Find out how easily you can build a classroom community through the story of Kate Baker and Shari Krapels’ collaborative writing project.
“How do I reach these kids?”
It’s a question teachers have asked for decades, repeated to the point of parody in inspirational movies and stories. While there are plenty of success stories, every generation of students brings new challenges for teachers. The best teacher in 1978 would struggle to command the attention of students in 2018. In a world filled with smartphones, apps, social media, and always-connected devices, students are having a harder and harder time keeping their focus on their teachers delivering a lecture at the front of the room.
So how do teachers improve learning outcomes for students while they’re barraged from all sides, trying to distract them from their own education? Elevate the learning experience beyond a lecture and create a community with your classroom.
The best teacher in 1978 would struggle to command the attention of students in 2018.
Instead of competing for their attention, teachers can engage students with real conversations through the devices and interfaces they’re already familiar with, building empathy and engagement through two-way communication.
That’s where Edmodo comes in.
Create a community through conversation
Classroom culture is becoming more and more important to teachers, and for good reason: A strong class culture helps students understand what learning is going to feel like in the space they create together.
But teachers can’t just wave their hands and conjure a learning community for their students out of thin air (as much as we might like that to be true). People build empathy for each other by learning about them. It’s the foundation of social-emotional learning and one of the many reasons we still hold onto the paradigm of the classroom.
With Edmodo, you can take these conversations beyond your physical classroom, allowing students to learn from each other as much as they learn from you. Edmodo is a fantastic hub for classroom communication, from urgent messages about assignments to simple class polls.
Posting is easy for teachers and students, and threaded replies help create a platform that feels natural and intuitive for students. Your communication can be much more than text as well, with images, links, and videos that play within your Post.
Kate and Shari were able to connect the students from each of their classes to form a writing community. “The reason that the online community worked so well for us was because it created a space beyond the walls of our classroom,” Shari said. “That’s the community piece right? That’s where it goes from being just an online discussion board and it becomes a real community.”
“We’re not limited by our four walls of our classroom space, and that by using and leveraging technology, we’re able to live beyond the classroom and to function and live as members of a community.”
–Kate Baker, 9th Grade ELA Teacher
But with Edmodo, any user can attach images, links, videos, files, and Google Docs to their Post. Why not have students write in a word processor like Word or Pages?
“One of the things we committed to at the very beginning was making sure that when they were posting their writing, they were doing so in Edmodo Notes,” Shari said. “We didn’t want things to get lost in the permissions of Google Docs and accessing attachments…We wanted something holistic. We wanted something that was esteem building. And that was also really useful critical feedback.”
Enable interactions beyond the physical classroom
For decades, teachers are used to the boundaries of the classroom’s physical space. If students wanted to chat, they had to walk to a teacher’s classroom and talk to them in person, which continues to be intimidating for many students to this day.
Pushing beyond the physical space of your classroom allows you to meet your students where they already spend their lives: Online.
Modern communities aren’t defined by physical spaces anymore, though. The advent of the Internet has connected millions of like-minded people based on shared interests and circumstances. Today’s students are growing up in a world where communities are no longer tied to single rooms or buildings, but to people.
It’s important to set boundaries as a teacher, and you can’t expect to interact with every student in a given day. With Edmodo, you can reach out to individual students or small groups to check on their progress, remind them of due dates, or get specific feedback about your lessons. Most importantly, it’s on your terms, not the administration’s or the parents’.
Pushing your classroom community beyond the physical space of your classroom allows you to meet your students where they already spend a huge portion of their daily lives: Online.
On Edmodo, you can use direct Messages to speak with students, parents, or other teachers without giving out your personal phone number or email. Plus, you can create group chats for those occasions you need to remind students about a group project. (Not to mention a group chat with fellow teachers when you need to share lesson plans or meeting notes.)
For Kate and Shari, Edmodo became the solution to combining their classrooms for Authors’ Alley, allowing 9th grade students the opportunity to learn from 11th grade students and vice versa. One student, Hannah, was able to give clear and helpful feedback to another student, Collin.
“Hannah has given Collin timely, actionable advice that is esteem building and that is thoughtful and is really a response tailored just to him. Because everyone can see Colin’s writing and Hannah’s response, the good behavior perpetuates itself. So Hannah’s response inspires her classmates to respond with the same kind of attention to detail, warmth, courtesy, and constructive feedback.”
–Shari Krapels, 9th–12th Grade ELA Teacher
“So Hannah’s giving Collin some feedback on his pronoun usage,” Kate added. “Well, guess what my students started to check before they started posting? ‘Oh wait, are my pronouns good? Oh well let me go back and check.’
“Now if I said that to them, ‘Fix your pronouns!’ and let me just tell you, I did. I can’t tell you how many times I did! But it took one interaction from Hannah to make it work. The power of peer modeling was magical.”
Give yourself more options to reach more students
Communication is tough. There are so many elements to good communication that so few people even realize exist. Sending “What’s up?” to your friend at 2pm is a very different message than sending it at 2am. Consider the grammar and punctuation, too. How does “whats up” compare with “What’s Up?” or even “what’s uppp?”
And what about professional context? An email from your principal is very different from a text or a note left on your desk, even if all the words are same. Most people can agree that emails feel less urgent than a SMS or Slack message.
For students, different platforms and mediums have different connotations. A note saying “See me after class today” on a low-scoring exam result or essay feels much worse to read than a quick “See me after class today” sent via text message. So how do you use the right communications for each student and each situation? That’s where Edmodo can help.
Edmodo gives you more options so you can reach more students.
We’ve already mentioned Posts, Replies, Attachments, and Messages. But the foundational features of Edmodo — Classes and Small Groups — give you easy ways to send Notes and share files or links with your class.
Set up your student groups to support the way you want them to communicate. You can include all students in a Class for general announcements and use Small Groups to help encourage smaller discussions between students. You can also create a Class for each subject or period you teach and use Small Groups to split up various chapters or units.
“So Madeleine never spoke up in class, but Madeleine was a gifted, gifted writer. And what I started to see in Edmodo is that Madeleine found her voice. She practically shouted online.”
Kate and Shari both found that when holding their Authors’ Alley discussions on Edmodo, some of their shiest students began speaking up and participating more than they could have expected. One student in an earlier version of the project — Madeleine — became one of the top contributors after months of barely speaking in class.
“So Madeleine never spoke up in class. But Madeleine was a gifted, gifted writer. And what I started to see in Edmodo is that Madeleine found her voice. She practically shouted online. Oh god, I get all teary-eyed even thinking of Madeleine to this day! Students are learning how to function in a digital space and interacting with people that they might not necessarily see face to face. Some of the folks are someone that they sit next to in the classroom, but many of them are also folks that they might bump into in the hallway.”
–Kate Baker, 9th Grade ELA Teacher
Classrooms have already expanded beyond their original definition. They’re no longer restricted by physical presence. Classrooms are becoming communities — and teachers have the chance to define each class’s culture and learning methods.
With Edmodo and the core experience of Posts, Messages, and Classes, you can lay the foundation for a learning community. When you allow conversations to happen naturally, using tools your students are familiar with, you can cultivate the connections students are making with you and with each other.
In other words, you can finally reach those kids.