Author Archives: Judith Weston

Further Adventures in ELearning – Mainly Scrabbling in the Dark…

Edmodo – this much I know

I have been using Edmodo for a wee while now and at the request of others I’m jotting down what we have done with it thus far. I make no claims to discuss the impact of the platform as yet – this is merely an informative piece, with some observations thrown in for good measure.

I have decided to start with my S3 and S4 class. My S4 class are a tremendous bunch-articulate, fun and high achieving. They have really taken to Edmodo, in a way I never saw with Glow. It’s encouraging. I really want ICT to be an interactive process, rather than a passive one, and Glow was incredibly passive, because it was counter-intuitive.

One of the great joys of Edmodo is the user name and password process. When we went to log in for the first time, I insisted my class submit their email addresses. They can log on using these and are able to have their password reset to that address. Most of the teenage Facebook junkies have access to an email account which they check regularly (indeed have their Blackberries connected to them) this proved not to be a problem. No more “Miss, my password isn’t working!” nonsense any more. Woo hoo!

Then you give them a code. The code is not complicated-merely a combination of 6 letters and numbers.

So, once logged on, we were off. Dead easy. They could navigate their way round the site with ease. They love that their classes are down the left, their resources are along the top and that they can ask their teacher questions. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Edmodo sees online learning through the eyes of the pupils, not the region. They are the top level. That’s the most important element in its success.

What have we done, I hear you shout? Well, it’s a wee bit boring, but somehow brilliant. The students read a book over the summer and had to write a review. I modelled my review in class and stuck all the resources online for them to review. All the book review work was to be done at home, over a three week deadline, and they had free rein to check their work with me as they went along. Cue some heavy use of Edmodo. Pupils were attaching bits of their reviews for checking as they went along. Some sent them directly to me for feedback. Others, rather bravely (or foolishly) posted their paragraphs to the whole class. It was tremendous. Pupils could go on and see what questions were being asked and then check the answer. I have one pupil, in particular, who asks all the right questions – the class adore this! AifL was in action all over the place.

Then they submitted their essays. Around 2/3 of the class opted to submit via Edmodo. That’s incredibly easy too. A quick glance at the work shows an annotate button – so I did. There’s also a place for a grade but, as we all know, add a grade and no one looks at the comments, so I’ll leave that for now, ta.

A bit functional, but amazing. And now? Well, we’re onto travel writing and already, unbidden, one of the bunch has submitted her work for me to have an ongoing look at. Outstanding.

You know, by the way, that your pupils are already doing all this at home? They Facetime each other, ask questions on Facebook, take photos of their solutions…Edmodo merely allows them to include you in this extraordinary resourcefulness and enterprise. There’s an Edmodo app too. For someone who would have her IPad surgically attached to her left hand if she could, the app is really convenient. It looks good too.

Next? A link to a video as I try to flip my classroom. I need to get my S3 class up and running (so far they’ve just asked “When do we get to watch the DVD of “Of Mice and Men”, Miss?”) and I think my Higher class too. It’s also a solution to the thorny subject of e-portfolios…

And, I forgot! There are badges. The class adore them – they’re like online stickers. I’m not going to tell you how to award them because anything else you need to know, you just ask the Scottish Teachers group. You know what? You’ll need to code to join it – it’s 3ajhwl.

Go on. Give it a go. You know you want to!

Adventures in E-Learning

Here’s a confession. I quite like Glow. There. I’ve said it. It’s blisteringly counterintuitive, fairly unreliable and trying to convince my colleagues for the past three years that e-learning is, perhaps, something they might want to try on such a system has been a challenge. So what do I like? I like the functionality – blogs, wikis, web-links, documents, discussions, and so on, are all in the same place. I like that it makes the pupils work a little; it’s real life to have to remember a password! And I like the connection to a nation of possibility. It was wonderful to have a web chat with Catherine Forde, after we had read “Fat Boy Swim” for example.

 In fact, I am so happy with a system that can make our Higher Glow group look like this, and which allows for reading reviews that the whole school can access, that I am reluctant to change it. We’ve worked really hard as a school to improve the online literacy of our pupils, and have put plentiful energy into populating our Glow groups and blogs for S1 and S2. I firmly believe that e-learning improves the experience and literacy of the pupil. It keeps them organised, they can locate all the wee sheets they were given by their teachers, they can ask questions (some in the small hours), they can collaborate on essays, blog and, in the best cases, it improves the self efficacy of pupils, it sharpens their literacy and places them firmly at the heart of their learning.

 However, change we must. New Glow (Glow 2? Glow as well? Glow again, but this time it’s better? Glow: The Return?) is on some horizon and we may very well buy into it. But there is another way. Recently my S4 English class (never ones to mince their words) told me that they simply found Glow too hard. They couldn’t find their way around it. After some incredulity from me, I began to think.

One of the most powerful tools for reflection for me is to remember what it was like when I did something for the first few times. Sure enough, Glow was tough to get around – and I consider myself pretty ICT literate. What must it be like for these kids? We assume that all students are great at getting around the internet. I’m not sure that’s true – they can get around Facebook and Twitter, can play the games they are interested in, but e-learning must be taught to them and must be user friendly. Running close to exams, I decided I would alter my practices, just for them. How’s that for meeting the needs of the child?

 As luck would have it, this change coincided with Martyn Call (maths teacher, extraordinaire, Pedagoo-er, old buddy and collaborator) telling me of his experiments with Edmodo – an American based e-learning site. It seemed to him to be a vastly more intuitive platform which, although lacking in some of the functionality of Glow, was secure, allowed documents to be uploaded, allowed for e-portfolios and discussion between students and teachers. After seeing the kit for myself at the inaugural Beer Meet Borders, I decided to give it a go.

 Edomdo looks like Facebook – similar colouring, fonts, and layout. That’s appealing to a class of kids who carry out a large amount of their social life on that platform and the class took to it immediately. Comforted by the familiarity, they immediately started playing – changing profile pictures, posting, looking at resources. All good. They loved that when they posted, others got email alerts. I like that idea too – it might help with homework completion. It was fun.

 However, there are more complex reasons for preferring Edmodo. Glow was set up from a teacher’s (or more accurately a regional) point of view. Therefore the hierarchies of Glow favour the school, the subject, the year group. Edmodo sees learning as a student sees it. The student is top in the hierarchy. When they log on, they are the first page they see – not the page of a school, or a subject. The subjects are all listed down the left hand side. The resources are all listed down the right hand side. The pupil’s discussions, tasks, alerts, quizzes are all in the centre. Edmodo recognises what Glow failed to do. The pupil, not the teacher is at the heart of education. And surely, that’s a powerful illustration of how we should all see schools?

 I don’t know whether we’ll use Edmodo as a whole school resource. I’ve begun to experiment with Twitter with my senior class and, perhaps, one size won’t ever be able to fit all. One thing is for sure. I am watching closely as Glow trundles forward and, if it doesn’t put the child right at the heart of e-learning and is straightforward to use, I hope we’ll have the courage to do what is right for our pupils.

The Pick of the #pedagoofriday Tweets 30.3.12

#PedagooFriday It has been a busy, busy term! Thanks everyone for fab ideas and links 🙂 Happy holidays! Remember to have one 😉
Tessa Polley

Only 2 S1 pupils @ end of the day.We talked about rubix cubes and their hidden maths.It was unexpected & they were hooked! #pedagoofriday
Martyn Call
It was great to watch the collaboration and high level engagement of my pupils while using Kodu to design own computer games #pedagoofriday
#pedagoofriday end of extended essay week, higher class set and took part in a post it note quiz such determination to win a hello kitty egg
Epiphany: realising that the real learning can sometimes begin when they/we are getting it wrong @ #pedagoofriday
Bev Sharp
#pedagoofriday question from a yr 10 girl' can you ever take the same photograph twice?'
Jane Hewitt
S1 pupils have been learning about democracy by coming up with ideas for reforming/improving the pupil council #pedagoofriday
When discussing what's in compost on Monday one pupil said "I'm actually curious about this". Made my week. #pedagoofriday
Fearghal Kelly
Scotland's 4 main parties represented at KGS S5/6 Question Time today. Covered banker bonuses, votes@ 16, nuclear fleet,... #pedagoofriday
Andy Mclaughlin
Yr 10 pupil taught me & class all abt nebula + supernova.Great to see what they can learn without teachers! #PedagooFriday
Doug Cremin