The learning curve has been steep, but my students and I are climbing the mountain together, and together, we are beginning to really reap the benefits of this technology.
Most notably, Edmodo has facilitated my communication with families, allowed me to engage learners who are not always successful with traditional learning models, and enabled me to keep in touch with students when I am away for a day.
Communication with Families
I began the year by sending home a letter to parents, inviting them to join us online by creating a free "Parent Account" on Edmodo. Although we've been on work-to-rule for most of the fall, and this has limited the amount of family updates I have been able to post, parents and guardians are still able to see their children's assignment and online participation if they so choose.
For families who have elected to participate in this way, it has given them a glimpse into their child's classroom and learning that they would certainly not have had through more traditional means like a monthly newsletter or the occasional teacher phone call home.
We hear a lot about 21-century learning, and increasingly, I am beginning to wonder if this actually refers to non-traditional learners. For example the more quiet students in class who have found their voice online, and collaborate with their peers in small groups I've created online, or who post replies to some of the videos and web resources I offer to them in our online classroom.
In recent days, I have even noticed some students who sometimes find the in-class pace unconducive to their learning style slinking away into a corner with one of our shared classroom devices to log on to Edmodo and explore various resources I have posted there. (I know they are doing this, because at the end of the day when I login to post homework, I see their posts and replies to posts, which are time-marked during the school day!!)
At first this disturbed me, because I felt upset that these students weren't paying attention in class. But then I realised that they often don't really "attend" mentally anyway while I am teaching, so if getting online is going to further their learning and keep them from distracting the others who are learning in real time with me, well, actually, why not?!
Being more flexible like this also allows those students in my class who don't have ready access to the internet at home the opportunity to explore digital learning and develop their online skills.
Keeping in Touch
As I am often invited to writing teams or and out presenting to colleagues across the province on various projects, or am away at conferences to further my own learning, it's important to me to keep the flow of learning consistent for the students. Edmodo has allowed me to develop a seamless line of communication with my students.
For example, today I left a mini-lesson on homophones for my OT to complete with students. While planning my dayplan, I posted a "time delayed" assignment on Edmodo as a follow up for students when they got home. I could then assess what students had taken away from the lesson, even though I was not there to teach it, and students could see that I partner with the OT, which I am hopeful ups their level of respect for "the supply teacher".
A few of their comments from today's lesson...
"With [Supply Teacher], we learned that homophones can be pronounced the same but, can and/or can't be spelt (the) same/differently. Ms. Benjamin wrote on the board.. "they're, there and their" and "two, to and too". Each group had to make sentences using those homophones. Later, we'd get to share our sentences and she'd write it on the board. I found this extremely helpful."
"Today with [Supply Teacher] we learned about homophones and homophones are words that sound the same but they have different meanings( ex. There, their and they're ). Before I kept getting mixed up with homophones and homonyms but now I know that homophones are words that have the same sound but different meanings and homonyms are words that look the same but have different meanings."
"I already knew what's the difference between to, too and two but today I learned what they're, there and their means. I do know but I keep on forgetting, so thank you [Supply Teacher] for reminding what they're, there and their mean. They're is short for they are, like "they're so beautiful!" And there means place/location, like "there are lots of children in my class!" And even their means belonging to them, like "the boys are riding their bikes."
Although Edmodo offers the opportunity for me to provide descriptive feedback to students on various assignments, it is not as robust an assessment tool as I had hoped it would be, and I am still partnering it with other digital and paper tools to track student progress.
Nevertheless, I am really enjoying Edmodo as a vehicle for helping students develop polite, respectful online relationships, and practice accountable classroom talk in a virtual setting.
Teacher as Model
The online format has been welcome to many students in my class, but has represented a steep learning curve to others. I also model digital citizenship and online learning by taking courses in digital format myself--most recently I am engaged in a 4-part fully online course designed entirely by university students half my age with ten times my tech-savvy who are leading me and colleagues from across the globe in "Designing Digital Media for Teaching and Learning".
In addition to trying out some of these tools in class and online with students, I also post reflections and classroom photos from our Grade 6 world regularly on Edmodo as a way for students to continue to the learning conversation beyond the physical classroom if they so choose.
Happily, many of them seem to be so choosing!