Unplugging Edmodo

plugoutletLast week, I had to email and request that Edmodo turn off our school installation by my administrator’s request because of some student conduct issues and parental concerns. I want to be very clear in saying that I think the platform itself is amazing- the folks at Edmodo get it. They are an amazing support resource. Special kudos here go to Ben Wilkoff @bhwilkoff for his support and help during this process.  Ultimately, my building was not ready for this.  Period.

The biggest concerns centered around the lack of moderation prior to posting in the micro-blogging platform, and the ability for students to share links/videos to outside sources.  My response? Uhmmm…. yeah… isn’t that what we want to be teaching students?  That what they say has permanence- Google never forgets… BEFORE they hit Facebook and are totally unsupervised?  And yes, that sharing links and videos is a great privilege and responsibility…. the best internet filter is the human filter.  ((Right, monika?  @monk51295)) The ISTE NETS*S center around online collaboration and sharing.  For me, the primary purpose of using technology is to learn from and collaborate with others.

Are the students ready?  Yes.  Are they going to mess up?  Yes.  Will we have discipline issues? Yes.  Should we just deal with those like we do the equivalent action face to face?  Yes.  Are we going to stop them from using social media? No. They use this stuff- my kids access the internet from their DS, Kindle, and iTouch devices.  It’s not like turning off Edmodo is stopping them from interacting.

Are the parents ready? Nope. No way.  Uh-nuh. This is a huge issue.  Which is a sobering thing when you have students heading into middle school, and an overwhelming number of kids who are already using Facebook, email, text messaging, etc.  If parents are not actively helping their students navigate the digital world… well, that way be dragons.

I’ve heard it said in the discussions around this topic that these are adult privileges and for adults.  Not kids.  They’re too little to use the internet.  They can’t handle this.  Let them be kids.  This really bothers me because I strongly disagree.  I think the internet is as much for children as for adults.  I think it is an unparalleled learning tool, and age really doesn’t have anything to do with it.  The problem is that no one is educating these kids on how to really be good digital citizens in practical ways. Sure, we march them through the iSafe curriculum with the little coloring books on “My computer is sick” about viruses…. but we’re not preparing them for the social media world they live in.  It bugs me.

The biggest lesson I learned in using this tool was how unsupervised students are when using the internet at home.  It’s actually rather frightening to see how late some of my students- and we’re talking 3rd-5th graders- were using the internet, and how long they were online. ((This is where my own parenting bias comes into play- my kids are allowed a lot of freedom online, but they also know they must ask before going places we haven’t already approved.)) I was also very surprised that parents viewed their children’s online conduct AT HOME as somehow the school’s concern.  If this is a universal view, public schools are really going to have to step it up in terms of authentic digital citizenship instruction.

Rather than leave you on that frustrated-technology-teacher note, I wanted to share the beautiful things I saw during our 2 months of Edmodo use. Here are some great uses I witnessed with my students:

  • Students who were sick at home asking other students about homework for the next day.
  • Students sharing video links that related to class content.
  • Students learning to use discussion appropriately.
  • Students learned that what you say online can get you in trouble in real-life at school.
  • Students sharing Scratch games/videos they had created.
  • Students policing their own online community- discouraging bad behavior, reporting inappropriate stuff directly to a teacher.
  • Students learning to download, upload.
  • Students learning to filter their digital content.
  • Students having a productive discussion about something they noticed in a video.
  • Students sharing their recent blog posts.
  • Students really understanding images and copyright, and making decisions accordingly.
  • Students answering each others questions on how to complete assignments.
  • The list could go on and on….

[Read my post on Preparing for Edmodo: The Early Years to learn about what I did to prepare students.]

Photo: Unplugged by rogue3w on Flickr

39 thoughts on “Unplugging Edmodo”

  1. Is there any possibility of explaining the benefits – as they were seen during the 2 months – to your parent teacher group and/or governing body – in the hope they see there is a tradeoff?

    I have an ‘in-the-queue’ request with edmodo to implement a read-only mode so that selected students can be barred from posting if they really are incapable of using it responsibly – would such a feature help in your situation?

    1. I would like to thank you for sharing this post. I am so thrilled that we will be starting out our year using edmodo and was appalled that you had to turn it off. I too believe we have to model for our children and students. I hope we do not run into any of the same issues you had, I hope our students treat it as respectfully as they have treated every other web 2.0 tool we exposed them to last year. I will be adding your post to our wiki – I want to be sure that everyone in our school rolling this out understands the benefits you wrote about.

      1. I’m glad you realize the benefits! Best of luck to you and your school. I’d just encourage you and your admins to realize that students will say and do things in real life, and will say and do them online….. we just need to teach them, expect a few hiccups, and then reteach- just like every other behavior & subject!

  2. Nice post. I agree with your assessment of what we have to teach kids about the internet and social media. Your passion for this topic comes through in your post. Keep at it.

  3. Thank you for this heartfelt and informative post. I teach at the college level and work hard on trying to get my students to appreciate the different ways these social networking tools can/should be useful for personal and professional activities, about the boundaries of public and private, etc. I wish that my students had had a teacher as insightful and dedicated as you are in their earlier school years!!!

  4. Julie,

    Kudos to you for making the effort to engage kids online using a tool like Edmodo. I can’t tell you how many people TALK about the benefits of social media but never actually USE it as a teaching/learning tool. You are so correct when you say that (1) kids are going to make mistakes and (2) parents aren’t necessarily ready for this stuff.

    I did a small experiment this fall with my 150 7th graders using Schoology.com and put them in a closed network. Their parents and other teachers couldn’t see anything in the network and I had total control; it’s a bit bold doing something like that, but it was the only way I could really build an environment that could move from walled/safe to less restrictive/more open. Hopefully I can build/extend that experience next year…it takes time to get people on board and progress can be slow but it’s worth it.

    I hope this experience hasn’t discouraged you for trying again; please let me know if you’d like to swap stories and strategies–we’re here to support you 🙂



  5. Hi Julie,
    Sorry to hear you had to unplug. It was interesting to read your post and hear about your experiences. The technology teacher in the elementary school introduced edmodo to our elementary students this year. I met with him and our principal early on to make suggestions regarding how to establish norms and protocols for use and how to model positive social networking skills. I absolutely agree with you that edmodo is a terrific social networking platform for practicing positive uses of social networking at an early age. Unfortunately, we have had our issues as well. Luckily, we haven’t been unplugged yet. 😦 It’s a learning process for all of us. Good luck and thank you for sharing your experience.

  6. I so appreciate your reflection and sharing as I could very easily have the same thing happen. Sorry to hear it didn’t work out. I remember how happy you were to share ideas with me a few months back. I have not run into any problems but I anticipated I would. I tried hard to set very firm rules about what the children can contribute and had parents sign a permission form outlining appropriate home use. ( Both measures, prevent us from using the program fully and prevent the children from fully participating in their learning). I think you hit the nail on the head in saying that parents don’t fully understand how connected their children are. I hope you find a way to “plug in” again to continue to see all those benefits!

  7. I’m so sorry to hear your plug has been pulled! We are about to roll out Edmodo in our middle years classroom this term and I am anticipating the same sort of problems that you have experienced. It will be from a small minority of parents but of course, the squeaky wheel makes the greatest noise. Our kids are aged 10-13 and I’m really hoping that teaching them how to use social networking BEFORE they hit facebook is going to be of benefit to everyone. Unfortunately the ostrich’ my kid won’t be using facebook’ mentality exists. And maybe they won’t. But if they do and they’ve had some adult guidance, then hopefully they’ll use it as the wonderful communication tool that it is.
    Thanks for sharing your story. It has helped me to be forewarned.

  8. Great post. You’ve done a thorough job of sharing your experience. I am submitting for a grant to test out edmodo with a team of teachers. Being aware of the issues and successes that you brought up makes me much more prepared. Thank you.

  9. Isn’t it a shame that a school shuts down learning opportunities that would model proper use? Instead they plug ears, look the other way and kids are left to learn it on their own…often the WRONG way.

  10. I agree with you 100% that not only do Edmodo and Schoology provide a great learning opportunity and experience for kids, but they also help the teacher be in better communication, to be better organized, and to share what students need in real-time to meet their learning goals.

    Unfortunately it wouldn’t fly in my building either. I have 17 supportive parents who are open to any mix of methods (conventional or progressive), 3 unsupportive parents who prefer a more conventional approach, and 3 impossible parents who are completely and vocally against anything that isn’t traditional. One of those three happens to have the principal’s ear, and the principal is reactive. I would have loved to have some evening meetings to share information with parents and try to unite the group together, but my principal isn’t supportive of that.

    Its a sad situation, and it makes me feel like I could do more good by working outside the school setting… still focused on education, but to a broader audience.

  11. Hi Julie,

    I am leading the charge in our district to roll out edmodo and would love to hear more about your experience. Would you have time for quick chat on skype or a regular phone call?

    Justin Talmadge
    twitter: @mrtalmadge
    skype: mrtalmadge

      1. from what i can see, every site that i have gone to about edmodo has been a teachers view point of it. I am a sophomore in high school and am starting a petition and report on why the use of edmodo should be reduced in the class room. The high school i am at just started using it this year and at first it was alright because it was not mandatory to use. and was used to remind kids of missed assignment. but as the year went on it became almost mandatory because if you don’t use the website it will harm your grade. i personally i don’t like this idea because it’s not fair for the student. what a couple of teachers in my school have done is put assingments up on edmodo that they don’t tell us about but needs to be done as it counts towards the grade for the quarter. this has happened to me and many of my class mates because we really don’t need this site as we are RESPONSIBLE and right down our homework. And on days we don’t the thing kids should do is ask friends, email the teacher not look at a website. what i am trying to say is if you one a million dollars an nobody told you about it how are you suppose to now you won it. its as simple as that. i understand that this site might help the kids that are not as responsible. but if they don’t right don there homework in class don’t you think they are not going to look it up. i feel it is not needed in our school as there has been no improvements and many kids have complained about it.

      2. Hey Stephen… thanks for taking the time to comment. I hear your frustration, but I think your school is on the right track and I will explain why. Ultimately, your teachers are trying to prepare you for YOUR future. Not theirs. Yours. The Stephen of 2014. Almost any career in this digital age will *require* the use of technology tools and social networking in order to succeed. Mechanics, greenhouse growers, farmers, accountants, teachers, engineers- you name it and they use tech extensively to do their jobs. Your teachers are requiring you to do the same in your job… as a student. This prepares you for college or working for the tree trimmer down the street when you graduate.

        I don’t think the issue is responsibility. For example, if you did indeed win $1,000,000 you would probably be notified in person. Or by certified mail. Or even by email. Increasingly, we see the use of digital tools for everyday life. Let’s say someone deposited that million into my bank account. Well, I would never see a paper about that. I would see it show up in my online bank account. I would get a digital bank statement in my email. I would get a notification of interest earned via email. I would get an email from Mint.com telling me my income for the year was well over budget. (woo-hooo!) Never once would I see it on paper unless I printed it out. And that’s today. I never see a paper anything about my bank account. If you view Edmodo as a way to learn to change, adapt, and grow into your future use of technology, I think you’ll benefit from it.

        Personally, I’d like to challenge you to be as responsible online as you seem to be in person. Check your online assignments and do them. Go in to your Edmodo account (then settings), and tell it to send you and email or text alert of direct messages and alerts. Better yet, get in the habit of checking in at a certain time each day. Train yourself to use the digital tool because it will help you in the future. Know that when others complain about it, they’re limiting you. You. Your future.

  12. I am a parent of a junior high school student who has been using this tool for about 5 weeks now. I am awaiting a response from the schools principal to find out why the site is being used in an non-educational manner. 60% of the posts on the site are rubbish and a great candidate for cyber bullying. I am not opposed to technology, but I am opposed to a tool mandated by a school who is not going to monitor its use.

    How are educators and school districts handling this issue?

    1. I can only speak for my experience, Lis. My installation was monitored extensively by myself and another teacher. We both received text and email alerts for all content in our site. I dealt with things in the evenings and over the weekends because I didn’t want it to be misused. As for the non-educational use, students need time to become familiar with a new tool- whether that’s a pencil or a technology platform. I allowed quite a bit of ‘rubbish’ in the early weeks so that students could see how their poor use impacted fellow students and the classroom. Once they started to show awareness of this issue, we all went back in to “clean up our trash”. So, you are correct that there can be much rubbish within the digital classroom, but part of Digital Citizenship is being aware of our digital footprint and learning to manage that. One of my primary goals as a computer teacher was to create an awareness of that responsibility. For me, Edmodo provided a safe place for students to learn to be good online citizens and to be aware of the consequences of online misbehavior BEFORE they start using Facebook and are more at risk for cyberbullying. Learning to use Edmodo appropriately is a skill in and of itself, and takes time and many mistakes, especially if the students are already using other social networking sites in negative ways. In my opinion, students should be taught good social networking habits, rather than having to overcome the bad ones they can learn on their own in the online world.

      This year, I have found that students very quickly started using it as an educational tool…. not just a place for idle chatter. In any event, students spend quite a bit of time in school in a non-educational manner…. talking in the halls, lunchtime, etc. I believe there does need to be digital playground space for that kind of thing even within an educational context. Allowing this provides a very good window into some of the student dynamics that teachers may or may not be aware of in the physical classroom, and ultimately helps school staff know and understand students better. I think that it’s a privilege to be a part of their online growth.

      What have you learned back from your school?

    2. I absolutely agree with you – AND – Ms. Cunningham clearly missed the intent of stephen kalogiannis’s comment, just before your post. You and Stephen are saying the kids need to be taught the foundation for responsible actions before actually being given those action duties! Stephen rightfully says ‘if a student won’t write it down, they won’t look it up online’. You, underscore his wisdom beyond his years, saying Edmodo’s philosophy is ‘if they’re social networking, let’s just have them do it at home and school’ – well, I knew parents who said if their kids were boozing, just keep it in the house, or … you get the idea. Further, Edmodo is young, exercises ludicrous corporate policy (see it’s corp policy page), and says it is banner after age 13. Not. Is your teacher or school ready to take the fall because edmodo says it doesn’t have to be blamed for trolling or predator issues – since parents sign releases? Makes it seem like their “K12” means ages K12 are vulnerable, rather than their product edu-serves grades K12. And if so, why do upper grade UK kids review edmodo on youtube. And will I trust a company that only July 2012 ‘raised’ $47.5 in financing and govt edu-grants? Too aggressive, too ambitious, too sweeping (read their news releases and Edmodo Tumblr page – that kind of I.T. downtime during customer hours is outrageous. Too much more opportunism by Edmodo’s investors to cite here.

  13. Although i do see your points there are still some things i don’t like about it. for example i try to stay of the computers much as possible and my parents only let me on at my house for 2 hours a week unless Homework. my parents have called and complained about this saying that it unfair for the student cause they wont except work tha is handed to the teacher. it HAS TO BE DONE OF EDMODO So using this site everyday just to get all my work done is to much yes i understand the benefits of using it like getting your home work when your absent or something. but like i said early the teachers should give you an option to use it or not. there are many other better ways to get the use of technology used for example i am in geometry and i spend at least 2 of my four classes a week in the computer lab using this program which is very helpful. also some of the kids really like what some teachers are doing making a page on face book and allowing kids to ask questions through that. although i do not have a face-book i call my teachers email them or stay after and conference with them witch are all needed skills as well as using technology I do think it helpful just not at how far our school is going towards it. all this helps you get into technology plus all the things you do on the kids free time. i really don’t think many kids use it for what it is suppose to be used for. i now people in my school are not. they joke around adding people that are not in our class jut random people then teasing other kids through the made up name. and stuff like that

    1. Hi Julie,
      This is a great post that has generated so much discussion. I was particularly interested in the viewpoint of Stephen, especially his view that his school force the students to use Edmodo to gain credit. I’m in the process of reviewing a one-week trial of Edmodo with my senior class and listened carefully to their comments (all of which are in my report which will go onto my blog soon). The general consensus is that Edmodo should be used to augment the lessons in class (i.e provide a place to discuss the lesson, revisit any materials, watch related videos) but should not be mandatory. All the material made available online to the group should also be accessible by learners who do not have internet access where possible – whether that is through printed notes or even audio CDs of podcasts or DVDs of video clips (if we have the copyright / permission!). I tried setting a few online tasks and encountered issues with the self-marking quizzes so I wouldn’t want to demotivate my classes by forcing them to use Edmodo as the only way to participate in lessons. That said, I feel that 24/7 access to a learning resource is something that all teachers and schools should strive to provide in addition to good learning and teaching in class.

      In addition to how Edmodo is used, here in the UK data protection is a big issue and as Edmodo is an American site my IT manager is concerned about the security of our learner’s personal information. I personally think Edmodo covers it pretty well by restricting what they can store but these concerns allowed me to open up discussion with my class and get them to create a guide to responsible use of Edmodo. It sounds from your replies like you may have already done something like this and spent a considerable time on preparing them to be responsible Digital Natives. I agree that parents (and school administrators) need to be made aware that teachers can’t just flick a switch and turn their classes instantly into Internet users who will never get passionate about a topic, or mis-interpret an email, or share too much information with a stranger, or get carried away by the social layer of the Internet and make a mistake – you mentioned it already Julie, it’s how we learn and grow.

  14. I found this blog after googling Edmodo complaints. My son’s school is forcing him to use this application which I don’t agree with at all. He spends every other weekend with his dad who doesn’t have internet access. Not everyone in this world has a computer and internet and it really irritates me that people just assume everyone does. Last night he had to do an assignment on it and I was helping him. I noticed that the teacher had publicly called out and chastised another child because he didn’t think the answer was long enough. That really irked me and intimidated my son (who is Autistic) because he was afraid that whatever he put the teacher would come back and chastise him in front of everyone. I agree with someone else’s comment that this Edmodo app should be an augmentation and not a forced use.

  15. We had issues with Edmodo as well until we chatted with them. They provided our school district with a domain. Then we just blocked Edmodo.com on our network. That way all students have to access through our specific domain. Not only that, but it gave us admin tools so we can search any student’s activity on Edmodo.

  16. I am hoping to present the benefits of using Edmodo at our school in an upcoming professional development session. However, after reading multiple blog comments about bullying and misuse I may have to reconsider.

    When the pencil and paper was introduced in schools, passing notes about students circulated. I wonder if administrators and parents were concerned about the negative impacts of this ‘new’ technology.

    The reason why we see so many 18-28 year olds posting trash on Facebook is because schools and parents did not educate them about the repercussions of social media. If anything we are doing the students a injustice by not preparing them for Facebook/’the-next-big-thing’ through realistic mediums such as Edmodo.

    1. I agree with you, Scott, about the need to student education early about social media use. If I were to use Edmodo in the elementary setting again, I would simply put all students to ‘read only’ (which is a new feature) and allow them to earn the privilege of commenting. That would allow the more responsible students access first, set a tone that this is an important privilege, and give teachers a way to simply return students who misuse the platform to ‘read only’ status without shutting down a whole program.

  17. Julie, I thought your answer to Stephen in your October, 2011 post was very patronizing. I’d like to know how he feels now that it’s 2015. Not EVERYONE needs to use online social networking. For some reason, many people assume that their way of life is universal. We’re cultivating a world of non-thinkers with our insistence upon students’ use of digital technology. In the 70’s, we didn’t use a calculator for math until we took an advanced class. Now students can pop up a calculator any time, never stretching their capacity for higher thought. Edmodo, Schoology, etc. are a pain in the neck for already efficient students. Use tools such as JupiterEd to communicate with students and parents and leave the social networking for outside the classroom. Or, designate a separate class specifically directed toward learning those skills. There really is no NEED to educate students about social media. There’s a need to educate students about how to THINK for themselves and interact in person with us and each other. We’re born curious and wanting to learn. You can see this from observing a toddler who has yet to enter the great monster we’ve developed as our educational system. Preparing our children for “the-next-big-thing” sounds suspiciously like they’re being indoctrinated. And remember, if the product is free, then YOU are the product…

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