Have you heard of Edmodo? I recently learned about it in my latest Scholastic Instructor magazine. I strongly believe in teaching students in the ways that they learn. It is no secret that today's students are very technologically-advanced. I do my best to integrate technology in the classroom: Smart Boards, Study Island, Tumble Books, etc. I decided to test out Edmodo, on a small scale first, with one literature circle group of average readers, to see how it would work out.
I created an account on Edmodo, then created accounts for the members of the group. When telling my students about the website, I could see the excitement on their faces as I described it as "Facebook for Schools." My students all love Facebook, even though they are technically not even old enough to use it. I did send home a letter to get parent permission, since it did involve a social networking site. I stressed that I would be closely monitoring the activity. I was even able to sign up to get text messages whenever anyone posted to it. This is an extremely useful feature when you are dealing with an entire class using the site. (My first thoughts go to cyber-bullying, and the ways to prevent it.)
Once I got permission, my students got to work posting. I was very pleased with their levels of questioning and critical thinking skills. So pleased, in fact, I had to run next door to show our SLC! One student posted "Why is Judd so grumpy?" A response was, "I think he is grumpy because he lives by himself and does not have company." Students were also making predictions, "Do you think Marty will achieve his dream of becoming a vet?"
These are just a few examples of the awesome "conversations" my students were having with each other on this wonderful site. Does it replace actual conversation about the book? No. Does it encourage learning in ways students learn best? Absolutely!