Collaboration & Brainstorming Tools (Part 3)

by Kelly Walsh on May 10, 2009

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This is the final post in a 3 part series on web based collaboration and brainstorming tools for educational applications. In the first post, we examined some mind/idea mapping tools, last week we looked at some collaborative document editing applications, and this week we wrap up by checking out a free collaborative workgroup application for teachers and students. Edmodo.com is a tool that provides workgroup functionality specifically for education, and I am going to sign up and give it a trial run. I spent some time searching and did not find any other web based, education specific tools that provided comparable functionality, but there are a number of ways to accomplish some of what Edmodo does using other free web based tools, and we’ll consider those as well.

Edmodo.com

edmodo_pic

I have come across mention of this tool several times in my ongoing investigations of internet applications for educational and instructional use. As the banner on their main page indicates, Edmodo positions itself as a “private communication platform built for teachers and students”. When first launched, the site was frequently referred to as a “microblogging” site (like Twitter) for educators, but it has clearly evolved beyond that. I signed up for an account, and had my 8th grade son sign up, and we spent some time trying the application out.

I have to admit that I was initially frustrated by a lack of (what I perceived as) intuitive functionality, and difficulty finding useful help resources. We attempted to add Calendar entries, upload and share files, and send messages to each other. Once we realized that things had to be shared with or sent to the group (as opposed to an individual user in the group), we were able to send messages and share files, but successful use of the calendar eluded us. While signed in to the system, there is no obvious help system or tutorial to tap into to determine what we were doing wrong. I later realized that there are resources available from the main page, but once I had signed in, each time I went to the site (even if I closed the window and reopened it), I landed on my own Home page, from which few options for assistance or information were evident. There is a ‘support’ group that you can send messages to (I sent a request for help on Saturday morning, but by Sunday afternoon I had yet to receive a response). I eventually discovered the little ‘blog’ link at the bottom of the page, which opened a page that provided links to various helpful resources. I still was unable to find assistance on how to successfully add calendar entries.

Despite my struggle to use some of the functions, I ultimately came away feeling good about the application’s potential for instructional use. It worked fine for messaging and for sharing access to files, and based on the positive reviews I have seen (examples below), I have reason to believe that the rest of the functionality in the tool is quite useful once understood. In addition to messaging, calendars, and file sharing (note that these provide shared viewing of files, but not shared editing), there is also an Assignments mechanism, and an associated Grading capability. Edmodo appears to add to it’s functionality regularly. It’s education-specific orientation, and group-focused approach position it as a uniquely suited application for educational use.

Alternatives?
There are plenty of tools one could use to do things similar to what you can do on Edmodo, but they all lack some element of what Edmodo offers. For example, using Google Docs and other tools available through a Google Account, one can do much of what Edmodo allows (as well as a lot that you can’t do on Edmodo, such as editing documents collaboratively), but not all using one interface. Another alternative option is the Wiki - tools like Wetpaint allow for messaging and file sharing in a controlled group environment, and the use of integrated widgets might allow for the addition of calendar functionality, and more. In the end though, none of these tools provide the simple, focused environment that Edmodo offers.

Edmodo reviews
Here are a few recent online reviews of Edmodo from educators:

Conclusion
Edmodo is a very worthwhile collaborative application geared directly towards educators and their students. If any of the available functionality on Edmodo interests you, sign up and give it a trial run. If you’re already using it, or similar technologies, please comment and let us know more about your experience. Thanks!

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer, and an adjunct faculty member, at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Class Workshop in a Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott November 29, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Thanks for your research. I’m not a teacher but am always interested in collaborative software because we have only recently started using ours so I enjoyed reading this. We also use Dooster and are v pleased with it.

Jo21 March 9, 2011 at 7:24 am

Another collaboration and brainstorming tool I love is Dooster. http://www.dooster.net

Jack September 2, 2009 at 11:33 am

You should also take a look at FunnelBrain, a free online collaboration site for students and teachers. http://www.funnelbrain.com

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