Edmodo, Schoology, My Big Campus – OH MY!

I am currently using Edmodo with my 4th-8th grade classes but often wonder if another Social Learning platform might be a better choice. Is it a case of the grass is greener or might another platform better meet the needs of what I’m trying to do? Do I want to try something different just because it’s a newer, shinier option or is there something it offers that what I’m using doesn’t? I don’t know the answer. I haven’t tried the different platforms with my students and don’t know that I want to have them be guinea pigs on a lot of different platforms just to see if they might be better.

What to do? During #caedchat last night a suggestion was made to start a document to compare different social learning platforms so I’ve done just that! Why these platforms? They’re the ones I’ve heard about and they have a free option for educators.

Do you use Edmodo or Schoology or My Big Campus or Haiku or Collaborize Classroom? Feel free to edit this spreadsheet to help identify the strengths (and weaknesses) of each platform so that other educators can make more informed decisions about which to choose for their students. If you are going to edit the spreadsheet, it’s best to use Chrome; I’ve noticed there are some definite display issues in other browsers.

NOTE: The ability for anyone to edit this document has been disabled. There were obvious edits made by some vendors about their own products and edits and deletions made to other information that was not true or that removed valid information. This was not the purpose of this document therefore public editing has been removed.

Edmodo Quandaries

I began using Edmodo with my students last year and have really liked the way it lets them interact as classes, turn in work, receive feedback from me on their work, join global projects and interact with other students outside of our school, and practice social networking skills.

The quandaries are …

Old Student Profile
New Student Profile
  1. Number of Groups: In the old profile, the student is in two groups but in the new she is in three groups. She is actually in two groups and one small group. Why is this different in the two versions? I feel this should be two groups since small groups are sub-groups not actual groups but in any case shouldn’t the numbers agree? Interestingly, I asked about this issue twice in the Support Community and got two different answers about it.
  2. School Name: This didn’t show in the old profile but does now. The big problem – it’s wrong! It seems to be showing the first school alphabetically of any group my student has joined even those that are currently archived. The school shown is not a school that my student has ever attended; it’s not even a school in our state. Now, I would just remove my student from the old groups but I don’t own them so I can’t reactive them and remove my students. My student originally joined Edmodo in a group I own and logs in through a subdomain which belongs to our school. Why can’t my student show the correct school name or at least a school name of a current, active group to which they belong?
  3. Classmates: My students have been involved in some big global projects which is why they are showing over 500 classmates and a bunch of teachers. The problem here? These groups are no longer active. They can’t view the profiles of most of these classmates because they are no longer actively connected and the teachers have no access to my students at this point anymore either. Luckily, I do show as one of the teachers in the profile but I have seen some examples where I’m not even shown on the profile and I’m the only teacher that they really know. Why aren’t these connections removed if the groups are archived? They aren’t connections anymore.

I have really liked the ability to connect with other schools or in big projects in Edmodo but may have to avoid these in the future if the school name and classmate/teacher issues can’t get fixed. I would like to have parents involved on Edmodo in the future but they won’t appreciate seeing their child being associated with a school they’ve never attended and they won’t understand 500+ classmates when their child isn’t involved in a global project.

Is anyone else running into these issues? How are you handling them?

Power Searching with Google – The End

Class 6 – Putting It All Together

I often feel that I struggle with how to wind up a unit in the lab so I was curious as to how this course would be concluded. The lessons today reviewed some of the search features that had been explored and provided some additional resources for refining search skills. It was a wrap up in 3 short videos and 3 activities that practiced combining operators and using Google tools not normally used in research such as Google Maps. I like that the final activity was to subscribe to an additional search resource to continue to learn about search.

Post-class Assessment

I felt that the post-class assessment was definitely more challenging than the mid-class assessment. I found my self questioning some of the questions. For example:

I didn’t think that any of the answers were truly correct since the snippet is a portion of the text on the page and it includes the search terms not just text before and after the search terms.

Once again I don’t feel that the correct answer is included in the choices since most of the choices do not have any keyword to do with volunteering.

No, I’m not going to tell you my answer choices in case you are still completing the course. I did end up with 100% on the assessment so I didn’t over-think anything too much. I’m excited to get my certificate for completing the course and plan to add it to this post once I get it.

Final Hangout

It was interesting to watch the Final Hangout for the class and discover what were the most popular questions asked since I hadn’t had time to look at what had been asked prior to the hangout.

  • I found the drop off of relevance answer interesting because from what I understand Google tends to rate more recently updated pages higher than pages that haven’t been updated in awhile. This can mean that some research topics might have the best information on higher pages.
  • I loved the tip about nesting quotes to avoid the use on synonyms. I didn’t know this one!
  • My favorite part of this hangout was the demo of the Nexus 7; even though I just got an iPad, I really want to get my hands on the Nexus 7.

If you missed this, you can watch it online:

I also happened to catch Google Educast #56 and Tasha Berson-Michelson was the special guest talking about the course. If you’re interested in what Tasha found the most interesting about the course, check out the Google Educast!

Not the End – A New Beginning

It may be the end of the class but for me it’s a beginning – a beginning of trying to put together some search ideas for my classes for the upcoming school year. For my 7th & 8th graders, I’d like to take an approach really similar to this course to review search and to find out what might be missing in their search knowledge. Here’s my plan:

  • Use appropriate videos from the course and make some of my own to use different searches in some cases to make things relevant for my students.
  • Create my own activities that will be applicable to searches my students need to complete. How I am going to do this is very much up in the air. I would love to have access to the platform that was used for this course to create my own course but I’m guessing that’s not going to happen so I’m going to explore a few options:
    • I could use the Computer Lab Wiki to house the course and use Google Forms and Flubaroo for the activities. My students could also use the discussions available on the wiki to help one another, ask questions, etc. but it’s not a threaded discussion which can make it difficult to follow.
    • I could also Edmodo for this since my students are familiar with that platform and it can handle assignments, discussions and quizzes but once again the discussions aren’t threaded and since everything would be on the wall of the group it could be tough to follow.
    • Another possibility would be to set up a Google Site with the videos and links to the Google Forms for the activities. I could then use a Google Group for discussions though I would need to make sure that I have groups set up to allow this on the school domain. Once again the discussions aren’t threaded. Are threaded discussions really needed? Maybe they’re not though I think they can be really helpful when trying to follow a discussion.
    • Another option might be Collaborize Classroom. I think this platform would make for very rich discussions but would be lacking in the ability to do the activities though I could still use Google Forms and Flubaroo for this.
    • I am also thinking about trying out Schoology since this platform seems to have the ability to set up lessons which can include embedded media as well as allowing discussions and having a quiz feature that could be used for the activities.
  • Once the review piece is completed then rather than having a final assessment, I think it would be fun to see what belt the students could earn as a Google Search Ninja.

For my younger students who haven’t had as many previous lessons on search, I plan to use the appropriate level of lesson plans from Google Search Education. I am also tossing around ideas of how I can use Google A Day challenges to hone searching skills all year long.

How are you going to help your students improve their searching skills? If you, like me, are going to be heavily inspired by the format of the Power Searching with Google course, what tools and websites do you plan to use?

CUELA Technology Fair 2009

The Plan

This past Saturday, I attended the CUE Los Angeles Technology Fair. I had reviewed the program online before I went and had decided on attending the following sessions:

  • Session I & II – Google Lit Trips
  • Session III – Blogging in the Middle School
  • Session IV – Practical Demos on Demand

In reality, I attended none of these. Why? Well, the Google Lit Trips one and the Blogging in the Middle School one were canceled. That was a real disappointment to me because I had been looking forward to learning how to put together a Google Lit Trip. I have looked at the Google Lit Trips site but have not really tried to set up anything in Google Earth myself. I was hoping this would give me the push to try it. I have also thought about starting up some kind of blogging project with my Middle School students and welcomed the opportunity to learn more. Looking closer at the program, I think this was probably a vendor presentation so it probably wouldn’t have been what I wanted anyway.

The Reality

So, here’s what I did end up attending for the day.

Session I: Making Movies With Frames

We don’t have Frames at our school and don’t really have the budget for it. However, this was a billed as a hands-on session (actually 2 sessions) and I have heard great things about Tech4Learning products so I decided to give it a try. The presenter was James Kosako who is a teacher in the computer lab at a Christian school and he obviously loves what he is doing and loves the product he was presenting. He had some great ideas on how to do stop-motion animation with spending little or no money which I would love to try with a class. The demonstration of Frames was interesting and I would love to have it in the lab but I don’t see that happening soon and even if it did, I don’t know how well it would run on our equipment. So, as James was showing us the basics of what it could do, I was trying to figure out what I could use to try to get a similar end result. I want to try out stop-animation either in PowerPoint or Photostory or Movie Maker. I can’t really do the green screen effects or anything but I think we could create some effective stop-motion animation and we can narrate it and we can turn it in to a movie.

I was excited for the second half of this session (it was supposed to run 2 sessions) because we were going to actually play with the program. Most of the laptops didn’t have the program installed on them even though James had been told that it had been installed. I felt sorry for James at this point but I didn’t want to wait for 1/2 of the next session to try to install the software so I ended up leaving and moving on for Session II. I do plan on downloading Frames and trying it out myself at some point because it did look fun.

Session II: 21st Century Skills To Improve Achievement & Literacy

Since I hadn’t planned on anything for this session, I just quickly picked something physically close to the classroom I had been in. Oops, I ended up in a vendor session which is not what I really wanted to attend. Looking at the program now I should have gone to The Latest in Technology or Presentation Design or I should have stuck around for the second 1/2 of James’ session since he was giving away a copy of Frames but I didn’t. The pitch was for a site called Room 21 – the most interesting part of this session for me was the discussion of what 21st century learning is. Anyway Room 21 is a social networking site for schools allowing teachers to post assignments, students to turn in work, teachers to grade work & give feedback and parents to see grades. All of this is in the context of an interface that looks similar to Facebook and allows social interaction between students and teacher and parents. Interesting or not, we have no technology budget so I can’t afford the $2500/day fee for training especially with a minimum 3 days of training recommended. On top of that, I can do most of this for free right now using a combination of Edmodo & Engrade. Yes, it’s not seamlessly integrated and there’s not a social aspect for parents and there’s no rubric grading but the price is definitely right. I did get an extra raffle ticket for attending this session but I should have chosen differently.

Keynote: Ted Lai – Teaching for the 22nd Century

I really enjoyed Ted’s Keynote. He’s a dynamic and engaging speaker and gave me some things to think about. I plurked about the keynote as it happened and this is what I shared. I have added a few comments to my original thoughts and these are in italics.

  • We are not yet teaching 21st century skills so how do we get there and beyond?
  • Great quote: “If we teach today as we taught yesterday we rob our children of  tomorrow.” ~John Dewey
  • Don’t get caught up in the minutiae. We spend too much time questioning if how we know using technology is effective. We never question if using a pencil is effective.
    I do get caught up in the details too much sometimes but it’s not questioning effectiveness so much as being Type A and not letting go!
  • Told story about how he had an application that he didn’t have time to learn so he gave it to his students and told them what he wanted them to accomplish and they did it. Ted said that he didn’t bother teaching the application after that.
    I think I do need to let my students be more responsible for the learning and not give really detailed instructions all the time. I do still need to learn the application myself though because I am, after all, the Computer Teacher and I will need to help troubleshoot and get students back on track.
  • We should innovate and allow creativity in all projects
  • Collaboration does not mean group projects! True collaboration is ongoing and everyone contributes and makes the project more than any one person could do.
  • Students need to know that their projects are for more than just a grade. Publish their work!
  • Recommended the Apple Learning Exchange even if you are not using an Apple computer.
  • It’s really about the teacher designing the lesson with the idea of what we want the student to achieve.

Session III & IV: Digital Storytelling in the Classroom

This was a 2-hour demonstration given by Chris Bell. Chris showed some wonderful examples of digital storytelling and I think he did a great job covering the basics of how to actually do it with students. Some highlights of the session for me were:

  • Set time limits. I loved the idea of having students make short clips – 5 clips of 5 seconds each. I always run in to the students that take forever and I think this would really help.
  • I loved the video Chris shared from a digital storytelling project in Africa. I never knew that part of the CyberSmart site existed.
  • It was great that Chris had some headphones & microphones & Flip Cameras for attendees to see. I think I need an HD Flip now!
  • I was really happy that Chris passed out a card at the end with a link to his session resources & links.

Bottom Line:

I didn’t win a prize even with my extra raffle ticket – bummer. I would have loved a Flip Camera or a copy of Frames or Pixie or registration for the Cue Conference coming up but I guess it wasn’t to be. All in all though this wasn’t exactly the day I had hoped it would be, I learned some new things, have some things to think about and met some great educators. Would I do it again? Probably, but this time I’m going to read more carefully and have a Plan A & B for all sessions!