Mr Finlayson

Education and Technology

Edmodo 2 – Assignments and Homework

Posted by alexfinlayson on August 12, 2009

Edmodo 2 – Assignments and Homework

I am no longer able to use Edmodo but remain hopeful for the future. In my short time using the tool I feel I have learned a lot – largely due to the simple, user-friendly interface and the wonderful support of the head-honchos (through their support group and Twitter) Not to mention the wonderful enthusiasm of my students.

 consoleThe main console of Edmodo has a number of handy features – you can post notes, web links, add documents, embed videos, send alerts (seen as larger than normal text and highlighted in every group members’ ‘Spotlight’ tab) but the one I would like to focus on in this post is the ‘Assignments’ feature.

When you post assignments you can give it a title, add a description, upload or link to documents and then set the due date. This assignment then becomes visible on every group members screen; is highlighted in their spotlight tab and appears on the calendar.



I’ve found that every time I’ve posted an assignment – most students have completed and turned them in well before the due date (for my class this is highly unusual)






I’d like to walk you through the last assignment I posted…

 The post looks like this…








the website I’ve linked to is – a wonderful little program for creating comics within set parameters. The instructions file mentioned can be found here –  Week 5 English – but in brief it asks my students to use the website to create a comic poem – one that can span 4 panels – or can be 4 small poems.

I could then get the students to print out or email me the finished result but the hidden purpose of this assignment is to develop the ability to follow written instructions. With that in mind the instruction sheet guides the students through taking an accurate screenshot, pasting the image, cropping and embedding it into the instructions sheet. They then save the file and go back to Edmodo.

On the students screen they find the assignment and click ‘turn-in’ (I had to explain to my Aussie class what this meant) This leads them to a screen where they can upload the completed homework sheet back onto Edmodo and effectively ‘hand-in’ (for the Aussies) their homework online. They also have the option to add a note/comment when they do this – brilliant.

 A wonderful little feature of Edmodo (one of those extras that really sell the program to me) is Spotlightwhat happens next. As soon as the student ‘turns-in’ their work – the teacher is notified (via the spotlight tab) and it can be marked. You can either download the full document or click the handy little ‘view’ button to see the document via Scribd. You can input a simple ?? / ?? score and give feedback direct to the student – brilliant.


As a teacher you will also love the handy screen that lists all your students with a green ‘turned-in’ or red ‘not turned-in’ tab under each avatar. So easy to follow up on assignments. Brilliant!

 Edmodo also makes it very easy to offer that little bit extra help to your students as this post (made at 3:30 on the day the homework was set) illustrates…



  After reading I did a walkthrough with the class on the Tuesday morning… although strictly speaking… I didn’t. One of my students did. Possibly my least enthusiastic student and one who has NEVER handed in a piece of homework in the 6 months I’ve taught him – had already handed in his assignment – and he volunteered to do it again and show the class. So he did, from scratch, on the IWB for the rest of the class to see – absolutely brilliant!




Such a shame that those members of my class who didn’t do their homework on Monday evening won’t get to do it this way… good job there’s not many of them 😉


Posted in Education, My Digital Pedagogy (why I use computers and stuff in class) | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Edmodo 1 – Introduction

Posted by alexfinlayson on August 11, 2009

EdmodoMr F are we using Edmodo today?

Mr F did you read what I wrote on Edmodo this morning?

 I love how enthusiastic my daughter is about her homework, thank you

Mr F will you be on Edmodo after school?

Can I please show the class the video I posted on Edmodo yesterday?

Mr F, my brother said he would’ve loved school if he’d had stuff like that

Miss? Why don’t we use Edmodo?

I’m worried that your kids next teacher might find it hard to inspire the class if they don’t use Edmodo too

 I’ve been putting off writing a post about Edmodo for some time – at first because I didn’t really use it after I signed up, then because I wasn’t too sure what to do with it, then I got a bit carried away with it and forgot – and then, they upgraded it so I figured I may as well wait and see what happens.

So let me put it into perspective for you –

  • Every member of my class is now a regular user of Edmodo – EVERY member.

  • Nearly all homework is set through Edmodo

  • That homework is returned to me through Edmodo – by EVERY student (I’ve never had that)

  • I can mark work and give grades via Edmodo

  • Correspondence with parents is becoming increasingly dominated by Edmodo

  • I use Edmodo as my base-point in class

  • Yes, my students do use it a lot to ‘chit-chat’


I have had so much more ‘independent’ work handed in to me than before we integrated Edmodo into our learning…

 So the big question… What is it and why the enthusiasm?

 In their own words…


I won’t bother with a walkthrough style set-up as the one provided by the guys at Edmodo is thoroughly proficient…


Why does it appeal to my students and their parents?

Simply: because it looks and behaves like Facebook or Twitter.

BUT… it is designed specifically for educators.

 For me, the main issue with education authority-provided web tools is that they pre-date the ascension of Web 2.0 and unfortunately they just don’t cut it in the real ‘cyber’ world. Edmodo does.

NB: I prepared this post on the Monday evening. On Tuesday morning I received word that head office was not happy with my use of Edmodo for a variety of reasons. On Thursday I am having a conference with the bigwigs to explain my choices. I’ve made the decision to keep the post as normal because even if they stop me using it with my class – many others will not have that problem and I still wish to share with everyone the many wonderful positive uses that I have found with Edmodo. I will make posts far more frequently than I intended (I planned for one a week) so please keep coming back… and many thanks to all the wonderful people on Twitter and other forums who have shown me their support – thank you.

Future posts: Edmodo In Class, Edmodo Assignments/Homework, Edmodo Social Utility, and Edmodo-whatever-else-I-think-of-that-doesn’t-fit-into-the-other-categories

Posted in Education, My Digital Pedagogy (why I use computers and stuff in class) | Tagged: , | 10 Comments »


Posted by alexfinlayson on August 5, 2009

EtherpadHoly Cow! This program is impressive!

I’ve known about Etherpad for a fair while but have never really played around with it – until yesterday.

I had a small group working on a poem – I wanted them to produce a collaborative effort and type it up. I remembered Etherpad and instead of putting the kids on one PC I set them across five. They logged on to Etherpad and at first I asked one student to press the button ‘Create a Public Pad’ – the link sent him to a generic page with a generic title

Etherpad1something like http://etherpad/wimPlesQuirMyblIbBlablOb)*&^%$#@#$% – you know, one of those randomly generated pages with ‘unique’ addresses.

Well, after a while of waiting for the school email server to stop buggering around and the kids not being able to copy the mix of upper case, lower case and special character properly I gave up – until I thought I’d try something (now I’m sure this is well-documented but when it worked I was stokedfor the Aussies – and made-upfor the English)

The genius of Etherpad is that it lets you create your own, simple page names – I just typed in my school initials at the end of the URL and it created a page for me with that link – all the kids copied it – and we were ready to rock!

How it works

In their own words…


My tester group did a new version of the class ‘Carousel Story’ – one kid wrote the first sentence… another the next… another the third… and so on… it was flawless.

                • Each ‘author’ is designated a colour so you can keep track of who writes what
                • Everything is updated in real-time on each screen
                • You can correct each others work
                • There is a chat function on the same screen so you can communicate without altering the document
                • You can import text and edit
                • You can save file in many formats .DOC .PDF HTML .TXT etc.

 In class

There are many uses like the ones I listed above but the most impressive part for me was something we did today.

My guys all needed a computer each for a piece of work we were doing so they were all spread across the school in different classrooms, different buildings.

They all logged on to Etherpad and I could keep an eye on their work, give them instructions, answer questions, guide and teach – and here’s the kicker – without leaving my desk!


 How did today finish? With a group of girls arranging to go on Etherpad tonight to write a story… don’t worry, I’ll be monitoring… great stuff, Mr F

Posted in Education | 2 Comments »


Posted by alexfinlayson on July 25, 2009


Storyline To Be A Drum

I hope you all check out this little gem – especially lower grade teachers – Storyline – Famous stories read by famous people.


It’s great, I’ve been playing around on it all morning and just had to write a little something about it even though its Saturday and I clearly haven’t used it in class.

Some of the celebrities might not be well known to the kids but when it’s the likes of James Earl Jones (who, lets face it, is the voice of Hollywood) I don’t think it will matter…

Presented by the Screen Actors Guild it takes well known children’s stories – To Be A Drum, The Polar Express, Sophie’s Masterpiece, The  Night I Followed The Dog to name but a few and shows videos (your choice of bandwidth) of celebrities reading them. The celebs I looked at were James Earl Jones, Sean Astin, Elijah Wood and Amanda Bynes – all were really well done.

In ClassStoryline Activities

Well as I said its Saturday and I haven’t yet had the chance to use this in class but I definately see it having a place.

  1. Reading group activites
  2. Individual readings
  3. Silent reading for lower ability kids (subtitles of text can be displayed on-screen for them to follow)
  4. As a class project – make a vodcast/website of the same thing with your kids doing the reading.
  5. Generic literacy activities – using some of the many Activity Ideas that come with every story.

Has anyone been using this? Care to share any ideas or comments? I’m going to see about implementing it into my literacy work this work – I’ll start with idea 1 but I reckon idea 4 with the poetry my guys are writing at the moment would be great.

Storyline James Earl JonesAll the best, Mr F

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Timez Attacks

Posted by alexfinlayson on July 22, 2009

Timez Attacks

The cure for multiplication problems

It’s been a while since my last post so I thought at the beginning of this new term I would write about one of the coolest programs I have come across in a long time.TA6

Timez Attacks is developed by the people at

and is without doubt changing the way my kids view multiplication. The premise is pretty simple – kids hate multiplication and love computer games – so they’ve combined the two.

With a Doom/Quake-esque platform the gameplay is instantly recognisable and easy to pick up.

I downloaded the free version and was instantly hooked – and now so are my kids ( I will definitely be buying an upgrade but at the moment I’m broke – come on Union strikes do your thing!) There is also an option to purchase full-school licences as well (which would be better than your own pockets!)

The GameTA5

You play as this strange little green fella – I’m sure he has a name but my guys just call him ‘Squidgy’

You run around the spooky dungeon (nice little area for literacy development – see Myst lessons) until you come across a locked door – on the door you will see a sum (they start off pretty basic) with little cards next to it that represent the problem

TA4As soon as you approach the door it will fire out each of the cards and these will instantly turn into little creatures which you need to collect. Run around after the little snail-like critters until you get enough to correspond to the sum (example: 7 x 3 there will be 3 little critters and as you run over each one it will flash up the multiple, so 7, 14, 21)TA3

Once you’ve collected the right amount of critters you can throw them back at the door – this will then let you type in the answer using the keypad. After this, the door opens and the big bad ogre fella comes out…TA2

As the ogre approaches, various sums will appear on his chest you must quickly type in the correct answer.

Wrong answer – you get clubbed

Too slow – you get clubbed

As with regular computer games, the boss get progressively harder the further you play but here’s why I love this game so much – the sums are not consistent – sure, your first boss will only have the last sum you looked at – but bosses further along the track can throw any sum at you that you’ve looked at in the game – an excellent twist.TA1

Once you finish off the big fella, he spits out a key for the next part of the game… it’s great.

In Class 

The guys who developed this game ( really thought of everything and clearly understand a classroom environment – there is a simple admin program in which you can input class groups and individuals. I created a profile for every member of my class and generic ‘5F’ profile as well.

TA7The admin program keeps track of how much time has been spent on each profile and where that person is up to in the game – it’s great.

I’ve used this as a starter to Numeracy every day this week – placing the wireless mouse and keyboard on a small desk in front of the IWB and having students come up one at a time to tackle a sum – new sum=new student.

While this is going on my other guys are writing down each sum in the back of their math books and trying to figure out answers before the person using the game. I wish I could show you a video to illustrate just how enthusiastic my guys are for this game – there’s screaming and shouting and jumping up and down (if I let them!) all about multiplication! It’s amazing!

I’ll definitely upgrade when I can afford it (it’s only $40 or so but I’m broke at the moment) and I’ll be advertising it to all parents for their homes – I’ll also be pushing heavily for a school licence.

Negative points

If a kid is feeling like they don’t want to be involved – they could feel isolated (but that’s up to the teacher to sort out)

If you run it as a ‘shout-the-answer’ then the person in control may just type what they hear (but repetition will be beneficial anyway)

You won’t ever get the kids out of your room at lunchtime (seriously, I’ve eaten at my desk for 3 days straight)

I urge you to try it, Mr F

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