Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Social Learning

Being a part of a community is so important. Think about the communities you have been a part of since you were little.  Family, is obviously the most important, but so many other communities mold and shape us: our schools, our churches/youth groups, sororities/fraternities, Mom’s groups, Bible study/prayer groups and PLC/PLNs today (Professional Learning Communities/Professional Learning Networks).  Learning to live/work within a community takes character and perseverance. The benefits are huge. When we bounce ideas off others or create works of art or presentations, the sense of accomplishment is heightened. The largest community today is Facebook which gives us the ability to reconnect and stay in touch in a most unique approach.  So why is it that when our students come to school, our natural desire to live in community is so often discouraged? How can we take advantage of social communities without compromising the safety of our students. This “tuesdays” I would love to share an answer to this dilemma with enthusiasm and caution.

A creative website

Three years ago, Nic Borg and Jeff O'Hara, believed that they needed to change their school environment to reflect the connected world in which they lived by creating a tool that closes the gap between how students live their lives and how they learn in school. Their creation is Edmodo, a safe and easy way for classrooms to connect and collaborate, share content, and access homework, grades and school notices. I was pleasantly surprised to find Edmodo’s huge presence at FETC last month.  Each of the presenters created a “course” and anyone at the conference could sign up for an account after which they keyed in the code of the particular presenter.  All their handouts and discussions during and after the presentations were available 23/7.  It was a much nicer way to process the immense amount of information after the conference. I was very impressed with the ease of use and the intuitive interface (so Facebook-like, which I’m sure they can’t say themselves).  Edmodo promotes any time, any place learning. Teachers can post messages, discuss classroom topics, assign and grade classwork, share content and materials, network and exchange ideas with their students and colleagues. Students are even able to upload homework, take part in discussions, earn badges and rewards and share their learning.  Wow, what a concept! They have really done a great job creating a safe environment for learning. I have even begun my own PLN in Edmodo and can’t wait to begin a study.  Would you be interested in testing it teacher-to-teacher with me?

An image to share
niallkennedy. "Community | Flickr - Photo Sharing!." Welcome to Flickr - Photo Sharing. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct.2011. .

A proverb
“ It is vain to talk of the interest of the community, without understanding what is the interest of the individual.”   Jeremy Bentham

An encouragement

Before I get you all excited to sign up for Edmodo, I want to encourage you to find out if your district supports it. Edmodo should only be used under the umbrella and permission of your school district because it is in that setting that you receive support and encouragement. Edmodo has a complete school district area of it’s FREE product that can be found at http://www.edmodo.com/institutions.  It is critically important that you comply with the COPPA – Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act as a teacher or school personnel.  Each district is held to a higher standard and all teachers needs to be compliant to online social interaction that is both safe and private. Edmodo for school districts is the way to go.  I would encourage you to ask around in your district to see if they have signed up yet and if they have go for it!  If they haven’t, begin the conversation because this tool can revolutionize learning in the classroom without a doubt. There are hundreds of school districts using Edmodo and thousands more considering its powerful impact.

How do you do that?

How do you get started with Edmodo? Let’s assume that you have done your research and have found that your district has authorized its use.  Each teacher will receive a code to connect their account the district and then each student will receive a code from his/her teacher once they have created their class.  Only those students who are in the class will see the postings and interactions of that class and only the teacher and student will see assignments, grades and comments.  Parents can even have an account to see how their child is doing where they would have access to the interactions of their child and the teacher only.  The best part is that it is ubiquitous – any time, any place and any pace real time learning.  Schools are also able to manage and track usage and measure adaption and engagement.  I recommend checking out their high quality introductory videos on their home page.  Edmodo was made by teachers for teachers and has the potential for true student engagement, interaction and learning. Kudos to Nic and Jeff!

As always, I am
Ubiquitously yours,

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