Our middle school holds a STEM Fair every year. At the event, students demonstrate their research efforts and creative thinking through an independent investigation of math in real world applications. Completed in 2010, our school building incorporates many environmentally friendly features giving us the recognition of LEED-certified status, (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design). For this reason, we encourage students to choose an environmental issue for their STEM project.
Last year I met with students once a week for 3-4 weeks to give them an opportunity to work on their projects and monitor their progress. This year, with a reduction in AIG teaching staff and more students, my classroom time was limited, and I would only be able to meet my students twice in the four-week period prior to the STEM Fair. I needed to find a way to scale and continue to provide the support my students need to be successful.
As the AIG (Academically and Intellectually Gifted) teacher for the school, I assign the project to the advanced students and monitor and support their progress. Typically, when I introduce an assignment of this type, I use the following steps:
- Show a video related to the topic (e.g. environmental issues)
- Lead a class discussion related to the video
- Provide students with resources containing overview information about a variety of environmental problems
- Ask students to brainstorm possible solutions to those problems
- Hand out the project assignment, which asks students to present a solution to an environmental problem
Students are then required to submit a proposal about two weeks before the project due date explaining what their project will include. This is an opportunity for me to make sure students are planning their time appropriately and to give feedback and recommend resources to help them with their research.
How Edmodo Helped With This Year’s Stem Fair
Given this year’s time limitations, I needed to figure out a way to communicate with them on a regular basis to give them feedback and support their efforts. I had recently heard about this social networking program for schools [Edmodo] from our Business and Technology Teacher, so I looked into it.
It became clear to me that pretty much everything that I could do in the regular classroom I was able to do with Edmodo. I could post links to videos, engage students in group discussion, distribute and accept assignments electronically (no paper!), and easily update students who were absent on my class day. Most importantly, I could review student proposals online, give feedback, and recommend websites to help them do their research.
Students would get my input quickly, instead of having to wait for our once a week meeting. I was able to communicate more frequently with students who needed more guidance. A pleasant surprise was the ease with which my students learned to use Edmodo.
The easy-to-use screens were engaging and they were eager to log in in and share posts with classmates. Another unexpected benefit was the ability to share the project information with parents and with other teachers.
Amazing Student STEM Projects!
Edmodo helped with our workflow and I didn’t have to reduce service to my students. The final STEM projects were amazing!
Using Edmodo for New Projects
I have used Edmodo in various other ways. I have been part of a teacher team working with a small group of students in a literature circle unit. I have started a book club for our Battle of the Books team, and I am in the process of starting a school newspaper using Edmodo.
In a time when teachers are constantly being asked to do more with less, Edmodo is a great way for specialists like me to maintain a high level of support for our advanced students.