I don’t know about any of you, but my school district has been trying to stay afloat with all the different digital services out there, most of them free, to benefit teachers. There are an overwhelming amount of resources these days. I don’t know if overwhelming even cuts its tooth on that statement, but just like iOS versus Android versus whatever it is Blackberry uses, different things suit different teachers. Just like all the smartphone operating systems out there, they do similar things, but they’re not the same.
The three biggest that I’ve seen happen to be Edmodo (www.edmodo.com), Moodle (hosted through a server), and Google Docs (now called Google Drive).
They all have their pros and cons. Each one is better than the other at something, but not all of them do exactly what you want them to do, so therefore, you find yourself skittering between each one — which can be highly frustrating.
Edmodo looks like Facebook went to school. You have a profile picture in the far left-hand corner, there’s a stream of updates (like a forum, but more similar to Facebook), and you can interact with students and teachers in your building, or teachers from all over the country. Edmodo is handy because you get passwords for the different courses you want to include in Edmodo, that way only certain people will see what’s being posted and updated, so Edmodo is very private like that.
The design of Edmodo is a bit more streamlined, and therefore it’s user friendly. Students will know what to do right away with it because they’ve seen it before (if they have a Facebook account). You can post documents, post quizzes, post to a calendar, embed documents and video.
Edmodo is almost too casual, though. You can do polls and such to collect data, but it feels like it’s skimming the top of anything that’s affiliated with data collection. Students can turn in assignments this way, and you can grade them and hand them back.
You can tag posts and even make some of your posts “public” to create a faux-Twitter feed that showcases updates of what you’re doing. If you want to create a viewing area of your classroom for parents and administrators to see, insert a link to your homework page and post video, pictures, comments and dialogue your students (and you) are involved in.
It has grown in the many years since it’s opened and offers much more than it used to. If you’re looking for a place to separate classes (if you teach different sections) this is an easy way to do so. The interface is very familiar and easy to use.
Google Docs accounts are usually obtainted through the school disctrict, but if you have a personal gmail/Google account that you’re willing to use for education, the Google Docs programs that are available are really helpful.
There are some basic elements: Word processing (like Word), slide shows (like PowerPoint), spreadsheets (like Excel) and drawing (like Paint, but more for graphic organizers). There are also some other nifty pieces that you can use — integrating Aviary photo editing into your Google Docs, Google Sites (create free webpages) and Forms.
Google Docs on it’s own is helpful, but teamed up with something else, Google Docs is amazing. If your school district has you set up with accounts for all the students, the ability to share work gets rid of students saving 5 different versions of the same file to their school or flash drive. Instead, once a student shares their work with you (spreadsheet, slide show, drawing, etc.), you will have access to this document as they work on it, creating an organic atmosphere to see that work grow and change. You also have the chance to comment, post questions and interact with the student if you are both on the document at the same time.
If you don’t have Google Docs for Education, having a personal account is still beneficial. You may not be able to share documents with students, but there is still use that can be had. With or without a school account, you can create websites (for portfolios, even) or just a homework webpage that your students can refer to. You can create forms that students can fill out to help collect basic data. You could even use the spreadsheet program to begin analyzing that data, too.
There isn’t a place to have a forum, you can’t post grades, you can’t have them turn in assignments (sometimes) and it’s user interface can be a bit daunting because every single document you create in Google Docs is right there (unless you organize them into files).
Google Docs is great to partner up with another online classroom tool.
Moodle has, probably, the most options, but it is also kind of ugly. It’s user interface takes some getting used, to and it’s not as intuitive as Edmodo, but if you want different types of quizzes, different forums, a glossary, links, a chance to submit work, check grades, then you may think Moodle is great.
It has a good assortment of tools, RSS feeds, you can allow certain students to see the page, so the privacy is pretty secure. You can do what you can using HTML to make it a little more personal. There’s a place for a calendar. Really, the best way to describe Moodle is as an open source Blackboard. You can’t personalize as much as you will want, but Moodle is great place to put every single document that’s imporat. It is definitely a more complete online classroom experience. Although Moodle isn’t the most visually