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Redefining the (digital) Classroom

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Sorry Edmodo... Switching to Schoology

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Dear Edmodo,

I'm switching to Schoology. I'm so sorry... I appreciate all you've done for me, and I'll never forget you. And, unlike the Taylor Swift song - we might just get back together if you change/update. But right now Schoology has so much to offer me that you don't: easier workflow, advanced quiz and discussion features, a clean layout.... I hope we can still be friends.

Love,
Jennie

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Post Update: Wrote this post on 2-24-2013 with more info on Schoology vs. Edmodo...

For the past 2 years I've been an avid user of Edmodo - a web-based learning management system (LMS). I've relied on it it for everything from managing learning environments for my 4th and 5th graders to supporting my graduate students in the university classes I'm teaching.

However there were some downsides: the "wall" or "newsfeed" became cumbersome. Its cluttered interface made it difficult for my students - whether 9 or 29 years old - to find assignments, messages and quizzes. Additionally there was the age-old iPad issue of workflow. How would students turn in the digital creations made on their iPads? Thanks to iOS 6.0.1, iPad users can now attach videos and photos from their photo roll to websites by clicking on "file" icons (the same icon that would access your hard drive folders on a computer). Another great update: users can also open content from one app (such as PagesKeynote or Numbers) in another app (such as Edmodo or Schoology) -- see the photos above. This was amazing for turning in work! However, in Edmodo, this work is simply saved into the student's "backpack" and they must go through a few more steps to actually submit it. As such, the workflow was awkward for many students with processing issues/delays and they became frustrated.

Furthermore, you couldn't file share in the opposite direction through the Edmodo app. For example, if I sent my student a PDF of a graphic organizer through an Edmodo assignment, they couldn't then open it into another app. There was no "open in" or "share" button available when it was previewed. If I wanted them to open the document or PDF, I had to go through the web interface.

Finally I decided to give Schoology - another web-based LMS - another try. I had experimented with this site when it first came out - just a few months after Edmodo's release - but found it confusing to use and too expensive (they originally charged for some features that were free on Edmodo). However on this most recent go-around, I noticed that not only are all the features I need free, but also found that there are more features than Edmodo. I've been experimenting using it with some groups of students and sharing it with the teachers whom I coach. Today I was working with colleague Linsey Rose, and found that Schoology may just be the answer to many of my iPad needs! Below are some brief findings:

  • Workflow Solutions! Schoology offers a free solution to turning in digital content from an iPad that is easy to use! Like the Edmodo app, the Schoology app allows students/participants in a course to submit Pages docs, Keynote presentations, Numbers spreadsheets, PDFs, videos, pictures and more. However, when they open the Keynote, doc, PDF or spreadsheet in Schoology it allows them to directly submit it as an assignment. One-step submission! Amazing! So imagine: Kids can create a Keynote and easily turn it in to an assignment on Schoology. Then the teacher can open it on his/her desktop, give feedback and give it a grade if need be. 
  • Advanced Quiz Features! I can embed video and pictures into a quiz. Not just thumbnails or a link to a video or picture, but actual videos and actual pictures. I don't need to upload to a library first - I can attach a video or picture as an answer choice or part of the question directly from my hard drive on my computer. Wow. I've always dreamed of differentiating assessments with multimedia, and now I can! 
  • Cleaner interface! There isn't a cluttered news feed when kids log in. They can see recent activity, but then they click on their course and immediately they can see a clean, simple list of their assignments, quizzes, discussions, etc. (See photo above)
There are more great features such as course analytics (see which students logged in when), advanced discussion features (grade discussions as assignments, see who commented when in a timeline, allow students to directly reply to one another), and the ability to take attendance. I have just begun digging into this alternate LMS, but thus far like what I see.

Some downsides to Schoology:
  • You can't create small groups within a class/course nor can you send assignments to groups students. (However, you can send assignments to individuals.) We are getting around this by creating assignments named "Group 1 Polygon sort" and "Group 2 Polygon screencast" etc. and empowering kids to click on their group's assignment. 
  • When you get to the district level - i.e., you want an entire district to use Schoology - it begins to charge and can get costly. I haven't encountered this myself, but in speaking with colleagues, I have heard this is a barrier.
For a quick overview of the Schoology iPad app, including some of the features above, check out this video. Also this is a great post on the Schoology app updates and features.

To others using Edmodo and/or Schoology - what do you think? How do these two learning management systems weigh in for you?



42 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this insight. As the Technology Integrationist for our district, I've been looking at different types of learning management systems for our teachers; many of whom use Edmodo.

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  2. Jennie,
    I am stuck between making a decision between schoology and haiku? Did you look into haiku at all?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have yet to check out Haiku, but would love to learn more if you end up trying it out!

      Delete
    2. I love Haiku, but isn't it a completely different platform than Schoology?

      Delete
    3. David, do you mean HaikuDeck - the presentation app? If so, I believe Erica is referring to Haiku the LMS: http://www.haikulearning.com/

      I have never used it, but have heard some good things. I'd love to leran more though... So far I've only worked with Moodle, Edmodo. Blackboard and Schoology.

      Delete
  3. Thanks for sharing this information! I switched to Schoology at the start of the school year and have not looked back. My students love it, and it's so easy to use. I have used Edmodo, Blackboard, and Haiku in the past, but Schoology is a hands down winner for me and my students.

    Haiku is definitely better than some others, but the website feels old and outdated - my students complained it was "so boring" and they rarely used it. Now that I have found Schoology, Haiku feels like a step backward.

    @David - Are you thinking about Haiku Deck (a different company)? I use Haiku Deck for presentations and it's awesome.

    Every class is a different though, so if you give Haiku a try, I'd love to hear how it goes.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I appreciate the detailed post on reasons to move to Schoology.

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  5. Jennifer, I am a Schoology employee and really appreciate your feedback about our platform. I also encourage you to explore the latest feature updates to the platform in this blog post, including Individual Assignments: http://www.schoology.com/group/25228991/blog/post/28786693

    Thank you for your continued support of our platform!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I updated the post with this link as well as the note about individual assignments. Any chance Schoology will make small groups a new feature?

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    2. Have you downloaded Answer Underground. It's an education app for homework help. Allows you to create small groups/by class or subject

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  6. Actually I am also a believer. Was using wikispaces, moodle, teacher toolbox and found Schoology. We do use the paid version as a school district and it is well worth it. The support is amazing and the follow up as well. I am trying to move the district systemically and this fits in nicely. Thankyou for your post.

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  7. Thanks for the recommendation Jennie. I downloaded Schoology on my iPad and find it very useful so far.

    I will be teaching a course for educators in the near future. I already have a Google Site set up to house rubrics, assignments, Google doc discussion forms, etc. Do you see Schoology working in concert with a Google Site, or is it more of a stand alone tool for a classroom or course?

    Thank you again!

    Matt Renwick (@HowePrincipal)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Matt,

      That's a great question... I have thought a lot about this with some colleagues and for now we're going to keep both a Google Site and Schoology.... and see how that goes. We're using Schoology mainly for workflow and assessment whereas the Google Site houses our eBulletin board (showcasing digital student work publicly), announcements and some Google Forms exit tickets. I could see migrating totally over to an LMS eventually but for now, we're living in both worlds.

      Let me know what works out for you!
      Thanks :)

      Delete
  8. Hi Jennifer and Matt. Interesting post! I have been trying out Edmodo and can relate to your frustrations with it. I've looked a Schoology a couple of times, but I have found something that is professional, robust and easy to use. Have you heard of the Canvas LMS? It allows you to house your assessment rubrics right in the system and click on the rubric to grade it (this works great with the iPad App too - see http://vimeo.com/41774173). You can also share your rubrics with other teachers as well, and if you are using Canvas at the district level or running the open source version on your servers you can have school/departmental rubrics, learning outcomes and more. Canvas also has a built in ePortfolio that allows students to show-off/display their work from any class they are taking in Canvas or embed outside web elements.

    I'd definitely check out a free teacher account so you can compare it to Schoology. It sounds like you could do everything in one place and have a more seamless user experience in Canvas.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much! I'll check it out for sure!

      Delete
  9. Thanks for this Jenni. I've just recently started looking for a whole school LMS (for a secondary school, Australia) and I'm just looking for your thoughts on Schoology/Edmodo vs moodle?

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    Replies
    1. Unfortunately I don't have a lot of experience with Moodle myself. However many of my colleagues feel it is "outdated" and "clunky" compared to Edmodo/Schoology.

      Delete
    2. I have used Moodle; don't let anyone fool you -- I am a classroom teacher and have an earned PhD but it is *very* difficult on the back end, being an open source application. You can "do anything," but to "do anything," you have to "know everything." Most teachers will gag at the learning curve in Moodle and never, ever use it, unless they have a full-time developer customing modules for them and handing them perfectly-functioning add-ons.

      Edmodo still has a huge problem with turning work in from other apps - if a teacher sends kids a blank concept map for example, and they mark it up in Show Me or EduCreations, they cannot reattach it as homework when then turn in an assignment on an iPad. And that means trying with the app, the mobile site, and the regular website. Highly frustrating.

      Schoology has an interface similar to Edmodo, has lots of free powerful features, and I am giving it a full trial this spring semester. It seems fantastic.

      Someone else mentioned Haiku, but you are limited to 99 students for free. You can link it to Google Apps and AERIES grading, and I have yet to see a long-promised native iPad app. It is a good LMS, however. But you'll have to pay for it in your own room if you are a secondary teacher.

      Delete
  10. I am a new math teacher coming into a classroom midway through the year and I'm interested in using a LMS of some kind. The school I am going to teach at uses Blackboard but I do not have access yet. I used a Google Site during student teaching and liked it but I would like something more interactive that doesn't take as much time to set up. Would I be able to use Schoology for my class without across the board acceptance from the school? How do students get access to the course? Do I need to sign them up via email or does it use a code system of some kind?

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello William!
      Yes, you can go ahead and use Schoology. We have been using it in many CPS schools for some time now. You don't need to set up via email - just create a course on your teacher account, then write the class access code on the board. Have the kids create their own accounts. We've been having kids use the same username/pw as their CPS accounts to make it easier, but you can use whatever convention makes the most sense to you.
      Here are some videos to help you:
      Creating a Course: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPHuilBlRTk
      Adding course members through access code: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLwcCnG_xCw
      Adding course members using Add Members (for students who already have an account): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AVWPWXH1X8

      Delete
  11. Thanks for this article Jennifer. Our school is in the transition stage of moving from a very cumbersome system of communicating with students and parents to Edmodo for the younger grades and Haiku (haikulearning.com) for the older grades. My wife teaches high school and has really likes Haiku. It seems, initially at least, to allow the teacher to set up a page that looks more like a multi-media web site with the options for student interaction, assignments, etc.

    What I am wrestling with during this soft roll-out of Edmodo is the thought that parents are inundated with new forms of communication and students, at the younger grades are being asked to do a lot. Our third graders have school-based g-mail accounts, blogs for ePortfolios, Destiny Quest for our library and now we are rolling out Edmodo. It feels like a lot of logins and things to be accountable for, especially for our younger kids. Our school continues to talk about the need for "one stop shopping", recognizing the you loose a lot of the power of a communication tool if people have to click a lot or check multiple places for information. But it feels like having this laundry list is somewhat inevitable.

    I am a huge fan of technology to slowly reinvent how we teach and learn as we prepare our kids for whatever the future holds. I just want to do all this thoughtfully, making sure we are selecting tools while keeping all constituents in mind (kids, parents and teachers). Eventually, I will need to bring Edmodo into my classroom as our school is heading in that direction already. I am glad to hear it has some strengths. I'll focus on those and supplement where it lacks.

    Your blog has been very helpful as I wade through what I want to allow into my classroom. Thank you for your inspiring ideas and critical eye towards impact on kids and learning.

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  12. Jennifer, thanks for the time you put into this article to help out fellow educators! I was a believer in Schoology, but our team wanted to go the Edmodo route (after a fail with Moodle the year before). But I'm hitting too many bugs with the platform, alas. So time to migrate to Schoology I think. I'm curious, do you have any experience with the Android app? I've read some blah stuff about it.

    Thanks!
    Josh

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    Replies
    1. Hi Josh,

      Unfortunatley no - I haven't yet played with this app.. I hope to do so when I find some more time :). If you do - please share how it goes!

      Delete
  13. ewwwwww. Love my Edmodo and can't stand Haiku or Schoology. Maybe if I was teaching college or something. Edmodo just has such an easier workflow, simple, great quiz ability and my students love it. Best of luck to youuuuuu. You'll be back :)

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  14. Do you know if Schoology supports LaTex? That is one of the things that I like about Edmodo. I have had some issues with Edmodo lately, and would like to check out Schoology, but I need to be able to write quiz questions using LaTex.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so sorry - I'm not familiar with LaTex!
      Maybe check out their help center?
      http://help.schoology.com/

      Delete
    2. Yes it Schoology does support LaTex.

      Delete
  15. Jennie,

    Have you looked at eGenio? It's a great product. It's not free, but then there are never any "add on" costs. You can check it out at http://egenio.com.

    Donna

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  16. I am wondering if any of these other products (it seems moodle does, but edmodo doesn't) allow teachers to create quizzes that are more formative than summative and enable teachers to enter responses specific to wrong answers (feedback attached to each answer choice in multiple choice, for example). This way, students learn immediately upon answering each question (rather than waiting to the end of an edmodo quiz) whether they got it right and wrong, and we can turn that into a teachable moment by providing them explanations that guide them to understanding the right answer!

    It seems to me that a basic right/wrong of edmodo is pretty old-school, completing defeating the purpose of an assessment being a teaching/learning tool and placing it firmly in the world of testing.

    Does schoology or other lms's provide more functionality?

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  17. Dvora: I am completing my first year using Schoology and it is an incredible product.

    And yes, Schoology does provide you that ability.

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  18. I trust your judgement, I have been going back and forth this summer on what I should do. You have sold me on making the jump. Thank you!

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  19. I would like to use Schoology this year with my 3-5th grade library classes, but they don't have email addresses. Also, when I try with my own 4th grader (who does have an email account), it denies him an account because he is under 13. How did you do this with 4th graders? I've submitted my question to Schoology, but still waiting for a response. I'd sure appreciate hearing from you!

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    1. You don't need an email address to create a student Schoology account. You create one as the teacher, then invite them with your class code :).
      https://support.schoology.com/entries/23212992-Sign-Up-Student-

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  20. OK, Jennifer, I think you have me convinced. I've been a medium-level Moodle geek (does anybody else know what MOODLE stands for?) for about 4 years, but am finding it klunky, outdated-looking, and too much hassle making sure we have an IT person who can make updates, etc.

    I'm also looking forward to pulling myself further forward in using the collaborative features of an LMS. I don't necessarily think of myself as an 'old-school drill and kill' math teacher, but I'm afraid I've gotten comfortable with using what I'm familiar with regarding technology in my classroom and not seeking out what will work even better.

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  21. Thank you, Jennifer. What you said was very interesting and it was great reading other people's input about other platforms.
    I'm most interested in how they all handle audio formats. Edmodo produces a player for .mp3 files and allows embedding of other companies recordings: ipadio, audioboo etc. It's going to take me quite a while to check all these formats on all these platforms!
    Lucky I've still got a month's holiday before we start back.

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  22. Hi Jennie!
    Thank you so much for your information on LMS. This is so helpful! I'm the tech coach in a middle school and our district is going 1:1 very soon. We're looking at some LMS options to offer to staff. We are heavily integrated with Google Apps (Drive,Sites,etc). Do you think using Schoology (or Edmodo) can work well with Google as far as integrating Google Drive files or whatever? Also, when do you decide to use Schoology/Edmodo to turn in assignments vs. sharing the files with a teacher OR teachers using Doctopus?

    If you have any input on any of this, let me know! I would SO appreciate it.

    Thank you again!
    You're awesome! :)

    Maria Arfanakis (Galanis)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Maria,
      Both platforms have Google Apps integration. Our teachers use both Schoology and Drive w/ Doctopus... and even Hapara (www.hapara.com)! They make their own calls of when to use each.
      Thanks for reading :)! Jennie

      Delete
  23. Schoology's conversion of submitted assignments to Flash is only partially successful. Then converted documents suddenly revert back to "conversion in progress". They could abandon Flash but I don't think they have the technical know-how to do so (although they've been dealing with the "conversion in progress" error for a few years with no apparent progress). I'm done with Schoology.

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  24. Hi,
    We are entering the Spring of our first year running a trial implementation of 1:1 with Chromebooks for each student in our 8th grade in middle school. We are looking at Schoology now after spending a year with Haiku. The Haiku LMS is fairly full featured but we found it to be buggy at receiving work from students that was generated in Google Docs. Another shortcoming was that when a teacher is grading work there is a long time delay from one student to the next. Last on this list was that Students could not see comments made by the teachers once work was handed back. It doesn't work with an iPad very well either so hand drawn comments had to be done with a mouse which is difficult.

    Bruce

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  25. Thanks for your thoughts on Schoology, Jennie. I'm an avid Edmodo user, but in the world of tech-integration teachers have to be constant explorers and discoverers and make tough choices based on what's best for students. Working through Schoology for just an hour, I can feel the difference. As you said, smoother workflow, cleaner and more organized layout, etc. I realize now there are things I have chosen not to ask my fifth graders to do on Edmodo because I knew they would get lost in the workflow. Thanks for your thoughts, and here's to our students!

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  26. Is anyone thinking about Google Classroom? We're a Google school district with iPads, and I don't want to use Edmodo anymore either. Schoology looks great, and Classroom does not seem to have this functionality right now, but I sort of feel like if we're using Drive and Gmail it makes sense to stick with one streamlined system. What do others think?

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  27. How about EDU 2.0? It's comparable in features to Schoology and Edmodo, but the main difference is that it has more powerful features and looks stunning. It also has a lto more features than Google Classroom, so if you're looking for a more complex LMS i'd suggest to give it a try :) .

    ReplyDelete