As teachers we often think of ways to make our lessons relevant. Today, technology is ubiquitous so it seems only natural that we use technology in our classrooms. In this article, I would like to share with you how I use a tool called Edmodo, in my ESL classes. I’ve found that using Edmodo has helped students become more engaged in the learning process both inside and outside the classroom.
1. What is Edmodo?
In a nutshell it’s like a facebook page for your class. Edmodo is a safe tool with stringent privacy settings to allow students to communicate with each other: the only people who will have access to your class page are your students. Another great point about Edmodo is that it’s free and so very easy to set up. I can tell you that I am a technologically challenged person, so if I can set up a group, anyone can! For more information, please take a look at: http://www.edmodo.com/about/
Before you start using Edmodo for your class, two points need to be mentioned. For teachers thinking of using Edmodo in a Young Learners’ class, it is best to first give parents information about the tool and get their consent for their child to use it. Once this has been done, it’s then important to establish some rules for your class. As your aim in using Edmodo is to get students to practice their language, one rule may be that posts should use full sentences, and words are to be written in full. No “texting” language is to be used. Another important rule to set is that there is to be no bullying.
So far I have been using Edmodo in my adults’ Advanced English class. It is important to mention that in my class, Edmodo tasks were completed by students at home because we don’t have a computer lab at my school; however, there is no reason why Edmodo can’t be used during class as well.
- Pose a question to generate a discussion from students. For example in my Advanced class, the context of the chapter in the textbook was the workplace. So I asked: what is the best job to have and the worst? To get the most out of your students, post an open-ended question. Encourage students to comment on each other’s posts too.
- Provide a link to an article and ask students to comment on it. In my class, I provided a link to an article in the New York Times about Yahoo’s decision to scrap remote workplaces. Here students got to practice their reading, writing, and vocabulary. I like to provide articles related to the context of the lesson. I feel that way the article has more meaning.
- Upload a video with comprehension questions for students to answer for homework. In my class the theme was people who have made an impact. To provide a lead-in, I uploaded a video from Ted talks where Janet Tse, International Lawyer, made a moving speech about her mission to end torture as an investigative tool. Students were asked to complete the questions for homework. This activity could have easily been done in class too. As a classroom activity, students can work in groups and post the answers as a group. To add another dimension, students could also come up with additional questions for other groups. Answers can then be projected on a screen for review and feedback.
- Choose a different student each week to post a question or statement to which other students respond. I like this idea because the group has been set up for the students. It is their group so they should be able to have some control over it. A good idea here would be to give the student a general topic and allow him to think of a question for the rest of the class to answer. In my class, we were discussing beautiful places in the world. A student posted the following question: What is the most breathtaking place in India?
- With a teens class, my colleague, Satya Priya, used Edmodo the following way:
I feel that teens are the best group to use Edmodo with. One of the elements that excited them was podcasting; they scripted their podcasts in groups in class. Later they posted their podcasts and wrote what they liked about other groups’ podcasts on Edmodo. They were very enthusiastic and actively interacted on Edmodo. Three months after the completion of the course, the students continue to post comments and questions. (Satya Priya Teacher, British Council, Hyderabad.)
3. How do you give feedback on language?
If students are posting information, then this information needs to be reviewed and corrected. I don’t correct every single error and I don’t specify who has made the error. What I like to do is at the end of each week, I go through the students’ posts and see if I can find common errors. I should at this point mention that I also note down great use of language to encourage and give credit. I type the statements taken from their posts and then give them to my students in the following class to analyze and self-correct. To make the activity more interactive, I allow students to self-correct in groups. I then provide feedback and explanations. You can get so much mileage out of their errors:
- In many posts I found students were capitalizing job titles incorrectly. In the following class, I addressed this by introducing the rules of capitalizing job titles during my feedback.
- I found that many students posted the following errors: I am exciting, I am interesting. I used errors to highlight different parts of speech; for example, if a student writes, “I am boring”, you can highlight the verb, noun and the adjectival form (for people and things).
- On many students’ posts I found the following phrase: I met with an accident. While this may have been a popular collocation in the past, it’s not today. So a post on Edmodo gave rise to some work on collocations.
In conclusion, I have to say that Edmodo has made my lessons fresher, creative, and relevant. Because the tool allows students to post comments and interact with each other, they are more motivated and engaged in the learning process. I would encourage you to give Edmodo a go and see how it can make a difference to your class.
The author is a teacher-trainer with English Partnerships, a British Council Project. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.