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Ian Simpson

November 2011

Report on the use of Edmodo with a Higher Computing class at Robert Gordon’s College: Trial, 25th October – 1st November 2011 Background Edmodo.com is a private online social platform for teachers and students to share ideas, files, events and assignments. Built on a micro blogging model, the site allows teachers the ability to handle a good deal of class activity online. Teachers can send out assignments, receive completed assignments and assign grades using the online platform. In addition, they can maintain a class calendar, store and share files, have a public (RSS) stream, and conduct polls. Teachers can also use the site to send text (SMS) alerts to students. Users have a home page where they can see a summary of recent activity for their class. The home page allows the teacher to make new assignments, assign an event to the calendar, send out an alert, write a note to an individual or a group of students, and share links or files with students. When a link or file is shared, a message can be added that explains the contents. A number of filters can be applied to the summary view, including notes, alerts, events, assignments, links and files. Teachers can also assign grades to assignments, and students can easily view a summary of their grades on all assignments. (AppAppeal, 2010) As a result Edmodo has established itself as a popular resource amongst learning professionals (Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies, 2011) (Tech & Learning Magazine, 2011 p.4) (ComputED Learning Center, 2011 p.5) winning a number of awards since its development in late 2008.

Use in other schools Parkfield Primary School, Manchester, UK has been using Edmodo since April 2011. The links below show how they have communicated their vision behind the use of Edmodo to improve writing as a whole-school target and exemplified improvement as a result. • • •

http://parkfield.typepad.com/parkfield/2011/03/edmodo.html http://parkfield.typepad.com/parkfield/2011/04/edmodo-workshop-for-parentsresources.html http://parkfield.typepad.com/parkfield/2011/04/excellent-edmodo-writing.html

Their IT Manager, Simon Houghton, has written a number of blog posts explaining his progress with Edmodo. As many of the users are under 13, Simon found Edmodo “a fantastic safe online environment for children to use to develop their online behaviours before being 'exposed' to more famous, world-wide, 'adult' websites when they get older.” (Haughton, S, 2011) • •

http://www.simonhaughton.co.uk/2011/03/introducing-edmodo-my-first-experiences.html http://www.simonhaughton.co.uk/2011/04/using-edmodo-as-a-learning-platform.html 1


Ian Simpson • • • • • •

November 2011

http://www.simonhaughton.co.uk/2011/06/using-edmodo-as-an-online-community-forstaff.html http://www.simonhaughton.co.uk/2011/07/student-badges-on-edmodo.html http://www.simonhaughton.co.uk/2011/08/chatting-on-edmodo.html http://www.simonhaughton.co.uk/2011/08/promoting-e-safety-on-edmodo.html http://www.simonhaughton.co.uk/2011/08/creating-an-online-learning-diary-usingedmodo.html http://www.simonhaughton.co.uk/2011/08/edmodo-tips-and-tricks-poster.html

Other examples of schools in the UK where Edmodo is currently used: • • • • •

Dyffryn Taf School, West Wales Highgate Wood School, London The Polesworth School, Tamworth, Staffordshire Clydebank High School Forrester High School, Edinburgh

Edmodo is also used extensively in America, Canada and Australia and current estimates suggest that it supports 4.5 million teachers and pupils.

Considerations Data Protection As the edmodo.com server is retained in America, the data protection laws that exist in the UK to prevent unauthorised access and distribution of learners’ personal details – even though the data held about them is deliberately minimised – do not apply, and there is an element of risk to storing these details on externally operated web sites. The Edmodo terms and conditions (known as “Fusionproject Terms of Use”) item 2: Use by Children explains that consent from a parent or guardian is required “prior to our collection of any personal information” in line with the US Child Online Privacy Protection Act. They also promise to delete personal information “a student has provided us… beyond what we request when he or she signs up to the Website”. In addition the Edmodo corporate privacy policy is clear about how it uses children’s personal information. Only their “name, photograph, and the contact information necessary to receive notifications via the Website from your teacher, school and/or district, and any other information necessary for us to provide our services” is stored. During discussion with my trial class regarding the information they store on Edmodo we agreed that they should use first names only followed by the initial of their second name to aid the class teacher in identifying the learner. In addition we decided to use images which could not be used to identify the individual learner or teacher – caricatures or images of favourite items for example. We also discovered that email addresses were not required for the learners to be able to log in so we ensured that these were not provided in the profile. This meant that the trial class did not receive

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Ian Simpson

November 2011

notification via email when a new post was added to their group, but we agreed this was preferable anyway. Visibility After speaking to colleagues within the school and educators who use Edmodo, I decided to add a second teacher to the group (Fiona Currie). This increases the visibility of communication sent by the teacher and the learners. In addition, if both teachers provide email addresses to Edmodo they will be sent an email for each communication posted to their group(s) – whether it is from the class teacher or the learners. These allow a log of comments to be kept – even if they are later deleted from the Edmodo site – and, as they are emails, could be forwarded to a central account to allow a school administrator to maintain a log of all communications on the site if necessary.

Security One blog mentioned there is a slight risk of non-teachers setting up their own accounts pretending to be teachers (Zuber, 2011) and if they are able to find out a group code they can join that class but only on the main public edmodo.com site. For added security Edmodo recommend that each school or district set up their own personal URL through Edmodo to add an extra layer of security. This means that as well as having to know the group code for a particular class, the non-teacher would also have to first know the school code and be manually added as a teacher by the district Edmodo administrator. This significantly reduces the risk of non-teachers gaining access to class posts and resources through phishing and instead enables the district Edmodo administrator to closely control the users of Edmodo within the school. Access As will have been established by feasibility studies on the introduction of Remote Access to Robert Gordon’s College we cannot claim that learners will all have unrestricted access to the Internet, or even a computer, just as we cannot claim that all learners have time and a quiet space to complete paper-based work outside of school. However the number of UK homes with access to a home computer with Internet connection is at an all-time high and has risen from 54% in 2006 to 77% in 2011 (Office of National Statistics, 2011) therefore it can be argued that the majority of learners have the potential to access online educational services. In addition connection to Edmodo is available via its website, a mobile app for iPhone / iPod / iPad and a mobile app for Android phones, increasing its ease of access. During the class trial, a minority of learners chose to complete the same tasks that were posted in Edmodo (class work only) on paper. I feel that as Edmodo would be used to enhance existing classroom practice the tasks would have originally been made available to learners as paper-based exercises and would be retained by the teacher in case of IT infrastructure failure anyway. Giving learners the choice to engage with the subject on paper or electronically would be recommended to maximise learner motivation and provide an element of self-control over their education.

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Ian Simpson

November 2011

Copyright, Design and Patents Act The Edmodo terms and conditions, item 15: Copyright Dispute Policy explains that their policy towards copyright infringement aligns with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in that they will: 1. “block access to or remove material that it believes in good faith to be copyrighted material that has been illegally copied and distributed by any of our advertisers, affiliates, content providers, members or users” 2. “remove and discontinue service to repeat offenders” I feel that it should be up to the teacher administering each group to ensure that images, content and web links posted did not infringe the Copyright, Design and Patents Act.

Trial of Edmodo functions The live trial of Edmodo began on Tuesday 26th October involving 10 Higher Computing students and 2 class teachers. Time was allowed in class for exploration of the site and discussion of implications of its use. Profiles After discussion with the Higher Computing class we decided that: • • • •

No photographs of pupils should be uploaded to the site as profile images They should only enter their first name and the initial of their surname (e.g. Ian S) They should not enter an email address or mobile phone number for notifications No personal information or details about their location should be stored anywhere on the site

Figure 1 Public Teacher Profile which can be seen by any Edmodo user

Teacher profiles require an email address to send notifications of each post to the Edmodo group, however it is possible to restrict what information is displayed on a teacher’s public profile (see Fig. 1). Group members can see an extended teacher profile (see Fig. 2).

Figure 2: Private Teacher Profile which can be seen by Group Members

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Ian Simpson

November 2011

Groups It is very easy to administrate users who have joined the group. Access to the group is only possible through sharing of an access code (which can be changed if necessary) and once they have joined each individual pupil can be set as a contributor or as a read-only member of the group. If they leave a class or join a group without permission the class teacher can easily remove them.

Posting assignments Edmodo allows the setting of assignments which tracks how many group members have submitted completed tasks and reminds those who have yet to submit when they log into Edmodo. Once submitted each learner’s file can be viewed and commented upon. The learner (and only they) can then see those comments as long as that assignment document is still held in Edmodo and could use it as a means of target-setting through discussion with the class teacher.

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Ian Simpson

November 2011

Posting quizzes

In addition to assignments, quizzes can be set by the class teacher. These offer the choice of selfmarking multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks or true/false questions as well as extended answer questions which would have to be marked (and commented upon) by the class teacher. Again the learner can view all feedback for each quiz they complete at any time in the future to aid targetsetting. The teacher can also see a visual breakdown of the questions the whole class struggled with and focus on that on their next lesson. I set the class a homework task using the quiz option but also offered them the opportunity to complete it on paper. All learners chose to complete the homework within Edmodo, however they encountered a number of issues with the quiz system not marking the fill-in-the-blanks questions correctly and parts of answers being lost due to Internet drop-outs. I asked them to post their thoughts about completing homework on Edmodo:

“… the homework requires you to have an Internet connection which for me is prone to time outs and occasional freezes. This can be frustrating so paper would be preferred.” – Paramdeep C “ it seems a lot more hassle of actually having to go onto the computer and type it out.” – Dale M “ I actually prefer it on edmodo, as it means that if you forget about an assignment or are unsure on how to answer certain questions, then you can ask people on here” – Liam C

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Ian Simpson

November 2011

Here is an example of a discussion of an earlier homework task which was to be submitted on paper:

Learners found they were able to get prompt feedback outside of timetabled lessons which helped their progress. In a poll conducted after completion of the final homework task, 70% of the trial class thought that Edmodo made it easier to remember about or complete homework tasks compared to the paperbased methods of homework diary and homework jotter. In my opinion the work involved in setting up the quiz, then marking and checking the automatically marked answers was more intensive than for traditional paper-based homework tasks. There were advantages such as the ability to post comments for each question – explanations to deepen learner knowledge were possible without the limitation of physical space on a sheet of paper. Also the ability to copy and paste answers straight into these comment boxes increased the amount of feedback I gave the trial class from their homework tasks prior to using Edmodo. A compromise which would prevent learners from losing answers due to Internet failure or web page freezes would be to complete the task using an application package on their home computer (such as Microsoft Word) and then allow them to upload the saved file as an attachment to a direct message to the class teacher. This means that feedback can be posted as a reply to their message and remain visible only to that learner. Assigning tags to content Meta-data can be added to posts by all members of the group, categorising tasks, discussions, resources or comments so that the information can be filtered to show relevant content at a later date. This allows learners to quickly find posts relating to a topic they need to revise.

Using the calendar Any assignment is automatically added to the calendar but teachers can also assign events to the group calendar. All members of the group see these events but can add their own private events to more efficiently plan their learning.

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Ian Simpson

November 2011

Using personal libraries As mentioned earlier, learners experimented with uploading files to their personal libraries to share answers to class exercises. Files from these libraries can be shared with the whole group or the class teacher so a permanent record of peer-evaluation can take place if required.

Using shared folders

Before making the individual member accounts read-only I set up a shared folder containing revision notes and links to the classroom presentations and allowed the trial class to explore this resource. The learners will sit their Computer Systems NAB and end of topic test 14 days after the trial ended but I intend to poll them on whether they continued to make use of Edmodo despite it being a passive rather than interactive service. I have been careful not to mention it in lessons and remain hopeful that learners will use it to augment their preparation for the assessments.

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Ian Simpson

November 2011

How Edmodo was used by trial Computing class

The figures above show the number of users of the Higher Computing group on Edmodo from October 25th to November 17th. After Edmodo was set to read-only on 1st November, members of the Higher Computing class continued to access the site to help with their revision within school and at home, without prompting from the classroom teacher. They made use of the notes, presentations and revision exercises which had been uploaded to the Higher Computing Resources folder during the trial.

How Edmodo could be used with other Computing classes Edmodo could be used with all certificate Computing and Information Systems classes to: 1. 2. 3. 4.

exemplify good exam technique provide timely, individualised feedback to all learners in the classroom deliver differentiated schemes of work to users or mini-groups support effective learning through use of embedded multimedia

In addition to the above, Edmodo could be used with non-certificate IT classes to: 1. Allow personalised learning plans to be created featuring units of work suited to the level of expertise of the learner and their career / further education goals.

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Ian Simpson

November 2011

IT infrastructure considerations The Edmodo terms and conditions item 3: Additional Terms, sub-item c (iii) requires that attempts to access the domain www.edmodo.com should be redirected to the “unique Company domain that has been assigned to your school or district”. This has been set as http://rgc.district.edmodo.com. Simon Houghton mentioned that he has automatically redirected to an e-Safety poster for 10 seconds before displaying the “unique Company domain”. This reminds users of good netiquette and to avoid sharing personal details with other users. The email notifications were sent to both class teachers assigned to the group for visibility but a rule could be set up to forward any email from Edmodo to a centralised administration account within the school if required. While files could be uploaded to the Edmodo shared libraries to allow learners to revise class material from home, it would be prudent to retain these files on the local school network in case of loss of access. Therefore there would be little or no positive impact on data storage requirements within the school.

Summary It is clear that the trial was a success and all users behaved responsibly when using Edmodo both inside and outside of the classroom. There were a small number of technical failures which affected access speed within the classroom and retention of pupil answers within self-marking quizzes however I feel that these issues could be resolved through discussion with the Edmodo Support Team. I have found evidence of this site being used extensively in education for a variety of courses and age ranges. I feel that using Edmodo as a resource for learners to reflect on their lessons, have the opportunity to develop their knowledge between taught classes and develop as responsible Digital Natives in a safe, supportive environment would be extremely beneficial to the development of each individual at Robert Gordon’s College.

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Ian Simpson

November 2011

Bibliography AppAppeal, 2010, Edmodo Review [online] (updated 22nd December 2010). Available at: http://www.appappeal.com/app/edmodo/ [accessed 3rd November 2011]. Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies, 2011, Top Tools 2011. [online] (updated 14 November 2011). Available at: http://c4lpt.co.uk/top-100-tools-for-learning-2011/ [accessed 14 November 2011]. ComputED Learning Center, 2011, 17th Annual Best Educational Software Awards. ComputED Gazette [online] Volume 18, No. 1 - Spring 2011. Available at: http://computedgazette.com/arch/spring2011/page5.html [accessed 16 November 2011] Haughton, S, 2011, Introducing Edmodo – My First Experiences [online] (updated March 2011). Available at: http://simonhaughton.typepad.com/ict/2011/03/introducing-edmodo-my-firstexperiences.html [accessed 23 October 2011] Office of National Statistics, 2011, Internet Access – Households and Individuals 2011 [online] (updated 31 August 2011). Available at: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_227158.pdf [accessed 5 November 2011] Tech & Learning Magazine, 2011, 29th ANNUAL AWARDS OF EXCELLENCE WINNERS ANNOUNCED BY TECH & LEARNING MAGAZINE [online] (updated 31 October 2011). Available at: http://www.techlearning.com/portals/0/PRESSrelease_AOE_2011_FINAL_v3.pdf [accessed 16 November 2011]. Zuber, N, 2011, Is Edmodo Safe for Schools? [online] (updated May 2011). Available at: http://edmodoteacherhub.wikispaces.com/edmodo+and+school+safety [accessed 27 October 2011]

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Report on the use of Edmodo with a Higher Computing class  

Report on the use of Edmodo with a Higher Computing class at Robert Gordon’s College: Trial, 25th October – 1st November 2011

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