We had the opportunity to meet with Ms. Lois Sharzer of Curriculum Associates about her Blended Learning program entitled i-Ready. Although our students are currently using a computer based program to supplement their instruction in reading and math, there was no comparison between the two. Our teachers were highly impressed. i-Ready includes many benefits; it provides rigorous instruction and practice on specific Common Core State Standards, automated differentiated online instruction and ongoing progress monitoring, detailed teacher and parent reports, data driven differentiated instruction pinpointing needs down to the sub-skill level. Several teachers will be piloting the program with their classes for the duration of the school year.
Although i-Ready is a great program, I realized we already had access to something else which is already in our own backyard, and even better, it’s free. This Web 2.0 tool which is great for communicating and connecting with one’s students, is none other than Edmodo. (www.edmodo.com). Edmodo is a Learning Management System (LMS) and offers so many of the features that an Online/Blended Learning Program should have. II started using Edmodo as a tool to communicate and connect with my students, which is so crucial to success. I am currently teaching grades three through five, but soon I will be teaching through the eighth grade. I created a group entitled “Technology Skills,” and then created smaller groups for each class that I teach within the large group. Initially, I was going to dictate each and every website that would be representing a skill that we would be learning. I had no idea how I was going to do that; and even more so, the students have enough difficulty navigating the Internet using the web browser; I had no idea how they would manage.
I therefore set up folders for each strand that I would teach. Inside the folders are links to websites that we will be using, videos, and other files I plan to share with my students. In addition, I am able to post assignments, alerts, quizzes, and polls for my students to complete. At this point in time, we are not using the platform for asynchronous learning, but I really would like to start using it in that fashion at some point in the future. Since my students are able to access it at home on their own time, they are able to practice (or pre-learn) the skills that I have included on my page. I will admit that I could not believe how quickly my students - even the third graders - discovered how to post messages on the site to me.
So all of the sudden, I had a bunch of students posting “love notes” to me through Edmodo. Now I know that this is not the purpose of Edmodo, but since my students are new to this concept (and hopefully are not using Facebook or other social media at their young age), I was letting them have fun. Unfortunately, it got a bit out of hand and some disciplinary action was necessary. A student who unfortunately has social issues, decided to post some inappropriate content directed towards me. I was very lucky that when I read these messages, I turned off the projector immediately so the other students could not see it. Instead of dealing with him directly, I printed out the messages and turned it over to the school administration. The student later apologized that evening using Edmodo as the tool to communicate with me.
As I reflect, I realize that I should have given them guidelines as to how they should properly post messages. Since we just concluded our first strand which focused on Digital Citizenship, I would hope that they would know how to post messages online - unfortunately, some messages and lessons that we teach just don’t seem to sink into our students’ heads. I am going to need to reiterate each and every session what the posting guidelines will be. I want this to be a productive experience for my students as they are very dependent on technology in order to communicate with others.
My students are sending me many notes often complimenting me about my class, which I truly appreciate. It’s great to receive feedback - especially when it’s positive. I really try to respond to each and every message they send me - usually within a few hours. When I do respond, I try to turn it into a conversation, or I might given them something to think about. Through this I am connecting with my students. My intent is that in time, they will be posting notes that are connected to what we are learning in class. I hope to teach them how to embed or link Edmodo to projects that they create using various tools that we are learning in class. The groups will then be able to comment on other members’ projects within their own group. Again, we will apply the lessons that we have learned about Digital Citizenship and posting messages in an appropriate manner.
I honestly did not even consider using Edmodo with third graders as I thought they were too young. However, I must say they did pretty well. Of course, nothing is perfect, and I have monitor them at the same time. I hope that as the year progresses, my students’ will gain a better sense and understanding about how valuable this tool can be in order to communicate and connect with others.
This blog post was originally written on November 21, 2013 and has been cross-posted from http://www.opendayschool.org/community/blog/entry/edmodo-a-great-way-to-connect-and-communicate-with-my-students.