Edmodo and Group Collaboration

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2 middle school students read and prepare to collaborate as a group using Edmodo.

Today one of my middle school literacy classes worked on continuing to read the story “The Ransom of Red Chief.”  While they did that they prepared to ask each other questions using Edmodo (a social media tool).  I’ve talked about this resource in a previous post, and it is a resource that I love to use, and my students also enjoy it a lot.  Click here to see the conversation that has been started about the character “Red Chief.”  As the teacher, it is important that I keep the conversation going, so I’ve prompted them with a question to help them continue the conversation the next time they are in class.  Today is the first time they have used this tool to collaborate, so I only expected 1 response from them so they can get used to this format.

What I like about Edmodo is that my students can talk to each other in a way that is familiar to them because it’s kind of like Facebook; but this is also a safe place for them because no one has our class code and can randomly insert themselves into the conversation or find my students.  This also is a good record of student progress and academic achievement.  My students all have learning disabilities, so I know it is tough for them to write, but just seeing that they’ve written semi-complete sentences and connected their comments to each other’s makes me feel like they are accomplishing some good work.  I was really proud of them today; they had good focus and they followed directions beautifully to get some real academic work done.

I also used the quiz feature in Edmodo today.  Teachers can create their own quizzes with multiple choice, short answer, true/false, or fill-in-the-blank questions.  They are easy to grade and the teacher can comment on each question while correcting the quizzes.  My 6th and 7th grade students particularly enjoyed the quiz–they ENJOYED it–a quiz!  Through Edmodo’s create a quiz feature, I was able to make a quick assessment to determine if they are ready to move on.  Even though I’ve been using Edmodo for a few years, this is the first time I’ve made and used a quiz.  I really like it, and I will continue to use it because it can make a great exit card and help me form the basis of my next lesson or to see what I need to review.  The quiz today was only 4 questions, but it was enough to inform my instruction for tomorrow’s class.

Using Edmodo for Peer Collaboration

Edmodo is a great resource for teachers who want to provide a safe, structured, and fun way to incorporate online learning into their classes.  Using Edmodo, a teacher sets up a “class” and is provided a private code that a user must enter in order to access it. When students enter the code to gain access, they set up their profiles and choose an avatar to represent themselves.  They can make and reply to posts, which is similar to how it happens on Facebook; however, the class is private, so no one “random” can just pop in.  The teacher can set up assignments, provide links to videos, websites, articles, word documents, pictures, etc.  The teacher can also set up a library of resources that the students can access.  Online assignments can be “turned in” and graded online.  Edmodo is a good resource for flipping the classroom:  a teacher can link a video for the students to watch at home so that class time can be devoted to problem-solving or projects.  Edmodo is also a good resource for students who miss class:  a teacher can link make-up assignments or provide links for homework; it could also be used when the school is closed for a snow day in order to access learning.  Currently we have a teacher at our school who is using Edmodo as a way to provide an online class to a student who has such significant anxiety that he can’t leave his house.  Over the summer, I created a presentation that uses Edmodo as a way for students to collaborate on a reading assignment, and I will link parts of it in this post.

Cornell University provides some important insight about collaboration and collaborative learning and why it is so important:

“Collaborative learning can occur peer-to-peer or in larger groups. Peer learning, or peer instruction, is a type of collaborative learning that involves students working in pairs or small groups to discuss concepts, or find solutions to problems. This often occurs in a class session after students are introduced to course material through readings or videos before class, and/or through instructor lectures. Similar to the idea that two or three heads are better than one, many instructors have found that through peer instruction, students teach each other by addressing misunderstandings and clarifying misconceptions.”

Research shows that educational experiences that are active, social, contextual, engaging, and student-owned lead to deeper learning. The benefits of collaborative learning include:

  • Development of higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management, and leadership skills.
  • Promotion of student-teacher interaction.
  • Increase in student retention, self-esteem, and responsibility.
  • Exposure to and an increase in understanding of diverse perspectives.
  • Preparation for real life social and employment situations.

Here is a lesson I developed that involves students collaborating on a class project (I have classes of 5 or 6, but a larger class could be divided up into small groups for this project): Collaborative Approach Activity Lesson Plan

The following is from “Using Collaborative Strategic Reading” by Janette K. Klingner and Sharon Vaughn:

  • “Once students have developed proficiency applying comprehension strategies through teacher-led activities, they are ready to learn roles they will perform while using Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR) in their peer-led cooperative learning groups.
  • Student roles are an important aspect of CSR because cooperative learning seems to work best when all group members have been assigned a meaningful task.
  • Some roles you can use: leader, announcer, time keeper, summarizer, visualizer, encourager, and reporter
  • The teacher becomes an active listener (or participant online) while helping with any questions or issues that come up for students; the students learn from each other
  • CSR can be used in general education classrooms where students with special needs are included for instruction (Klingner et al., in press) as well as in special education settings (Klingner & Vaughn, 1996).

downloadIn case you aren’t familiar with Edmodo, here is a handout I created that explains some of the main features of Edmodo: Edmodo Handout.

To use Edmodo for a reading collaboration activity you need:

  • personal tablets or laptops with internet connectivity or a computer with internet connectivity.
  • The Edmodo app installed on each personal tablet or access to the website.
  • A personal Edmodo account (email is not needed for students to set up accounts).

The activity could be something like this:

  1. Read for a few minutes, then answer a comprehension question on the site (the reading and questions are linked on the site for the students to access).
  2. The next step would be to continue reading for several more minutes and respond to at least 2 other people in the class via posts and replies. 
  3. Then, the group would finish the story and post their answers to the end questions. 
  4. The final step is to respond to at least 3 other learners in the class and answer any questions posed.  Then complete an assignment that is based on the reading.  The whole activity could probably take about 50-60 minutes, depending on your readers.  Here is an example of how you could set up your group collaboration reading (I used the story, “The Ransom of Red Chief,” always a favorite): Ransom of Red Chief Story and Questions

Topic: “Civil Disobedience”

English: Portrait by Benjamin D. Maxham (dague...

Image via Wikipedia

I remember reading Thoreau when I was in high school and I wasn’t really all that interested in it.  I didn’t really “get” it.  I know now that my teacher left a lot of the understanding up to us and didn’t really make it relevant, so it was boring and dry and I never saw the importance of this writer’s philosophy.  For the last few years as a teacher my job has required me to work on basic reading skills and I haven’t gotten a chance to get into some of the more philosophical pieces of writing of American literature, until now.  This year I have some students who are almost on grade level so I’ve gotten to teach some writing that many high school students experience.  I created a unit called “Shaping your beliefs and ideals.”  I’ve chosen several abridged philosophical pieces from American literature such as “Self-reliance” by Emerson and “Civil Disobedience” by Thoreau.  My expectation is that students will not only gain understanding about the writers and the time in which they lived, but that they’ll also see some parallels to the present world and use that information to help support their own beliefs and ideals.  I knew it would be a tough undertaking because of the nature of my students, so I would have to find a really good way to hook them in and make them want to read.  I began with “Civil Disobedience” by Thoreau.  It’s got some tough vocabulary and is dense with ideas, even in its abridged format.  Before we even started reading I began going over the title.  I gathered students’ thoughts about the word “civil” and then I did the same thing for the word “disobedience.”  Then I gave them a little background on Thoreau, highlighting those things that I knew they would relate to most:  that he spent time in jail, that he refused to pay his taxes; you know, the stuff about how he defied authority.  They were interested in this guy, and I knew it because they were participating in the class like high school students should.  As we began reading it together one student said, “Wait a minute, this guy is telling us to f#ck the police?  I wish I had read this when I was younger.”  Another student said, “They shouldn’t let high school students read this stuff.”  We’re about half-way through the abridged form of this essay and students continue to have relevant debates with each other during class.  We’re also connecting the idea of civil disobedience to history and historical figures such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.  Further, I’ve gotten the students interested in American politics by using Thoreau’s feelings about the government of his time.  I’ve told students that their blog post about this essay is to choose whether to research how a historical figure used civil disobedience or to research a current law and discuss the pros and cons of advocating for civil disobedience for it.  I also expect them to summarize Thoreau’s beliefs and be able to discuss their own thoughts about the government, so we’re also discussing American politics as it ties in with Thoreau’s essay.  I have an iPad that I bring to class everyday so we’re able to get news and information right during class.  I’m surprised at how much they know about current events already, but it’s nice to fill in their misinformation or be able to give background to events.  I also am glad that the paraeducator in my room is a certified history teacher because he is able to flesh out a lot of the history and government questions that I can only cursorily answer.  So far these students are finding a lot more meaning in Thoreau than I ever did, and these students are quite the opposite of your typical honor roll student in high school, which is what I was.

Brit. Lit: The First Unit

The first unit of study in this class is all about personality and life events. The stories included in this unit all feature characters with major personality issues who make poor choices over what they can and cant control: “The Monkey’s Paw,” “The Open Window,” “The Pardoner’s Tale,” and “The Rocking Horse Winner”.

We will look at themes such as greed and desperation, control, and fate. We will discuss what people control in their lives and how their personality affects the choices they make. We will also discuss the outcomes for people when they try to change things they can’t control.

Students will use the text to help them interpret character traits. They will use the character traits to determine themes and support further interpretations in the text.

Culminating projects will be to create a Prezi journal using digital photography to document visual representations of things a person can control and things a person can’t control. A second culminating project will be to create a Glog on the student’s own personality traits, or to create a Glog comparing 4 characters’ personalities.

CORE skills that students will focus on through the course of this unit: citing text evidence to support analysis and interpretation, analyze how characters develop and interact throughh the course of the text to develop the plot and theme, interpreting themes from a text and using the text to support inferences. Students will also be required to make judgements about the text and connect ideas to the larger world.


Basic Lit: The Idea for the Year

Students in this class are preparing to read more difficult literature from around the world by practicing basic literacy skills.  The first skill students are working on is learning to cite text evidence to support analysis of what the text says.   As students show they can do this independently, they will move on to making inferences about a text and they will continue to need to highlight where they get their information in the text.

Students will also work on learning to find key ideas and details in order to determine a theme or central idea.  As they progress with this skill they will also have to analyze the development of the theme through the course of the text.  Students will use highlighting as a strategy to help them keep their information organized.

The other main area this class will focus on is vocabulary development.  This is so important for the students in this class because they haven’t been exposed to a lot of words and they lack the understanding of words necessary for better reading comprehension.  Another part of this will be to understand figurative language, word relationships and nuances in word meanings.