Friday, January 4, 2013

"Go To" Learning Spot - A Place Online To Support Students - 5 Recommendations

For many, many years, I have shared the very positive results that my students received from my use of my classroom website as a 24/7 classroom.  My website was a "Go To" place that the students could count on for support for our classroom.  At this site, the students could find not only assignments but specific sites and resources to help them understand those resources, a message board to ask questions, content related educational games and sites selected specifically for the interactive approach that taught, provided guided practice, and independent practice, and just to see their best work or their classmates best work published internationally for the world to see!  I taught from that webpage, started my class with that page, followed the lesson components on the page, and ended with the page.  The kids knew it was there and they knew it would be current.  And, they used it!  They all didn't have computers at home, they didn't all have Internet access, but they used it.  They found a way to the website and learning was improved.

I still believe in classroom websites but now there are other choices.  It's time for educators to find the online presence they like and grow it so that it becomes a hub for students to visit to get support for their after-class questions or to spend time strengthening their skills.  No this day and age, it is just too simple to do, there are just too many choices, and this is the way our digital students communicate.  Take advantage of this wonderful resource and begin to build it now.  You won't build it all at once, but begin the process.  Begin with assignments (including resources for those assignments to further understanding) and commit to the process.  Build pieces as they become necessary and before you know it, you'll have a buzzing, active, full of activity online presence that ignites learning, motivates students, and makes your job easier!  (Yes, I said makes your job easier!)  You'll have a "Go To" location for Learning!

So, here are five great recommendations.  These aren't all that's out there but these are great and will serve the purpose:

      1. Edmodo - Everyone is on Facebook and Edmodo's interface is comfortable and familiar to students.  Teachers are able to instantly create a "Go-To" site that is extremely easy to manage.  You can give assignments, include documents and links to supporting resources, and accept assignments in this location.  There's a gradebook and the ability to create quizzes and polls.  Blogging is a cinch with the message boards and so is providing support.  Students are often more likely to post questions on Edmodo than ask them in class.   You can separate students into whatever groups you'd like:  class period, small groups, book titles for a book study, historic figures or name it.  Motivation is covered, too, as you can award badges to students.  Even at high school, they love these.  There's a ton of apps that can be added but even the basic AND FREE Edmodo account will provide an amazing Go-To Learning Spot for your students.  And, there's an App for Edmodo so your it's great for BYOT/BYOD.

      2. Edublogs - Don't be fooled by the word "blog" in the title of this site.  Edublogs provides a location for you to create a great Go-To Learning Spot.  You can choose a template to begin with and have a nice place to post your information.  You can add pages to the site for all of the various content and resources you'll want to add.    If are so inclined, for a reasonable monthly fee, you can give each of your students their own blog on Edublogs that you are able to monitor totally.  And, yes, there's an App for Edublogs.  This site is better for someone who doesn't mind locating the various sources (quiz ability, etc) to make the site comprehensive and enjoys the flexibility in design.

      3. Twiducate - Twiducate is social networking for schools.  The video at the top of the post gives you an overview of Twiducate.  Again, the site is easy to use, free, and makes creating and managing your sources a breeze!

      4. Schoolology - You can create a comprehensive site very easily here.  Schoology is free and allows for networking among teachers and students.  You can create and grade quizzes, assignments, blogs, discussions, create graphs, and groups. One very nice feature is that you can set up this info to be released at a specific time so you can plan ahead and have it open up when you are ready.  Very little effort would be needed to create and maintain a great site that serves as a Go-To Learning Spot for students.

      5. Moodle - If you don't mind creating  your own content (or want to create it), Moodle may just be the "Go-To Learning Spot" for your class.  This video gives an overview of Moodle's ability:

Moodle Overview from Moodle HQ on Vimeo.

The main idea with these is to create your location.  If it's going to be Twitter that you build your Go-To Learning Site at, that's fine.  Just build it.  Start with one piece and grow it.  You will see improvements in your students. The payoff will be far more valuable than the effort expended!

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