Sep 172011
 

Well, we are two weeks in and I have already come to an opinion about Edmodo, digital learning’s promising new upstart. I have to say, there is a lot to like about it and as a result teachers are flocking to this content management system to manage their classrooms and their curriculum.

Before I go any further, let me share bit of my background and what I am judging Edmodo to. Although I hesitate to call myself an expert, I have been in the distributed learning game for my whole 15(ish) year career. I cut my teeth on the Pathfinder learning system which morphed in to the failed Nautikos Learning system. I have used Plato, Web CT, dabbled in Share Point for Education and I even built my own online classroom before deciding to run Moodle as my content management system. For the past three school years, I ran a Moodle site for my online classrooms but unfortunately I had to abandon it because it became to costly to self host on a private server. When I stumbled upon Edmodo this summer, I was very hopeful that I had found an affordable solution for my online classroom needs.

Right out of the box there are eight things which Edmodo’s developers have done well.

  • Assignment distribution and submission is quick and easy
  • Similar appearance & function to Facebook allows kids to figure out classroom quickly.
  • It is is completely free so there is no out of pocket expense for teachers.
  • Easy to create classes
  • Simple to use grading system
  • Decent calendar but I wish you could sync it to google calander
  • There is an excellent networking function where teachers network with colleagues.
  • There is a mobile app for those teachers and students on the go.

Edmodo definitely has the basics in place but for a Distributed Learning System to really be useful, you need a few more functions or applications before you can truly create an effective online classroom environment. I find the following items to be crucial in running a digital classroom and they will have to be implemented by Edmodo before they can hope to become the go to online education solution.

Threaded Discussion – This is Old School Social Networking but it still serves an important purpose in an online classroom. Where things like twitter and instant messaging serve to share ideas quickly and in the moment. A threaded forum provides a place where students can share ideas over a day a week or even a semester. It gives students to time to think about what they have read and formulate a calculated response. This is especially important for students who are not quick of the mark with their thoughts, ESL or simply not good writers and need time to read through and edit what they post. This function is imperative in any online classroom environment.

Blog Module – I have been using blogs for years and I have ex students who are still posting in the same blog I had them create ten years ago. It is a great way to get kids to put down thoughts after a class discussion, presentation, video or other. I have used student blogs in parent teacher interviews as evidence of learning and when I need a kid to pull up their socks. A blog function is invaluable to any classroom virtual or bums in seats.

Instant Messaging – Now this is not a MUST HAVE but it is useful in a number of situations. Kids can discuss assignments, ideas they have, or simply socialize. They also find it handy at 11pm when they are doing their homework and can contact me instantly for help.

Mass Email Function – This function is a HUGE help in managing students. I currently use a third party vendor called constant contact for emailing students and parents about assignments due, special announcements or any other issues that warrant a mass email. This may be a bit of a long shot for Edmodo to put into place but it would be handy.

Testing Module – As much as I hate to say it, a testing module would be good to have. I know that the word “test” is the new baddy in the 4 letter word world but on occasion it is necessary to give the kids a test. It keeps them honest and heck, lets be honest. It is kinda fun seeing the panic in their eyes once or twice a term.

Web based Text Input – In my opinion this is another must have for kids to be able to submit things like question answers and minor assignments using a java based text box. It is a much easier way to submit answers then uploading a document file every time they complete their work. This is especially important for those who are using an ipad, since you cannot search to and find files for uploading on your ipad. The iPad situation is turning into a HUGE pain in the backside for the kids and I.

Now there is about another half dozen items I would like to see Edmodo implement but I am a realist. I can’t have everything but what we have here is a start. It is by no means a perfect online learning environment but it isn’t all that bad either. Edmodo has many advantages, especially for individual teacher the most significant of which are that it is simple, effective and FREE. Considering Edmodo is backed by Union Square Ventures, the same company which backed Twitter, LinkedIn, Formspring and Zynga, I can only assume that there is more to come for Edmodo. In the end only time will tell if we have a winner on our hands but I look forward to whatever comes down the line and I will be there to praise it or pan it.

Pie in the Sky Wish List

  • Wiki Space
  • White board for real time instruction
  • Ability to add twitter feeds
  • Collaborative space
  • Google Docs integration in lieu of collaborative space

  13 Responses to “Edmodo Review”

  1. … Keithrispin.com…

    […] Informations on that Topic: keithrispin.com/edtech/edmodo […]…

  2. IM? Use Twitter. That way others can see it too. iPad will send you a “@Foo mentioned you in a tweet” if you’re using it, like if you were online to do instant messaging.

  3. Too many negatives for my taste. As a college app, sure. But what’s an educational website want under-age kids to include their personal information for? As though they are more secure than any other social networking site. Right. And if one parent gets ticked for some reason, or if a student gets a little too mad at school, all the other classmates info is their ready for viewing. With trolling predators and so many blue dots on the police map that our kids can’t even freely bicycle the block, that this (or any) site would prod kids “You are only 5 percent logged in. So tell us all your personal info.) And many parents including me are stating it isn’t nearly phone compatible enough. New meaning to ‘head in the clouds’ – hate society insisting toward nonuse of a pen or pencil. It WILL NOT make teachers lives easier. But I’m sure unions will love it.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Blue,

      Personally, I don’t think there is much risk of a minors personal information being accessed by classmates, parents or creepers in the general public. Classmates do not have access to each others info, teacher monitors all interactions between students, parents can only see their own child’s activity… There isn’t much to see and unless you have the class code, a creeper from the general public will not get access to the online classroom and if by some bizarre reason thy do, the teacher is immediately notified of a new enrolee.

      Kids don’t have to provide an email or their real name when signing up and a teacher could code their students so nobody could tell who was who.

      As for teachers Unions LOVING IT… If the truth be told, most teachers and the unions that represent them dislike distributed learning systems like Edmodo. Teachers like me are still in the minority. Most teachers I work with, still support good old fashioned book lernin over digital learning environments.

      I can certainly appreciate your concerns but personally, I don’t think they are warranted.

      Thanks again.

  4. Our children who are in the 1st & 3rd grade are also being encouraged to use these types of applications, and we’ve made the decision to not allow it. Children at such an early age should not be encouraged to sit in front of a screen.

    The reasons are many: it is detrimental to their brain development, opens the door to advertising, encourages a culture of screen viewing, and presumes that all children have equal access to a computer/pad/phone and the Internet.

    In addition to the concerns about privacy and security mentioned above (I work in IT security, and don’t believe that this is as safe as you are presenting it), all point to the fact that this is the wrong medium for education at an early age.

    • Thanks for your comment Michael.

      A couple things. If I am not mistaken, I didn’t suggest any grade that Edmodo is good for or should be implemented by. Personally I agree with you, a platform like this has no business in the primary classroom. Their cognitive development should not be digitized. My own children had minimal access to screen time through the primary years. My eldest (14 years) just bought her first laptop a couple months ago and uses it for school and that is it. Both kids read incessantly and spend far more time doing that then watching TV even.

      As for security, I think it has been proven once and for all recently, that no one is safe from the prying eyes that are out there. Malicious or not. So what do we do about that. We can choose to keep our kids in a bubble or teach them to use the internet wisely with the understanding that someone is harvesting information about them every second they are online. My kids walk to school every day and I am not there to watch over them so they have to be “street wise” now kids have to learn to be “Web Wise”

      Cheers,
      Keith

      • It is nice to think that a child’s computer screen time can be whittled down to “For School use only, but let’s face it: The push to read ebooks rather than closing the laptop to pick up a paperback book exists as well, dears. The screen time dilemma is ratcheting up, not falling back.
        Not to mention temptation to toggle back and forth between different screens and apps to escape staring at the vapid Edmodo screen. Some also take more time or less time to get through the homework. So the amount of screen time for your child may not be the same as mine. Reading is one thing, but Edmodo for math needs more interaction, pencil to paper and rapid fire response of instant messaging.

  5. As a Pre-K teacher, I agree small children should not have screen time, but parents are wanting more information about their child. It is a great way to post classroom activities to a group of parents, and to provide links to songs we sang in the classroom. I agree that real face time is the most important but as we are seeing younger parents who are growing up in a generation of facebook, twitter, and texting, we as teachers need to be able to communicate effectively. In addition, the new common core standards require portfolio examples and Edmodo is a great way to quickly provide content for a parent conference. I wish education was that simple, but with new millennial families schools need to be ahead of the curve so we can provide ‘safer’ ways to communicate. I would also like to speak to the fact that most of my young students have 2 to 4 hours of screen time a day. I would rather it be a link about our class study than cartoons. I agree that screen time is not appropriate at such an early age, but unfortunately it is a reality. Thanks Keith for the review, and I agree with a Mass Email function. It would make a quick supply request or field trip change much easier. 😉 Mistie

  6. Michael, I totally agree with you, my fifth grader was just signed up for this and I called the teacher and asked him first of all who authorized this, last time I checked my child was 10 years old and a minor, I asked him to immediately remove my sons profile from this site. What I saw on this page was all the kids posting pictures of themselves and talking about everything except school assingments. These teachers are opening themselves to potential lawsuits and the kids to be being bullied. This is just another lazy way for the teacher not to do his work.

  7. I can’t agree with the notion that screen-time should be a reality in the classroom because it is a reality at home. This sounds like complacency about something that is highly damaging to children. 2-4 hours of screen-time at home also implies daily consistent advertising exposure, not to mention the disruptive nature of children’s programming (unnecessary action sequences, rapid changes in volume, stereotypical imagery, etc.). The typical LCD screen also damages young developing eyes and increases the likelihood of myopia.

    To suggest that teachers should then add on another hour or more of screen-time to this barrage is, in my opinion, irresponsible. There is significant evidence that screen-based learning has no advantages (Baby Einstein being a case-in-point). Computer-based learning is little more than simplistic single-dimension reactions to elementary stimuli, while video is entirely one-directional. This is infinitely less effective than human communication in the learning process, where all the senses are exercised and reinforced by the reaction of the teacher.

    Let’s consider the limitations of screen time. Young students simply will not have the same experience with in-class experiments in their science classes when this is only shown on a TV screen. I’m sure we’ve all forgotten our classes taught in dark rooms lit up only with the glow of a screen showing a bullet-point ridden power-point presentation, but who doesn’t remember their first dissection in biology lab? Likewise, there is a world of difference between watching the movie adaptation of Romeo and Juliet on an iPad and acting it out in a play on a real stage. This is not to say that the screen cannot be a useful reference, but if it dominates the learning experience, then we do more harm than good. In some cases, screen time is simply used to hide a teacher’s own laziness and lack of teaching ability – I can certainly name a few of my own high-school teachers who fit that description.

    As parents and teachers, we have a responsibility to use the most effective method of teaching, and screen-time should be a minor part thereof. This is especially true for younger children, but also for older children. We can’t control what happens in the home and on cell phones outside, but knowing that it is excessive already for most children, it is irresponsible for us to then pile it on in class, use it as a crutch for teaching deficiencies, or simply as a baby-sitter and time-filler.

  8. ISSUE: Edmodo Enables Misuse and Bullying

    DISCUSSION: In a 48 hour period, my daughter’s 4th grade class of 24 students posted nearly 2000 posts. There was cyber-bullying, threats, sexual comments and strong innuendos, false claims of ongoing burglaries, and a student posted a graphic picture, and more… The Edmodo site is enabling this mostly unsupervised behavior. Edmodo allows unfiltered posting of pictures, media, web-links, and chat. There are no auto-filters, no smart scanners, etc. to find and filter web-sites, media postings, or text messages. It’s obvious that a single teacher cannot properly monitor the great volume of chat that is sure to continue if allowed and enabled. The most a teacher can do, if they “catch” something wrong (though not likely out the nearly 1000 posts a day from a single class- many of which become hidden due to compression), the most they can do is try to fix things after the fact. Of the nearly 2000 posts that I spent 4+ hours reviewing, only 2, yes, 2 out of nearly 2000, or close to 1/10th of 1%, actually pertained to classwork or homework. This needs to be addressed and FIXED.

    RECOMMENDATIONS:
    For users 18 years and younger (i.e. Edmodo accounts for elementary, middle and high school- which is probably where 90%+ of Edmodo users are):
    -Limit Chat: only allow a maximum of 5 posts per day (without this, it is unreasonable to expect adequate adult supervision)
    -Keep it All Visible & Easy for Adults to Review: do not compress any discussions– it should all be easily seen by parents and teachers
    -Keep Graphic Pictures & Documents Off: do not allow the posting of documents or pictures (other than possibly submitting an assignment directly to a teacher)
    -Filter It: incorporate a filter to disallow certain language and red flag inappropriate/bullying posts- and send a notice to the teacher and parent of such an event

    Without these recommendations, Edmodo will continue to Enable Misuse and Bullying- providing an unsupervised arena for our children… Not to mention the early indoctrination of our children into embracing social media, as Edmodo has a Facebook feel to it.

    These concerns were raised to Edmodo administrators over 6 months ago, and nothing has been fixed- other than they posted a parental permission form for schools to use that makes Edmodo sound like it’s some great thing… In actuality, our children would probably be much better off if it didn’t exist.

  9. I turned in my final assignment to my Professor, he never received it on edmodo. I failed. I’m an honor student and would seriously love to thank edmodo for giving me my first F ever.

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