My colleagues, Matthew Forgy and Sonja Miljkovic, and I recently conducted a test run of Edmodo.com with a group of teachers. Edmodo is an educational social media platform designed to mimic Facebook so that it is easy for teachers and students to use. We wanted to experiment to see if this was a technique we could use in the classroom. It has a a little bit of a learning curve, at least for us old teachers, but overall though we think that this is a promising tool that we will be able to use in order to stimulate critical thinking and quality student discussion.
For our test we role-played a class discussion on George Orwell’s classic allegory of the Soviet Revolution, Animal Farm. First we prepared a quick synopsis of the book to remind our participants about the plot and in particular the characters. (We made a short Prezi). Then we gave our students a poll asking them which character, aside from the obvious choice, Napoleon, was the most detrimental to the dream of Animal Farm. Then we assigned homework that each student had to explain their choice in a brief post. Next each student had to respond to at least two other students.
In the end we had a very good discussion and the other teachers were excited about the idea of using this tool for the future. (You can take a look if you want here, group code “gmldjp”) Of course, there was one student who played the part of an 8th Grader a little too enthusiastically and I had to set his settings to “read only” but even that was a great learning opportunity for everybody. We all have students who are shy, or take a little time to think about their answers. This method can coax all students into a thoughtful discussion. I believe that I will be using this in my future classes.
If you want to think more about Social Media in general I recommend this TED talk from the always interesting Clay Shirky.