I have to be honest. I did not enjoy working on Thing 22 at all. It took me an hour just to find and application that I was interested in AND didn't cost money. Needless to say I'm a bit cranky as I write this blog entry. With that said, I did manage to find a tool that I think is pretty cool and has some potential in my classroom. It's called Edmodo. http://www.edmodo.com/home My group is called Techniques in Academic Writing, and if you'd like to check it out, the access code is gs7ucm.
After playing around with the application for awhile, I can best describe it as a cross between Facebook and Moodle. If any of you know me well, you know that I'm a huge Moodle fan and I use it regularly in my classroom. You may also know that I'm interested in using Facebook in the classroom as well. Edmodo MAY very well be a good cross between the two applications.
So, what can Edmodo do? Well, you can invite students (and others) to join, much like you would with Moodle. You can post assignments and upload files just like in Moodle as well. There is a polling choice and an RSS feed option. There is also a way to post links. One of the best features I found was that you can message to the whole group or individuals. This is a message more like a Facebook wall post or a Twitter tweet, which is considerably better than the Moodle messaging capability. In Moodle you can only send messages (much like email), and the user must seek out the message to read it. None of my students look at the messages, and honestly, neither do I. But this instant message feature places the message prominently on the front page of the group or the individual specified. This feature appeals to me because I can easily post homework assignments or answers to questions that several students have asked me. Edmodo offers an easier way to communicate with students than Moodle or email.
With the positive aspects come the negative though. Moodle has other features I use continually: journal, forum, upload assignments, to mention just a few. These options don't appear to be available on Edmodo. So if Edmodo is a community tool, I see more value in creating a Facebook group for communications of this type and running a separate Moodle along with it. There also isn't an easy way to figure out how to do things without contacting live support. Live support is great when you can't figure it out on your own, but most of the time I don't need it if there are sufficient support tools to help figure it out on my own. For example, I can't figure out how to add a feed to my group page. There is no "help" button that will direct me on how to do it. Instead I have to contact support and wait for an answer. True, they are very quick to respond, but I'd rather just read about it than have to list a bunch of questions on how to do something on the site.
Still, Edmodo is at least an attempt to provide some sort of real social networking ability similar to Facebook. I often find myself communicating via email at night information that could and should be shared with everyone. I'm not sold on Edmodo simply because it's one more site that students have to link to. Most high school students have a Facebook account and check it frequently. I want to be where I can reach them. Will they come to the Edmodo site on a regular basis? Or am I better off setting up a Facebook group that I know they'll see regularly? What do you think?