Too often, developers think that just changing the fonts on a tool to Comic Sans will make it educator-friendly, when, really, there are a lot of big things to think about when designing for K-12 education. Because the developers of Edmodo are IT folks who’ve been working in public K-12 schools, they clearly understand that font choice is not the priority when it comes to making a usable, useful tool for kids and teachers. Ease of use and excellent privacy controls set Edmodo apart from the pack when it comes to free, online learning management tools. Edmodo has been called “Twitter for schools,” and while microblogging is part of the feature set, there is a whole lot more to Edmodo than 140 character text messages.
Edmodo allows you to post (and grade!) assignments, files, images, videos, and links, as well as post messages to your class, or to certain students in your class. You can have multiple groups (perhaps you teach several sections of students, or maybe you just want to use it for a single classroom’s group projects) that students access by being provided a code — not a complicated email-required signup process. Everything you do on Edmodo defaults to private, with an option to make anything public. The public page has an RSS feed, and would be a great way to broadcast important upcoming events (Field trip! Final exams!) in another way. Users can even set up Edmodo to send updates to their cell phones.
As you’d expect from a site created by two guys who really care about both technology and education, support is fantastic. They are available for demos or troubleshooting (when you create an account, you are automatically added to the Edmodo and support groups) and it’s not a corporation with canned responses, but folks who have a personal interest in making sure the service works the way it should. For more information, you can read an interview with the founders at Open Education, and an interview with a teacher using it in a North Dakota classroom. -GRETCHEN SCHAEFER