work in class.

Only go on it when told, and be given a topic to talk about to save friends from usin it as a catch up lesson on gossip!

People shouldn't be able to be mean to people on it.

not say it if u cant say it to the person face

Use it for work purposes and dont bully another student, dont chat too much.

The last post is probably closest to my own feelings. I do not see the point in using Web 2.0 / social media technologies and trying to ban students totally from using it as they would if they were not at school. I use Google chat at school to gossip - not in lessons but sometimes in meetings - it keeps me sane. It is unrealistic to expect them only to use these tool to stay on task - some back channel is inevitable and not unacceptable.

So today my daughter was off school sick and I had to stay home to look after her. I had 3 hours of year 13 working on OCR Applied ICT units 9 and 14 - project management and web design, two hours of year 11 BTEC Certificate and two hours of after school - a mix of year 10 and year 11 BTEC ICT.

Here was an opportunity to test out Edmodo as a means of communicating with students remotely. The year 13 group were started by my HoD and quickly logged on. Positive communcation:-

They were totally at ease with the communication channel and were soon using Edmodo to clarify tasks :-

I even caught students not returning to class on time after break:-

All in all it worked well as the poll showed:-

So buoyed but by this success I sat there waiting for my year 11 group to log on...... and waited ......and waited......

After half an hour I phoned the office - help - why was nobody logging on? A colleague kindly popped round to my class to find out what was happening. My carefully written and planned cover lesson had been communicated as 'get on with your course work'. Once the students had been told what they had to do I got a sudden flood of posts and queries:-

This was a far bigger group - 26 as opposed to 6 for year 13. Also a younger groups so more behaviour issues:-

More mixed than year 13 but overall a positive experience - the poll highlighted the advantages and the pitfalls - with all the posts on the site I missed someone's posts:-

So conclusions:-

  • Set some ground rules but don't make them too prescriptive
  • Don't expect all students to behave like angels - doesn't happen - or alternatively I'm a crap teacher and can't control my class
  • Be pleasantly surprised by what students are prepared to reveal when they are typing online rather than putting their hand up in class - we have had students who have jumped from level 4 to level 6 - partly subject matter but also being freed by the medium.
I've been at home with my sick daughter but this has been a good teaching day.


  1. Thank you soooo much for your thoughtful and detailed outline of your Edmodo experiences. I was led here via Kathleen Norris' facebook post and I intend to reshare this with my teachers at my school. I also intend to get Edmodo started with my 4th graders and I hope that I have the wherewithal to share the results in as systematic and complete a way as you have done here!

  2. Thank you for your kind comments. I'm new to blogging and was pretty nervous about getting started. I want to use my blog to track the development of my ideas so that I can remind myself not to get discouraged trying new ideas that don't work quite right first time. I was on such a high after my virtual teaching on Thursday and just wanted to share what I had learnt.

  3. This is a great review about Edmodo. I think all the formats and apps are the way they are cause people like them. People who like to encourage projects like this and make tests and try hard to learn and develop this new systems. I saw that you're an IT and that's is not a surprise, 'cause only people who study careers like this are the ones who enjoy to explore new words and make the things better every day. Congratulations and good luck with this and future projects.

  4. Hi Donna... thanks for sharing your experience with Edmodo. I work in a language school in Barcelona and we are just about to start using it with a couple of group. I wonder if you can help me with a question I have. You mentioned posting in reverse order and I can certainly see the logic in this... is there any way to make the posts appear one after another instead of pushing each other down the page? Thanks again and best wishes

  5. Experiments with Edmodo is very essential topics to us. Its a good post. thanks for your sharing.