Edmodo – a year on

edmodo logo

A year ago I came across the social learning network Edmodo.  Probably via Twitter, I’ve no idea really.  What started out as a small-scale trial is now fully embedded across the department and also used extensively by other groups in the school.  It might be useful to share how and why this has happened.

I teach a relatively large class, now in year 11 doing a coursework-only vocational ICT course (DiDA).  There are 28 students and as they have very different abilities, by March of year 10 had got to the point where they were all working on different things and managing their own work well.  The full DiDA qualification has 4 units, each equivalent to 1 GCSE in points.  Each unit contains probably 12 separate pieces of work. Every piece of work needs to be reviewed, receive feedback and be re-drafted.  Most are screen based and therefore not suitable for printing.  Over the two years that’s over 1,300 pieces of work I need to look at if I only look at it once.  I usually look more than once.

I REALLY wish I hadn’t done that calculation 😦

Anyway I needed a way of keeping track of what I had looked at, and for the students to record my feedback.

The first group was set up for the students working on the graphics unit.  They developed logos, example packaging, shop fronts and digital posters for a “healthy takeaway shop”.  They uploaded, I gave feedback (based on exam board marking criteria) they resubmitted and I gave more feedback.  As an aside they also realised that if they uploaded relatively large png files it took forever but if they converted to gif or jpg the upload times were much better!

edmodo1

After about 3 weeks (I’m impatient with trials – if it works it works). I rolled out to my other classes who were soon uploading all their work.

In September we decided to start using Edmodo with year 9 doing the Essential Skills Wales qualification in ICT (I won’t dwell on that).  One of the requirements of this is that students submit two drafts of much of their work.  Many forget (who ACTUALLY saves 2 copies of a presentation when you know the 2nd is much better than the 1st?) so Edmodo handily keeps these drafts for us.

We then started using it with large numbers of students.

My 10 year old son watched me marking at home and told his year 6 teacher about it.  She’s set it up for his class and I also log now as a parent!

School Stats

We now have over 1000 students, 31 teachers and 38 groups on our Edmodo.

It’s being used in ICT, Art and Maths as well as for general 6th form communication, student parliament and vocational activities such as 6th form buddies and Duke of Edinburgh’s award.

My colleage @ademuzzy has presented once to the whole staff on Edmodo and once as a 1 hour CPD to a few teachers.

Lessons Learned

Students really engage with this (“it looks like Facebook!”). They like choosing their favourite quote, learning style and career aim.  We’ve kept a bit of an eye on the profile pictures to avoid the pouty ones.
It’s great for students to submit work and get comments.  Written feedback on work is very important and something we are focusing on this year in school.  Writing comments on work gets a bit samey after a while and if your’re anything like me the students at the bottom of the alphabet can get a raw deal.  However, like with reports, you often want to write the same thing, with a few alterations on many students’ work.  Yes I copy and paste comments – but I then change the 20% of the words which are important.  Saves tons of time and means I write much longer and more meaningful comments.

It’s excellent for discussions.  For OCR Cambridge Technicals in year 12 I set a question (below) and asked students to comment.  The resulting discussion can be used as evidence for their qualification!

edmodo discussion

As a Head of Department I really like that I can see all the work that students are submitting and all the comments my colleagues make.    Not because I am keeping tabs on them (although it IS part of my job) but because if a colleague makes a really positive comment about some work I have a look at it.  I wouldn’t have seen it before and it means we can ALL share in the good work.  I don’t have special access as a HoD – colleagues can also see my comments.

This means we can use Edmodo as an easy way of moderating work across the department which we plan to do in March.

We can set up a group for a particular group (e.g. year 10) then small groups within that for particular classes. The same assignment can be sent to all small groups but if you’re careful each can have a different due date. (Bit fiddly this – at times I think we have micro-managed).

Students really take note of the due dates of tasks!

The smartphone / tablet apps are excellent cut-down versions of the main site.  When the WiFi works in my classroom I walk around with the iPad discussing student progress with individuals.  Great!

I can link it to Google Docs (as can the students) and all my Google Docs can be transferred into Edmodo seamlessly.

The students like the backpack feature – they can put work in their backpack to take home.

I can give parent codes to parents to see what their child is doing.  Now as a teacher I had no idea what this looked like but when my son came home with a parent code I logged on (different account).  I can see what assignments he has due, the work he submitted and the marks and comments his teacher gave.  It means I have a MUCH clearer idea of what his teacher is looking for and can have a really meaningful discussion about his work with him.  As a parent I’d actually rather this than formal reports.

It’s made marking loads of fun!

notifications

Well no it hasn’t, but it has helped.  The notifications tell me how much marking I need to do and it’s satisfying to tick them off.  I can also create badges to award to students who pass particular criteria.  There are lots of generic badges on Edmodo, you can share badges with other teachers and also create your own. Ideally it would link up with Mozilla Open Badges but I guess you can’t have everything.  Incidentally year 11 scoffed at the badges when they first saw them but now have a bit of a competition going on.

edmodo badges

We can also link up with other teachers and groups round the world.

Probably most importantly, Edmodo runs really well on our dreadful internet connection! (currently<8Mbs for the whole school.  Welsh Government cash set to change that soon!

There are inevitably some downsides.  Sometimes it doesn’t quite do what we want, but that’s a small price to pay for a free site that in the space of a year has revolutionised the way we run this department.

Ultimately any teaching tool has to be judged by whether it raises attainment.  We won’t have the results of these qualifications until August 2013 and there are too many factors to enable a straight comparison to last year to take place.  However as a teacher, I know exactly where all my classes are on all pieces of work.  I am giving much better feedback to students on their work.  Students are reacting to my comments and redrafting their work.  As a parent I am having really high quality discussions with my son about his work.  How can all of this NOT lead to better attainment?

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