Engagement through Digital Conversations

I’ve started using edmodo again this year.  I had played with it years ago when it was little more than a discussion platform for students.  I gave up on it when my district made it clear that social networking was evil inappropriate for educational purposes.  Soon after, the folks at edmodo decided to change the look and make it much more Facebook-like, and then began to add more features at an amazing rate.  It has become much more of an instructional tool than ever before.

This year, in a strange twist, my district decided to purchase a district license for edmodo. The social networking policy hasn’t changed, but edmodo is now a de facto exception.  As I began to use it and train others in its use, it was clear that this would become an integral part of my classroom this year.  In fact, you can expect a future post about the assessment tools and their usefulness for classroom teachers.

As the year began and I introduced my students to edmodo, I knew that they would find it engaging (although we require that all discussions be “school related”) for its social interactions and the taboo of 11-year-olds using their own “Facebook”.  What I didn’t expect is the level of self-motivation that this medium would provide.

I posted on edmodo several items to help my students prepare for an upcoming quiz, including Quizlet flashcards and reminders of the date of the assessment.  One evening last week, just prior to the quiz day, I noticed that one of my students had posted a study guide for the quiz.  He had created his own outline of the content and a fill-in-the-blank practice quiz, and then posted it online for all of his peers to use!

In my wildest imagination, I had not expected that I would have students volunteering to do extra work and share it freely without any reward in the first month of using this tool.

Obviously, my experiences might be unique.  Your students may not take to it as mine have.  You might need to use the “badge” feature as a sort of intangible reward system, offering badges to students who show citizenship, leadership, effort, etc.  But, this is definitely a tool with lots of potential, and a great example of how digital conversations can be powerful ways to engage your students.

How do you engage your students using online tools?

photo credit: timsackton via photo pin cc

4 thoughts on “Engagement through Digital Conversations

  1. Well, that settles it.

    My students blog, but I’ve not used Edmodo before. However, I’d been considering trying it over our upcoming September track out for students to discuss a book our school is reading as a “One Book, One School” event. After reading your post, I’ve decided to give students the option of reading the book and participating via Edmodo over track out, or reading and completing a second option when we track back in October.

    I expect one benefit will likely be I will be dealing with a smaller group than usual of interested & motivated students. I like the idea of this built-in differentiation. (In your follow-up posts, I’d love any suggestions you have for helping those students without at-home access.)

    I was planning to read the book over track out alongside the students. I watched a few Edmodo tutorials on YouTube, but realistically, how much has to be set up before I hand out a class code? Any resources you suggest or advice on assessment?

  2. I like it, Pal…

    I’m tinkering with the notion of getting my own Edmodo page up and running. Just haven’t had the time to experiment with it yet.

    In the end, I like the notion of giving kids the chance to interact with one another beyond school simply because I think it leads to the development of relationships that wouldn’t have otherwise developed.

    Kids from different social groups can see each other as valuable equals online — and those opportunities break down social walls that make relationships difficult in a middle school.

    Thanks for sharing this. Might just be the nudge I need to move forward.

    Rock on,
    Bill

    PS: Good luck to the Pats this weekend. That’s the last time I’ll say that.

  3. I’ve started up with Edmodo again. This time, I’m using it as academic enrichment for my AG students. I have a select group of thirty students, and I find it more manageable and meaningful. I can post alternative assignments and develop a deeper connection with my students. It also allows my higher level students interact and collaborate with students in other classes. It is really appealing the creative types who are organizationally challenged (like myself 🙂 since they can post assignments online. I’m so glad that you brought Edmodo to my attention and that our district is embracing it.

    P.S. The halls aren’t the same without you, Paul!

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