Melissa Giddins

Exploring technology and literacy in education.

New job, new location, new life

I have decided to keep working and posting on this blog, despite the almost 12 month abandonment of it during 2011. A new position as a Literacy Consultant sees me in a non-school based position which, while it no longer gives me a class of students to experiment with, does give me access to many schools and their challenges and adventures, a rich vein of information and ideas to be mined and shared.

Things have changed a lot since I started this blog in 2009. Some tools are still great, some have fallen by the wayside. Here’s a summary, that kind of includes my New Year’s Educational Technology Resolutions!

1. The delicious account that I started to keep track of all the new websites for educational use just became a pain and I stopped using it, so I tried creating a wiki as a place to store the information. This also was not as effective as I would have liked, as my ideas about my staff contributing to it came to nothing as no-one ever did but me. I am going to take a stab at Diigo, as Darcy Moore used it to replace his delicious account and I will spend some time this term trying to relocate everything from delicious and the wiki to diigo. Will let you know how that goes!

2. Yammer. I loved it and used it all the time – alas, no more. The Department, in its infinite wisdom, created something else for us to use instead and I have not logged onto it once yet. Therefore sometime this term I will make time to check out the Department’s version and see if it works for me.

3. Ning. I created a Ning, loved the concept of it and then they wanted to charge me money to host it. Bye to my Ning page.

4. Twitter. Loved it, love it, and have been hopeless at using it for 12 months. Will attempt to dive back in the twitter stream in 2012 also.

5. Google reader is an essential part of my life, particularly now that I have apps on both my iPhone and iPad to enable me to read posts anywhere, anytime.

6. EDMODO!! I love this site more and more each passing year.  I highly recommend it. There is a great professional development group on there as well now called Oz Edmodo that share fantastic resources and provide great feedback.

7. Just bought an iPad. It is revolutionising my world, and I’m wondering why I held off for so long. I’m going to explore new apps and applications for education. Can’t wait!

8. Facebook – now a part of my daily life, but rarely used for work, I have kept that one for my personal life 🙂

And the biggest resolution for the year: blog more often. It is a great way to reflect, clarify thoughts and ask myself hard questions.

Lots more to say, but I shall save it for a series of regular blog posts. Coming right up!

January 23, 2012 Posted by | blogging, edmodo, twitter | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Enthusing about Edmodo

I mentioned on my blog last year that I was going to try out Edmodo (http://www.edmodo.com). Now let me gush enthusiastically at how wonderful Edmodo is! This is now the second year of classes and this year has been infinitely more successful because I set everything up right from the first week of classes.

Before school began, I set up the groups, archived last year’s groups and put a welcome message in for everyone. Then in the first week of school, first day of class with each new class, I gave them the group code and encouraged the sign up. I took them to computer labs and made them sign up while I watched and generally ensured that the majority of students were now connected with Edmodo.

Then I started posting homework on Edmodo, EVERY DAY. Even if there was no homework, I posted a message saying there was none. When students came in and told me they had forgotten they had homework I reminded them that they should be checking Edmodo each night.

This has been a very successful strategy. The number of students not completing work or being prepared for class work has perceptibly decreased. A parent commented to me that her daughter checks Edmodo for her homework every night and that they both like the ability to see what needs to be done. I have also had very positive feedback from the students regarding their ability to be able to ask me a question when they think of the question. I may not answer it immediately, if I am not online, but they can at least ask it at the time rather than trying to remember it the next day in class. Edmodo really comes into its own prior to assessment tasks. All my students know that they can leave a question, submit a draft for comment and seek reassurance at any time in the lead up to the assessment task. The students also use Edmodo to talk to each other – if I have not responded to a question and another student knows the answer, they will help each other out by answering questions, giving suggestions and encouraging and supporting each other. I had an amusing incident last term when prior to a science test one of my classes spent several hours on my English Edmodo group asking each other questions and helping each other to prepare for the science test. They then apologised to me for using the English group to do this but explained that there wasn’t one for science, so they were using what they had. This truly showed me how much the students value Edmodo as a communication tool when they were using it on their own, with no teacher input or direction.

Students are now also uploading tasks on Edmodo -the Wide Reading Log for Year 10 had a large number of students upload the task on Edmodo rather than printing it out and handing it to me in class. While we are not yet utilising all the aspects of Edmodo, as a communication tool it is winning hands down on anything else we have available, including Moodle. I think that we will utilise Moodle for most of the other tasks that Edmodo can do, but we will continue to use Edmodo for our class communication as it is the easiest platform for students to understand and access at any time.

If you are thinking about taking up Edmodo for the first time, I suggest that you read the first post on Edmodo that I wrote that contains instructions for how to get started: https://mgiddins.wordpress.com/2009/04/28/edmodo/.

I would also give the following recommendations for effective Edmodo use:

  1. Do something that ensures that all students have signed up – such as standing over them in a computer room until it is done!
  2. Post something on it EVERY DAY when you first start out, so that students get in the habit of checking it.
  3. Talk about it in class – “I have posted the topics on Edmodo”, “your homework will be posted on Edmodo by 4pm”, etc.
  4. Ensure that you do actually respond to students in a reasonably timely manner, particularly when you first start using it with a class, otherwise they will consider Edmodo as “not working” and a waste of time, and will stop using it.
  5. Prior to an assignment, set boundaries for your time e.g. “I will be checking Edmodo every few hours across the weekend” so they don’t expect instant responses, and “I will be signing off at 10pm on Sunday night – no further answers after that” so they don’t expect to continue talking to you until the wee hours while they catch up on the work they procrastinated about doing earlier.

Edmodo has been a roaring success with five of my classes so far, and I am sure will continue to be so through the next few years.  Other members of my faculty are now also using Edmodo on a regular basis and are also enjoying the benefits of better communication with students. Edmodo has proven to be one of the most useful Web 2.0 tools I have encountered.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | edmodo | , | 4 Comments

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!

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

Twitter in the Classroom

In the last two weeks of Term 1, I decided to experiment with twittering with students. The dangers inherent in this made it all a bit daunting, but considering how very public twitter is, I decided that it would make me very accountable and in some ways perhaps be ‘safer’ as I had many witnesses to every communication.

The idea behind the experiment was that it would help students to learn to be succinct – capturing an idea or thought in 140 characters or less.  With the move towards reducing the amount of words students write in HSC exams, students need to learn how to dispense with waffle and to encapsulate an idea in a succinct manner. Students also struggle to put together a thesis statement under exam conditions – given only a few minutes with an unseen question, it is very tempting to skip the planning process altogether and just start writing their essay.  Students sometimes struggle with creating a thesis under these conditions with only a few minutes to plan, and every minute that they take in the planning process, takes away time for them to write their essay. The art of being succinct is becoming ever more important for our senior students. Most of them have Facebook accounts and complete status updates on their facebook pages so I was thinking about twitter as a way to combine their current social networking with learning a new and useful ability for school. What better way than learning to express themselves in 140 characters or less on twitter?

The biggest issue: the DET portal does not allow Twitter (it is a blocked site) and therefore all of this had to be done at home for both the students and myself. This meant having school infringe on my homelife in a big way, and raised questions of equity in that not all students may have access to the necessary computing and internet requirements at home.

Now for the current results of this little experiment.

Bottom line: It didn’t work the way I thought it would.

I didn’t take into consideration the fact that I can’t ‘group’ my posts so they only go to my students. Thus, every post I tried to send to them went out to all my followers on twitter. This made me ridiculously self-conscious about what I said to the students, and paranoid about irritating such fabulous twitterers as Darcy and Lyndon who deigned to follow my tweets.

Thankfully, Darcy was patient, understanding, and as always, provided me with a possible solution: edmodo (www.edmodo.com). Next project for the holidays now is setting up an edmodo account ready to start with my students next term, where the experiment will continue, just on a different platform.

As for the actual twittering…

I suggested that my Year 11 Extension English class, currently studying ‘Dracula’ and its appropriations in popular culture, use twitter to consolidate their ideas about the text prior to their exams in Week 11 of Term 1. Of the 10 students in that class, 9 students joined twitter and began to ‘follow’ me and use twitter.  They struggled to know what to say without having any kind of stimulus, so I tweeted questions at them – which of course then went out to everyone that follows me, not just them.  I tried prefacing my tweets with ‘Year 11,’ so that it was like addressing a letter just to them, in the hope that the others following me would understand that this was a tweet that was not for all. The students began responding to the stimulus questions but it was a bit shallow and not having the effect that I was looking for. Then, students began using it as a forum to ask questions about the upcoming exams. I had to be extremely careful then about making sure that they did not have information that the rest of the class did not have  – equity, fairness, validity – all these had to be taken into consideration. The students started telling their friends about twitter and soon there were a number of Year 11 students on twitter that were not in my class – and then some of them started asking me questions about the exams as well. So now I am talking to students that I do not have a relationship established with in the classroom, and that barely know me due to me starting at the school in Term 1. The dangers here now were palpable. It would be far too easy for my words to be misconstrued and they also started asking questions about the exams.

The first thing I want to say is that I survived, and continue to survive, the experience. My worst fears were not realised and these incredibly intelligent, well-behaved and considerate students used twitter appropriately and with understanding when I couldn’t give more information. The very public nature of twitter helped, as they could read what I had said to others and that assisted everyone to have more information and to understand the limits of what I could say.  The Year 11 Extension English students made a real effort to engage with the process, and I am now going to use edmodo with this class to continue this experiment further, as they are obviously keen to use technology, social networking applications and willing to interact at home as well as at school. I need however, to make sure that the 10th student will also engage with edmodo – it will be all or nothing at all. Also, must check that edmodo works through the DET portal so we can work on it at school and eliminate some of the equity issues.

Being a particularly insane person, I also gave the offer to my Year 12 Advanced English class to twitter about ‘Citizen Kane’, prior to their assessment task in Week 11. With the task being an unseen in-class task, it was similar to the experience that Year 11 were undergoing in preparing for their exams, so my reasoning was that they may need to also learn the art of being succinct in exam conditions. This was less successful in terms of take-up. Of the 19 students in my class, only 10 took up the offer to follow me on twitter. They did not tweet about Citizen Kane at all, just used the opportunity to ask questions about the assessment task, which of course brought up all those questions about equity and validity again.

Out of the 22 students at school that are now following me on Twitter, only Year 11 really used it for what I had originally intended. Now it simply seems to provide access to me so that they can ask questions about texts and tasks. What do the students think? Some think it’s lame, some think it’s fun, and some have signed up and never really used it. But it’s early days yet, so we will see where it goes from here.

April 19, 2009 Posted by | Social Networking, twitter | , | 3 Comments