When Ben Wilkoff began teaching 7th grade Language Arts in 2004, he started connecting the dots between learning and technology. Today, Ben is an Online Learning/ Technology Specialist in the Douglas County (CO) School District. He has been using Edmodo regularly since his district signed up, and has seen tremendous enthusiasm from his students. You can read Ben’s testimonial below, or stop by on Tuesday, September 7, 2010 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM PDT and listen to him discuss why students at his school love Edmodo.
Edmodo for Online Schools… wait, for all schools.
Aug 30, 2010 // by
I don’t usually make it a point to call attention to a particular technology as being so overwhelmingly beneficial to education as to set itself apart from those that have come before it, but in this case I will make an exception.
I have used social networks and collaborative environments with students for a number of years. Everything from Wikispaces and Google Sites to Voicethread to Ning. Each one had a significant impact on students by creating a space for student ownership and collaborative contribution. However, each time that a project ended, the community dried up and withered away. There was no underlying instinct to share or create with one another because it was always focused around only an academic understanding of student needs. By only going after part of the student, both the technology and my understanding of what was possible were severely stunted.
While I had used Edmodo two years ago to have students reflect upon their progress for a particular activity, both the web application and my understanding of it have advanced considerably within the last month. You see, last month our school district instituted a pilot for Edmodo as an institution. The first step of that pilot is within our k-12 Online School. Some would say that this is a poor choice for a pilot because it isn’t like a brick and mortar school with a traditional bell schedule and scarce technological resources.
Here is why I made the case for it’s inclusion in the pilot:
Every school has walls. The online school just has them in a learning management system. Every school has a gradebook. The online school’s just doesn’t require as much manual entry. Every school has curriculum. The online school’s is just hyperlinked. Every school has a hallway and a cafeteria, but until Edmodo, our Online School did not. We needed a place for students to share what was going on in their lives within a safe and school-based environment.
That was the case that I made, but I wasn’t fully prepared for the results. From the very first day of school, our students have made this space their own. They never had any doubts as to what it was or why they needed it. Here is how I know:
- The students have asked for (and received) the creation of over 40 different groups that are both academic and social. Here is a list of what they have requested: Book Chat, Baseball Fan Club, The games lounge, lunch room, The music club, The Coffee Shop, Lego Fans!, All Sports Talk, Movie Talk, Film Fans, Sidewalk Art, The sience room, Sophomore Class!, Modern Warfare (Video Game), OtakuFans, The Official Hallway, The Bench, Click This (Photography), Recess!!, Class of 2014, aero space science, anime chat lounge, The fun Palace, Pizza Place, 5th Grade Hallway, political conversation, cat lovers, Quantem Tag-Team Underwater Basket Weaving Club, Mario club, Acting101, Help Pets, The Asimov & Tolkien Reading Lounge, field trip ideas, volleyball lovers, Hockey chat, Creative Writing Club, Let’s Talk
- They organized and created a weekly news show for our school (completely on their own). Here is the first episode.
- They created their own music and music videos.
- They have shared art, photographs, and literary discussions.
- They have created screencasts to help one another with the technology (and to do interesting things)
And that is just a taste of the things they are doing in Edmodo. I can honestly say that I didn’t know a group of students from all ages would coexist in such an open space and work together to create things of learning and beauty all because they had the tool and the opportunity to do so. Throughout this year we will see students who are more engaged and less apathetic because they feel confident that their schools is real in the ways that matter.
I can already hear detractors for this evidence. I know that they would come from two directions and I would like to tackle each one individually:
- An online school isn’t like a regular school. Those kinds of uses would work in MY school.
- That is too social. It will take away from the time that my students use for studying and doing homework.
As for the idea that Edmodo is too social and would take away from student achievement. I concede nothing on that point. Student achievement can only be based upon student engagement. Students who join extra curricular activities are less likely to drop out and more likely to achieve than those who do not take advantage of those opportunities. Students who stay in the school past class time to talk to teachers and one another will do better on their tests and projects. Edmodo is an essential part of the school because it is where every one of our clubs is housed. It is where the five minutes before class is held. It is the space that the kids want to talk about their classes and their assignments. They seek and find help from those that are have been there before. It is the place that they engage with the school, not the place that they goof off and distract themselves. They are proud of their accomplishments and will daily tout when they have their work done. Learning is social, and Edmodo is one of the only places that really gets it.
So that’s it. We have seen incredible success with Edmodo because we saw it as our school’s best chance to connect all of the disparate parts and stakeholders. We continue to see the potential for new types of learning within this platform and we are excited to see what the future holds. Whatever that is, we will definitely keep Edmodo along for the ride.