Tool Name: Edmodo
Version Number/Release Date: 2008
Developer Website: http://www.edmodo.com/about
Reviewed by: Rebecca Fil
Review Date: 20 February 2013
Tags or Keywords: education, library, connect, resources
Purposes of the Tool:
Edmodo is a free website for teachers that essentially combines the features of Facebook and Drop Box as a resource for teaching.
STARTUP: When signing up for Edmodo, you have the option of creating either a teacher or student account. My focus in this tool review will be on the teacher account features of Edmodo. This review’s primary audience is for graduate students/TAs and secondary education educators. A teacher account allows you to become an admin and create different groups for your classes, as well as access a cornucopia of teaching resources. With a student account, you can see and download assignments, participate in online discussions and quizzes via Edmodo, view student grades, and post questions or comments, but you cannot edit anything. The sign-in page also has an option for parents and administrators.
PROFILE: Once you have created an Edmodo teacher account, you add your school. Most schools (K-college) are listed and will automatically connect you with the school’s Edmodo group, but you can also add your own school (For this review, I created a profile and made up a high school). The profile is a modified Facebook profile—it features an about section, connections (the friends section of Facebook, except it’s teachers on Edmodo), favorites (liked pages on Facebook, except it’s teaching resources), communities (your subject area), and badges, which isn’t very useful.
GROUPS: Located under the home tab, the groups section is for you to organize your work into the respective classes you teach. Students who create Edmodo profiles will receive a link that will give them access to their group for their class. You can upload assignments, post quizzes and polls, alerts, and comments in each of your groups. When you post anything, you can tag however many groups you want. If you are teaching three sections of American Lit and one graduate-level class on Joyce, you can post an assignment and tag all three sections of American Lit. Another cool thing about groups is it takes grade level into account. For whatever reason, you might also teach a creative writing elective at a local high school or community college in addition to your courses at the university—you can create a different group with a different grade and subject area. This can be changed in the group settings tab on the right side of the page; you can also filter the posts that your students receive in this tab.
PROGRESS: Along with the planner tab, which is a calendar, the progress tab is also useful for staying organized. Here you can record student grades and award badges, as hokey as it seems, for student achievement. The progress tab is where students can see their own grades and stay on-task about upcoming assignments. Progress is organized according to group.
LIBRARY: The library tab is the most attractive feature to digital humanists, because it strays away from the Facebook-like structure of this tool and becomes more like Dropbox. Here you can upload files from your computer, save links from the discover tab or those you have found on your own, Google docs, videos, movie projects, music, pictures, etc. You can’t see them online, but you can download them. The files can be organized into folders for groups, public/shared, or private.
DISCOVER: This tab is useful as a resource for teaching or your graduate work. It is a search engine that will produce any posts by edmodo teachers, links to other digital humanities/educational resources websites, questions and comments by other teachers, state standards, and so forth, all based on the keywords you’ve given.
CONNECTIONS: The connections tab works like Facebook friends—you connect with other teachers in your school or of your acquaintance. You can share assignments, items from your library, collaborate on projects, and make them group admins, if you are co-teaching a class.
APPS: Finally, the feature of Edmodo that could be considered the most useful to teachers is in face the least useful to me. Since Edmodo is a free website, they have to make their money somehow—Edmodo’s apps tab works like iTunes apps. In fact, many of the apps on iTunes for teachers have identical or at least similar apps on Edmodo. There are free apps, but you can’t really download them unless you purchase store credit. The apps are useless unless you don’t have access to the apps of iTunes, which is unlikely. And most of the free apps are things you can find online anyway, like TeacherTube, state standards, and digital humanities resources.
Edmodo is easy to use. Sign-up and profile creation take five minutes to complete. The features are easy to figure out, mostly because of their similarities with Facebook and Dropbox, and Edmodo offers tutorials on features, connecting with schools and districts, the website’s mission statement, and offers tech support. Edmodo doesn’t require you to download anything, and runs well on Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer. A mobile app is also available for download.
Though most people who use Edmodo post rave reviews, I think its main problem is it is busy and doesn’t filter posts by other teachers well. If you join the Language Arts community, Edmodo will show every post from every English teacher on Edmodo, with little help in filtering out posts by grade or genre. The discover tab is not as useful as it could be in narrowing search results, especially if you’re looking for scholarly articles. I entered Paradise Lost in the search engine and what I got was a list of other teachers who were teaching Paradise Lost and resources I could’ve found with a simple Google search. And the app tab was a let-down. Keith Rispin, in the most comprehensive review I’ve seen of Edmodo, mentioned he’d like to see the inclusion of Wiki Space, white board for real time instruction, ability to add twitter feeds, collaborative space, Google Docs integration in lieu of collaborative space on Edmodo, but shrugged and said there is more to come for Edmodo.
Implications for Digital Humanities:
I said that the most attractive feature of Edmodo to digital humanists is its library, because it offers what in past tool reviews we’ve been left wanting—a way to share (or not share) documents with specific groups who cannot edit them. The discover tab is really the feature that should entice digital humanists, but I was left with a bad taste in my mouth, especially when it has to compete with Google Scholar, Zotero, Scout, and other search engines for the digital humanities. But that’s because the website wasn’t designed for graduate students doing extensive and specific research. It’s really an alternative to teachers using the state educators websites (in Alabama, for example, teachers use the Alabama Learning Exchange, or ALEX, website) to access lesson plans and Facebook/Google to connect with other teachers. However, teachers are digital humanists, just like graduate students and researchers with grants. In fact, teachers benefit the most from the digital humanities, in their quest to reconcile the digital age with the traditional classroom.
Summary: Edmodo is an excellent resource for teachers because of its social media and digital library features.
Rival or Comparable Tools: Facebook, Elearning, Blackboard Learn, Drop Box, Tioki, Edwic, Gmail
The most comprehensive review of Edmodo by Keith Rispin
Megan Chapman’s essay, “Teaching and Research in the Digital Humanities”
Tioki: a rival tool
Your Edmodo review reads like an instruction manual written specifically for our class. Taken in that light, you did an excellent job. Your breakdown of the different tabs make the review easy to follow and reference, and your step-by-step instructions provide clear details of how to setup an account, navigate through the site, and utilize its tools. Though a couple of your sentences do get a little lengthy and bogged down with details, your style and syntax are generally clear, concise, and comprehensible. You have pretty much provided a written review of your oral presentation, which is nice for those of us who might have missed something during your presentation or wanted to setup an account or further investigate a particular topic you brought up in class. Also, it is worth noting that your in-class presentation was very good and very effective. I especially like your use of notecards to keep you on track and your ordered approach of examining each tab and tool for the site. Finally, I very much like your assertion that “teachers are digital humanists, just like graduate students and researchers with grants” because it highlights a fact that we’ve been overlooking in class: digital humanists are not just English grad students and professors. Since all of us are connected to the English department and the majority of us are grad students, our focus has naturally been on the role of DH in English academia. But in doing so, we are failing to take into consideration several other groups of humanists, high school teachers included, who we need to be careful not to overlook.
All this being said, you may want to consider your overall organization and style before your review is posted on the ADHC blog. The main issue that I foresee with your review being posted on a site other than our class blog is that our class is clearly your intended audience. You make a couple of references to class discussions, UA/Tuscaloosa life, and points in your oral presentation that might confuse a wider audience. Also, your review is a little redundant in a few places that you might want to clear up. For example, in the profile section of your review you write, “The profile is a modified Facebook profile—it features an about section, connections (the friends section of Facebook, except it’s teachers on Edmodo), favorites (liked pages on Facebook, except it’s teaching resources), communities (your subject area), and badges, which isn’t very useful.” The parenthetical additions, which make this list lengthy and difficult to read, aren’t really necessary since you explain all of these points in the following sections. There are also two minor grammatical mistakes that I noticed: 1) In the sentence “Finally, the feature of Edmodo that could be considered the most useful to teachers is in face the least useful to me,” I think you meant to say fact instead of face; and 2) The passage “Edmodo offers tutorials on features, connecting with schools and districts, the website’s mission statement, and offers tech support” seems to be lacking parallelism and is consequently a little confusing. My last major concern with your review comes in the section on implications for DH where you mention the ALEX website. This is the first time you mention this other, presumably rival, website, and you never mention it again after this. If you are going to include a comment about ALEX in your review, you may want to provide a little more information on what it is and how it compares to Edmodo. All in all, though, your review was well-organized, well-written, very detailed, and incredibly helpful.
This review is thorough and informative. I have a few small suggestions.
A small stylistic observation: “When signing up for Edmodo, you have the option of creating either a teacher or student account. My focus in this tool review will be on the teacher account features of Edmodo. A teacher account allows you to become an admin and create different groups for your classes, as well as access a cornucopia of teaching resources.” I would advise combining some sentences or rephrasing so you don’t have to keep saying “account” and “Edmodo.” In a quick revision, I would look for things like this throughout the review so the whole thing reads more smoothly.
The descriptions of the tool’s functions are useful, but I think the review could benefit from some discussion of why you might find this tool useful in a classroom setting. Since you know you want to teach high school, you could even incorporate some personal narrative that explains how you envision Edmodo in action (unless you think it’s not really that useful, in which case I would emphasize that more heavily).
For aesthetic purposes, you might also consider linking throughout the blog post instead of including a list of links at the bottom. And like Cassandra already mentioned, more about the ALEX site would be good.
Cassandra and Alex offer useful suggestions for some editing and revision. I also wonder whether a few more words directly addressing the “grad student/professors doing DH” and “teachers doing DH” issue would be useful. In particular, could Edmodo eventually offer a way for idea exchange between educators, both from college campuses into primary and secondary classrooms and vice versa? Or do the fairly serious problems with filtering information make Edmodo an unlikely platform for such potentially exciting DH pedagogical work?
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ISSUE: Edmodo Enables Misuse and Bullying
DISCUSSION: In a 48 hour period, my daughter’s 4th grade class of 24 students posted nearly 2000 posts. There was cyber-bullying, threats, sexual comments and strong innuendos, false claims of ongoing burglaries, and a student posted a graphic picture, and more… The Edmodo site is enabling this mostly unsupervised behavior. Edmodo allows unfiltered posting of pictures, media, web-links, and chat. There are no auto-filters, no smart scanners, etc. to find and filter web-sites, media postings, or text messages. It’s obvious that a single teacher cannot properly monitor the great volume of chat that is sure to continue if allowed and enabled. The most a teacher can do, if they “catch” something wrong (though not likely out the nearly 1000 posts a day from a single class- many of which become hidden due to compression), the most they can do is try to fix things after the fact. Of the nearly 2000 posts that I spent 4+ hours reviewing, only 2, yes, 2 out of nearly 2000, or close to 1/10th of 1%, actually pertained to classwork or homework. This needs to be addressed and FIXED.
For users 18 years and younger (i.e. Edmodo accounts for elementary, middle and high school- which is probably where 90%+ of Edmodo users are):
-Limit Chat: only allow a maximum of 5 posts per day (without this, it is unreasonable to expect adequate adult supervision)
-Keep it All Visible & Easy for Adults to Review: do not compress any discussions– it should all be easily seen by parents and teachers
-Keep Graphic Pictures & Documents Off: do not allow the posting of documents or pictures (other than possibly submitting an assignment directly to a teacher)
-Filter It: incorporate a filter to disallow certain language and red flag inappropriate/bullying posts- and send a notice to the teacher and parent of such an event
Without these recommendations, Edmodo will continue to Enable Misuse and Bullying- providing an unsupervised arena for our children… Not to mention the early indoctrination of our children into embracing social media, as Edmodo has a Facebook feel to it.
These concerns were raised to Edmodo administrators over 6 months ago, and nothing has been fixed- other than they posted a parental permission form for schools to use that makes Edmodo sound like it’s some great thing… In actuality, our children would probably be much better off if it didn’t exist.