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Paperless Mission #11: Getting Started with Edmodo

This is the eleventh installment in my Go Paperless! Challenge Series. You can check out the other entries in the series here. Also be sure to link up with my Paperless Challenge Linky!

Mission #11: Get Started with Edmodo

One of the tools that I started using in the classroom this year is Edmodo. If you’re not familiar with it, Edmodo is a learning management system that allows students and teachers to interact online in safe environment. It looks and feels a lot like Facebook but without all of the potential problems Facebook could create — especially for very young users.

1. Create a teacher account and create your group for your class.
Teacher accounts are free, and they’re the first step toward using this in your classroom. Parents and students aren’t able to access Edmodo unless they know the access code that a teacher has given them.

2. Add some content for your students to engage with the first time they use Edmodo. You can ask a question for discussion or take a poll as a good first activity. You’ll want to have something queued to go so that students don’t just start posting randomness. (They may do that anyway at first, but you can at least buy yourself some time to talk about guidelines and procedures for that before they get too carried away.)

3. Invite students by giving them the Group Code. This is unique to your group, and students will need an access code for each group they join with their student account. Joining your group doesn’t give them the power to search for other groups. Similarly, if another teacher at your school is using Edmodo, he or she will also have a Group Code that students can enter and just add the group to their account. It’s pretty easy.

4. Once all of your students have joined the group, lock your group. This will prevent other students from other classes inadvertently joining, and it’s generally a good security measure. You can always unlock the group temporarily later on if you end up getting a new student.

5. Create an assignment. This essentially creates a place for students to turn in their work. Everything that they complete on their iPads gets turned in through the assignments I create on Edmodo. Then I can see which students have turned it in, assign grades, and give feedback. The beauty of this system is that I can grade work as it comes in without worrying about losing something. This is especially helpful on larger assignments where students tend to stagger their completion.

6. Give quizzes. I won’t lie — this is probably one of the most tedious parts about Edmodo from a teaching perspective. You have to manually input all of the questions, and there’s currently not a way for teachers to share their quizzes with one another. But the time you put in on the front end of creating the test is more than made up for on the back end by the immediate grading of the multiple choice, true false, and matching questions. I’ll talk more about Edmodo quizzes in a future post.

7. Set up small groups. You can create multiple small groups within your group, and students can belong to more than one small group. That means that you can have small groups for reading as well as different small groups for research projects in Social Studies, etc.

Preparing Students

My students really did see this as Facebook-lite, so it was important that we created some guidelines as a group. Here are some of the rules we discussed and implemented as a class:
  • Use posts to discuss school-related content only — not to share personal information or “status updates.”
  • Use appropriate school language and grammar, not texting language.
  • Be positive and kind and show good “Netiquette.”
My fabulous media specialist, Sandi at Teacher Technotopia, did a series of lessons with students about “Netiquette” prior to this, which helped a lot. I also moderated the conversations a lot at the beginning. As the teacher, you can delete things that other students post and you can send that student a direct message to let them know that you deleted their post and why you did so. That helped with my class tremendously.  
As a side-note, one of the things I like about Edmodo is that you can send your students direct messages, and they can send you messages, too, but they can’t send direct messages to each other. Anything they post is either public within the group or for the teacher-only. This eliminated some of my concerns about possible cyber-bullying.

How I Used This in My Classroom

Once we got going with Edmodo, I used it constantly. Virtually every test (except math) was done through Edmodo. It was also great for collecting student work, taking polls, and facilitating class discussions. For example, when we were deciding what our class team name would be for field day, I was able to relegate that entire conversation to Edmodo rather than take up valuable class time on it. I also love that students can access Edmodo from any computer or mobile device, so they could keep going on assignments even if they couldn’t take their iPads home. It’s not a perfect platform, but it was really helpful in my move toward a paperless classroom.

Do you use Edmodo in your classroom? I’d love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments section!