Friday, June 29, 2012

Let me tell you...

I <3 Edmodo!

After hearing about Edmodo for about a year now, finally joining it this past Spring has revitalized my homework and project assignments. As an English teacher who loves creating assignments using Word, I have always been inundated and swamped (redundant on purpose) with paper, often drowning under buckets and baskets of assignments I've created on paper. Like a turtle caught in a crab pot, I could not figure out how to get out of the paper trap (Leslee, that simile is for you! Check out her article on the dangers of terrapins and crab pots in Barnegat Bay). Edmodo is my savior & BRD that has set me free from some of the trappings of teaching English to high school students.

Free to Be Paperless

One of the most contributing reasons for using Edmodo is the fact that it is FREE! Being frugal, I can not pass up a freebie.

OK, I want to show you what I've done with Edmodo and going paperless. Log on to Edmodo and join the Sample Class group (group code: t7y9vhto see the assignments. 

Even if you are not ELA, think of the assignments as framework/structure that can be adapted to your subject. 

  • How can your assignments be cross curricular and extend beyond the bounds of your subject? 
  • How can your assignments use various skills? 
  • How can the internet be used as a resource for furthering student study?

For the Sample Class, I've loaded some tasks that were assigned to my 9th grade Honors students this past Spring when studying George Bernard Shaw's play, Pygmalion. Don't be freaked by Shaw if you don't know the play!  Pygmalion is the basis for the Broadway musical My Fair Lady staring Audrey Hepburn. Using the Pygmalion myth as inspiration, Shaw's play provides valid commentary on class structure and how language and appearances segregate people.  We studied Pygmalion after concluding a unit on Greek Mythology and Homer's Odyssey. Pygmalion  then segued nicely into West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet. We discuss the themes of relationships, identity, dreams, aspirations, and society-- all relevant topics for 9th graders who are trying to figure out who they are and where they want to go.

The due dates for the Sample Class are obviously not real, but the due dates show the sequence of the assignments. When checking out the sample class, and so as not to get overwhelmed by the number of assignments in the newsfeed, go to Calendar and view the assignments as they are listed on the calendar. Then click on each one. Also note that the assignments would be spaced out over the course of a month. For the Sample Class, I've just posted 75% of what was assigned to my classes.

A variety of assignments have been loaded to the Sample Class from actively reading the play and answering questions to webquests to projects to worksheets to a quiz. Some assignments were designated as HW, needing only a short time to complete, and others required more time for completion. Interestingly enough, my students had a hard time figuring out how much time to spend on each assignment, thinking that all assignments on Edmodo were projects and required hours/days of deliberation. I may need to clarify this for future students.

Take a look at the Sample Class; see what there is to see. Showing is much better than telling.

Calendar Screenshot:

Most of these assignments were traditionally handed out on paper. The worksheets I created on Word and would photocopy them. Before Edmodo, I killed quite a number of trees. Now, I'm able to enhance the worksheets by pairing them with additional links and resources. Students could watch a clip of My Fair Lady while completing a worksheet on language and dialects. Worksheets are no longer two dimensional when uploaded to Edmodo.

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry and leave us nothing but grief and pain for promised joy..."

To account for technical snafus, I've adjusted some of my class rules. I tell students that the deadlines are guidelines and provide the sequence for the work.  Despite seeming to encourage procrastinators, I tell my students that assignments are due no later than 3 days after the assigned deadline.  I've had servers crash, computers infected, computer labs booked, class trips, sports, family emergencies, etc all interfere with work getting handed in on time, and rather than listen to the plethora of excuses, I tell students, "I am not concerned about the reason, because there will ALWAYS be a reason to not hand in work. What I care about is getting it done and not letting anything get in the way. If there is a problem, adjust, solve it, and move on. Just get the work done. Period." 

I am lenient and frankly too busy to be taking off points for lateness. Instead, I give that wee bit of wiggle room, but after the 3 day grace period, the assignment becomes a zero. No excuses. Period. I also assign the work with enough time in advanced that students can plan out their schedules to designate time to complete assignments. This adjustment from traditional firm deadlines has actually helped my students to become more responsible and efficient with time and allows for problem solving to take place instead of promoting the generation of excuses. 


Grading assignments on Edmodo has significantly decreased the weight of my school bag. As long as I have an internet connection, I can grade assignments on Edmodo anywhere.  I've even sat on my couch watching Survivor while grading HW using the Edmodo App. Just a word about the app, attached documents that students submit cannot be opened/graded on a smartphone, but teachers can grade students on assignments that are typed into the "reply" box.  The app needs some improvement and upgrades.

The annotate feature for commenting on students' assignments has saved me so much time and file space. Previously, students would email me their assignments. I would open and save them, then comment, resave, and attach to a reply email. The Edmodo annotate feature takes 10 steps out of the process, automatically saving any annotations I make. My feedback on assignments has also increased because I can type faster than I write. I've also been able to get to know my introverted students better. Edmodo is a platform for ongoing dialogue and written positive reinforcement. 

Quick Comment Example

Additionally, students can only take quizzes on a computer or through a browser window on a tablet. Questions can vary in type-- multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blank, and short answer-- and are automatically graded. Fill in the blank and short answer responses are still graded by the teacher. AHHHHHHHH, I love not having to grade multiple choice by hand.  Quizzes can also go beyond two dimensions by including links or files uploaded by the teacher.

Need Improvement

The Edmodo app needs some enhancement (nongender specific  -- sorry, bad joke).  It would be more convenient if students could take quizzes on devices. For me the app is clunky and slow, often taking forever to show me notifications. Seriously, hyperbole aside, the notification feature rarely works for me.

While I adore the quiz feature, it could also be enhanced. It would be nice to scramble questions and answer choices for each student and be able to insert new questions into the already created question list. I do like that quizzes are timed and that results do not have to be immediately released to students.  I really can't complain because Edmodo is FREE!!!!

I still need to learn how to efficiently use the small group feature. I got as far as assigning small groups and giving them some ungraded tasks, but I was quickly overwhelmed this Spring. Do any of my readers have tips/tricks for using small groups? I'd love to explore writing workshops and collaborative projects. I'm a wee bit leery of group projects on Edmodo because of compounding the usual list of group work complaints ("so&so does all the work"... "you know who isn't pulling his/her weight"... etc) with the technological excuses. Aside from the deadline grace period, I'm sure there are other ways to encourage responsible virtual group work. Tell me some! :-)

What was the purpose of this post?

While I'm telling you that this post is an introduction for the uses of Edmodo, there are some kernels of useful "stuff" for advanced users, and heck, you might even learn a little about Pygmalion in the process. I'm telling you to pop on over to the Sample Class and enjoy the show!

I don't have time right to tell you that outside of the virtual classroom, Edmodo is excellent for finding teachers to network. The Language Arts community is such a valuable resource for generating ideas and collaborating with others.

And, FYI, from Twitter, Edmodo is hoping to get 1 million teachers on their site before September. 

Let's go back to school with one million teachers on  - (RT to win $100 in Edmodo Apps credit!)

Speaking of collaboration and networking, I've been mulling over Cheryl Morris' flipped syllabus post. I love the idea of starting the flip immediately. Connecting Cheryl's post to this blog, what does the Sample Class and this blog show about me as a teacher? Take a look at the Sample Class; see what there is to see. 

Showing is much better than telling.


  1. I may have to hand my ELA blogging crown over to you, my dear. Your content just keeps getting better and I am so blessed to have you as a CheeseBucket and collaborator!

    Thanks for everything you do!

  2. I love Edmodo too, Kate. I have used the small groups for lit circles. The students can communicate freely and make sure that they are all ready for the weekly meetings with readings and work. The Question Developer also can post the questions prior to the meeting, so that group members can think about them beforehand.