Dear Teachers: You talked, We listened.
Posted by: Julia Gitis
Over the last couple weeks the Edmodo Spotlight team has conducted back to back video interviews with teachers around the globe. We talked to amazing educators across subjects, grade levels, and geographies- from math teachers in Dubai, to science teachers in Los Angeles, to art teachers in North Carolina, to English teachers in Tennessee, to TEFL teachers who use Skype to teach Syrian refugees in Turkey. It was a whirlwind trip, and we loved every minute of it!
Edmodo Spotlight launched in 2015 as a place for teachers to find and share resources for their classrooms. In our first school year, we have already seen tens of thousands of resources uploaded and consumed by teachers around the world. We are grateful for the wonderful community of teachers that have shared their content on Edmodo Spotlight and we feel honored every time we help make a teacher’s lesson planning a little bit easier. As we plan ahead for the 2016 back to school season, we want to make sure we are building a product that truly serves you. We used these video conversations to better understand what you need. Here is what we learned.
You’re looking for engaging content.
Teachers are constantly looking for new material to bring into their classrooms. You are looking for creative ways to keep your students engaged. In fact, “engaging” was the number one word you used to describe strong teaching material. You care deeply about keeping your students interested in your subject and enjoying school. So you look for content that is fun, interactive, relates to pop culture, or has real world applications. Sometimes what you’re looking for is inspiration (material that sparks new ideas for you), sometimes what you’re looking for is material you can directly use in class, and sometimes what you’re looking for is content you can tweak and edit before you share it. You have some trusted sources that you go to- websites that have great content for your subject- but you are open to new sources too.
You’re looking for material that fits with the activities and resources you have.
To keep your students engaged, you have a variety of activities. You try hard to include project-based learning in your class–opportunities to work on projects both individually and in groups. Many of you use student blogging to give your students an outlet for expression. You love to use short, two to five minute videos to introduce and reinforce new concepts. You’re on the lookout for fun games you can play in class. Many of you have Smartboards and are looking for new activities to do on interactive whiteboards. Many of your students have access to laptops, iPads, and phones in class, and you smile when you notice that even the same activity that is “boring” on paper becomes “fun” on a device (for example, the age-old flash card becomes new and exciting on tools like Quizlet, which many of you and your students love). So you’re looking for new material to take advantage of how engaged students are with their devices.
We are always impressed by how organized teachers are (or at least, try to be!). You shared your screens with us and opened our eyes to all sorts of ways you organize your teaching content- you showed us the folders on your desktop, bookmarks in your browser, playlists on Youtube, wikis full of resources, and even new tools we hadn’t heard of like Symbaloo. There are many ways of keeping track of your content and you’ve generally found some that work for you. One of the advantages of your organizational tools is that it helps you avoid “downtime” in class- we understand how much you hate when time is wasted in class as you struggle to find something you want to show your students. Another advantage of having your content in one place is that you can come back to it year after year.
You’re busy. So, so busy.
Though we generally know how busy teachers are, it’s something we (and other ed tech companies) really cannot hear and understand enough. You are constantly juggling multiple demands on your time. You are working both at school and at home, on weeknights and weekends, dealing with school and district administration, communicating with parents, staying on top of your craft, planning lessons, grading assignments, and above all, you are committed to the learning and development of each of your individual students. The message came across loud and clear: when you are looking for material, finding it should be fast and simple. You use many websites to search for content, but the number one place you start is Google. (Guess what, the engineers at Edmodo use google when they’re stuck, too!). The fewer clicks it takes to get to the content you want, the better.
We are thankful for your time in sharing these insights. Did we get it right? If you have more to add or would like to correct our understanding, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, our minds are already whirring with ideas on how we can improve Edmodo Spotlight to better serve you.
What we’re doing next
For starters, we are revamping the way we categorize resources. We realized that our current categories don’t necessarily map onto how you look for content, so we’re creating new Resource types and deleting old ones. We just added a much-requested “Interactive whiteboard” category- a place for you to find and share your favorite activities for Smartboards and Promethean boards.
Thank you for helping us understand your experience and for helping us define what high quality resources looks like. Stay tuned for a revamped Spotlight experience that is focused on giving you the engaging content you’re looking for.
The Edmodo Spotlight team! Gary, Julia, Sandy, Eric, and Wally