The DIY Teacher: Moving freely between learning spaces
Posted by: Edmodo
Week 3 with Bianca!
I am often asked by teachers why they should use Edmodo (often referred to as a microblog) when they already use a blog (such as edublogs and WordPress). It’s a pretty sensible question – teachers are already busy and don’t really need to be doubling up on work for no extra benefit to themselves or their students.
So what is my answer to this question? Well I simply say, the difference is between ‘private’ and ‘public’ as well as ‘process’ and ‘product’. Edmodo is the place where my students communicate with each other and with me as they work on a particular topic or project. In edmodo students ask each other questions, they share drafts of their work, they post links to useful sites and turn-in their finished products to be marked by me. This is a private world of communication, collaboration and creation. It is like a workshop full of movement and ‘noise’. Here we make mistakes together, take risks and ultimately learn new skills and gain new knowledge. A blog, on the other hand, is a public space. It is here that we celebrate the work that has been completed in class. It is the presentation of the completed product. It is the result of investigations into new and wonderful worlds of ideas. This public space gives my students the chance to share their work with an authentic audience and get valuable feedback from people all over the world.
You might wonder how my students’ poems, stories, essays, films, presentations, documentaries, games and interactive posters could possibly get feedback from people around the world. But it’s simple – I have established a strong PLN (professional learning network) and share the latest class blog post with my network (like many teachers I use Twitter for my PLN – follow me if you want @biancah80). Teachers love to share great examples of student work with their own students as motivation, inspiration and sometimes even a challenge. Teachers are also generous with their feedback on the work of young people, even if the student is not their own. Getting feedback on your work from a complete stranger is a buzz – the kids love it!
The cool thing about sharing exemplar student work in this way is that is actually motivates students to work harder to achieve even better results. Our students are social creatures, and more and more this socializing is occurring online. They are all too familiar with being ‘liked’ on facebook – having their work ‘liked’ via a blog comment is extremely rewarding for them.
Finally, sharing student work on a blog can open students up to far greater audiences and opportunities than you would ever dream of as a teacher confined by four brick walls. Just recently (during our school break) I shared on twitter a link to a blog post featuring my students’ protest poems (you can check them out here http://yr9creativethinkers.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/how-can-people-use-their-voices-to-bring-about-positive-change-in-our-world/). A few minutes after sending my tweet I had received as direct message from a magazine asking to publish some of my students’ work! I swiftly agreed on behalf of my students and by the time school resumed two weeks later I had a copy of the magazine with the printed poems in it to share with the students. You can imagine the excitement they felt. It’s pretty cool to be able to say that you’re a published poet at age 14.
The really sweet part of this anecdote is that the students who were selected really worked hard on their poems. Through Edmodo they discussed what made a good poem and shared thoughtful criticisms of well-known protest poems. They then used Edmodo to workshop their poems with the help of peer and teacher feedback. Finally after lots of hard work they felt confident that their poems were ready to be shared with the world.
So that is what I would say is the greatest difference between a class Edmodo group and a class blog. I always advocate for teachers to use both, as they serve different functions. For me Edmodo and blogs are not about what I put on there. Sure they can be about delivering content but I believe the best use of Edmodo and blogs is to give students a place to share their own ideas, skills and knowledge. It’s true that not all student work will be a masterpiece worthy of sharing with the rest of the world. Edmodo lets students make learning mistakes in private and it is the teacher (and even the students through class polls) who can judiciously select the best works to be shared with the world. You’d be surprised how selecting a student’s work to be showcased to the world on the web can really improve engagement and learning outcomes!
I highly recommend moving freely between learning spaces – use Edmodo as the private space for the messy learning process and your class blog as the public space to celebrate polished products.