Kids love Facebook. Even when they are technically too young to have an account - which my students are - they still use it, and they absolutely love it. We forget sometimes that children are social creatures, and that they often get too few opportunities to just be social.
When school started this fall and I began detailing with my students the dos and don'ts of using iPads in our classroom, you would have thought I rounded up all their pets and shot them on sight by the looks on their faces when they realized that Facebook could play no part in our classroom experience. Thankfully, I was able to offer an alternative: Edmodo.
Edmodo is very similar to Facebook - from the site set up to the blue and white colors, it mirrors the popular social site. But Edmodo is designed for school use. It is more secure than Facebook, it doesn't require an email address to create an account, and it gives parents and teachers full access to the activities of the children using it.
As a teacher, I can use Edmodo to interact with colleagues near and far. I have joined groups that include teachers from all over the world, and have learned about some fantastic resources through those connections. I am also able to collaborate with the teachers in my building, and it is one of the few opportunities I have to interact with the other teachers in my district who are piloting iPads in their classrooms. This is vital - we need to be able to work together and share ideas and resources. In addition, Edmodo also offers a built in planner and gradebook.
For my students, they have a safe environment for social interactions as well as a place to collaborate online with each other and with groups outside of our school. With Edmodo, you can set up groups for your students to join. I have groups for each of my two Reading classes and for my homeroom students. We use these for school assignments. I also set up a group for getting homework help, and one specifically for socializing. My students know that if they want to chat about anything non-school related, it belongs in that group so that it doesn't clog up our academic areas.
As far as academics go, we use Edmodo for group projects, to conduct polls, for discussions, and to turn in homework assignments. I can share links, videos, etc. with everyone at once, and have them leave comments on those items. They are able to join outside groups that are interesting to them. They know where to go if they are needing help with an assignment, even if it is something that is not being completed through Edmodo. This is very valuable for the student who can't remember the pages to read or doesn't understand a math concept and is trying to finish an assignment for the next day. It also gives me a way to send out reminders for permission slips, special theme days, etc.
As for the social component, Edmodo is again a great learning experience. Using Edmodo has lead to some unique opportunities to teach my students about being responsible with a school based group (keeping topics and language clean), which is terribly useful with a socioeconomic group that tends to struggle with code switching. Important discussions about cyber bullying and their digital footprint have also been prompted by Edmodo interactions. The best part is that mistakes are allowed. I can monitor and delete any item my students post in one of my groups. I can make a student Read-Only if they are not being responsible with their comments (this gets their attention quickly!). Parents can use an access code to see every comment made by their child. It gives adults an opportunity to teach kids how to use social media responsibly, without giving them access to the entire world.
My students LOVE Edmodo. They enjoy using it for their work, and they love the opportunity to be social during their downtime without being disruptive to people who are still working. They can also access the site online, so they can use it in the evenings or on weekends, making it always accessible to many of them. I love Edmodo for the unique learning opportunities it offers my students and I, and for the secure school-friendly online environment.
Edmodo is a free service, so if you would like to take a look for yourself or for your students, you can find it here.