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Every semester I use Edmodo with teachers who take an elective course with me.

We try not to use it as an LMS. I try to get them to use it as a social learning system (SLS) instead. My success varies and depends almost entirely on the overall mindset and make up of my participants.

I have noticed that teacher mindsets also shape how they use Edmodo with their students. I have one very recent negative example of how a teacher used Edmodo.

One of my son’s teachers opted to use Edmodo at the start of the new year. The kids seemed to take to it like fish to water. They frolicked and socialized like kids would in person. The teacher did not respond to any questions or concerns.

One of the things the teacher did was give homework where the task was to either copy the question in Edmodo to an exercise book or print the question out and paste it in the exercise book. The answers were to be worked out in the exercise book.

For me, this was like telling kids to write email on paper.

The basic problem is that many teachers respond to technology by changing the medium while forgetting to change the method. Was there any point in using Edmodo if there was no attempt to monitor, connect, or otherwise leverage on any powerful affordance of the platform?

This is probably the single most important reason I opt not to use LMS and favour SLS instead. Teachers need to see and experience alternative models of practice. Without it they will resort to using tired strategies with new tools.

There is a saying that some people treat every problem like nails to be hammered. I think there is a larger problem of some people turning every solution into a hammer.

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I prefer using Edmodo and Google Sites to current learning management systems because the former are free, open, and flexible.

I like how Edmodo was (and still is) built on the premise that people learn by being able to socialize. When there is not enough time in class, you can continue online outside class. Better still, blend the experiences to take advantage of both worlds.

I use Edmodo every semester for at least one course, MLS125, an inservice teacher elective on managing ICT-mediated change.

The problem I face in Edmodo is that my “students” are teachers.

I choose not to require my participants to set up separate student accounts because I want them to hit the ground running as teachers. But I still cannot award these teachers badges like teachers can for their Edmodo students.

Teachers can get up to ten badges from Edmodo, but that is not within my control. I cannot model the gamified experience without compromising by requiring student accounts.

Why not require teachers to use student accounts then? First, having more than one account is confusing or inconvenient. Second, LMS typically give learners a student-only perspective and they adopt a more passive stance as a result. I want my participants to be clear on what they need to do and to take ownership of teaching and learning.

edmodo-peeve

Second peeve: My profile says that I have less than ten students in my courses over the last few years. That is true based on Edmodo’s definition of students. But I have introduced hundreds of pre and inservice teachers to Edmodo by getting them to sign up for it and use it in my courses and workshops.

The third peeve is that I cannot schedule posts more precisely. I am thankful that I can even schedule posts as this feature was not available before. But I would like the fine-grained scheduling (to the minute) of TweetDeck for Twitter instead of the coarse scheduling (by the hour) in Edmodo.

Fourth peeve: I would also like some richer editing. I am not asking for much. Paragraphing would help!

When I type a reply like this:

Two thoughts to tickle the neurons and create cognitive dissonance.

By the end of MLS125, I hope that most of you realize why you should not perpetuate “digital natives” and “technology is just a tool”.

For some clues, you might search my blog on how my own understanding of digital natives has changed. We can also discuss them in this space or in person. The benefit of this space is more permanency and space for reflection.

As for the other concept, I share a quote (attributed to Marshall McLuhan): “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us”.

It appears like this:

Two thoughts to tickle the neurons and create cognitive dissonance.By the end of MLS125, I hope that most of you realize why you should not perpetuate “digital natives” and “technology is just a tool”.For some clues, you might search my blog on how my own understanding of digital natives has changed. We can also discuss them in this space or in person. The benefit of this space is more permanency and space for reflection.As for the other concept, I share a quote (attributed to Marshall McLuhan): “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us”.

See the difference?

The former is my attempt to model good online discourse with white space. Edmodo prevents this. In the previous version of Edmodo, I could insert two or three returns for really spaced out paragraphs, but now I cannot seem to do that. I can create distinct paragraphs in initial postings, but not in replies.

My complaints may seem small, but I think that individually and collectively they are important. If we shape a tool that does not reward, acknowledge, or organize as it could, then it shapes behaviour.

Could I compromise? I could, but I will not because that would mean a lowering of expectations and standards. That is not what an educator does.

I am trying to connect two of my classes via Edmodo. Both classes have ICT as a common denominator, but there is where the similarities probably stop.

My MLS118 class is made up of Heads of ICT departments; my DED107 class has Malay language student teachers. The Heads have to enable change with ICT while the student teachers need to figure out how to design meaningful learning with ICT.

My MLS class ends tomorrow and the participants are preparing for their “flipped presentations” (idea borrowed from flipped classrooms [1] [2]). My DED class is only in its third week and barely out of the core content phase.

But I thought that this was an opportunity to get the junior teachers to quiz the senior ones on all things ICT and for the senior teachers to offer their advice to the junior ones. I provided just 15min for my DED class to think up of questions for the Heads.

While concurrent activities went on, I monitored the process by walking around and checking my iPhone for updates. It was then that I noticed that one of my MLS participants had already responded to an early question. By the end of class, there were two more responses. As I type this now (a day ahead of this entry’s posting), another Head has responded.

When I made the announcement in class that one of the MLS participants had already responded, someone said, “Wow, that’s scary!” I might have used “quick” or “timely” instead.

While I did not expect such a quick reply, I did expect this form of social learning to take place.

Social learning can take place between two groups of people that do not know what the other looks like. Social learning can take place when mediated with a social platform like Edmodo. Social learning can take place when you open the classroom up, not when you keep it closed and devoid of context.

I have but one regret: That I did not do this earlier!

I have extended the use of Edmodo to my ICT course, DED107, after experimenting with it over two semesters with MLS118 and MID822.

The links lead to the publicly accessible pages. Some of the conversations or videos that my participants have asked to keep private are not there. That is unfortunate because some of the best learning is in the private wall postings since the participants let their guard down and let experiences wash over them.

Aquarium Tank by LollyKnit, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  LollyKnit 

As a social platform, I have found that all my participants (student teachers, Heads of ICT and Masters students) take to Edmodo like fish to water. They are in their environment because of their familiarity with Facebook.

If Facebook is the sea or a lake, then Edmodo is a salt or freshwater aquarium. Edmodo is safer and has practically no distracting elements but affords the social learning and interaction.

With my DED group, I used the poll tool as an ice-breaker. I used to ask each member of my class to tell two truths and one lie. The class had to collectively identify the lie despite not knowing each other well.

In the past, we would use a concept mapper tool if concept mapping was next on the agenda. But the polling tool in Edmodo provided quick visualizations after everyone votes.

I use this as an ice-breaker for three reasons: 1) to introduce Edmodo, 2) to help participants get to know one another, and 3) to illustrate the wisdom of crowds in action.

The last item is particularly impactful. While I do not have a large crowd, more often than not we are able to identify the lie. I tell my classes that is one working philosophy of all my courses: Tis better to hear from many than from just one. The “truth” is negotiated as it emerges.

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Edmodo might be described as being Facebook for educators by educators. It is Facebook without the distractions but with a lot more security.

I describe Edmodo wall as a stream of consciousness that moves by very fast. Some of my Masters students can’t see the fish as they pass by with the current. That is where they might employ one or more of the three strategies I recommend.

One, activate email notifications so that you can keep copies of important messages stay in your inbox and you decide which should go (you keep the “fish” in your own “tanks”). Two, tag posts so that the tag cloud that emerges becomes a socially organized navigation system (we create our own channels in the stream). Three, learn to go with the flow.

The last is the best strategy because you learn how to monitor constantly, skim for content and select what you need. It’s like spotting a fish you want to catch instead of trying to catch everything. The latter sort of ingrained behaviour needs to be unlearnt.

Some might argue that senior students as digital “immigrants” cannot do this naturally. Rubbish. The so-called digital “natives” cannot do this intrinsically well either. Just ask any teacher of English or the General Paper in Singapore about the average student’s ability to skim, analyze and evaluate quickly and they will say this to be true.

This sort of information literacy needs to be learnt and practised. This is important if you do not want to be a victim of an information explosion.

I monitor the streams of TWO courses in Edmodo and I do not find it difficult. But this is only because I process about 200 RSS feeds and perhaps another 200 tweets a day from my personal learning network.

I say this as a matter of fact and not to show off. It can be done and I know others have the capacity to do even more. The task just needs to be spread out and played like a game. That way, it does not feel like work even as it becomes part of work flow.


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