Edmodo is a social networking tool for schools. It is especially designed to be a safe, Facebook-style community where students can communicate and share. Unlike Facebook, Edmodo is highly secure. A teacher can set up a class and obtain a group code for students to use to join the private class group.

I decided to try Edmodo last year, when I found out that I would be looping with my 3rd graders. I wanted to keep in touch with my students over the summer, and I thought it would be fun for us to have a special place to communicate. I set up our class and began by using some fun tools. Because Edmodo allows you to embed creations from other web 2.0 apps, I posted a WeeMee of myself to show them how to use an avatar instead of a personal photo for privacy on a blog or website. My first big post was a Google Map of my upcoming summer vacation for my students. Later, I embedded this Glogster poster with pictures from my travels! Of course this wasn’t just “all about me” — it began to introduce them to the possibilities of an Edmodo community.

Instead of just posting a note, sometimes I used fun tools like this Ladybug Note Generator to tell my students that I’d added some fun games and sites to our class Diigo page for them to explore! (As you can see, we were already chatting away.)

I also posted the summer reading assignment (just in case any of them misplaced it), and used an Edmodo poll to find out which read-aloud book was their favorite from the year. Any time I found a fun tool or site, such as Wonderopolis, I could embed a preview and link in our Edmodo group and share it. The students could check it out and provide feedback, or talk about it amongst themselves. It kept all of us connected and gave the students an opportunity to share their summer activities and anticipations or ask questions about the coming year.

One of the great things our Edmodo space did over the summer was help introduce us to the new students that would be joining our class in the fall. The newbies were able to join the conversation and become part of our class family before the year began. It really helped them to make a smooth transition when they already “knew” the other kids!

Edmodo also helped us share experiences when we had an unexpected earthquake in August, here in Virginia. It was not severe, but for most Virginians, definitely a new experience! I immediately started a “What were you doing when…” thread, and it was great to hear that everyone was OK despite a few items breaking or falling off walls.

This year we began a 1:1 netbook program at our school. With their own netbook, it’s easy for students to use Edmodo as a regular part of their school day. For instance, as part of the Global Read Aloud, we joined the Tuck Everlasting group on Edmodo, and shared thoughts about the story with students from all over the world. Teachers could post comprehension or discussion questions for students, and students could respond to the reading and gain insight from others.

I also set up a sub-group within our class group for student book reviews. Here students can post mini reviews of the books they have read. If a student is looking for a good book to read, they can stop by and read some reviews, or ask a student about a book they have read. With their active daily involvement in Edmodo, students are learning to write thoughtful, grammatically correct posts, and to construct comments that promote online discussion.

Recently, we had a Skype visit with Paula Naugle‘s 4th grade class in New Orleans. They taught us about Mardi Gras with student presentations. We joined the Skype Collaboration group in Edmodo and so we could “backchannel” and see the Glogster posters the students had created with the information from their research. Students were able to comment and provide feedback on the great work done by Mrs. Naugle’s class!

Forbes recently posted that Edmodo is now launching a third-party platform to publish education apps to Edmodo’s 6 million users and 70,000 schools. According to Forbes:

More than 35 companies are launching apps with the new platform. The basic apps will be free. Premium apps developed by publishers will require a purchase. Teachers also have the ability to connect the apps to existing Edmodo features such as badges, quizzes and assignments.

Examples of apps on the platform include an interactive graphing calculator that can send graphs to classmates, an interactive chemistry lab service, a print your own scantron application and social multiplayer math games. Applications include BrainNook, Schooltube, StudyEgg, Third World Farmer and GradeCam. In addition, textbook publishers have their learning apps on the new platform. They’re not textbooks, but “modular” pieces of content, Borg says, and not just text but also interactive content.

I look forward to exploring other ways my students can use Edmodo to support collaboration and instruction in the classroom. I’d like to hear of more ways to connect my students using this valuable tool. And I’d also love to hear from other teachers who may be using different platforms to create student virtual communities inside their own classrooms.

1st image: Salvatore Vuono

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Patti Grayson

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