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‘Food for Thought’ Category

  1. My Edmodo Wish List

    April 13, 2011 by Josh Caldwell

    As I sit in the lab, watching my students engaging in a discussion on Edmodo, I’m struck by how quickly one site has become the hub around which my classes spin (see my previous post about how Edmodo has changed my classroom). I’m constantly thinking of new ways to make old assignments more vibrant, social, and collaborative. Edmodo is great, but it could be better. Here are a few modifications that would take Edmodo to the next level:

    Gradebook - Here’s a great example of the balance of simplicity. The Edmodo gradebook doesn’t try to do too much – no weighting or custom scales – but it’s almost too simple to be really useful, so here’s what I’d like to see:

    • Student IDs – The gradebook has an export feature, but my desktop gradebook uses the student ID as an import key, so export/import doesn’t work for me (and most others, I imagine).
    • Custom rubrics – I use a 4 point rubric for writing assignments, so it would be nice if my students just saw MS (Meets Standard) instead of a score.
    • Maybe the best solution would be to leave the built-in gradebook as-is, but allow users to replace it with a full featured gradebook. Integration with other services is something Edmodo does really well, so why not save yourself the hassle and outsource your gradebook (might I suggest LearnBoost).

    Calendar - It’s a nice idea, and I love that it automatically adds my assignments, but here’s what I need to really make it useful:

    • Make it public – My school has a web page where all teachers keep a calendar of their assignment due dates, so it would be great if I could embed a public version of my Edmodo calendar right there, at least as a start.
    • Enable CalDAV – Even better, just let me synch the Edmodo calendar with my other calendars! I’ve got calendars in Zimbra, Google, iCal and Edmodo; so far, the only one that doesn’t play nicely with the rest is Edmodo.
    • Alternatively, scrap the built-in calendar all together and let me choose an external calendar service (Google) to embed and update.

    Other Bits - All of the other little ideas floating around in my head:

    • Facebook-style “like” button – While I encourage thoughtful and constructive commentary on posts, there are some times when a solid thumbs up says it all. My students have suggested a “gold star” button, which I think is brilliant!
    • Sticky posts – When the wall gets busy, the important posts get pushed down into the abyss. A simple “sticky” check box would allow me to keep assignments or important posts visible until they are no longer pertinent.
    • A “Posts from the instructor” button – There’s no easy, built-in way for students to only view posts from their teacher(s). I’ve gotten around this using tags, but the system breaks down quickly when I forget to tag a post (which I do fairly often).
    • SSO – Make Edmodo a true one-stop-shop. I already embed Glogs, Animotos and Quizlets, how much better would life be if logging into Edmodo also logged you into all of those sites you use with Edmodo?

    If you’ve got features you’d like to see (of if you think my ideas are just plain batty), leave a comment.


  2. A Big-Picture Approach to Teaching Media Literacy

    April 12, 2011 by Josh Caldwell

    I’m currently working on Media/Information Literacy with my freshmen; it’s one of my favorite units because it is both constantly changing yet always pertinent. This is my third time through, and every time around I’ve approached the topic from a different angle. I’ve got enough material to do a full year-long class, so it’s always a challenge to pare it down to the essentials.

    This year I’ve decided go for a broad overview with a culminating research project that asks students to teach a chosen topic more in-depth. Hopefully, this will let me broach more subjects than in the past, while giving the students an opportunity to pursue further learning in areas that really interest them. Provided here are some of the resources and activities I’ve tried out in this unit. I’ll update this list as I go along. (more…)


  3. RSA Animate – Thought Provoking Speeches, Profoundly Engaging Presentation

    April 4, 2011 by Josh Caldwell

    I’m absolutely blown away by the RSA Animate videos, not just because the topics they discuss are fascinating, but because the way they are presented is so thoroughly engaging. The high-speed hand-drawn animations not only help illustrate (pun intended) the topics and themes, but they do so in a way that is far more effective than simple static images (ala PowerPoint). Why? I think it’s because there is constant visual stimulation to keep your attention rapt. But it’s not that constant stimulation alone that is effective – we’ve all seen offensively over-animated PowerPoints, right? These videos work because all of that animation contains meaning. As opposed to a few select images used to illustrate a few select points, the illustrations in these videos provide a full visual accompaniment to the auditory stimulus (practically word for word). Here are a couple of my favorites to check out.

    RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms

    RSA Animate – The Internet in Society: Empowering or Censoring Citizens?

    RSA Animate – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us


  4. On the Impending Demise of the IWB?

    April 4, 2011 by Josh Caldwell

    Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. Nevertheless, Fraser Spiers’ post about his next-gen classroom A/V setup really strikes a chord with my own views on IWBs. Why are we spending so much money single-task tool, when a setup like Spiers offers provides so much more versatility for the cost. The ability to better place technology in the hands of students should be reason enough to entertain such a shift.

    You can have any student take control of the AppleTV from their iPad over AirPlay to share videos or photos. I personally use a lot of YouTube videos to teach automated systems in Computing. When pupils are researching content, they can share what they’ve found wirelessly.

    I’ll suggest one better: with VNC access to the Mac Mini, you could put any task in the hands of the students. Instead of just sharing content (which is still a valuable use), full access to the presentation computer breaks down the barrier between teacher and student. Often, when in the computer lab, I ask a student to teach software skills via a VNC connection to Of course, most of us don’t have the benefit of a 1:1 iPad program, but a single iPad (or netbook) to pass around to students would suffice.

    The rise of affordable multi-touch devices may just be the death-knoll for companies like SMART and Promethean, who have built their business models around expensive, proprietary touch input devices. If they wish to compete in the modern marketplace, they need to focus on providing strong whiteboard software that isn’t tied to their specific hardware.

    [via Fraser Speirs]


  5. Silly Games Treat Serious Diseases

    January 20, 2010 by David

    See … games aren’t all bad! They’re used to treat multiple scleroris and ADHD.

    [Via PC World]


  6. Really Good News About Your Kid’s Video Games

    January 20, 2010 by David

    Article from Marc Prensky about our student’s “Digital Native” brains and how our “Digital Immigrant” ways might be slowing them down. Kids learn quite a lot from video games whether they know it or not (see “Ninja Instruction”).

    Best quote from the article:

    video games are not the enemy, but the best opportunity we have to engage our kids in real learning

    Why fight it? Video games have been around for a while and will only grow bigger.

    [Image from TheCurrentGamer]


  7. PBS Survey: More Teachers Using Digital Media

    January 20, 2010 by David

    Is this a good thing?

    The study says that:

    K-12 teachers most frequently use the Internet to find games and activities for students, followed by professional development resources, and lastly for collecting images. [From Digital Education]

    But my main question is, “What kind of games?” or, “Which games and activities?” Nevermind that they are using the internet for collecting images. That’s just the 21st century version of looking through old copies of magazines your teacher collected and cutting out pictures.

    Full study at PBS.org


  8. Games are a fun way to teach kids

    January 20, 2010 by David

    Kenneth Scott makes the argument that although some games don’t teach specific content they do help kids practice other skills like reasoning and reading. Also, most of the time if a kid is having fun playing a game they don’t realize they are learning something too! We like to call this “Ninja Instruction”, which is the best type of instruction.

    Personally, though, I learned a ton from Carmen Sandiego when I was growing up. How else do you get a kid to read a World Atlas for goodness sake?

    [Image from Japan Probe]


  9. Investigating the Impact of Video Games on High School Students’ Engagement and Learning about Genetics

    January 20, 2010 by David

    That’s quite a title. But look! Someone’s doing actual research on video games and their impact on students!

    From the abstract:

    This quasi-experimental study evaluated a teacher created video game on genetics in terms of its affective and cognitive impact on student users. While statistical results indicated no differences (p greater than 0.05) in student learning as measured by our instrument, there were significant differences (p less than 0.05) found in the participants’ level of engagement while interfacing with the video game.

    There’s more if you want to pay for the article from ERIC.


  10. If digital media consumption in teens was a stock, I’d buy

    January 19, 2010 by David

    Why should we use digital media in schools? Hmm, maybe because kids are using it EVERY OTHER SECOND THEY’RE AWAKE.

    You know, just maybe.

    [Via the NY Times]