Over the last few years as a middle school language arts and social studies teacher, I have experimented with many web 2.0 tools—from wiki’s to wordle; diigo to dabbleboard and everything in between. In fact, I was such a proliferous early adopter that my students actually yearned to go back to using paper and pencil! “Can’t we just write in our notebooks and turn it in to you?” I’d hear them say after 10 days of researching with wikispaces or creating a shared whiteboard on dabbleboard. To be sure, though, after a few days of the “old” way back in their classroom desks working out of notebooks, they were ready to get back to using the laptops and/or computer lab.
Now, if I were to suggest one of the many resources I tried with my students last year to a teacher wishing to truly transform their teaching, I know hands down which one I’d choose: Edmodo (www.edmodo.com) . Edmodo is a social networking tool (a’ la facebook) designed specifically for the classroom. It has many features that can be used both in the classroom during lessons, but also out of the classroom as a communication piece. However, the number one reason to use Edmodo is that it allows the teacher take advantage of crowdsourcing (a business term used to suggest web 2.0 collaboration) in the classroom. Indeed, this is the real genius of Edmodo. By providing a forum where students can easily be a source of information for each other, the teacher is leveraging the “wisdom of the crowd” to borrow the title of James Surowiecki’s recent book. For example, imagine that a student is absent one day. He could get onto the class social network and make a post asking what the assignment was that day. Another student could respond with her interpretation of what the teacher wanted. Still another student could reply (all of this occurs as a “threaded discussion”, see below) with additional thoughts so the absent student is able to know exactly what the assignment was. The student could also send you, the teacher, a direct message via that Edmodo feature, but doesn’t it make sense in terms of efficiency to let the students help each other out? Here’s an example threaded discussion on edmodo:
As with any technology tool, there are limitations. If students are really taking advantage of edmodo to communicate, it can be hard to monitor every single post. Here again, however, because all student postings are publicly viewable by every member of the class, the “crowd” becomes a powerful resource for the teacher (e.g. “Mr. Talmadge, Johnny made fun of Suzie on edmodo last night…” Ultimately, in my experience, I found that the drawback of having to spend time monitoring posts was far outweighed by the beauty of a tool that allowed me to have a controlled environment in which to help my students be responsible digital citizens in a social network environment. (for more on digital citizenship see www.digitalcitizenship.net).