Friday, 16 April 2010

Edmodo: an educational alternative to Twitter

As you might gather from some of my previous posts, I'm a big fan of Twitter for both personal development and as an educational tool for students. However, one thing it's not that great for is setting up private groups, e.g. for a particular class or group of students. A colleague suggested using Edmodo as an alternative and I've just started using it with one of my groups.

I'm impressed...very impressed. It's perfect for setting up a private group/network for your groups and you have a lot more options in terms of what you can send to your students. You can set up multiple classes and control which messages/attachments go where. So, for example, I might want to send a document/file to an individual student in a class, a whole class or all my classes and all of this is possible from the homescreen. You can also embed You Tube videos, set assignments, create polls or send links. Here's a screenshot of the homepage.

One interesting aspect is that students are restricted to only sending messages to either the whole group or to the teacher...they can't send messages privately to each other. You can see the logic here, particularly if you have younger students, as it could easily just become a private chatroom for them. I teach fairly responsible adults so that's not such a big issue for me and it would be nice to have the ability to switch that option on or off. However, students can reply to each other's posts, but the reply is displayed publicly.

Today with my students I got them to sign up, we did a few practice posts so they got the idea, then I got them to look at some websites our teaching centre has up on Delicious. They then wrote short descriptions/evaluations of them and posted them to the group Edmodo site. Here's a screenshot to show you some of the things they came up with:

They took to it very quickly, even those who are not that technically proficient and they were posting links within minutes after being guided through the sign up and posting procedure.

 I can see this as being a great way for me to share materials/links/messages with the group and for them to share with each other and me. It's certainly a lot less cumbersome than using the university's VLE (Blackboard), which many of the students don't use very often because it's so confusing to navigate around. One immediate use for me is to be able to quickly share all my Interactive Whiteboard notes that I've saved after a lesson. Normally, I post these up on Blackboard, but this is a much quicker way for my students to access them.

Another good thing (especially for this blog!)  is that Edmodo have created a mobile version of their website for easy access on students' phones. Here's a screenshot of how it looks on my phone:

You can see this is a stripped down version of the main site, but all the basic functionality is there. A few of my students have smartphones like the iPhone or higher-end Nokia phones, so I showed them how they could access the mobile site on their phones. Unlike Twitter though, there doesn't seem to be an option to receive notifications via SMS, at least not in the UK. On the settings page you can enable this, but it didn't seem to work for me, so I'm assuming this may only be available in the States for now.

Anyhow, over the next few weeks I hope to explore how Edmodo can be used with my group and how they respond to it. Naturally I will share this all with you. If you want to learn more about how to use it, here is a great video tutorial.

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