Monday, July 28, 2014

Using Edmodo with Younger Students: Part 3 - Assignments

In my second year of Edmodo+students I was challenged by our +Edmodo rep to make more use of assignments.  Always up for a challenge, I tackled this one.  

First I started with just short answer assignments that they could answer in one sitting. For example, as part of California Social Studies in 4th grade, I asked "Why did your family (ancestors or current) move to California?"  I also used it to track grades they had submitted on paper, so that their parents could see assignment status.  Then I moved on to assignments that students would create in +Google Drive, which links up elegantly with the Edmodo student backpack.  For example, as part of our participation in Global Read Aloud, started by +Pernille Ripp, students wrote a 'deleted scene' from the book we were reading.

Finally, I used Edmodo assignments when I had detailed instructions for completion. That way I could include a word or google doc in the assignment or in an Edmodo folder for them to refer back to. For example, we did a Road Trip project that took about two months to complete. The initial project sheet with milestones was handed out on paper and via the Edmodo assignment.  Each milestone had a corresponding assignment, so students and parents could see due dates and progress.  I also made sure that rubrics for each milestone and final product were in the folder in our shared library.  Some of the assignments could be "turned in" via Edmodo using Google docs or attaching a Word.doc.  Students also used an app to make a comic about one stop on their road trip using +Pixton Comics via Edmodo (more on apps later). 

However some milestones were not digital, such as a poster advertising a product of the state they visited.  For these I collected their assignments by hand, graded them and then input the grades into Edmodo. This is a very quick and easy process. Again, I found a benefit in parents and students being able to see in a glance whether an assignment has been submitted.

Later students learned how to submit movies to Edmodo so they could submit video projects as well, such as 6-word weekend, water and rock cycles (using +Educreations) and book reviews.

Students without access have the option to come in before or after school, or at lunch to complete the assignment in Edmodo, or to do it on paper and then I just manually grade and enter into the Edmodo grade book. At the end of each quarter I export the grades to my grade book.  The only problem is that the Edmodo grade book combines all grades, regardless of subject, unless you were to create a unique group for each subject. I just export the whole thing into excel and sort, then move columns around, then export sections from excel into my PowerSchool grade book. It sounds more cumbersome than it is.

Completed assignments get sent only to the teacher. Parents can see them as well. Parents can see the assignment, their child's submission, assignment comments and the grade of their child's work from their Parent account

I always have at least two kids that do not submit assignments properly and post their answers to the group (parents cannot see this). I do make them go back and "Turn In' the assignment properly so that they hopefully will do it correctly going forward.  If I want the kids to see each others' work, I give the prompt as a post and ask students to reply to my post. So far no one blatantly has "borrowed" answers from these assignment posts.  I am waiting for it as a teachable moment about citing sources and plagiarism.

It hasn't always been easy to get others on board.  We have an RtI model for our reading classes when students leave their homeroom and go to another classroom for reading.  I planned to use Edmodo with my reading group for response to literature and other check-ins.  One of our teachers was not willing to have her students sign up their parents, and she asked me to print out each assignment that students submitted.  I obliged for the first grading period, however I also included links and instructions for reviewing assignments online. After that first trimester, she saw the benefit and uses and "allowed" me to discontinue printing. (Actually, I just told her I wasn't going to do it anymore.)

A few other tidbits came up in my second year.  When it came time to choose avatars, I realized I needed to set an example so I changed mine from a photo of me to a cartoon avatar (I used bitstrips but there are many options out there). As noted in an earlier blog post, I do allow my students to socialize after hours on Edmodo as long as it kind, true and responsible. If they do it during class, and they will, they get a warning. I've never had it go past that. 

I am so grateful to +Jill Florant for challenging me to try the assignments feature. I love digital grading with Edmodo! No more stacks of paper to carry home. I can sit on the deck with my iPad and grade student work.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Using Edmodo with Younger Students: Part 2 - 5th graders @work

I have been using +Edmodo for professional development for 4 years and with my students for the past 3 years; 4th, a 4/5 combo and then 5th grade.  (Yes, that's how I roll, something different every year.)  For the past two years I was lucky enough to loop some of my students, so I had a built in set of 'experts' when it came time to introduce Edmodo to my class.

First, let me just say the students are super excited and engaged when they get to use Edmodo. It helps them feel more responsible and accountable for their work and they really do feel more 'grown up' (soon enough, little ones, please don't rush).  As I mentioned in my earlier post, Getting Started with Edmodo, I usually start my kids with a scavenger hunt.  Not only does it help them learn how to navigate around Edmodo but while they are doing that, I get great insight into how well students can work independently, collaborate and problem solve. If I am lucky, I can also have a few minutes to insert parent codes into letters to go home that day.

My first year of working with students and Edmodo, I did not really make use of assignments or Edmodo apps. I focused solely on posting prompts to students and having them reply. I was just learning how to use Edmodo as a teacher and I wasn't really aware of its capabilities. I also wanted to gain better understanding of promises and pitfalls of using the social media platform with 8-10 year olds. The biggest thing I learned during year 1 was to do more upfront work about keeping posts RAME= Relevant, Appropriate, Meaningful, and Edited.  Because I was hyper vigilant, I was getting notifications at all hours from students typing random messages just because they could...seriously random, one kid, I swear, had his cat walk on the keyboard and he posted that at about 10:00 pm!  So I learned that I really needed to get control of their posting etiquette. I wanted to be sure, and still do, that my students had the freedom to express themselves.  But they also needed a better understanding of the fact that everyone (in our group) was reading what they were posting.  We did a lot of practice on paper and many times I reminded them, "I get an email EVERY time you post anything!"

One of my class jobs quickly became homework poster.  Since I rarely teach the same thing two years in a row, it is not always easy for me to predict homework enough to be able to post it on a webpage a week in advance.  Daily, while we are filling out our paper planners, one student posts the homework to our class group on Edmodo.  That afternoon, I will copy and share that post again to the group as well as to their parents.  Often a student will forget a homework page or be absent, and Edmodo comes to the rescue.  My students have taken pictures of a math page and posted it to Edmodo so that another student could complete her own homework.  They will also ask for help or clarification. More often than not, they clear up any confusion before I even have a chance to respond.  And if they can't, then I have pretty good feedback that a certain assignment was confusing or difficult.

I did start using the assignment feature simply to manually record who did and didn't finish certain assignments, just to give students and parents an idea of progress and where intervention might be needed.

For classroom use that first year, I often used Edmodo posts for response to literature and to gauge understanding of a concept or prompt discussions in science, social studies or math.  Students also quickly learned how to share their work including +Google  docs, videos made with +Educreations and more. About a third of the way through the year, we received our iPads, as part of an initial rollout of the Cambrian iPad Academy.  This was a game changer in many ways.  As it relates to Edmodo, it meant that students had instant access to their accounts, rather than having to wait for the C.O.W. (computer on wheels) to roll in, or for our old, slow desktop PCs to boot.I played around a little bit more with assignments, quizzes and polls and my students were incredibly patient and forgiving.

Edmodo has incredible and vast capabilities and potential, however my advice for year one implementation is to start small. Stick with just a few key areas and learn what works for you and what doesn't.  The summer after my first year of Edmodo+students, I virtually attended #edmodocon... who doesn't love PD that starts in my jammies and ends with a glass of wine! This year, Edmodocon2014 is being held August 6th and I strongly recommend you reserve your spot today!  My head about exploded with all of the ideas and I couldn't wait to get back to school to try them out.

Coming up soon - Using Edmodo: Year Two and Beyond!

Using Edmodo with Younger Students - part 1: Getting Started

I suppose I am what you'd call an +Edmodo  power user in our district.  I am an Edmodo Certified Teacher and an Edmodo Support Ambassador, I have the t-shirts to prove it. I am often asked how I use Edmodo with my fifth grade students and how I would use it in even younger classrooms. So here are some ideas and what I have found to be best practices.

In my first day letter to parents, I include information about digital citizenship, technology use in general and how we will be using Edmodo in the classroom. I always start out the year with two weeks of #digicit lessons from +Common Sense Educators .  Students earn their passports by completing all of the lessons with me.  I then introduce them to Edmodo.   I do compare it to Facebook to give them a frame of reference and we discuss the differences: Edmodo is first and foremost is a safe and secure learning community.  We talk about what it means to be safe and secure. Then we focus on the fact that it is a learning community.  Not all teachers choose to allow their students to post 'personal' or non school related comments and it is something you should decide on before you introduce Edmodo.  While I do allow my students to post non-academic content from home, they know that they will lose privileges if they are socializing via Edmodo during school hours. And even though all notes (posts) are time stamped, some kids still seem surprised when I know that have posted, "'s'up" during class.

Next we have an extensive discussion on how/what to post and comment.  We use the acronym RAME - is is relevant, appropriate, meaningful, and edited.  We discuss Socrates three sieves - is it true, good and necessary.  We then use the expanded, child friendly acrostic THINK - is it true? helpful? interesting or inspiring? necessary? kind?  We do some role playing and I remind them that if they wouldn't say it to someones face, with me in earshot, then they shouldn't write it in Edmodo.

After all this talking, they are anxious to get started.  At this point, I have already created a group for my class, usually called something like '14-15 Room 7' Each group has a unique join code that new student users will need to sign up for Edmodo and existing users will need to join the class.  Generally, my students are new to Edmodo so they will need to create a student account. Even if they have an email, I do not have them enter it, since they are under 13 years old and technically not allowed to have email accounts.  I also do not allow them to use their last names.  I used to but then one of my previous students pointed out that she was at the public library using Edmodo and her name was all the screen for any passerby to see.  So now I have them use an alias. One year I used our school name for all of their last names.  Last year we had faux twitter handles, so they could use that for their name. Another teacher I know uses her last name for the kids' names, and then when they go on to another grade they change their last name (which avoids too many Jennifer School-name instances).  It is fairly easy to change a name after creating an account.

I initially start out my students as "read only", not contributors, that way they can see what I post but they cannot yet post.  It is easy to change this later, when you are ready, via the group members page. Their first activity after logging in, is an Edmodo scavenger hunt to familiarize them with basic features.  In the past I have used +Melissa Butler 's Livebinder Scavenger Hunt. If you use it, you will need to change students to contributor when they reach step 4. Be aware that Edmodo has redesigned some of their pages so although the activity will be the same, they look of the page might not match. That said, Melissa's +LiveBinders is a great resource!

That night's homework assignment is to tell their parent's about Edmodo and help them sign up as parents. I generate parent letters that include an overview of Edmodo, how we will be using it in class, and instructions for creating parent accounts, including their unique Parent code (associated with their child).  You cannot finalize the letter until the child has created their own account.  If  families do not have access at home, I invite parents to come early to Back to School Night and I will help them get started. I usually give a prize to the child whose parents are first to sign up and I award a badge to all students who have their parent or guardian sign up. It is easy to tell because that child's profile will have a parent icon by their name, on the same member's page where you can assign badges!

Some primary grade teachers have skipped having pre-writing students sign up and just had parents sign up as students to facilitate parent communication.  This causes slight problems in later years when that parent wants to associate their own email ID with a parent account.  This can be fixed but a better solution would be to avoid creating the problem.  Have a parent or an aide help you create student accounts for your class. This will generate the parent code for each child. Then the parents will sign up and you can now communicate with them as a group. The difference is that as "students" they can post to you and as "parents" they cannot.

Earlier in July I co-hosted an #edmodochat about using Edmodo with younger students.  The transcript of that chat was +Storify 'd - see below.  Coming up next: Edmodo With Younger Students - Part 2 year one 5th graders at work