The classroom is bigger than the teacher. So why do we put so much pressure on one person for student success?
There’s a common misconception about teaching: The idea that only the teacher is responsible for the learning outcomes of each student.
Did you see the problem there? It’s that word “only.” Learning is a group effort, and it starts with the teacher, but students need the motivation, parents need to be aware and involved, and the administrators need to make sure teachers are equipped for success. But we always lament there’s no easy solution to make learning better for everyone.
What if that’s not true? What if you could improve learning outcomes across the board, the way a rising tide floats all ships?
It’s called social learning, and it’s a natural byproduct of creating a learning community in your classroom. And the best way to create that learning community in your classroom is with Edmodo.
The first step: Build personal connections
We’ve already outlined how you can create conversations in your classroom, but the best part is that those conversations are the foundation for your learning community. All communities are built on the connections made between the members of those communities, and all those connections start with a conversation.
But let’s say you’re a few months into your school year and you’re having these conversations — things are going pretty well for your students but you’re missing that last piece of the puzzle. That’s when it’s time to look outward, to members of your community that aren’t sitting in your classroom.
There are a lot of stakeholders in a child’s education: teachers, administrators, and parents — just to name a few. And Edmodo can help all of them stay connected and informed. When your students join Edmodo, they get to experience a digital community you design to support their learning. When you join Edmodo, you get access to the world’s largest network of educators and its resources.
When Hatem Radwan, Subject Leader and High School Science Teacher from Dubai, looked at his classroom and his students’ results, he had an epiphany:
“In order to have effective learning, we need to have connection and we need to be able to reflect on what our students are doing and what our colleagues are doing. We need to find resources that match our standards and we need to be able to do assessments online…We need to have our students engage in what they are doing, and we need to see how much they are progressing. So if you put all these together in one platform, we can create effective learning and that’s what we do with Edmodo.”
Each of those disparate pieces — resources, discussions with colleagues, online assessments — are all part of the greater whole of a learning community. And a healthy community is a place where everyone feels comfortable participating.
A community for everyone
In this new era of social media as an omnipresent facet of our lives, it’s becoming easier and easier to speak. The hard part is finding the right person to listen.
Students are already speaking with each other through apps and messaging services. The difference between an in-person conversation and one held entirely through text is rapidly fading as students equate these two methods more and more. Social media sites like facebook and twitter allow students to post their ideas without so much as a second thought. The problem? They can attract the wrong kind of attention, whether that’s a malicious online troll or a bully from school.
Hatem knows this problem all too well: “We live in a world where everyone can have a voice. We need to find a safe way for our students to have an audience.”
This is our chance to listen to them.
When one of Hatem’s students couldn’t participate in class due to an early fight with brain cancer, he took it as an opportunity to listen to that student’s story:
“He had brain cancer when he was very young and had surgery that removed part of his brain, which affected his cognitive and physical growth. As a result, he was unable to communicate with the teachers or speak properly. Thanks to Edmodo, this student had Biology as his best subject!
“We need to celebrate success with our students and…give them rewards when they do something fantastic.”
“He used to communicate with me on regular basis and I used to be in contact with his parents to discuss his progress. He once sent me research about brain cancer, and thanks to Edmodo, I gave him a new badge. I created a badge and I called it “Remarkable DNA: Your DNA codes for intelligence.” And this is a very important feature that we need to keep in mind. We need to celebrate success with our students and we need to give them rewards when they do something fantastic. And this comes with motivation and pushing them in order to progress.”
Reaching beyond the classroom
There’s a vital part of that community that’s often tragically ignored: Parents.
It’s difficult to keep parents involved and engaged with your classes. Some believe they have more influence than you think they should. Others try to stay as uninvolved as possible, often pushing the disparity between overachievers and underachievers even farther.
“It’s not like parents don’t care, but they’re busy. So they think: ‘If I visit the school once and ask about my child, it’s great.’ Or they just ask if he fails! ‘Why did he fail?’ Because you didn’t ask from the beginning of the year!”
Parents are as much a part of each class’s learning community as the students and teachers, whether they like it or not. But there’s a lot of baggage involved in sharing your phone number or email address with a parent. It’s hard to define boundaries. You have to set limits for certain parents and try to get others to be more engaged.
When Hatem looked at the parents engaged in his classroom, he saw a lot of overachievers getting support they didn’t need and underachievers missing out.
“It’s not like parents don’t care, but they’re busy. So they think: ‘If I visit the school once and ask about my child, it’s great.’ Or they just ask if he fails! ‘Why did he fail?’ Because you didn’t ask from the beginning of the year!
“With Edmodo, we have direct contact with our students and the students have direct contact with the parents. But if we remove Edmodo from this cycle, we don’t have direct contact with the parents. But the problem is: how do we make the parents into more active users? In previous years I used to have like only 10 or 12 parents communicating with me and those are the parents of the nerds! Their kids are doing great, why are you asking about them? I’m not expecting you to ask about your child!”
The beauty of Edmodo (and edtech in general) is that we can use technology to build stronger, better connections with more members of each school’s community.
“I thought: Why don’t I give the parents an assignment that they have to do? …After two weeks all the parents were there.”
So how do you get every single parent on board? According to Hatem: Get them onboard early and make it a one-time requirement:
“I thought: Why don’t I give the parents an assignment that they have to do? Science teachers at the beginning of the year give the safety lab contract to the students where they and the parents have to sign it before they can participate in any lab. And this is a policy in the school.
“So instead of giving this paper to the students and go give it to your parents and sign it, I gave them a note: You need to create a parent account on Edmodo by visiting Edmodo and downloading the app. You need to use this group code and you will find the contract there, you sign it and you turn it in. And there is a bold note down, you must have this contract completed before your child can engage in any lab. And honestly, he’s not going to be engaged in our lab because this is a policy and we need to respect it. So after two weeks all the parents were there.”
Hatem realized that parents were already part of the learning community, but they had no reason to get involved until it was too late. By getting parents to join Edmodo and sign the lab contract, he was also able to get them signed up for automatic class updates as well, which led to parents being more informed and willing to participate in out-of-class activities, which in turn led to better learning outcomes for students.
“I think the biggest shift for educators using technology isn’t skillset. It’s very easy to learn by your own. It’s mindset. You need to think globally, you need to create a digital community, with no borders. You can communicate with everyone. And for me when I say effective learning, I say Edmodo.”
In a learning community, everyone is responsible for the outcome of each student’s learning. It’s not just the teacher standing at the whiteboard. It’s the administrator supporting a positive school culture, the department chair enabling collaboration between teachers, the parent or guardian helping their children tackle their homework —
And most importantly: The students themselves.