Edmodo vs Google Classroom

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Since I started teaching at the university in 2004, I have always felt the need to use learning management systems (LMS) for my courses. Otherwise, I usually get lost and I could not find a unique platform for communication with students. For example, I sometimes need to make an announcement about the cancellation of the class on the last minute or I have to remind my students of the due dates of the assignments. Using e-mail accounts or my personal website is not a solution for this issue. Thus, the name of the LMS is the first thing while designing my syllabus for the course.

Up to now, I have used different platforms, such as Tapped In, Nicenet, Ning, Dokeos, Facebook, Moodle, Edmodo, and finally Google Classroom. Tapped In was a text-based platform. It was quite good when it was active but it was closed. Nicenet was also a text-based platform and you cannot even upload basic documents. You should copy/paste the information and it was useless. Ning was very good when I first found it; it was free at the beginning; however, they asked me to pay for it after a while. Dokeos was an open source platform. You could easily modify the system according to your needs. I also had a published proceeding and a presentation on Dokeos at a conference. Yet, the problem was that they delete your data when they update the system/interface. You should keep your files up-to-date on a specific hard drive. Facebook works very well. I should admit it. But, it was not solely on your classes and most of the time both my students and I have lost my concentration on my course and distracted with videos and my friends’ status updates. Moodle is still one of the best LMS in the world. I also tried it. I installed it on my personal website and I used it for about two semesters. I have for rights all administrative controls about the membership, design, etc. but it still requires technical knowledge in order to fully benefit from its features. The last two platforms were Edmodo and Google Classroom. I was quite happy with Edmodo. It is free of charge, it has many features for classroom management. However, I also wanted to give a try to Google Classroom as our university has purchased it. At first, it seems a good idea because it is supported by Google and I can easily integrate Google Drive for assignments, files, materials. However, after two months of experience in Google Classroom, I can easily claim that Edmodo is much better in terms of the following points.

Membership: If your institution hasn’t paid for Google Classroom, you cannot use your own Google account in order to create a classroom as a teacher or join a classroom as a student. You are asked to purchase Google Classroom as the institution in order to use it. That could be accepted to some extent but you do not have the right to use your Google account even your institution purchase it. You are asked to use a username, which is provided by the technical office of your school. For example, one of your students have some problems about his/her username or password. S/he should contact technical staff in order to solve this problem. To speak to my own context, I had at least 10 students whose accounts were not created at the beginning of the semester and they missed some deadlines. You cannot reset your students’ passwords as a teacher. You asked to them to e-mail to the technical assistance unit or stop by their office. Finally, the e-mail accounts provided by the institution is not used for e-mail services (unless the administrative unit allows you to use them). They use it just like a username and password.

However, if you are using Edmodo, the students can easily prefer to use their personal e-mail address (from any e-mail service company, such as Google, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.). They receive updates through their e-mail accounts. They can reset their passwords on their own; however, if they also forget the e-mail password, you have the right to reset their passwords as a teacher. It is not based on institutions so anyone can create accounts as a teacher or a student; can login using the information s/he provided during the registration. Thus, the number of problems about registration is minimized and teachers can easily solve the problems without any help from an outsider.

Collaboration: One of the purposes of Web 2.0 tools is to contribute to the collaboration among educators, learners, and ordinary users. If you are using Edmodo, you have the chance to meet educators from your own field and contact them easily. However, Google Classroom is a more closed platform. I couldn’t even see the trial version until our institution purchased it.

Permission to files: You create some files on Google Documents and there is no limit for the size of the file. That was the greatest feature when I first heard about it. I was planning to share some of my files on Google Drive at the beginning of the semester. However, I noticed that I had another Google Drive account associated with the e-mail account provided by the technical staff. In other words, I had two different accounts for Google Drive. This was a bit confusing. Anyway, I also accepted this. However, when I share a document with my students, some of them couldn’t reach the document. The reason is that their mobile devices are automatically logged into their personal accounts. They didn’t even notice that and the files are shared with the institutional accounts. Then, your students begin to send their assignments via e-mail in order not to miss the due date.

Additional features: As I used Edmodo first, I expected to see some features on Google Classroom but there were no features like creating small groups within the classroom, quiz, and timing for quizzes. In Edmodo platform, you can create small groups and your students can also work in groups. For example, you have 50 students in your classroom. You can group them into 5 and then they can discuss and work within small groups. They do not see the sharings of the other groups, which allows more participation. As for the quizzes, you can create quizzes on Edmodo and assign it with a time limit. In Google Classroom, you can only ask a single question at a time. I know that online exams and quizzes are not an appropriate measurement for your courses. The students could easily cheat; they can search for information on Google or anyone else could easily complete it. However, my purpose is not to measure their academic performances. I just want them to monitor their own learning and be aware of their achievements.

Finally, I can easily say that Google Classroom is a great fail if you have already used Edmodo for your courses. There are many limitations and you always need some technical staff to solve your problems. However, you can easily control your students and your information with some basic computer skills. As a conclusion, I will definitely go back to Edmodo as soon as this semester ends. I might have expected more when the tool was created by Google and this expectation resulted in disappointment.

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What are we doing in CALL Course?

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While I was updating my website, I summarized the tools I used in CALL course at the Department. I also wanted to share it as a blog post on my blog address. I hope you enjoy reading it.

  • Computer Assisted Language Learning: An Introduction: A great article if you would like to study on Computer Assisted Language Learning. In this article Mark Warschauer summarizes the stages of CALL associating the methods and approaches in time. I think, it is a must to read this article before studying on CALL.

http://www.ict4lt.org/en/warschauer.htm

  • Creating and using Blogs in ELT: Blogs are among the oldest CALL tools and they are still very popular in language teaching and learning. Instead of collecting your students written assignments as hard copy, I would suggest using blogs in language classes. Your students will also be motivated as they publish their works online. Here are some websites offering blog pages:

http://www.blogger.com
http://www.wordpress.com
http://www.edublogs.org

  • Wikis in Language Classes: I can clearly say that wiki is my favourite CALL. I remember the days I explored wikis – I was really excited to talk about this tool with my students and colleagues. It was 2007 and I am still using them although 6 years have passed since I first found wikis. In the following part, you can find some wiki pages. In addition to wikis, I also added Google Documents here as they work in the same way. If you want your students to work synchronously, I would suggest Google Documents instead of wikis.

http://www.pbworks.com
http://www.wetpaint.com
http://docs.google.com

  • Online Communities of Practice: As teachers of English, we sometimes would like to share our ideas, materials and experiences with other teachers all around the world. While sharing our experiences, we can also find out quite interesting ideas and learn new ways of teaching. Without the Internet, it is quite limited as you can guess. However, there are many online communities of practice on the Internet; and I can easily claim that the most successful one is Webheads with its 1000 members all around the world. You can find some links below for creating and joining online communities of practice. In addition to those links, I am also sharing two online communities called Webheads and APACALL.

http://groups.yahoo.com
http://groups.google.com
Facebook Groups
Webheads in Action
APACALL

  • Mobile Learning: Most of our students are using smartphones nowadays. They use these tools everywhere. Then, why don’t we use them for teaching language. Moreover, we can also use these great tools for professional development. There are many applications that you can download and install on your mobile phone. If you do not have a smartphone, you will not feel the necessity of it; however, if you purchase one, you will understand how important they are. I just want to share the website to download applications for your smartphone.

http://play.google.com

  • Online Presentation Tool – Prezi: Aren’t you bored with powerpoint presentations. Although they are used very commonly during the presentations, I explored another tool called Prezi. The main keyword for Prezi is zooming in and out. You add the content to the mainboard and then you choose the pathways; then you can present zooming in and out. I used this tool at some conferences; and some people were more interested in how I prepared the presentation than what I was talking about. Preparing a presentation with your friends online is quite an important advantage of this tool.

http://prezi.com/

  • Learning Management Systems (LMS): There are many tools that you can use for uploading your documents and sharing the content of the course. Most of them are paid services or need some technical knowledge in order to manage it. For example, Moodle is the most widely used tool for this purpose; however, you should be good at technology in order to create and manage a Moodle page. Moreover, you will need a computer to use as a server. As an alternative to Moodle, I will suggest two other tools for discussions, forums, file sharing etc. One of the Nicenet and the other one is Dokeos. I used both of them in my classes and either of them has advantages and disadvantages. If you would like to share only text-based materials (forums, link sharing, discussions, etc.), then Nicenet is quite good; however, if you would like to add some visual and audio files, it would be better to use Dokeos. The only disadvantage of Dokeos is the fact that the developers are constantly changing their interface and it takes time to get used to the new interface.

http://www.nicenet.org
http://demo.dokeos.net

  • Synchronous Meetings with Learners: Most of the time, teachers are asking me how to communicate with their learners and organize an online event with their students. Without doubt, I advise them to use WiZiQ as the platform. We have also Elluminate for this purpose, it is not easy to arrange a meeting there. Moreover, it is not free of charge. WiZiQ has also some paid features but free version will also be enough for teachers. Currently, we are using WiZiQ for speaking events at our Department. The students really enjoyed it and we are planning to continue.

http://www.wiziq.com

  • Social Media and Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) Tools: We cannot ignore the importance of social media tools in education. All around the world, social media tools are used by the people regardless of age, sex, nationality, etc. I saw that some parents create an account for their newly born babies. It is unbelievable. Those children will have Facebook accounts as old as themselves. Twitter is also very common among the Internet users. Instead of watching news on the TV or reading newspapers, people are following Twitter users all around the world. That’s also amazing. In addition to these social media tools, there are some synchronous CMC tools like Skype, Google Talk or Yahoo Messenger. Google Talk is also known as Google Hangout and it is quite good for synchronous CMC. Among these, the most widely used one is Skype. It is quite good in terms of audio and video calls. The links for these tools are known by everyone, but I will share them as well.

http://www.facebook.com
http://www.twitter.com
http://www.skype.com
http://messenger.yahoo.com
http://www.google.com/hangouts/

  • Digital Storytelling: It is a way of telling stories using audio and visual media tools. These stories are not only for children, but they can also be used for adult learners. In previous years, I was teaching how to combine photos, music and video files using Windows Movie Maker. This tool has been replaced with Windows Live Movie Maker and it is still quite easy to use for creating simple stories for the learners. Here, I will share a website for finding stories and two websites for creating digital stories.

http://www.storynory.com/
http://www.storyjumper.com/
http://animoto.com/

  • Podcasting in ELT: Podcasts are very good at improving listening and speaking skills of language learners. They could improve their language while listening or recording podcasts. There are many podcasts on the Internet. Some of them are recorded for teaching purposes; but most of them are not for teaching purposes and the intended audience is the native speakers of that language. These can also be used as authentic materials in language classes. Hence, we can say that there is a huge podcasting archive on the Internet. In the following links, you will find a website for downloading and listening podcasts and another website for your students to record their voices. The first one is NPR (National Public Radio) website and the other one is Audioboo. Your students will enjoy Audioboo while recording their voices even using their mobile phones.

http://www.npr.org/rss/podcast/podcast_directory.php?type=topic&id=-1
http://audioboo.fm/

  • Creating and publishing a website: For educators, website design has become an inevitable part of their teaching profession. They can publish course syllabus, their teaching materials, announcements and recent news about the content of the course. Some teachers prefer to use blogs as a webpage; however, they don’t have enough freedom while designing their blogs. There are some themes and they should publish chronologically ordered blog posts. Of course, they also help teachers to share some information with their students; however, they sometimes feel limited with the themes. While I was teaching CALL course at the Department, I found a website for designing a webpage. I could have also designed my website if I hadn’t one. It is called Weebly and all of my students could create their own websites without any difficulty. You just prepare the content and design your webpage by dragging and dropping. If you start using this page, I am sure you will also enjoy it.

http://www.weebly.com

  • 3D Virtual Worlds: 3D Virtual Worlds are simulation platforms and they started to be used by many educational institutions. As I wrote my PhD dissertation on Second Life, which is the most widely used 3D virtual world, the use of 3D worlds in language teaching is my favourite topic. In previous years, you had to buy a well-equipped computer in order to log in to this platform; however, this has changed in recent years. You take part in this 3D platform through an avatar and it is possible to join some discussions, online conferences, meet new people from different parts of the world. At first, the platform seems a bit complicated but you can get used to it in time. It looks like a game; but, it is not a game. There are no objectives to complete in Second Life. If you would like to use Second Life, first you should get a free account and download and install the software to your computer. Then, you can join through an avatar. My Second Life name is Sedat Usher if you would like to meet me in SL.

http://www.secondlife.com

I just wanted to summarize what we are doing in Computer Assisted Language Learning course at the Department. I used all of the tools above for language teaching and we, my students and I, are enjoyed while using these tools. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to ask via e-mail.

Mobile Learning for Language Learning

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Mobile learning (m-learning) has been discussed for the recent decade. While I was writing my PhD dissertation and at the conferences on the use of technology in language classes, I have seen many articles and presentations on the use of mobile devices in language classes. Although, it seemed like a utopia and too idealistic about 5 or 6 years ago, now it can easily be seen that they are used by the new generation very commonly and there are many applications for education, especially for language learning.

Tomorrow evening, I will be talking about Mobile Learning in for language learning in my Computer Assisted Language Learning course at the university; and I have searched for mobile applications and information about how to use them classes all day long and I am still finding new things just before the course. The most advantageous thing for me about this course is that I can learn many things while teaching. Every tool has many updates or changes and it is great for me to explore these changes.

If the topic is mobile learning, it is inevitable to talk about the applications. Actually, I am using Android operating system on my phone; so I couldn’t find a chance to try some applications which works only on IOS operating system. I visit the Google Play website and search for educational applications. Although there seems to be huge number of applications, you should limit the number of your applications so that you can use them effectively.

We are all using social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linked In. These applications help us to receive notifications and check all our accounts in one application. In addition to these, news, blog posts and this kind of updated sites need RSS reader; and we receive notifications from these sites. I like Flipboard application for these purposes. You can choose some topics as your interest and you also add your Twitter and Facebook accounts. You can easily follow these accounts through one application.

In addition to this, I also need an extra RSS reader application. I was using Google Reader until Google announced to close this service. Now, I am getting used to Feedly application; however, to be honest, Google Reader was much better. I may get used to this application in time, who knows. Although it is good to check all your social networking applications using only one application, I also prefer to keep their own applications separately. I sometimes prefer to check only Twitter messages in order not to get lost among other tools.

Here are the list of application installed on my mobile phone (I omitted the default applications on my phone in this list):

Youtube: It is quite useful to view Youtube videos without visiting its website on a web browser. With the recent technological developments in mobile phones, it is easy to view videos without interrupting.

TED Talks: I have always followed TED Talks on my computer and it is now available as mobile phone application. I try to watch and share them with my friends as frequently as possible.

Skype – Facebook – Twitter: These are just the mobile versions of computer software or websites. You can do whatever you can on the website using these applications. Since I installed them on my phone, I didn’t need to turn my computer on for just checking my messages.

Instagram: It allows us to share photos and make comments on the photos. You can also create a list of your friends and you can follow their photos. This is just a photo sharing application.

WordPress: As I am using WordPress for blogging and my 200+ students had blogs on WordPress, it is inevitable for me to use WordPress application. You can write posts, see comments, customize your settings and add content to your blog page. If you are blogging, you should install this application.

Merriam Webster and Tureng Dictionaries: I love the former more, but sometimes I also need English-Turkish or Turkish-English dictionary and I installed the latter for that purpose.

In addition to these I also use Aldiko for reading e-books; QR Droid for decoding QR Codes, Teamviewerfor controlling my computer using mobile phone, etc.

And finally games… I cannot think of a mobile phone without games. The following games are installed on my mobile phone: Temple Run – Speedcar – Flick Shoot – Siege Hero. Although games are blocked at our university with McAffee, I strongly believe the benefits of the games; and I will go on playing.

To sum up, the number of application is limitless and you may find a new application everyday. It is better to think about your purposes of using a mobile phone and decide on the applications to install. Then, it takes time to get accustomed to the applications; but this is not a problem. I will leave and go on searching for educational applications at home, and I am sure that I will be able find more applications. I kindly ask for your suggestions, if you would like to contribute to my CALL class.

Dr. Sedat Akayoglu