At times, some of our Special Education students feel isolated as a result of their disabilities or exceptionalities. Students with a communication disorder may have a lot to say, but are unable to express their ideas. They may be struggling with a crippling anxiety which prevents them from speaking in a manner which sustains conversation and supports the development of long-term friendships with peers. Social skills are highly valued in adolescence, and students who have difficulty communicating with others realize they are different, having a hard time forming relationships. This brings a great sadness, often leading such students to withdraw further, cry in frustration, or become quite depressed.
Most of these kids want friends but simply do not know how to interact with their peers. Teachers encourage active socialization through group work and Literature circles, but at times this can be stressful. However, students who find it too stressful to speak orally can interact with other students via social media sites such as Edmodo.
The Power of Digital Technology
For students like this, Edmodo and other social media tools are powerful. Imagine trying to reach out, but being unable to speak. Imagine knowing that you have a voice, thought, opinions, and ideas similar to the rest of your peers, but being able to only sit back and passively listen, crippled by your own anxiety….one that goes beyond shyness.
This is the case for one of my students this year. In September, this student identified his goal for the school year in Writing – to speak in peer groups more often. He hopes that by the end of the school year, he can feel comfortable enough to have a group of friends he can interact with on a regular basis. His parents identified communication and interpersonal relationships as an area of need that they too wished to address this year. His pain is evident as he sits quietly listening to other students interact with confidence, wanting to do the same.
The student I speak about today is a very enthusiastic computer user, and enjoys playing with the various hot keys and functions to test what they do. I see his eyes light up in the classroom when I use the Promethean Board for lessons in an interactive manner. He raises his hand to contribute, and although his voice is barely audible, he strides up the board with confidence to write and manipulate information in front of his peers. When students are assigned tasks on the laptops, he displays confidence, helping other students in the class who have forgotten how to retrieve files properly, paste pictures into their documents, or use Read and Write 10 appropriately for on-line research. It is heart-warming to see the big smile on his face every time he is asked to help other students with technical issues.
About a month ago, I introduced my class to Edmodo, and they responded with excitement. Students were intrigued by the idea that they could use Edmodo to interact with each other outside of the school day. Even students in the classroom who dislike using computers have logged onto the classroom site over and over just to see who is online. Imagine my delight when the students who were reluctant readers and writers began to engage in online conversations. Adding to my surprise and pleasure is the fact that my student struggling to connect with his peers seems to have found a voice! His posts show an attempt to connect to other students as he shares what game he is playing on a Saturday afternoon. He is one of the first students to respond to questions or assignments I post each weekend. Through his posts, we are able to see a young man with a sense of humour, opinions, and intelligence. We see a very capable young man who can think critically in ways that some of his peers cannot. Even more exciting to witness are the small changes I have seen in the classroom as a result of this student’s use of Edmodo. In the days that followed the introduction of Edmodo, other students initiated conversations with him about his postings. The attention from peers made the student feel great!
Edmodo in my classroom
We began to use Edmodo only a short time ago, starting with some simple tasks. Some of the simple ways I have used Edmodo to support students are listed below.
- Homework reminders
- Reader’s response questions
- Posting typed pieces for retrieval at home (by both the teacher and the student)
- Saving files, links, and pictures to the Library to be used with students in class
- Peer evaluation (students read another student’s post and answer questions posed)
- Links to a variety of web 2.0 tools such as Bitstrips and Wallwisher
Edmodo offers ways for teachers to link to other teachers in order to share resources and ideas, and also provides an array of resources you may place in your library for use with students, including web based games to support student learning.
Badges are also available so that teachers can reward students for participation and work completion.
Edmodo is a fabulous classroom tool, with many uses which I look forward to incorporating into my instruction in the months ahead. If you are interested in learning more about Edmodo, follow the links below.
Photo by Enokson