If you’ve ever considered hosting a discussion online or asking students to take on the “role” of someone in history or a work of literature, you might want to take a look at this week’s featured tool: Edmodo.com
Edmodo is an education-focused social networking site. Like Facebook, each person’s home page is a real-time newsfeed of all the action happening within the classes and groups to which a student belongs. Below is a screenshot of my Edmodo home page. The difference between Facebook and Edmodo? Edmodo is built for education.
In Edmodo, teachers can easily …
- share a variety of resources, including links, images, videos, updates, digital handouts and other files.
- moderate real-time discussion of class groups.
- assign homework (and collect it).
- poll students to check for understanding, and more.
In a unique application of Edmodo, West High Spanish teacher Eileen Kiser enhances the interactivity of the cultural research her level 5 Spanish students complete towards the end of their final year of Spanish.
In this cumulative performance assessment, students taking Spanish 5 are asked to research one cultural icon from Spanish-speaking cultures and present him, her, or it to their peers at a special celebration and ceremony towards the end of 2nd semester, in the target language (Spanish). At this event, students are asked to come dressed as their icons, playing the part as well as presenting the icon.
What Eileen saw in Edmodo was the opportunity for her students to “get in character” far before the event. Each student, after choosing his or her icon, creates a profile on Edmodo for that person or object. As students are researching, Eileen poses questions to her class on Edmodo and expects students to respond both to her question and to one another. An example of such a question is below, where Eileen has asked students to upload a photo of an important work and describe it (Eileen’s question is below and the first student’s response is above).
In this class, questions serve dual purposes. First, Eileen’s questions are designed to provide students practice in the target language, and “speaking” in Spanish is a requirement for participation in the online classroom. Second, the questions help keep students on track with their research and in touch with their icon’s “character.” If a student hasn’t yet found enough information to answer, he or she must investigate more thoroughly. Additionally, students are encouraged (both by Eileen and one another) to respond to the answers of their classmates. Some students even stay “in character” and banter back and forth.
Eileen has noticed that students have become engaged in conversation above and beyond the initial requirements, even to the point of asking at the beginning of class when a new question will be put up next. In a class focused on participation and generation of language, this use of Edmodo has inspired students to create language spontaneously — both to make meaning and to have fun.
Looking to enhance your next research project with another degree of participation and role-play? Edmodo might be worth investigating.