In the previous post I made a case for innovative professional development that is simultaneously individualized and focused, accessible anywhere, and that taps into teachers’ senses of play, passion and purpose. In this post, I will investigate the use of Edmodo to enable such professional development. My District has already chosen to use Edmodo to organize certain professional development and sharing resources – I will examine the successes and problems with that, as well as other ways educators are using Edmodo to facilitate their own learning.
What is Edmodo?
Edmodo is a micro-blogging site with the look and feel of Facebook, but is private and, in the education mode, is geared toward facilitating classes, assignments, calendars, discussions and more. Edmodo has more than 6.5 million users (Trust, 2012), and it is used both to manage classes for teachers as well as a part of a Professional Learning Network (PLN) for individuals. There are only 12 subject communities – forums for sharing ideas and resources – allowing for multiple answers to questions posed, as compared with Classroom 2.o and Educators PLN, nings where posts in discreet micro-communities often go unanswered (Trust, 2012).
Edmodo for Personal Learning
The use of Edmodo for PLNs is well documented in the blogosphere and by Edmodo videos. Click this link for a description posted in the Edmodo school tube forum about using Edmodo to learn at a conference beyond the in-person sessions. Personal Learning Networks allow teachers to go beyond the isolation of their classrooms beyond the traditional hours of school – engaging in professionalism any time by contributing to and learning from discussions with colleagues around the world. (Click here for more PLN resources from Edutopia). A cloud-based application, Edmodo also has mobile apps for iPhones, iPads, Androids and a mobile website as well. This easily allows teachers to access their learning any time, any where. While learning through PLNs allows teachers to have anytime learning based on their perceived needs, what it doesn’t allow for is targeted professional learning at a district-wide level, founded on professional development theory and the needs of individual districts to improve student outcomes.
District Professional Development Using Edmodo
In addition to learning through PLNs, Edmodo can facilitate more targeted professional development organized at the district, site or team level. My District is currently using Edmodo in this way, abandoning the higher-level features Moodle for a more accessible and user-friendly platform. Here is a screen shot of my current Edmodo home page:
Though a bit blurry, you can see the number of groups I have down the left hand side of the page. In the group “Leadership,” the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent can post reading, assign topics for discussion and focus the learning of the site administrators based on identified needs. This is a superior method to previous attempts to aggregate that information through the district server, which is hard to access away from the sites and on mobile devices. I also have groups for my site leadership team, my district curricular group, and my site curricular group. The library feature allows me to share only the readings and information that are pertinent to that groups’ needs and focus the “assignments” based on our intended outcomes.
Districts also have the ability to create sub-domains within Edmodo to link the learning opportunities through District users more easily. Below is an Edmodo video that describes how this is done:
Benefits of Edmodo for District-Wide Professional Learning
- Focused Learning – District and Site Work. One of our district difficulties in a radical transformation to a more student-centered learning environment has been the consistency of message from district leadership, site administrators and teacher leaders. Through creating an environment where we all interact together, the message remains consistent as people in all positions have access to the same content. This has simplified the message and brought more people on board.
- Mobile learning – anytime, anywhere. This year the state of California is only providing three paid professional development days – a reduction from eight when I started teaching. Edmodo has free, easy-to-use applications for the web and for mobile devices that allow for interaction when the participant has time rather than only one-off professional development the few times district teachers are together.
- Social Construction of Learning. Edmodo allows for a social constructivist learning experience, allowing teachers and administrators to interact with each other that will bring the learning beyond the knowledge of any one participant. The process can be facilitated by district and site administrators who can ask questions, create context and provide information as needed to participants (Huang, 2002).
- Long-term Learning. Edmodo allows for PD to be sustained over time, with the library and folders functions organizing and maintaining resources and information over time.
- Encourages Discussion and Dissent. Doug Reeves (2011) suggests that administrators must “engage and honor skeptics, making clear that the best leaders value dissent that is rooted in rational skepticism and open-minded inquiry.” Edmodo allows for open conversation, discussion, and even skepticism. Teachers can engage with each other to make meaning, and administrators can learn from the discussion, changing course and goals as needed.
- Support. The Edmodo help site is an amazing collection of videos and text support for all levels of learners.
Drawbacks to Using Edmodo
While there are many benefits from using Edmodo for professional development, I have encountered some drawbacks that should be addressed to maximize the benefits.
- Chronological Posts. Posts made to the home page and show up in chronological order. Without tagging (in my eight groups I have never seen tagging used well) it is difficult to find questions and answers that occur when you are not checking the page daily.
- Folder Sharing. Currently only the “owner” of a group can post materials to folders he/she creates. This creates a problem for managing as all posted materials now have to go through a central person to be organized.
- Security Concerns. Until the district purchases its own Edmodo domain, the learning takes place outside of the tight security of the district network. While Edmodo is “secure” there are concerns about student information (for example if the professional learning involves student data) and other information that may be proprietary.
- Technology Barriers. As we have all reported in our CTER work, teachers can have barriers to using technology, whether born of fear or lack of skill. I saw this played out when I went to visit a new-teacher training. It was the end of the day, and the teachers were asked to organize their work through and Edmodo group. While this was not a barrier for most, some of the teachers were very frustrated because they were learning content (Understanding by Design) and technology at the same time.
- “Another Thing.” In the three years I have been working in this District, I have seen various administrators attempt to organize and disseminate information in many different platforms – from the district server to Google Docs and Moodle. Early adopters of those methods are understandable frustrated at the constant movement, and late adopters feel as if they wait this one out there will be “another thing” coming down the pike. We can all hope that Edmodo stays a while.
As the year unfolds I will post updates on how Edmodo is working in my context – both for my own learning, and for my role in providing quality professional development to the teachers with whom I work.
Huang, H. (2002). Toward constructivism for adult learners in online learning environments. British Journal of Educational Technology, 22(1), 27-37.
Reeves, D. (2011, October). Skeptics and Cynics. American School Board Journal. October, 2011 edition. Online at: www.asbj.com.
Trust, T. (2012). Professional Learning Networks Designed for Teacher Learning. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 28(4), 133 – 138.