Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Google+ or Edmodo for online course support?

I am starting to develop the online courses for the REAL ePortfolio Academy for K-12 teachers, and I want to use tools that model strategies that K-12 teachers can use with their own students. While some are using Moodle, few are using Blackboard or many of the course management systems used in higher education. I found an interesting blog post on Selecting Appropriate Technology for Online Learning. The author used Bates and Poole’s SECTIONS model: Students, Ease of use, Costs, Teaching and learning, Interaction and interactivity, Organizational support, Novelty (newness), Speed. These are interesting factors to consider as I develop an environment to support collaboration in these online courses.

Last week, there was a very interesting Edmodocon, with educators from around the world presenting about the use of Edmodo in K-12 classrooms (recording now online). I used the tool several times this summer in workshops, and it has the look and feel of Facebook. I like the ability to set up private groups and sub-groups. From the online conference, I saw how teachers are using this environment for collaboration. The most interesting presentation was on Game-Based Learning and how to set up and award badges in Edmodo. The system keeps track of Students, Teacher Connections, Library Items and produces a Sharing Score. It would be easy to see the level of participation by individuals in a course.

I received my Google+ invitation in the first few days, but there wasn't a lot of activity for me to follow. I recently listened to a whole series of podcasts called, Google+ Today and I've also been following This Week in Google podcasts. I have set up my Circles (Friends, Family, Following, ADE, Ed Tech, ePortfolio Colleagues) and Sparks (android tablet, iOS, educational technology, reflection in learning, digital storytelling, electronic portfolios). I posted a question (about using Google+ as a tool to facilitate communication in an online class), and received some very interesting responses (notice the length and depth of the last response). I haven't tried Hangouts yet, but it looks like a really interesting alternative to Skype and Google Voice, especially with groups of 10. (I could care less about Games right now in Google+; I have enough games on my various devices to keep up my procrastination level!)

What about other social networking tools? A lot of schools block Facebook, and I am finding I prefer using that tool for personal networking with close friends and family. I also don't think Facebook has the tools for online courses (although they are adding Skype for one-to-one voice chats). My other favorite social tool is Twitter, but the 140 character limit, and the public nature of tweets, contributes to short conversations, but not to the rich dialogue that I experienced in my recent Google+ post. I find that Twitter is good for announcements and what Chris Betcher calls, "tiny bursts of learning." Until I started following Sparks in Google+, I was using Twitter instead of RSS feeds, to read what other people are reading and posting.

What are the differences between these tools? Edmodo is called "Safe Social Networking" that can be used in schools. Google+ restricts membership to those over 18. For that reason alone, I should focus my efforts on Edmodo... but I am intrigued by Hangouts: could they be used for collaborative discussions? It seems like a great way to create small, like-minded groups to support each other through the process of implementing ePortfolios. I want to be able to record these Hangouts, though, so I have more research to do.


Ammar Merhbi said...

Hi Helen,
I have already responded to you in the eportfolio Academy group. I would like however to point out that although Google plus is now restricted to age or 18 and above, it's only a matter of time (few weeks probably a month) that Google will add Google plus to Google Apps for Education. That is after Google adds Google profile for Apps users.
I believe G+ has great potentials, although it is not made specifically for students.
I have used Edmodo with my students two or three years ago, and if I have to choose now between the two it would be G+. In the end, if you are an App user you will have a whole suite of tools, including the g+ social networking.
In addition, since your focus is Eportfolios then G+ will give you more capabilities with your Gmail account, much more empowering than Edmodo.

Ted Curran said...

Hi Helen
As a counterpoint to Ammar, I really think that open social networks like Twitter and G+ are best for PERSONAL, self-directed learning but that dedicated, private learning communities are best when it's your main form of interaction with students. I admin Blackboard for a university and have seen data that students don't want their learning IN Facebook, but would rather have a dedicated system that's just for school like Blackboard, albeit with the modern features of Facebook. Tools like Edmodo, Schoology, and Instructure's Canvas do a great job of bridging that gap.

I encourage students to develop their own Personal Learning Network using Twitter, GReader, and now G+, but trying to get their attention amidst a flurry of other social stimuli reminds me too much of the confusing real-world classrooms I hope we're trying to transcend with focused learning tools.

Branka Marceta said...

Google+ as a collaboration platform makes sense for your academy beacause it integrates with all other Google tools, which most of of us use. So once logged in for my blog, and my photos, and my document sharing, I am no logged in for my social networking, too. How clever of Google!
Google hangouts are fun when you are meeting with up to 10 people at a time.

Branka, OTAN