Social networking is a BIG discussion topic in education. It seems to me that everyone is sure that it belongs…they just are not sure where and how it fits. The concept itself is so broad it is hard to manage altogether. Where do you start? What do you endorse for your classroom? Campus? District? I am not going to even try to answer these questions. I do want to go on record in saying if educators don’t start using social networking in their classrooms they are missing the boat. They are doing their students a disservice. They are not talking where their students are listening.
I am not expecting anyone to dive into social networking. Stick a toe in and test the water. Start small and work your way up. I don’t think anyone would expect you to start incorporating everything at once…even thinking of that gives me a headache! There are a couple of options out there that I think would be a great start for any educator to use with their students in the classroom.
Edmodo is my top choice. It is free and secure…two things anyone in education is looking for. It looks a lot like Facebook, which many educators are familiar with. Edmodo also gives you the ability to grow within the site itself. Start off small. As you become more comfortable you can expand how you use it.
An easy way to start small is to take advantage solely of posting and commenting within your class. Get a conversation going and see where it leads. Ask questions that inspire deep thinking on your students’ part and see what they come up with on their own. There are many students out there that are afraid to speak up in front of a group but are more than willing to write something and share. This empowers many in your class that normally would stay in the background.
Now it’s time to walk…
As you become more comfortable you can start taking advantage of more of the options Edmodo has to offer. Share links, embed videos, and attach documents (it works with Google Docs now!) that you want your students to have access to. Conduct polls to find out more about your class. Put your students into small groups within your class so they can collaborate on projects.
Create assignments and have students turn them in, all through Edmodo. Create quizzes to be taken and graded online. Use the built in calendar to keep kids up-to-date with class happenings. Award badges as reward. The list goes on!
As you can see, Edmodo can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. I love that it can grow with you. It also has a great app that can be used with iOS devices. Still, seeing all that it is capable of can be overwhelming in itself! Scare you a bit? Is it too much to take on? Well then, maybe TodaysMeet is a better fit to get you started!
Todays Meet is a website whose sole use is for backchannel conversations. It is quick and easy to use. Visit the TodaysMeet website, name your room, choose how long to have it active, and then click create. Share the link it provides and you are on your way!
TodaysMeet can be used to start and continue an on-line conversation about anything you are discussing in your class. Anyone with the link can join in on the conversation. Each comment is limited to 140 characters, forcing students to get to the point.
Once again this is valuable because everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the conversation. Students can share ideas, brainstorm, or critique. If you have a projector you can choose projector view and display everyone’s posts with the newest comments appearing on top. It auto-refreshes so you don’t have to manage it. Transcript view displays the conversation in chronological order. You have the ability to print the conversation from either of these views. The site is very simple but can be very powerful.
As with any form of communication in a classroom, always make sure you discuss acceptable and unacceptable comments. Students should always be providing positive feedback. Comments should be constructive, not destructive.
Looking for a new way to spur a conversation in class? Give backchanneling a chance!