Teacher Spotlight: Rob Waller, Friends Academy

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January 3rd, 2013

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This post is part of our Edmodo Spotlight series which highlights Edmodo teachers, schools and districts. If you are interested in being featured, please complete this form.

This week’s teacher spotlight features Rob Waller, an 8th grade History teacher at Friends Academy in Locust Valley, New York.

Engaging Students in Current Events

I’m sure my fellow history teachers can relate to this issue: my eighth grade history students were reluctant to take time during their day to read anything related to current events that didn’t involve a Kardashian or a sports score.

Thanks to Edmodo, my students are routinely posting articles they find from legitimate news sources like the Huffington Post and The New York Times.  Sometimes they even beat other teachers (including me!) to breaking news, and discuss trending topics before they arrive at school in the morning!

Students have gone from close to zero interest in current events to rabidly participating in an online conversation about ideas and events that happen all over the world.

Rewarding Students With Badges

The quiz feature is fantastic and enables me to give nightly reading quizzes based on the students’ textbook assignments. Students love the ‘badges’ that I can create – they are a tangible reward for student participation. The familiarity of Edmodo engages students with social media as a “new literacy” that is already a part of their social lives.

How I Got my Students Interested in Politics

During the presidential debates, I organized my students into separate groups and had them comment and discuss in real time using Edmodo at home on their computers, all the while watching the debates live on TV.  The results were incredible! My students were hooked!

They loved involving themselves more with politics, and they were demonstrating important skills: critical thinking, collaboration, debate, persuasive writing – and all for the authentic audience of their peers!

I was so pleased with the way Edmodo worked – it even allowed me to create small groups based on student interest.  Sadly, because of the natural disaster of Hurricane Sandy, my students were not able to participate fully with Edmodo on election day.

Before the storm hit, the students were planning to run a “news hub/situation room” located in my classroom, using Edmodo all during election day to post articles, facilitate discussions with other students, upload hourly polls (using the poll feature) on important issues, and even stay at school late into the evening to watch/post while the results came in!  Even though we weren’t able to follow through with our plans, seeing the excitement in my students and the passion that they had for the election and politics was amazing.

I could never have dreamed of having my eighth grade students be that fired up about politics if it wasn’t for Edmodo!

Advice For New Edmodo Teachers

  • Be clear about expectations for students from the beginning.
  • Set boundaries about what type of communication is expected in terms of writing conventions, posting of articles, casual comments, etc.
  • Use rubrics and have frequent discussions with the students about their postings.
  • Encourage students to explore Edmodo – it’s a hard balance, but part of the fun is letting the students experiment, knowing that they are safe.

Edmodo is wonderful and adds a whole new amazing layer to your classroom!

One response to “Teacher Spotlight: Rob Waller, Friends Academy”

  1. Tonya says:

    I love the rubric idea about discussing posts!

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