Edmodo: Awesome Collaboration & Communication Tool

Edmodo is a collaboration and communication service that has quickly risen to become one of the most popular teacher tools.

Interface

One of the things that students love about Edmodo is its Facebook-like interface.  It has a familiar two-column structure with Groups (these can be classes or small groups) and Communities on the left, and Posts (the primary informational feed) on the right.

Edmodo navigation

Edmodo’s navigation tools are multi-faceted.

The top portion of the page has the usual items like profile information, Progress (grades), and Library (files), as well as a search bar and a reminder “bell” that alerts the user to new messages, assignments, and posts.  To the right is a small toolbar with icons for the Planner, App Manager, and App Store.

Below the main header bar is a tabbed section where Notes, Alerts, Assignments, Quizzes, and Polls can be created and assigned.  Each of these types of messages has their own options, giving the teacher plenty of flexibility.  For example, if a teacher wants to create an assignment, it is as simple as clicking on the Assignments tab, filling in the assignment information, deciding if the assignment should be posted now or later (yes, you can schedule posts for later), inputting which groups should receive the assignment, attaching any documents or links, and clicking send.  It’s very intuitive.   Quizzes are similarly easy to create, although they don’t have as many options as a full-fledged LMS (Learning Management System) such as Blackboard or Moodle.

 Tools

Edmodo provides teachers with a way to grade student assignments from within the site, and then it posts the grades in the gradebook, accessed from the Progress button on the main header bar.  This is great if a teacher uses Edmodo as a primary means of assigning and grading work.  It gets confusing, however, if there are outside assignments that are not graded/listed on Edmodo.  In this case, students are sometimes confused about whether their Edmodo gradebook is their actual grade or whether their district-sponsored gradebook is their actual grade.  This is easily overcome by clarifying this information with both students and their parents.

The Library section of Edmodo can be powerful, because it allows teachers to share files and entire folders with select groups (or all groups).  A recent update finally allows users to upload multiple files and folders at once, making using Edmodo as a sharing hub much more practical.  One downside to the Library is that it’s not easy to find things, even using the search bar.  This is also a problem when searching the main feed, as assignments and their attachments tend to get buried quickly under all the posts, comments, etc.

The Discover button on the main header bar connects teachers to a page where they can browse apps and communities that might interest them.  Suggestions are made automatically based on information the teacher has previously shared with his or her connections and the interests that were selected when signing up for the service.

Edmodo badges

Teachers have access to many pre-made/shared badges, or they can make their own.

Another interesting tool is the ability to connect apps to Edmodo, allowing students to easily log in to these web tools.  Although some of the apps are free, many require payment on a monthly or yearly basis.

One of my favorite tools is the Planner.  This is where a teacher can literally plan the flow of a unit or activity.  Assignments and quizzes auto-populate based on due dates, but additional events can be added.  Since students can also see the Planner for their particular group, this is a great tool for keeping students (and parents) up-to-date on what’s happening when.

Badges are an innovative (and increasingly popular) method for rewarding or motivating students or for acknowledging achievements.  Edmodo has the ability to create and award badges, offering pre-made badges in addition to giving teachers the ability to create their own or use badges shared by other teachers.

Pros

Edmodo is a fabulous communication tool.  It sends out emails and/or text messages to students (and parents, if they have a connected account) whenever a teacher creates an Alert and when an assignment is due soon.  The ability for students to comment and rate (using different icons with “feelings”) allows for additional interaction.  Edmodo is smart though, and only allows students to message their teacher or reply using the comments.  Direct student messaging is not possible, minimizing the threat of bullying or inappropriate use.

The ability to share resources is also helpful, especially for students who may have forgotten a particular paper at home or lost a handout.  And now that teachers don’t have to upload each file one-by-one, it’s much more practical.

For administration and counselors, Edmodo is a great way to get out important information such as scholarship deadlines, school closings, and reminders.  Clubs and advisories could also use Edmodo to connect members, as well as to discuss and plan events.

Another favorite ability that Edmodo offers is linked parent accounts.  By using a code that is specific to a particular student, parents can make a parent account that is attached to the student’s account.  They can see the Planner and check their student’s Progress, but they aren’t able to post, comment, or submit assignments. Also, parents can message teachers but not students, adding an extra level of security to the group.

Cons

One of the biggest drawbacks to Edmodo is that it’s difficult to find things with the search bar.  Often, even if a teacher knows the exact title of a post or attachment, the search will fail to find anything.  And since the feed is chronological, something posted at the beginning of the year is completely buried by more recent posts, making it almost impossible for students to go back and reference that information.

Additionally, the apps, which are at interesting idea, aren’t particularly well integrated or explained, leaving many teachers uncertain of their usefulness.  This is particularly true of the paid apps.

Many teachers don’t understand the difference between Edmodo and LMS tools (Blackboard, Haiku, Moodle, etc.), leaving them frustrated when the service doesn’t allow them to do a particular activity.  However, knowing the purpose of Edmodo and choosing the appropriate tool for the teacher’s needs will minimize this issue.

Conclusions

Overall, Edmodo is a wonderful tool, if teachers are aware that it’s not a full-fledged LMS, and therefore doesn’t have many of the sophisticated tools and options that Blackboard, Haiku, or Moodle offer.  However, it excels at its purpose, which is to be a place for students and teachers to communicate and collaborate. And, since it’s free, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Sign up at Edmodo.com

Check out my review on Trust Radius.

 

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