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Edmodo Adds Quiz Builder User Badges

Edmodo has updated its free classroom communication system. The system, referred to as a "social learning network" by the company that develops it, has added quizzes, badges, and revisions to its student profile page, among other new features.

The Web-based application provides an environment for teachers to post discussion questions to the class and allow students to respond online; share content; and assign and upload homework, grades, and school notices. Edmodo enables teacher-to-teacher resource sharing and networking opportunities.

Edmodo, the company, claims 2.5 million users, up from half a million in September 2010. That growth "has been driven by teachers telling one another" about it, according to Chief Operating Officer Crystal Hutter. Likewise, teachers are the source for many new ideas for the product, she added.

For example, "badges"--small iconic circles students earn and collect on their profile pages--grew out of teacher requests. "Originally, we thought we'd design our own set of badges based on the key activities teachers were seeing in the classroom," Hutter noted. "We heard quickly that while they appreciated that, they also wanted to design their own badges. Within two weeks we updated it to let them do that and also to let them share those badges with each other."

 Samples of an instructor stream (top) and student stream in Edmodo.
Samples of an instructor stream (top) and student stream in Edmodo.

A new quiz builder, which also grew out of user requests, allows teachers to create, assign, and grade assessments using their own questions or by selecting from a question bank.

Student profiles have been enhanced to allow instructors to view a student's teachers, groups, classmates, and recent activity. This information is automatically generated based on their Edmodo activity, but the student can also share details about themselves, such as preferred learning style and career goals.

Although much of the functionality of Edmodo resembles learning management systems, the company pointed to several distinctions that set its service apart from the typical LMS. First, the system isn't being pushed by the school or district; a teacher simply registers on the site to gain access. "It's really easy for a teacher to get started," said Betsy Whalen, vice president of community engagement. "You can get signed up in about a minute."

Second, students are only granted access to Edmodo through a teacher. The teacher generates a six-digit code and provides that to students in a course or club or other school group to let him or her get into the service. That's all the student needs for access."We don't require private information from students to get started," Whalen noted.

Third, the system follows a single stream, rather than sending the students to one module for discussions, another for posting homework, and so on. "The student participates in one place whether the teacher gives them a discussion question that the student responds to, there's a homework assignment to turn in, or they're watching a video," Whalen observed. "Edmodo provides a home base for learning. It provides that central participation point."

Fourth, the application provides teachers with access to other instructors from around the world. They can join groups, such as "language arts" or "math," and interact with each other through the program. As Whalen explained, "Edmodo teachers have a fascinating emotional connection to each other where they want to support each other." That support includes sharing ideas for use in the classroom and actual digital resources and curriculum.

In some cases, the teachers also use the site to find teaching partners. Whalen pointed to the example of a Spanish 2 class in Iowa that connected with an English 1 teacher in Madrid, Spain. Students in those two classes are using an Edmodo group to have their conversational language courses with each other. "They're conversing with their peers in their peers' native languages," she said. "They're becoming mentors to each other, helping students move up to a higher order of thinking."

Recently, the company held a free virtual conference for Edmodo users, which ended up lasting 11-plus hours, drew 2,000 participants, and featured multiple customer stories. One of the more popular sessions, according to Whalen, was a panel of people discussing their district deployments. "Once a district rolls Edmodo out, there tends to be very quick adoption rate," she said. Districts that participated in that session included Clark County School District in Nevada, Houston Independent School District in Texas, and Douglas County School District in Castle Rock, CO. A recording of the sessions is available on the Edmodo blog site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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