Throwing a kid a Facebook account as their first experience of a social network is irresponsible, it’s akin to giving an eighteen year old a driver’s license without them taking any driving lessons.
It’s hard to bring up the topic of Edmodo without talking about Facebook. I’m a little sick of talking about social networking at the moment to be perfectly honest. It seems to be something we constantly need to revisit at school, particularly with our senior grade six students. Put simply, kids who are too young to be getting into Facebook, are into it. It’s such a powerful tool in the hands of children and they really don’t know the extent to which they can cause harm. They really have no idea. All the education in the world can’t prepare students for something which only real-life social experiences can provide.
Having said that, if we stand back and fail to provide the right education in the use of social networking, then things could get a whole lot worse.
So in steps Edmodo. Edmodo is a social networking web site for schools. I’m taking a look at the site and the iPad app here in this post and I’ll talk briefly about how I’m currently using it in my class.
Edmodo looks a lot like Facebook but it acts a little more like Google+.
As a teacher, you create an account – an easy process – and start a group. This group is assigned a code which you then pass on to your students. This is the first step in controlling the usage of the site. If you don’t have the code, you can’t join the group. Even if you somehow manage to come across a code, if the leader of the group doesn’t accept you, you won’t get in. It’s a safe social-networking site. The best part about joining Edmodo is that the student does not need an email address.
So they join the group and can begin contributing to discussions.
So how does this prepare students for a future life of social networking? Put simply, they need to crawl before they can walk. But not all parents see this. Just because ‘all the other kids are doing it’ doesn’t make it okay.
By using a safe social-networking site like Edmodo under the guidance of a trained professional like a teacher, we can do a few things. Firstly we remove the novelty of the social network before they get to Facebook. Second, we teach them appropriate ways to communicate to each other online, without the repercussions that a public space like Facebook can bring. Thirdly, we put a purpose to the communication, we show the students that we network socially for a reason, not just to combat boredom.
This post is under serious threat of going somewhere it shouldn’t. I don’t mean to harp on about Facebook, so I’ll stop right there.
Across my year level, I’m running a special program designing and building longboard skateboards. We run our special programs in the final term of the grade six year to maximise engagement in what is usually a tough time to engage kids on the verge of entering high school. I have an interest in both longboarding and woodworking and the only boards I’ve ridden are the ones I’ve made myself. I’m super-keen to pass these skills on to any of my students that want to learn. Turns out there’s quite a few of them.
The way we communicate and collaborate as a group when we’re not together in the same room, is through Edmodo. They’re all members of the group and they all contribute willingly to discussions, some more than others. They post their ideas for designs and links to longboard videos and pictures of boards they like, and then they all comment on each other’s finds and ideas. Unbelievable, especially considering that the program doesn’t start for another two weeks.
This is what responsible social networking should be about at this early age. They become familiar with the environment and they learn to be positive with each other’s posts, or they don’t say anything at all. Who’s to say whether or not this will assist in shaping these kids for the social-networking future that lay before them? At least, in this environment, it won’t do them any harm.
This leads me to the Edmodo iPad app. There’s not a lot I can really add to be honest. It’s virtually a replica of the web site, which is a shame because I’d thought they’d make it a little more iPad friendly; bigger buttons for the touch screen to begin with. The only thing I have found it’s no good for is uploading media of any kind, this will need to be done at a computer. With any luck, the people at Edmodo are paying attention to the iPad phenomenon and are working on something. I guess at this stage, they’re probably just happy to have an iPad ‘presence’.
More Edmodo posts to follow as we work our way through our longboard program.