School Library Monthly/Volume XXIX, Number 5/February 2013
Edmodo: A Great Tool for School Librarians
by Kristina Holzweiss
Kristina Holzweiss is a school librarian at Bay Shore Middle School in Long Island, NY. She is an Edmodo Ambassador who also moderates a website of free Common Core resources (http://www.commoncoreconversation.com/). To join her national school librarian cohort in pursuit of National Board Certification, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
School librarians are in a profession where it is easy to be isolated. Often, school districts have only one certified librarian and school librarians must create ways to connect with one another and with other educators. Social media opportunities such as Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, wikis, and nings are powerful ways of staying connected on a professional level. Another choice is Edmodo (http://www.edmodo.com), a powerful, multi-faceted, cyber-safe social network. Librarians can use Edmodo not only to connect with each other, but also as a way to extend their classroom beyond the book stacks.
Edmodo and Common Core State Standards
I first experienced the possibilities of Edmodo at a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) workshop. This workshop, conducted by Robert Miller of Port Orange Elementary School in Florida, was presented at the Annual International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in 2011. Miller described an experience orchestrated for his elementary students in which he created three Edmodo profiles and interacted with his students in the voices of Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea. His fifth graders were virtually transported to the American West of the early 1800s as they posed questions and shared information about the journey. After hearing this presentation, I knew Edmodo had to be a part of my library classroom!
Edmodo, a cyber-safe social learning network, was created in 2008 as the brainchild of Nic Borg and Jeff O’Hara: " to evolve our school environment to reflect the connected world in which we live, set out to create a tool that closes the gap between how students live their lives and how they learn in school (http://about.edmodo.com/)."
As of September 11, 2012, there were ten million Edmodo users representing countries around the world. Student users reflect 85% of the largest districts in the United States. According to a September 11, 2012 post on the Edmodo blog, there are 100,000 schools nationwide that have Edmodo users, and 12,000 school districts are members.
Considered by many users to be the "Facebook of education," Edmodo allows educators to create learning environments to extend their teaching beyond the classroom. As a school librarian and former English teacher, I often comment that I could do so much more "if I only had five more minutes." Edmodo is a school librarian's dream come true as it provides an environment where students can meet the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Standards for the 21st-Century Learner and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) of using technology for collaboration (AASL: Standard 3; CCSS: College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing: Standard 6).
Rather than settling for a static school library website with the typical research tools, links to databases and pathfinders, and lists of books for suggested reading, Edmodo helps school librarians interact with their students in and out of the library. Edmodo is not a substitute for other Web tools, but rather a virtual classroom where such technologies as Google Docs, Glogster, Animoto, Wikis, and VoiceThread can be embedded.
School librarians have created extracurricular book clubs, project-based learning, inquiry activities, research tutorial lessons, author studies, interdisciplinary projects, virtual field trips, and collaborative experiences with other schools around the world. School librarians can even create groups in partnership with public librarians to help students continue their research projects after the school day ends.
I have used Edmodo to create groups for my own students, as well as for other teachers. The members of my virtual book club share information about their favorite books, and I can post news on new authors, long-anticipated titles, and movie tie-ins. Once a week, the after-school computer club meets in the library, and we use Edmodo as our starting point. It is also very easy for students to upload what they have created to their virtual backpack so that they can access it from anywhere, even without an email account.
Classroom teachers also appreciate school librarians who can initiate or help moderate Edmodo groups. For example, I offered to create and moderate a group for a technophobic social studies teacher who wanted her students to create collaborative PowerPoint presentations. I established smaller groups in the class group, and created a Google document for each group to complete. Even though this teacher didn’t bring her students to the library because she "didn't have the time," I could help these students conduct their research and also teach them mini-lessons as needed out of the classroom. In another example, I served as an assistant moderator for a teacher. When the students needed sparks of inspiration for their book discussion, I posed questions and offered extension activities. This year, as a pilot program, I am co-teaching a 6th grade library skills class with a classroom teacher. Through the use of Edmodo, I can differentiate instruction and modify lessons and activities as needed. The Edmodo blog has an "Integration Ideas" section.
School librarians will find the Edmodo professional learning communities invaluable, regardless of whether or not they use it in the classroom with students. There are twelve Edmodo-created communities focused on the content areas, including professional development and college readiness. Although there isn’t a community dedicated entirely to school librarians, I have found that membership in all communities is helpful in finding resources and teaching strategies that can be shared with colleagues. In addition, there are more than 150 publisher communities that include Discover, Khan Academy, Glogster, and Subtext.
Educators in these communities share ways to incorporate particular programs and websites in their lessons. It is also possible to find publishers with programs in beta stages who welcome educators to test and pilot these programs. Through browsing the communities and publishers communities, I have found resources that I would never have known about otherwise. For example, a social studies teacher posted a parody video for U.S. history entitled "Too Late to Apologize" which depicts Thomas Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence. I immediately shared this with a 7th grade social studies teacher who viewed and discussed it with all of her classes the very next day.
Just as educators can create groups for their students, they can also create groups and invite other educators. Using the particular group code or URL Web address, educators can join virtual groups from around the world including "Teacher Librarians," "Flipping the Classroom," "iPad Classroom," and the "Common Core Conversation" (a group that I moderate involving about 2,000 educators nationwide who share resources for addressing the new Common Core State Standards in the classroom).
The teacher-created groups are more focused than communities, allowing educators with similar concerns to connect. For example, I posted a request in the "Teacher Librarians" group for a link that I had misplaced to genre posters. Within an hour I had about five responses. I was able to locate the link, as well as additional resources, much more quickly than searching the Web.
Edmodo is also a useful platform for creating staff development programs, and for connecting librarians throughout a district or county. For example, I created three Edmodo groups for the school librarians on Long Island, New York, to help them to share resources and teaching strategies. Group codes and URL addresses for more than 150 specialized, teacher-created groups are also available (http://tinyurl.com/clzejg9).
Make an Impact
As school librarians, we must become digital citizens and model the appropriate behavior that we expect from our students. Using Edmodo in the classroom can help school librarians manage and extend the library program to address both the AASL standards and the CCSS, while also connecting with other educators around the world.
The following are key features that make Edmodo a favorite among educators:
- Groups: Teachers create their own groups and provide their students with a group code to join. The students do not need email accounts, and groups are closed to the public by default. Teachers can connect with others around the world in a co-teaching model, thus creating a forum where their students can collaborate with one another. Teachers can also create smaller subgroups of students when assigning group activities.
- Posts: Teachers and students may post messages, links, or files to the entire group or a smaller subgroup. Teachers may also post directly to individual students and their parents, but students are not able to communicate privately with each other.
- Libraries and Backpacks: Teachers may upload files and links to their libraries and organize them in folders to be shared with particular groups. Students may upload files and links to their backpacks to share with the class or to access at home.
- Calendar: Teachers can help their students manage their time by creating checkpoints for projects or by posting homework assignments.
- Assignments: Teachers can post, grade, and comment on assignments for one or more groups. They may also annotate submitted assignments.
- Quizzes: Quizzes are multiple choice, true/false, short answer, or fill-in-the-blank formats. Quiz options include timing, immediate scoring, and weighted questions.
- Gradebook: Grades may include assignments and quizzes both posted through Edmodo and created in the classroom. Final grades can be exported into an Excel spreadsheet.
- Badges: Badges are available to recognize students for their achievements. Teachers may create their own badges through Edmodo or "borrow" ideas from others.
- Application Integration: Students and teachers can link their Google Docs accounts with Edmodo so that their documents will be synced. Teachers may also purchase licenses for more than 200 educational apps that are fully integrated in the Edmodo platform.
- Accessibility: Edmodo is a Web-based tool that can be accessed on Macs, iPads, PCs, and Android tablets. There are also Android and iPhone mobile apps.
- Parent Accounts: Teachers can create positive relationships with their students' parents who are able to view their children's grades, events calendar, and assignments.
Edmodo. "At Edmodo, We Help Teachers Make Their Classroom a Community." http://about.edmodo.com/ (accessed October 31, 2012).
Edmodo (blog). http://blog.edmodo.com/category/integration/ (accessed October 31, 2012).
School Libraries Work! Scholastic Library Publishing. http://libassoc.ccsd.net/documents/School%20Libraries%20Work.pdf (accessed October 31, 2012).
Statistics about California School Libraries. California Department of Education. http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/lb/schoollibrstats08.asp (accessed October 31, 2012).