Edmodo vs RealSmart (Issue 8, January 2011)

– English department find a happy marriage in cyberspace

Edmodo

Exceptionally easy, functional and flexible, Edmodo is a website which connects groups of students with you, but that is really just the start. It can be as flexible as you need them to be, just use your imagination! Laura Couch explores Edmodo.

With a format, (dare I say?) similar to Facebook, students instantly find their way around; connecting with peers. They’ll be so familiar with leaving comments on their mates status updates; it’ll hardly need a great deal of explanation.

After watching a cartoon tour (www.edmodo.com) I created a group for my year 12 English Language students to join. Teachers are then able to assign work, ask questions or send attachments to the whole group at a click of a button.

Students only need to create a user name and sign up, using a code unique to find other group members. This allows teachers to make multiple groups for any year group or class members to access. The only limits are the limits of your mind’s eye. I can see this being used by students to provide updates of enquiries for sixth form (more on that later) but also as a way of blogging their thoughts or comments on a text as we read it in class.

Teachers can use the assignment function, which allows them to upload work and be marked or graded by the teacher. These marks can remain private of shared publicly with the group.

Independent Learning in English Language has been revamped with enquiry skills at its heart. Edmodo has allowed us and the students to see their peers’ focus, progress and even add comments or ask questions. The openness was the main pull rather than simply asking students to email me updates of their progress.

The ability to view each other’s areas of focus for the enquiry will enable the students to consider and engage with a wide variety of lines of enquiry. This should allowthem to generate ideas for their coursework, a larger investigation, after Christmas.

I have set up two Mile Stones after introducing the Enquiry independent learning. There are clear deadlines and focus questions for the group to answer and add further comments. Students can add Mile Stone comments as they could comment on a friend’s status. Mile Stones can be edited by the teacher, excellent if you want to change the task, or give an extension.

Stable, straightforward to navigate and simple to join, Edmodo allows communication between groups, created by you. The reasons for using Edmodo over Real Smart is the ability for comments to be viewed by group members, not just the teacher – sparking ideas for the future from browsing their groups up dates.

 

Real Smart

Year 12 students in English Literature have been using a combination of Realsmart and Frog to access material for, and to create, their independent enquiry. Though Edmodo may give students the opportunity to share progress and comment on enquiries, Realsmart has given students the chance to create something more individual. Zoe Bell explains all.

Independent enquiry sessions have been set on weekly basis via the ‘Set Work’ facility on Frog. This has allowed us to upload lesson objectives and resources, whilst also monitoring – at a glance – how many students have submitted their enquiry work for that week. Students are emailed when work has been posted, and can send an instant message to their teacher about the task. Teachers are then informed when an assignment, or in this case an ILC session, has been completed.

Students were then shown how to create a blog on Realsmart, using the ‘rcast’ facility. Following initial reluctance, after some explanation the class were surprised at how simple English department find a happy marriage in cyberspace it was to create a blog. They could easily update their blog with posts, including pictures and videos, and the finished product looked professional.

There are, however, flaws. Sharing the blog is tricky, requiring teachers to approve sharing requests from each student. Although students can comment on each other’s blogs, and view these comments, it is difficult to avoid the flood of inevitable, Facebook-like ‘I love your picture’ and ‘I am so bored’ style comments. In the spirit of collaboration, it’s important for students to see what the rest of the class are doing – but avoiding this requires careful planning.

Each weekly ILC session, sent via Frog, includes resources and research topics related to their independent enquiry question: ‘How has storytelling changed over time?’ The outcome for each session is usually to update their blog, where students are encouraged to be as independent and as creative as possible. In Spring, I would hope that students would feel confident enough to choose their own outcome for the independent enquiry, and Realsmart could be used much in the same way as Edmodo: to update on progress and share ideas on one central, class blog.

Laura Couch & Zoe Bell

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s