Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Edmodo Apps

The Edomdo App Store
In a recent blog post I wrote about Edmodo being used to improve student writing skills. Although my focus with Edmodo is on the writing and the collaboration, there are other ways Edmodo can be used to enrich the learning experience.

Edmodo also has an app store where teachers can download third party apps that are embedded into the Edmodo platform. These apps are provided by third party developers and offer a great way to supplement regular classroom instruction. They can be used to review and reinforce concepts as well as learn new material. Apps are convenient too. They can be installed into a class for easy student access.

The app store can be accessed through the Store icon found on the upper right corner of the Edmodo screen. Once in the store you'll notice a variety of categories along the left side. There are free and paid apps within the store. Licensing for each app is determined by the publisher. The Edmodo help files explains the difference between the two types of licenses:
Publishers can license apps in the Edmodo Store in one of two ways.
  1. Unlimited: This is a 12 month license that does not include a limit on member seats.
  1. Group-based: This is the most common type of app license. The Group-based license includes 30 seats* and is valid for 365 days from the date of purchase. If the number of Group members exceeds the number of seats you have available, you will receive a notification prompting you to purchase add-on seats for those Group members. Additional seats may be purchased at any time before the license ends.
Once the teacher buys and installs the app, students can access them from their account. There are apps to teach fractions, geometry, and pattern blocks in math. Others include figurative language and persuasive writing in language arts. There are even apps for classroom management.

Getting Smart recently posted Edmodo - Making It Personal with 40+ Apps listing a variety of ways you can use Edmodo apps in your classroom and the top 40 apps in the app store. Although I have never used apps within Edmodo, these sound like a great way to enrich student learning.

If you have used any Edmodo apps with your students I'd love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
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Monday, December 9, 2013

In Defense of Wikipedia

I recently got this email from a coworker:
Can we visit about wikipedia?  I hear it's peer reviewed and not able to be edited by just anyone.  What's the truth?  Many teachers won't allow it as a solid reference in research.  What do you think?
This is a sentiment I've heard all too frequently. It's true that Wikipedia is peer reviewed, can be edited by anyone, and has contained erroneous information at times. But I think it's a great resources for finding accurate information on a variety of subjects. I decided to do a little digging to see how trustworthy it can be. All of my information came directly from Wikipedia's own FAQ pages, so I guess that should be taken with a grain of salt.

One of the concerns, as raised in the email above, is that anybody can edit a wiki article. Wikipedia is entirely free - anybody can create an account and edit information on any page. However, I believe that helps ensure the accuracy of wiki pages instead of making them unreliable. Most wiki pages are monitored by many, possibly hundreds, of other contributors. If someone with bad intentions were to add inaccurate or misleading information, the chances are great that someone else would catch the change and be able to edit it for more accuracy. Behind the scenes of each page are discussions and debates between all the contributors that the end user may not be seeing. Every change on a page is also logged in a page history, so anyone can see those changes and who made them. From the FAQ Is Wikipedia accurate and reliable? (emphasis mine):
It is possible for a given Wikipedia article to be biased, outdated, or factually incorrect. This is true of any resource. One should always double-check the accuracy of important facts, regardless of the source. In general, popular Wikipedia articles are more accurate than ones that receive little traffic, because they are read more often and therefore any errors are corrected in a more timely fashion.
The accuracy of any wiki article is dependent on the accuracy of the sources on which it relies. Information within any given Wikipedia article should be derived from authoritative sources. As you read wiki articles you'll notice footnotes that lead to the References section at the bottom of each page. If someone added factual information to an article without citing a source, you may see a "Citation needed" note.
Wikipedia reference section
Are the external sources reliable?
If the external sources cited are authoritative, then the overall wiki article should be accurate and reliable. This is also a great place for students to go for more information or additional sources.

Any source students use - newspaper, encyclopedia, book, or media - can have wrong or outdated information. Students need to be taught to look at any source critically and check it for accuracy. I read the local newspaper every day and I know that not everything I read is going to be accurate or contain all of the information I need. If I feel I'm missing something then I'll go online and check other news outlets as well. This fills in any information gaps and gives me a better picture.

We need to teach students the same thing with Wikipedia. It shouldn't be avoided or not allowed to be cited as a source. Instead it should be viewed as a clearinghouse of information, a compilation of many sources into one article. It shouldn't be the only source, but it can be a great starting point for research!

What do you think about Wikipedia? Let me know in the comments below.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Edmodo is not Facebook!

I have been thinking a lot lately about Edmodo and how it can be used in education. Edmodo has commonly been thought of as Facebook for education. But to me Edmodo is not Facebook! It's a learning platform that happens to look like a social platform. It has so much potential in the classroom! I hope that more teachers at my school will begin to use it in a variety of ways with their students.

The 5th grade classes have been working on opinion pieces (W.5.1). I have decided to write my own opinion piece to explain why Edmodo is not Facebook. 5th graders, leave feedback below if I've not written my essay correctly!

Edmodo is not Facebook!

Edmodo is a social learning platform for schools. It allows teachers and students to connect and collaborate on learning. CCSD has been recognized as one of the stand out districts in the nation for the number of teachers and students who are connecting, sharing resources, and learning. Although Edmodo's look and feel is similar to Facebook, in my opinion there is much more to it. I believe that Edmodo is more than just a communication tool.

Edmodo provides a way for students to improve their writing skills. Two of the writing standards in the CCSS are W.x.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach and W.x.6 With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others. These standards can be met by using Edmodo. Students can post a writing sample as simple as a sentence or as long as an essay. Other students can then post comments to ask questions, clarify meaning, and offer suggestions for improvement. Even second graders are supposed to "use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers." What better way to do this than by using a safe environment like Edmodo? It is so flexible it can be used in a variety of subjects and grade levels and is widely used in schools throughout the country.

Since Edmodo can be used so easily, many teachers in middle and high school use it for their whole class. They can post quizzes, polls, assignments, and even keep a grade book on it. Teachers in any subject can use it to extend learning. Students in the upper elementary grades need to be exposed to Edmodo so that when they enter middle school they are already familiar with it, regardless of the classes in which they enroll. They will be able to use it to collaborate with other students and to complete work assigned by their teachers. If they don't learn how to use it in elementary school, it will be one more thing they have to learn before they can get to the actual classwork. Teachers love to use Edmodo not just for the ease of use and flexibility, but also because they can control who has access to their content.

Edmodo is the perfect social learning platform for schools because it's a safe environment. When using Facebook you have to be careful of your settings so that everything you post cannot be read by just anyone. Posts that students publish on Edmodo can only be read by other members of their class. Not even other members of the school can read them. Strangers or other individuals outside of the class cannot communicate with the students directly or indirectly. Teachers also have the option of moderating posts. This makes is safe for students. They don't have to worry about strangers reading their posts or interacting with them. Parents can also have Edmodo accounts that let them view direct posts from their kids.

Edmodo is not Facebook because there is so much more that it can do. It is a way for students to collaborate with each other, to prepare students for work in middle school, and is a safe way for students to communicate with each other.
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