A project based learning environment can certainly be created without the use of technology. The addition of technology in the classroom, however, undoubtedly enhances the project based learning experience. As a veteran high school social studies teacher with unlimited access to technology in my classroom, I have experimented with countless web 2.0 tools. I integrate many of these tools into my projects for a variety of uses, as each has its own purpose and benefit. However, over the last three years I have turned to Edmodo as the platform to facilitate the design, management, and assessment of my projects.
Edmodo has many benefits for classroom use. Two of the main reasons why I initially chose to incorporate the social learning, micro-blogging platform include its secure online presence and the fact that it is free! The security that is provided by Edmodo is superior to any other web 2.0 tools I have found. After creating my own account and setting up my class groups, my students quickly created their own accounts and were given access to my class through a unique code. I didn’t have to register my students and at any time, I am able to change the code to another randomly generated combination of letters and numbers. Additionally, parents who choose to participate in the class are given their own unique code related to their student. The parents can see student assignments, due dates, grades, and direct messages between the teacher and student. If a student transfers out of my class, I can quickly delete them from the group and change the class code.
As a free online tool, one would expect Edmodo to contain unwanted advertisements on the site. Unlike many other applications, the ads are not present! I don’t have to worry about the potential inappropriate content to which my students may be exposed. Additionally, I don’t have to register and subsequently be verified as a site for an educational use, such as is the case in many web 2.0 tools. Edmodo is strictly an educational use site.
The Project and Edmodo as Support
My junior/senior level law class just recently completed our Introduction to Criminal Law unit. The project centered on the driving question: How can we reduce crime in our county? To launch the project and create a need to know, as an entry event, the students read an array of articles postulating a variety of reasons why the crime rate in the United States remains at a higher rate than citizens would prefer. Each article read was assigned a designated “note” area in Edmodo to start a discussion. Reactions from small student subgroups were posted here in the “reply” format. Since Edmodo allows postings to be shared with multiple classes, I was able to promote the 21st Century skill of communication between my two different class periods that meet at different times during the school day, as the two classes shared and reflected on ideas related to the readings.
The significant content covered in this project integrated a myriad of things. Topics ranged from proceedings before a trial and sentencing to life in prison and victims’ rights. Students would not have been able to complete an in depth inquiry of the driving question without understanding the significant content. Therefore, student groups completed their initial research of their given topic and created a short class presentation about their findings, data analysis, and ideas on how to answer the driving question. The PowerPoint presentations were uploaded on Edmodo and feedback was provided to the students using the reply function. This provided an opportunity for revision and reflection. The offered feedback was used to increase the quality of the overall presentation to come. Moving toward the end goal, students were able to exhibit voice and choice about their class decision on how to reduce crime in our county. Based on the responses given in the polling feature of Edmodo, the class chose to focus on promoting more rehabilitation of prisoners through a variety of programs. The choice was then used to prepare an overall class presentation on the driving question.
The public audience element of this project was not completed via Edmodo. However, I was certainly proud of my students as they presented their proposal to a panel of professional experts. Not only were the students thrilled to present to the head of the prison board, the district attorney, a county commissioner, and a police officer; I was thrilled! It is a rare moment when an entire class is able to come together in one seamless presentation. The quality of work made me proud and the engagement of the students was evidenced in their own reflections of their performance.
Stay tuned for the great new updates the Edmodo team is currently designing and join our BIE Community on Edmodo.
Edmodo and PBL
Edmodo is a social learning platform that allows teachers to post messages, discuss classroom topics, assign and grade classwork, and share content and materials with their students. Dayna Laur, BIE National Faculty, shows you how to use Edmodo to manage projects in your classroom and how to network and exchange ideas with the Project Based Learning Community.