Edmodo : Schools’ social network !

For my final blog, I decided to write about an App that I discovered during my last computer Apps class and I think it is terrific. This App is Edmodo and I truly think that it is perfect for classrooms. Edmodo is a social learning platform website for students and teachers, but also parents. It is a free App that allows you to create a controlled environment which is appropriate for school. It is like an educational Facebook. Edmodo is primary a tool to create communication within the classroom between students and teachers, but also with parents. The only thing that you have to do with Edmodo is to have an account and a join or create a group. Then, when a group is created, people can have access to it by entering the code related to it. Only people with the code will have a access to the content shared on the group. There are multiple things that you can do with this tool from sharing a link to a website to uploading different kinds of document such as Word or PowerPoint which are the most commons.  The principal benefits that Edmodo can have on your classroom will be presented in this blog.

 

First of all, with Edmodo, students can have access to their gradebook and can see their academic progress. For example, you can publish a quiz and when it has been corrected, students will receive their grade in their gradebook which is a fantastic thing. So many schools don’t have an academic portal yet, so having the possibility to give the grades to your students before they receive their final school report is a very good thing. As a teacher, I want my students to have a progression throughout the year and if they don’t receive results before their school report, they won’t know if their learning strategies or techniques are right. At the beginning of the year, I would give the code to the group to my students’ parents, so they will also have access to it. Parents want to be implicated in their children’s learning, but if you don’t give them indications about their results, they won’t be able to do so. Having the results of the exam of their children is an obligation for parents and I don’t think that having students write their homework or their results in their agenda is a very efficient way to do so. Like Mdm Ngiam Wee Heng, Head of Department for ICT and Innovation, West View Primary School says, “teachers find Edmodo especially useful when it comes to communicating with parents about homework done daily. Younger pupils tend to spend more time copying their homework into notebooks and they often copy the wrong instructions into their books causing a lot of frustration to the teachers and pupils. With Edmodo, all the teachers need to do is to tap on the application on their mobile phone, type the homework which needs to be done today and click ‘send post’. Before you know it, parents of that class would have received instant notifications on their mobile phone about the homework even before the child reaches home in the evening! Teachers observed pupils posting questions about homework which they are not clear of and you can expect an answer from a helpful classmate within a few minutes!” As you see, this app will allow communication between all the people linked to your students’ success which is, at the end, a perfect recipe!

Secondly, during all my blogs, I tried to find apps that I could use to have students interested about what is happening in the world and I think that Edmodo is perfect for that. I know that I said that this could be done on Facebook, however it is not every student has a Facebook account because of various reasons such as the fact that parents don’t want their children to go on social network which is a valid one. However, if Edmodo is presented to the parents as educational portal that will only serve the purpose of teaching, almost all your students will be able to create an Edmodo account. If I have the opportunity to use Edmodo in my classroom, I would give as an assignment to my students to read on a topic that I would share with them and ask them to comment about it. The fact that I ask them to comment about the situation in Russia for example (based on an article) is that I want to make sure that everybody will read it. I could also ask my students to share their articles which will create discussion in the group and will lead to the development of their critical thinking. Like Lizzie Pinard from reflective teaching says that Edmodo “gives learners the opportunity to express their thoughts, opinions and ideas related to a newspaper or magazine article and see what others think. This uses both receptive (reading) and productive (writing) skills, and enables authentic, communicative use of language between students outside of class time.” Children and adolescents have be taught basic general knowledge and using a platform like Edmodo is a good way to do so.

Thirdly, another benefit of Edmodo is the fact that they will be able to collaborate in small groups. I could, for example, place students in groups and ask to post their work on the class group because I don’t want my students to create groups for their particular team because that could cause problems with parents. So, by sharing their work with the whole group, other teams will comment on it which will considerably improve their work. Indeed, they will get criticized and they will have find ways to improve it. During all their life, they will be confronted to people who will try to help them improve in a particular area, so they have to get used to it and teamworking with Edmodo is a way to develop this social skill.   Doing teamwork and get peer-reviews can only help students to learn from their mistakes because a student that gives you a comment has more effect than if a teacher did it. Like Derek Oldfield from 2014 learners teaching learners says that he used Edmondo “as part of my learning management system (LMS).  Edmodo is the tool that allows me to incorporate more writing, collaboration, peer review, and assessment.  I design assessments that require students to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the skill/topic they’ve been working on through blended instruction.  It is important to incorporate assessment that can only be graded by a human.  Edmodo is part of the vehicle that leads my students towards creativity, justification, and relevance.  Before blended learning, I never felt I had the time to invest in engaging activities, assignment, and assessments that required my students to demonstrate a deeper level of understanding.” Students will develop higher comprehension of various topics and will improve their writing skills because of the things that Edmodo brings to the table which is peer-collaboration, the best way for students to improve according to all studies.

Futhermore, the fact that most students will be on Edmodo could motivate others to be involved in their learning. The peer pressure of being excluded of something is, most of the time, the only thing they need to get motivate for it. If, for example, I know that some of my students are not reading the books required in my class, I could create a book club in Edmondo in order to encourage students to read and discuss novels. They would be able to learn and to be rewarded for their efforts because other students could praise them because they did a good analysis of the book for example. This would create a craze for reading my books because everybody will want to have the best opinion about the book and share it on the wall of the group. Like Steve Hayden from Cammpus stipulates : “once signed up, the student has an open forum to discuss topics and post anything that might be relevant to the current classroom content.  Teachers have the ability to monitor discussion, post assignments or essential questions, and engage in discussion.  Students will feel excited about using an up to date classroom resource, which increases motivation.”

As you see, using Edmodo as the social network of your class will allow your students to improve in English, to develop their general knowledge, to get used to dealing with people and to get involved in their learning which is not an easing task. It will also help you to teach in partnership with parents which can only benefits your students.

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Storybird : Let the bird fly !

There are multiple apps to help students to develop their writing skills. One of the most interesting is certainly StoryBird. Basically, it is a storytelling tool in which students select pictures in a large collection of drawings made by artists in order to write stories. Students have the possibility to create any story about various topics by combining imaginative artwork made by artists and their own perception of them. It is entirely free, but at the end if they want, students and parents can buy the final product. In this blog, I will show how this tool can truly benefit students.

First of all, this app will truly put the focus on the essay writing and on the text that students will be writing rather than on the drawings that go with the story. So many times, I have seen students focus on which color the cat will be on the cover of their book instead of the content of their books. Now, with StoryBird, it will be impossible for students to suffer of the blank page syndrome and the time that they will save (because won’t have to find an idea or a manner that they will draw) will be used on the content of the story and the way it will be written. Like Hillerspires said in one of their articles, “Young writers often struggle with writing short fiction, especially fantasy. Coming up with an idea that they can convey coherently can be quite challenging. Using artwork to inspire or unlock an idea frees children to focus more on the craft of writing. The website has many stories that children can read as models before they write one of their own. Reading many good stories that have been published by other children their own age helps them see the possibilities for their own writing.” We could also note that the fact that they will be writing about beautiful drawings will increase their motivation for it.

Secondly, this app will allow students to develop their creative skills. Too many times students write on the same topics because they don’t have any idea or because they always see the same patterns. As a teacher if I ask them to write about what they want, they will write about things that they are familiar with, but if I use Storybird and I will provide them with new concept and new ideas. I want my students to discover about new things and to develop a critical thinking on a variety of subjects. Having them writing about different things that they are not use to will only benefits my students at the end. Like Smart Tutor Education Programs stipulates : “storybird promotes imagination, literacy, and self-confidence. Kids who play with words and pictures early in life tend to score higher in cognitive and aptitude tests later on. They read and draw more, and are better able to understand concepts and ideas. Plus, they become comfortable with the act of creation: turning nothing into something. In an idea-based society, that’s a key advantage.” At the end, students will have to be polyvalent when they will have to write anything in life because you cannot always stay in your comfort zone.

 Thirdly, a way that I would introduce this app in my classroom would be by asking students to create their story and then share it with other people in the class. There aren’t enough activities to help students to develop critical judgment. If they have the opportunity to critic other students’ stories, it will help them improve this particular skill that will follow them all their lives, but it will also help the writer of the story to improve his writing proficiency. Indeed, sometimes students don’t take teacher’s comment about their written production as serious as their peers. A student who is at the same level as you in English who tells you that your sentence structure is not correct will provoke changes in the student’s mind very quickly.  

 Finally, I talked about the fact that storybird can be really useful if you want your students to evaluate other students’ work, but what about creating a story with your peers? I really think that StoryBird is perfect app to ask students to work in teams. When they will be working on a story, students will develop English skills, but also personal skills because they will have to take their peers’ opinion in consideration, make compromises, etc. I think that students can truly benefit from working with another person. As an evaluator, you want your students to adapt themselves to different situations and Storybird will give you just that!  Like Edidatik stipulates in one of their articles : “it is possible for students to write part of a story in Storybird, and share it with someone else, who can then continue writing the story. This feature is well suited within the polyphonic use of teaching’’ Having a student to complete a story that was begun by another one will teach him that they have to understand the other person’s view which will follow them throughout their lives. 

Finally, as you see, StoryBird will help your students to find ideas and to focus on the process of writing, to see different kinds of concepts, to learn how to work in teams and to be criticized. As a future teacher, I can tell you that StoryBird will certainly be used in my classroom. 

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Socrative !

Multiple tools can be used in order to improve students’ English speaking skills and motivation. One app that is very interesting in order to achieve this goal is Socrative. First Socrative is an App that allows teachers to create exercises and games related to English and share them in their virtual classroom. They can create multiple choices quiz, true/false quiz and lots of other kinds of game. When the activities are created, students can log in their virtual classroom with their computer, smartphones and tablets and select the activities that have or they want to do. When the students have completed the activities, teachers can view the results of their students as a google spreadsheet or as an emailed Excel file. There are multiple reasons why this app has its place in a classroom and they will be discussed in this blog.

The first reason to use Socrative in your classroom is the fact that it allows teachers to have instant feedback on the effectiveness of their teaching. Indeed, Socrative can create a single response activities which will ask students to reply to a question or a survey without entering their name. If you ask a question to the students about the number of homework or if the activities are interesting in the classroom, no one will raise their hands because they will be feared that you use their opinion to lower their grades. However, if you ask them to reply anonymously, you will receive very interesting feedback that will improve yourself as a teacher and the ones who will benefit from it are the students. We always tell our students to improve and to work on their weaknesses, this also applies to teachers. Every study says the same thing, the classroom should be an environment in which students are fully comfortable in order to learn in the most effective way. Having surveys in which students tell how they feel and what can be improve is fantastic. Like Jen Carey from edtechteacher stipulates: ”we must constantly ask for feedback. Without regular student and teacher surveys, you do not know where they are. This is vital in understanding where they are, how they are progressing, and how to get where we want to be. This should not only occur throughout the year, but when implementing new projects. For example, you can survey students before a project and then after, you can ask students about their internet access at home (do they have it? is it filtered?), and do they enjoy how technology is used in class?” She raises a good point, if you ask them questions in order to know about themselves, it will help you to teach because a reliable link will have been created. If they see that you are trying to improve and to make the classroom as fun as possible, they will do the same. It is a win-win situation.

Furthermore, Socrative is wonderful tool in order to see if a particular concept has been mastered during a class. Indeed, you can create quizzes with multiple choice answers or true/false in order to evaluate their comprehension. If I’m projecting myself in the future, I can see myself asking students to go on Socrative before next class to answer the quiz about the past of regular verbs for example. When they will have done it, it will allow myself to reflect on my teaching and see what has been understood and what hasn’t. It will give me key information about what has to be taught during next class. This app could be perfect for flipped classroom for example.  Like Paul Marshall for edteachnews says: “I think this is good news though. Essentially, this reflects how aware students are of what I think the most important benefit Socrative offers is: you can monitor, at a glance, every single student in the room. You can see their progress and responses throughout the activity, and as a spreadsheet report at the end. We are used to this in summative tests and exams (which we usually have to mark manually), but it is eye-opening what a difference it makes to see so easily what every single student thought the answer was, as formative assessment during classwork activities.” Having the possibility to receive the results of those short quizzes will be very useful to see if some students are struggling. Indeed, using Socrative to track students’ progression will allow teachers to meet students who need more help. If you ask students if they are struggling, they will never tell you so. With Socrative, you will be able to see if they do their homework and the results to it which is not case if the only exams that they have are formative ones. If you ask them to do formative assignments regularly, you will be able to help them before they fail an important exam.

Another benefit of using Socrative in the classroom is the fact that it will increase students’ motivation to improve in English. Indeed, this app is really dynamic and it will not look like a boring homework for students. The fact that they know that they will have to respond to five multiple choice questions instead of a summary of last class as a homework will keep them motivated to do them. Before going on Facebook or on Miniclip, they will only have to log on Socrative and do their formative test. It is not a difficult task, isn’t it? Like Matan Talmi for the Israel Edition stipulates: “it is the easiest, most user-friendly site I have used, and it gives me so much feedback in an instant! The kids are very motivated. I am such a believer.”So, will our children have more fun in the classroom than we ever did? That’s up to startups like Socrative and others, and we’ll have to wait to see if they can transform the classroom.”  If teachers don’t create homework that students will be interested to do, you will never be able to motivate them to learn outside the classroom.

Finally, another feature of Socrative that I will use is the multiple choice quizzes. I know I have talk about it already, but another way that I would use it in my classroom is asking students to create quizzes. Indeed, I think that the best way to see if you have understand something is by teaching it to somebody. They would have to test each other which will create competition in your classroom. If I would like to go further, I would ask to create quizzes about general knowledge in order to get my students to follow politics or the actuality in general. By using Socrative, students will find it interesting to answer to their peers’ quizzes because it doesn’t take much time and it is fun. If you are not convinced that young people love to answer to general questions, you only have to look to the success of QuizUp and you will see that they LOVE it! As a teacher having my students to learn and to be interested in different subjects is perfect. I will repeat myself for the 1 253 time, I want my students to become efficient in English, but I want to see them grow as active citizens which will benefit all the fields of the society.

As you see, Socrative will allow teachers to improve and to help students improve in a fun manner.

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