Different social networks can be used for different purposes. Facebook, perhaps the most well-known and widely used social network, allows its users to establish connections for both personal and professional purposes. LinkedIn allows professionals to establish and maintain a network of colleagues and other professionals. Edmodo allows educators to connect with each other, and even more usefully, with their students.
I have had an Edmodo profile for a year or so to establish connections with fellow teachers, but I have not yet used it to connect with my students. Although it is approved for classroom use in Fulton County, my school is still hesitant to take the next step. Some administrators, teachers, and parents are worried that Edmodo could be used as a platform for online bullying. However, the same can be said for many of the other tools we have learned about this semester. I believe if our school is to move forward with 21st century teaching and learning, we must find a way to tackle these issues from a teaching standpoint.
Luckily, Edmodo makes it very easy to assure this type of problem will not be a problem at all. The site provides an option for the teacher to receive a notification the instant that a new comment is created, allowing teachers to keep track of student activity. Students' names are tied to everything they post, so there is no anonymous posting. While teachers and students can exchange one-on-one messages, this private messaging feature is disabled for student-to-student communication. Additionally, parents are invited to join to keep a "bird's eye view" on the class activities - they can see the posts from the teacher and their own student. All of this accountability would make it very foolish for a student to attempt to abuse Edmodo as a platform for bullying.
Assuming my school changes its policy and allows students and teachers to connect online using Edmodo, I can think of many ways it could benefit my classroom. In an earlier post I mentioned that I would love to harness the power of Web 2.0 tools to get my General Music students thinking about music beyond our weekly 45 minutes together. Edmodo would clearly fall into this category. I could post assignments, discussion topics, surveys, videos, etc. to get students actively connecting their learning outside the classroom. Edmodo has several free and paid apps that could be useful for student learning as well. For example, I found their free flashcard app to be very interesting - teachers or students can customize their own sets of flashcards to study vocabulary terms right on the Edmodo site. Edmodo allows teachers the ability to create groups for whole classes and also for small groups to facilitate differentiation. For even more ideas, I enjoyed this blog post from Richard Byrne in which he lists 15 classroom uses for Edmodo. To implement Edmodo in our school, there are several built-in training guides and startup materials, including quick guides, permission slips, codes of conduct, parent letters, training videos, and more. Below is an example of a training video that shows teachers how to assure safety and digital citizenship within their student groups.
There is another "social network" aimed at educators called Classroom 2.0. As its name implies, it is certainly part of the user-content-driven Web 2.0. However, according to the definition above, I would not consider this site to be a true social network. Instead, it is something of an educational resource with social aspects to it. Users can post discussion topics in the forum, join groups based on similar interests to share resources, tag discussions to certain topics, and follow other users. It is this last feature that makes it more of a social resource site rather than a social networking site. Users do not necessarily have to connect both ways in order to share resources. Additionally, it does not seem that this site can be used to connect teachers with their students. That said, there is a great deal of resources that can be found on this site, and the social aspects of tagging, groups, and following make it easy to find and keep track of that information.