Should social media be used in the 21st Century classroom? In case you haven’t noticed, social media aren’t just used for socializing any more. In my town, many (if not most) small businesses, community agencies, sports leagues, and churches maintain a presence on Facebook. Twitter is another option for agencies interested in rapid dissemination of small pieces of information, like utility companies and emergency responders. Students and their parents seem comfortable using social media apps for the sorts of everyday interactions that might have been handled via email 10 years ago (or, before that, by telephone). Since 2008, Edmodo has offered 21st Century teachers a way to bring social media-like functions into the classroom; in just a few years, Edmodo has grown to over 20 million registered users (EdSurge, 2013, para. 1).
Teachers can use Edmodo to facilitate communication with parents and students via an interface that looks and works like a Facebook News Feed. Teachers can post text, links, snapshots, polls, and assignments, which can serve as springboards for discussions via the commenting functions (and, of course, the ubiquitous “Like” button). An impressive menu of plugin apps is also available, so teachers don’t have to reinvent the wheel when incorporating standards-based curriculum tools into their Edmodo classes. These tools offer great opportunities for authentic learning to occur, like structuring online academic discussions and publishing student work to wider online audiences. Many of these functions are available via other platforms like Google Classroom–however, unlike Google, teachers can also use Edmodo to network and share resources with each other, via user groups organized by geographic area, subject area, or grade level. Also, since Edmodo is so similar to Facebook, its functionality is more intuitive to digital-immigrant parents than most education-specific apps.
I would resist the temptation to use grown-up social media tools like Twitter and Facebook in my classroom. After all, Edmodo is far safer, and it is specifically designed for students. I would start at the back-end by creating a teacher account and joining a few groups of teachers who work in my local district or subject area. Prior to building a group for my students, I would communicate with parents, both to introduce them to the ways they can use Edmodo to access their own child’s information, and also to reassure them that each child’s privacy will be protected. In addition to providing authentic learning experiences, I would also use Edmodo to launch important discussions about online safety and digital citizenship. After all, cyberspace can be a frightening, even dangerous place for students. Edmodo is like that quiet parking lot where novice drivers first sit behind the steering wheel–a place where, rather than simply reading about the abstractions of driving, authentic learning experiences can take place in a (relatively) safe environment.
EdSurge. (2013). Product reviews: Edmodo [Web log comment]. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/product-reviews/edmodo