Integration of a website or an educational CMS

Having completed my secondary and most of my post-secondary studies BIE (before internet existed), it can be challenging to imagine how the modern classroom can be managed with various technological tools such as websites and educational content management systems (CMS).

I knew what a website was but, honestly, I had no idea what an educational CMS was. After doing some research, I discovered some digital tools like Challenge U, Moodle, Schoology, Sakai and Edmodo. I was recently introduced to Edmodo for the first time in my university computer applications course. After looking further into these digital platform tools, Challenge U caught my attention. It looked like it had a lot to offer and a nice clean look to it, as well. However, after several attempts to open a free account with them, it was impossible.  It required a lot of JAVA installations which I wasn’t able to successfully complete. So, I decided not to pursue Challenge U any further. Next, I tried a Moodle simulation where I was able to log in as a teacher in order to see the interface and the features it offers. I found it to be over the top. There were so many sections: navigation, administration, latest news, comments, and so on. I thought to myself, if I were a student, would this be a system I would want to use? It seemed very impractical. For this reason, I wouldn’t implement myself.

Next, I went to Edmodo because it seemed the most clear and simple. The familiarity of its look with the Facebook user interface, put me at ease. Possibly, an important aspect to consider when choosing an educational CMS; how are students are going to respond to it? I wanted to know more about what I could do with it, as a future ESL teacher.

I came across an interesting case study that was done on a classroom and their use of Edmodo. The three learning outcomes achieved by Chris Cooke’s (a teacher in Northern Ireland) Year 7 students through the use of Edmodo showed:

(1) that students developed greater levels of independence in their learning and less reliance on teacher-led tasks;

(2) enhanced their classroom learning through independent research; and

(3) students learned from each other as well as the teacher.

The third outcome raises an important point as a future ESL teacher. In a language classroom, I think it’s really important to promote and embrace an environment where students learn from other, even if it’s a second language classroom. The teacher doesn’t have to be the know-all of the language. In this day in age, it is completely possible and likely that people learn languages simply using the multitude of resources available on the Internet. For example, if a student finds something relevant and interesting (i.e. a funny video in English, music in English, wtc.) that can be shared with the other students, I would strongly support and promote this kind of behaviour and use Edmodo as the means to share resources with all students.

I also watched a 30-minute webinar on using Edmodo to track student progress and assessment presented by Rob Zdrojewski, an Edmodo Certified Trainer and Google Educator. Edmodo has an abundance of assessment tools such as Progress Bars (a visual indicator of where the students are at), quizzes, polls, private feedback and Snapshots. In regards to the grade book or teacher markbook, I find it highly beneficial to be able to quickly identify where all the students are at any given moment. Also, to be able to identify students having problems with the material or tasks at hand.

I definitely envision using Edmodo in my own classroom. It’s features and tools are quite appealing and offer more than I imagined a free digital platform would. All of the pedagogical implications convince me that implementing a digital platform like Edmodo will be beneficial for, both, myself and the students. I think one of the most important outcomes such a tool will provide in my own ESL classroom, is the increased motivation of students. This is a key learning strategy that must be developed, particularly, in the language learning classroom. Another reason I would use this kind of platform is to increase my availability to respond to student questions (in real time). If I am not available online to respond, for example, during the weekend, it would be unlikely that a student would phone or email me at home. Therefore, using Edmodo can eliminate the communication gap between me and my students. Especially, weaker students who may be more reserved to ask a question.

Other reasons I would use this platform are because it can implemented individually as a teacher (no need for whole school implementation), it’s controlled by the teacher, it’s secure and it can increase the communication enormously between me (as a future teacher) and my students. Additionally, it can increase communication between me and the students parents because they can be invited to have access to Edmodo.

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