EducationWorld is pleased to present this article contributed by C.M. Rubin. The piece is part of Rubin's online interview series Global Search for Education, in which she joins thought leaders as they explore big-picture education questions. For this series and her other online series "How Will We Read?", she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award. Rubin is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.
“Have you done your Edmodo, honey?”
Yes, that’s right. I said “Edmodo,” not “homework” or even “school work.”
An impressive 17 million plus users worldwide are doing their Edmodo. The company’s mission since its beginnings has been to provide a free and safe platform that allows students and teachers to come together to collaborate and learn.
Think Facebook, with a big educational vision that focuses on using many unique technology features to augment what’s already happening in the classroom.
“Edmodo is a social network with training wheels,” says Bianca Hewes, a high school English teacher in Sydney, Australia. “By introducing it at a young age, teachers are able to develop the habits of the mind that are essential for students to be good digital citizens. Students learn to use appropriate language, to speak kindly and with compassion, to be supportive rather than critical, and to ask thoughtful questions.”
I had the opportunity to chat further with the company’s COO, Crystal Hutter.
|Crystal Hutter (left) and C.M. Rubin|
How is Edmodo helping to address the achievement gap? Isn't the lack of computers and bandwidth a significant impediment?
We see our opportunity as being able to connect teachers and classrooms around the world to create a powerful network of learners so that all of the best ideas and resources can surface. With Edmodo, teachers can discover content in real time and deliver it in a personalized way to their students. For example, teachers can receive instant feedback on how his/her students perform by giving them a quiz on Edmodo and getting real-time analytics to see how each student is grasping the material. She can put students into small groups where each group gets different content or different instructional materials to ensure that every single student in her classroom learns the concept she is teaching that day.
Have you come across limitations of low-income families in terms of ability to afford good-quality computers and satisfactory Internet access to use Edmodo?
Every district and school handles access to technology differently. Many schools are starting to adopt “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device) environments, where each student is allowed to bring in his/her own mobile device to use in class. Some schools have laptop or iPad carts that teachers share among classrooms. Other schools have computer labs that students can access at specific hours during and after school.
While not every student has access to a computer, most do have access to a mobile device in their household. Edmodo offers a mobile Web site and native apps for iOS and Android devices.
I see Edmodo as a platform with resources that could also be helpful in classrooms where learning has been more challenging. If every low-income child in the U.S. had access to Edmodo, what impact could it have on our domestic achievement gap?
The demographics of Edmodo in the U.S., which is about 75% of our users, mirrors the demographics of the U.S. K-12 system, covering everything from grade level to subject area and from rural to urban, high-income to low-income as well as public versus private. I think it’s important that Edmodo has been a platform that can be adapted to any type of classroom in the U.S. and in every part of the world. We already have over 17,000,000 users. Teachers have been an important part of creating a real change in their classrooms by being a part of this global network and by engaging their students in it as well.
If students are doing so nicely with Edmodo, why not just home school them?
Every student and family has a different need and approach, and we support all of those environments. I was recently talking to a woman who home schools her son. He is extremely gifted and takes a large number of courses. She spends a massive amount of time curating his courses, which involves using many different platforms with varying levels of technology. So she brings all these courses and all of his tutors onto Edmodo, and this has made her process much more manageable. She also feels now like she’s not a lonely island because she’s connecting with other teachers who have great ideas.
Photo courtesy of Edmodo
So whether you are a mom curating your child’s lessons at home or a teacher in a classroom, the idea is to make sure that you feel you’re part of a much broader community.
Can social interaction in an online environment ever be quite the same as social interaction in a classroom?
For us, it is always about the blend of offline and online. What teachers on Edmodo do so well is combine the best of the tried-and-true of pedagogy in the classroom with new digital applications and technologies that are coming online. It’s all about making sure the offline and the online worlds are seamless, so that you create the best personalized learning experiences for students. Learning is a social experience, but we see that every student is different. We hear stories from teachers about students—for example, a student who was not as vocal in class, so the question was, “Is s/he really engaged in the learning process?” The teacher has told us that Edmodo has really taken a leadership role in helping that student to find his/her voice.
Do you find that teachers are happy to share their content with other teachers around the world?
Yes, that’s true for the vast majority of teachers we meet. There are teachers who spend up to 40 hours developing a lesson to teach to students. If a teacher can feel that by sharing that lesson with the Edmodo community she will be able to get amazing feedback from other teachers and that it may have impacted the lives of many more students, that’s important. Teachers are teachers because they want to change the lives of students, so Edmodo allows them to be able to do that on a whole new scale with students and with their fellow teachers.
Great to hear that—I know that encouraging more teachers to share their multi-media lessons has been challenging for the Wikiwijs platform in The Netherlands.
I think the difference with our platform is that teachers are on Edmodo every single day teaching their students, so it becomes second nature for them to share. For example, while they’re on it, they may have a question for the community and another teacher may immediately respond with, “Here’s what I did.” Real-time is much easier, and I think it allows for all types of things to be shared. There is an app on Edmodo called NoRedInk (a fun way to practice and master grammar and writing skills). It was built by a language arts teacher at this time last year, and it actually went viral on Edmodo.
Edmodo is a free learning platform. Where does the revenue come from in this model?
Edmodo is free for teachers and students and always will be. In March 2012, we opened our API to educational publishers to enable them to create Web-based apps for the platform. These free and paid apps integrate with the features of Edmodo and enable teachers to streamline all the educational tools and resources they use with their students in one place (Edmodo).
Five to 10 years from now, where do you see Edmodo?
Edmodo will continue to be the place where learning happens, connecting teachers and students around the world to the resources and tools that will help them reach their full potential.
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