I had a good time having my writers use Twitter to practice diction and syntax this past school year, but I found something I think will work better: Edmodo.com. Edmodo’s chief advantage is that our county school system’s central office isn’t blocking it at school, as it began doing to Twitter soon after my syntax lessons ended last year. But there are other, rather more universal, advantages that may make Edmodo appeal to you if you teach English (or if you teach anything, really).
First of all, Edmodo’s default setting is private. You don’t have to growl at writers in order to keep their microblogging private; they really have no choice. That should take care of any American public school system’s privacy and Internet safety concerns.
Second, as of this month, Edmodo’s responses are threaded, which makes for a far less confusing reading experience. While some microblogging services such as Identica and Blellow offer threaded responses, Twitter does not.
Another advantage Edmodo has over Twitter is the character limit: Twitter (famously) limits a post to 140 characters, but an Edmodo post can have an unlimited (as far as I could tell) number of characters. While a character limit helps focus students on revising sentences, the lack of a character limit makes the Edmodo environment much more flexible. Writers could still adhere to a character limit by using Word’s character count feature before copying a piece and pasting it into an Edmodo text field.
Edmodo makes organizing a student’s space easier than Twitter does. Edmodo lets students choose to display only links, only files, only teacher alerts, only assignments, etc. Edmodo also makes tagging easier since it uses student-created tags fully spelled out and separate from the posts, unlike Twitter, which uses symbols that confuse the uninitiated and clutter the text area.
Edmodo comes with a calendar and a place for students to retrieve files, though many school systems already have prescribed places for teachers to post these items.
Edmodo is on a par with Twitter in other respects. With this month’s release of version 3.0, Edmodo updates posts and replies in real time. Edmodo also allows students to be alerted to homework assignments, teacher alerts, private messages, or a number of other types of posts by email and by text messaging, as Twitter does. And, like Twitter, Edmodo is free.
Writers may not decorate their home pages or even visit other writers’ home pages on Edmodo as they can on Twitter, however. They may choose their icons and their usernames, though. Besides, site décor is not much to give up in exchange for Edmodo’s considerable advantages over Twitter.
Each time my county has forced me to vacate some web 2.0 service (first Ning, and now Twitter), I’ve found something better to move into. I’m really hoping that it won’t happen again, though, because of the work involved in switching eighty to 125 students to new online environments.
Posted August 20, 2009.