Melissa Giddins

Exploring technology and literacy in education.

Edmodo

Frustrated by my inability to access social networking sites at school, I tried twittering with my students and the results of that can be read in my earlier post: Twitter in the Classroom: https://mgiddins.wordpress.com/2009/04/19/twitter-in-the-classroom/. Darcy then suggested that I try Edmodo so during the holidays I went to : http://www.edmodo.com and set up an account. I managed to communicate with a few students through twitter in the holidays and they went and signed up for me so we could start trialling and testing it. 

A few things that I have discovered so far about Edmodo:

1. It is REALLY easy to use and you can learn the basics in about 5 minutes.

2. It feels like a cross between Twitter and Facebook, in a protected environment, allowed through the DET portal (and the few students that have signed up are enjoying using it so far).

3. It is not like a blog or a wiki – it is a COMMUNICATION tool – primarily facilitating easy communication with a group of students.

After a few days of interacting on edmodo with the few students that have signed up so far, I could already see great potential for its use with students. On this basis, I introduced it to about 18 other members of staff today.  They had great fun signing up and playing with it – and also managed to work out how to use it very quickly – which is very good news about how easy it really is to use and learn. Many great ideas were starting to come out about ways to use edmodo but rather than tell you about them myself, I will allow those who were there to make comments to this post, and tell you themselves what their ideas are, and their successes and failures.

As for me, on Thursday morning the rest of my classes will be receiving their edmodo passwords and signing up. We will use it and I promise to report back and let you know how it goes – the reality of how it goes: good, bad or ugly.

If you are interested in edmodo, here is some basic information for you:

  • go to http://www.edmodo.com
  • you will see a sentence that says: ‘Sign up now. I am a teacher, or a student.’ Click on ‘teacher’.
  • a sign-up screen will appear – so sign up! NB: the email address that you put in is where you will receive your notifications about updates on the edmodo site that your students have made.
  • Once you have logged in with your new information, you can go to Settings and customise your profile.
  • On the main screen underneath your avatar (or photo if you choose to upload one), there is a section called ‘groups’ if you click on ‘Create’ this is where you create a class group.  So for example, I created a group called 11ExtEng for my Year 11 Extension English class. As soon as you create a group, the password for that group is posted onto your edmodo page by the edmodo support team. All you then have to do is give students the name of the group and the password.  Students go to http://www.edmodo.com and click on ‘student’ which allows them to sign up specifically to your class group, using the group name and password you have given them.
  • You can create many groups on your edmodo account (don’t know the limits of how many yet).
  • You have the option of adding notes, events, assignments, links and files in your communication with students.

This is the very basic information that will get you started with edmodo. On the edmodo website, if you click on the link ‘Docs’ that will give you access to blogs with instructional information.

I would love to hear about your own experiments and experiences with edmodo!

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April 28, 2009 Posted by | edmodo, Social Networking | , | 6 Comments

Engaging with Social Networking

I read an interesting blog post today: Why You Have to Engage In Social Media, Even If You Don’t Want To: http://blog.asmartbear.com/blog/why-you-have-to-engage-in-social-media-even-if-you-dont-want.html.

This article is from a corporate/business world perspective however, it is still quite relevant to teachers, particularly to assist in understanding the role of social media/networking in the world.

As part of a presentation at school today I mentioned social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, and there was quite a bit of negative reaction to Twitter, whereas Facebook was seen to be a more ‘acceptable’ form of social networking.  In my experience (so far) Twitter has proven to be far more valuable as a professional resource. Facebook has allowed me to connect with people from my past and present, but it is very much about me and my life and harder to see it’s usefulness as a professional tool.  Twitter, on the otherhand, daily delivers new professional information to me quickly and easily. In fact, the link at the beginning of this post came from a tweet I received when I got home from work today. I receive information pertaining to my professional development, the latest news about education and little tidbits of information like the fact that Darcy is spending tomorrow looking at the DET beta blogging platform – prior to that tweet, I didn’t know that the DET was finally starting to think about providing us with a blogging platform – and I am very excited about that opportunity! I feel very ‘cutting edge’, thanks to Twitter. However, I would like to add that it is the people that you choose to follow that makes the experience either valuable or trivial.  I choose to get a dose of both in the tweets I receive, and I am enjoying the interaction with people I may not otherwise have access to or speak with in the ‘real’ world.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Social Networking | , , , | 2 Comments

Teaching Skills for the 21st Century

I was directed to this blog: http://www.tommarch.com/ozblog/skills-checklist/ through a tweet I received today and I am SO impressed by it that I immediately decided to add the link to my blog. The post on the blog: Bright Ideas for Education by Tom March, is a checklist of teaching skills for the 21st Century classroom and is very comprehensive.  I suggest that all teachers go to this site and complete the checklist for themselves, leaving a comment on the site.  I am going to reproduce this checklist for my faculty as it is a great resource for not only tracking current skill levels but also for providing a guide as to what to learn next.

I will report further on my faculty’s reaction to the checklist, and my own results when tracked against the list.

As part of the comments for the above blog post Tom March directed me to other work done in this area: http://henricostaffdev.org/wiki/index.php?title=TIPC – this is the Teaching Innovation Progression Chart and is also a fascinating tool for tracking and guiding a professional learning journey.

April 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

What is Twitter?

One thing that I have noticed about other people’s blogs, is that sometimes people can assume that you know about the technologies they are talking about. One thing that I want to do on my blog is make it a resource for those who are just starting out when it comes to integrating technology into their classroom teaching, working world and home life. As such, I will try to create ‘instruction’ posts fairly often, to give readers information at a basic level for those who need it!

I have created instructional posts for Delicious and wikis, so now it is time for one on Twitter, particularly owing to the number of posts on my blog that are talking about Twitter. So here is a fantastic little video from Common Craft that explains Twitter in plain English.

April 24, 2009 Posted by | Social Networking, twitter | | Leave a comment

Working with Wikis

Deciding it was time to put my money where my mouth is, I have created a wiki for my faculty to use collaboratively as a resource, working document and sneaky way of learning new technology.

It is by no means complete, and very much a work in progress, but it is a beginning, and will give us something to work with on the Staff Development Day next Tuesday.  I will be sure to post about how it goes!

For those who are interested in having a look at using a wiki for faculty working purposes (programming, assessment, etc), the address is: http://engadineenglish.pbwiki.com.

Not sure what a wiki is? Here are two videos that will help:

April 24, 2009 Posted by | Wikis | | Leave a comment

Podcasting

Last year, I began experimenting with podcasting for students. I created a series of podcasts with basic information on them.  The kind of information that students forget, and need to be retold every year, and could do with a source for revision.  The podcast topics were:

  • Basic Essay Writing
  • Writing an Essay Introduction
  • Essay Writing in Stage 6 English
  • Poetry Techniques
  • Basic Poetry Analysis

These proved surprisingly popular with students as they could listen to them at home when they were trying to remember how to do something. It brought the teacher into their home and made information they needed more readily available. Not very useful for actual teaching in the classroom – because they are NO substitute for the teacher live, but very useful as a resource for students.  I will add these podcasting files to this blog so that anyone can access them, but no laughing! They were my first attempts.

Bottom line: I highly recommend creating podcasts for students about information they need to know, revise, embed in their learning. Also very useful to get students to create their own podcasts of information they are studying, they can then revise while on the move, listening to it on a MP3 player like iPod.

To create a podcast, you just need a microphone attached to your computer. I would suggest using an easy program like Audacity (which you can download for free on the internet) and writing the script up before you start recording.

Would love to hear other people’s ideas and experiences with podcasts, so please feel free to comment.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | podcasting | , , | 5 Comments

Facebook

Ok, I confess. I had avoided facebook. I worried about students saying nasty things about me or making inappropriate comments, I thought that it was a waste of time, etc etc etc. Yesterday, I decided that enough was enough and I needed to get a facebook account. For two reasons:

1. My sister is currently travelling and she put her pics on facebook and I couldn’t see them without having an account!

2. Everyone else seemed to have one, without any of the dramas I was worrying about, and I was feeling decidedly left out.

So yesterday, I bit the bullet (where does that saying come from?), and signed up on Facebook. I was very surprised to find that a heck of a lot of people I know are already on there, regardless of age. Not quite 24 hours later I have 26 friends with, I’m sure, many more to come. I have found people I went to high school with (20 years ago), work colleagues past and present, friends I’d lost touch with, current friends and relatives, and have had no end of fun looking at people’s profiles and being amazed at this nifty tool that allowed me to reconnect with some long lost friends.

It sucked up a huge amount of time getting it set up and reading through everyone’s stuff, etc, not to mention chatting online with a few people, but now that it is up and running it seems like it will potter along without needing lots of maintenance time – though I understand that there are those out there who are quite addicted and spend lots of time on it!

As always, I subscribe to my theory of using it in order to be able to imagine more from it, so it will be interesting now to see what I can come up with for ways to use facebook in the classroom, particularly when it is not allowed through the DET portal.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | Social Networking | | 5 Comments

New Technologies, New Stories

I am currently involved in a project entitled ‘New Technologies, New Stories’ which essentially has gathered a group of teachers together from K-12, to each write a unit of work engaging students with technology in order to write narratives.  For me, the project can be summed up in one key question: How can we use technology to improve students’ ability to write narratives? With the imminent arrival of laptops into Year 9 classrooms, it became particularly relevant and lead to a further involvement in the Laptops 4 Learning project.  As such, I am now required to think very specifically about targetting these ideas at Year 9 students.

After letting it all roll around in my brain for a while it has fnally consolidated into a series of ideas, so I thought I would share my current thoughts – comments welcome please!

I came up with seven ideas in my first brain storm and here they are in a highly skeletal form:

1. Multiauthored narrative using a wiki. This was the idea that received initial approval for the New Technologies, New Stories project. The idea is that the class works in groups. Each group creates a wiki.  The wiki is for shaping the world of the narrative, as well as the narrative itself. Prior to beginning to write narratives, the group divides itself into sections and they each set about working and researching different areas of the world of the narrative. It would begin with a big discussion to nail down a few facts (time period, etc) and then students can research for their chosen area: history of the setting, geography, local statistics, local characters – kind of like putting together a tourist brochure for the town their narrative will be set in.  They can make it all up, or choose an existing town.  This will obviously work on their descriptive language skills as well as teaching the art of researching background and giving characters some depth. Once they have a wiki loaded with information about the setting for their narrative, they begin to write a narrative – either collaboratively on the wiki or individually.

2. Reading a class novel then students choosing a character and blogging as that character. Students create a blog as a character of their choice and create an About Me page, then write in response to teacher-provided stimulus questions with the voice of the character they have chosen.

3. ‘Story in instalments’: students blog 3 paragraphs or so in each post. After each post, students are to read other students’ posts and make comments: predictive comments about what they think might come next, feedback regarding the writing, or even write something that could be added to that students’ story – such as the event again from a different character’s perspective, etc. Ideally, the teacher should model this by starting the whole process with the first story instalments, and students would start by commenting on the teacher’s blog story and then go on and begin their own. Students would need at least one lesson per week to post and comment, more likely two, one for posting, one for commenting.

4. Genre study in a wiki. Class wiki is created and students, either individually or in pairs, research different genres and create a class resource (the wiki) that has information about the characteristics of a large number of genres. Genre switch exercises could then be done, either on the wiki or on a teacher blog, where a piece of writing in one genre is rewritten in different genres. 

5. Podcasting radio interview with ‘author’ or characters from a class novel.  Students use a tool such as Audacity (free to download from the web) to create a radio show, complete with music, etc, where they interview the author or various characters from a class novel that has been studied.

6. Vodcast a news item re an event in the narrative. Students record a tv-style news report, with anchors etc, reporting on an event that happened in the novel.  If the new laptops do not come with webcams, students could record on their mobile phones and upload to laptops (shock, horror, did I just suggest actually using the mobile phones they are not supposed to have at school??!!)

7. Creating a trailer for a movie version using MovieMaker. This could be done for either a class novel that has been studied, or for a narrative that the students have written themselves.

Obviously, that is only the skeletal version of each idea.

Step Two in the brainstorming process was the idea of using more than one of those ideas in the same unit of work. For example, what if we did the Genre Study wiki FIRST and then students had all this knowledge and a great resource at their fingertips to enable them to write within a specific genre? Then, the story in instalments would allow students to practice their writing, get immediate feedback from teacher and peers, while laying great groundwork for the big collaborative story writing wiki. Ideas 2, 5, 6 and 7 could all be used in one novel study unit of work rather than a narrative writing unit of work, though I think that Idea 2, blogging as a character, could also be Step 3 in the process towards the collaborative story writing wiki. So putting it all together:

  1. Students could start with the Genre Study Wiki, learning the art of using a wiki and focussed research, and increase their knowledge and understanding of various genres. (Almost like jigsaw cooperative learning with technology!)
  2. Students then (or at the same time) begin understanding blogging through the Story in Instalments Blogging activity.
  3. Students then create a character and begin to blog as that character, answering stimulus questions provided by the teacher.
  4. Students work in groups to create a wiki that is the imaginary world of their narrative, and then work to write a narrative that incorporates the setting they have created, their understanding of genre and the characters they have made (and have been blogging with).

Now I am off to investigate these ideas in more depth – work out what will and won’t be included in the final proposal, and the overall value or worth of these activities in relation to meeting syllabus outcomes, etc. There will no doubt be further posts about this project, as it starts to take shape.

P.S. If you saw an idea on here that you like, take it and run with it, but be sure to let me know how it went! I would be most interested.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | New Technologies New Stories | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Del.icio.us Instructions

While I am making posts with instructions, here is a great 3 minute video about how to use del.icio.us and why you would want to use it:

As stated earlier, I use delicious as a great way to keep track of all the different websites I find, without having to remember large amounts of addresses, and it gives me access to them even when I am not on my computer (where they are on my favourites list). Also, it allows me to share them with others very easily, simply by giving out my delicious address: http://www.delicious.com/melissagiddins – only ONE address I need to remember.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | delicious | | 2 Comments

Twitter Instructions

For all of you out there who have now decided that you want to check out Twitter, I have found two great resources for you. The first one is a handbook on how to use Twitter that was put together by a group of teachers in WA:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/14062777/Twitter-Handbook-for-Teachers

And the second is a great post on how to Retweet:

http://mashable.com/2009/04/16/retweet-guide/

Two great resources for the brave who decide to come twittering with me! Once you have a twitter account just click on Find People and type in: melissagiddins and then click on ‘follow’ and I will follow you right back.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | Social Networking, twitter | | Leave a comment