A blog about teaching and learning in a maths classroom.

Handling the Inappropriate

Saturday, 24 October 2009 | 9 Comments

Week 1 is over, and I need to reflect on what happen when I introduced laptops into my classroom.

The simple activities for getting our laptops ready for work and personalising them were well received.

However, I was left stunned after introducing them to Edmodo. I was keen to use this Facebook-like web-application designed for classroom use. Shortly after Edmodo was released, I tried to get it unblocked, unsuccessfully. Months later I noticed that it had been unblocked. So, when Year 9 got their laptops, it was a perfect opportunity to introduce this to a class.

I got my class (Year 9 Maths) to sign-up, it was the last session of the day. Very quickly, the students found that they could post messages for everyone else in the class to see – not a big deal, it’s part of the application and one way it allows for a different type of collaboration in the classroom.

When I got home and logged-in to Edmodo I was taken a-back by the number of inappropriate messages. I was going to give an example here, but I’m sure you know what inappropriate is.

I’ve been thinking about this all week, and discussing with my colleagues:

What I think I did right:

  • Expectations for appropriate behaviour had been introduced the day before, and were revisited before introducing this application.
  • I explained that I could monitor all activity.
  • I explained the consequences for inappropriate behaviour.

What I think I did wrong:

  • I introduced this on a Wednesday, but would not see this class again till next Tuesday. Therefore, apart from interacting on the site, I had no way to get in front of the class and discuss the inappropriate behaviour.
  • I did not set up sufficient guidelines for use of the application (aside from behaviour), for example: it should only be used during Maths (not every other class during the day).
  • I did not change the group code after the intial lesson. The students, after about two days, worked out that they could give the group code to other Year 9 students… very quickly I had lots of Year 9 joining my class group for a chat.

Ways that Edmodo could be improved:

  • An ability to “time-out” a student who is not using the site appropriately. I changed one student’s password as she was not using the site appropriately, she just signed up with another username.
  • Set “operating hours” for your group. For example, a button for teachers to turn the discussion feature on/off – allows me to monitor my class, rather than wondering what they are talking about whilst they’re in English and I’m teaching another class. I see this as a way to slowly introduce social networking at school.
  • Provide far better user-management for teachers.

Some other thoughts:

  • A step too fast? Generally, the students at my school have poor social skills. We’ve identified this in the past and been actively working to improve the way they relate, respond and talk to staff and students. Maybe I took this on too early.
  • In some ways, I think this is a consequence of the blocking of everything social approach that the Department has taken. We have not really had an opportunity in the past to deal with these issues, because students have not had access to social networking online.

In the end, I shut down the group. I was monitoring live on Friday, responding to inappropriate comments, and deleting them – the students could see me doing it, it continued. Further, they were using this in other teacher’s classes – it was simply not fair for me to unleash this on other teachers without warning (mind you, these other teachers obviously didn’t notice).

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Greg Perry on  24 October 09  at  08:21 AM #
Hi Simon, I've had similar problems to yours so it was good to read your experiences. I think you're definitely right that the students are not used to using these types of methods to learn and are more used to using apps like this to communicate, often in the way you describe. The simplicity of edmodo user management is one of it's major strengths but I would also like to see some development in that area. In the meantime I think we've got a responsibility to keep trying. One way I've used is to encourage appropriate use is giving a choice- edmodo (with a link to a site or problem) or written homework- basically a worksheet. Keep us up to date with how things go your end. Greg
Russel Montgomery on  24 October 09  at  08:32 AM #
Simon Thanks for allowing us this window into a difficult experience. We have a problem with facebook along these lines. There's no point blocking it because kids are using it on their phones. Yes we "ban" phones during the day ha ha. I am convinced that we have to embrace these technologies and get in their with them. The technologies are here to stay. I agree with you that the timing of the introduction probably could have been better. But you can not be responsible for what happens in another teacher's room. If it wasn't edmodo it would have been something else.
Tony Searl on  24 October 09  at  10:42 AM #
Simon A quandry we will all face. I think you handled it extremely well. Unless we try things we'll never know what to try next. Learners need to experiment and expose knaive users to appropriate usage through professional expectations. It is the old chestnut of context, playground compared to classroom voice. Online for accountable school learning as opposed to MSN chat with your mates. These questionable attitudes may be a result of unguided handheld & home internet use before DET 1:1 had a chance to show them otherwise. Inappropriate online behaviours are often already entrenched by year 9, one reason 1:1 should target yrs 3-6 in future rollouts as budgets allow. We only used edmodo with stage 6 students over the last 2 years, as a home tool as when we signed up it was still blocked at school. I think your last comment may be more telling about what we have in front. Thanks for sharing your valuable and brave jump.
Darcy Moore on  24 October 09  at  09:18 PM #
We know that metacognitive startegies, like reflection are one of the keys to learning. This kind of post, that is thoughtfully reflective with ways forward is invaluable to the community of educators that participate in online cooperation. Thanks Simon. Oh, can you share this with Yr 9 (in some form)? Then you would be cooking with gas!
Jessica Brogley on  24 October 09  at  10:28 PM #
It's part of the growth. To assume that those things are never going to happen are mistaken. Sometimes they need to see the consequences to realize their poor choices. One of my students had a song on her blog that had the F word. She honestly never noticed it. When I was on her blog 2 weeks ago she had a different song, so I never noticed it. A couple of days ago someone on Twitter contacted me about it. I explained this all to her and she was so embarrassed that someone from the world wide web was offended. It was a great teachable moment. I do set up all the precautions I can, but some times those moments are okay too.


Simon Job on  25 October 09  at  12:22 AM #
Thank-you for the great responses. I love that I can get so many other teacher's perspectives online. bq. @Tony Searl Online for accountable school learning as opposed to MSN chat with your mates. Thanks Tony, I will use the discussion of context with them. By giving them Edmodo, they saw it as MSN chat, simply because every other chat mechanism they would normally used is blocked. I also think that DER gives us a better opportunity to consider appropriate online behaviour than we have ever had before. Like Russel said, we know they are using Facebook etc - and I shudder to think how that is being used. Unfortunately, I think as we open up the online world in our classrooms, we may be tackling these issues even before many parents have considered them.


Simon Job on  25 October 09  at  02:47 AM #
On Tuesday when I see this class again we'll be talking about this: # I will review the lengthy, wordy DET acceptable use policy. _The lawyers who write this stuff clearly have not considered their audience (be it students or parents)_. # I will summarise that as: "people made inappropriate posts, and there are consequences". # We'll talk about why it happened: because this is how they communicate and everything else is blocked - it was just too tempting, might show this video: "Oh, the temptation": # Talk about what I did wrong, see above. # What should we learn? "The way you talk to each other online as part of a learning activity/tool must be different to the way your talk to you friends outside of school."
Jan Green on  25 October 09  at  02:56 AM #
Thanks for this post Simon. I have been following your progress with this on twitter and I think your entusiasm has been brilliant. I also agree that if we don't try new things then we don't give ourselves the opportunity for reflection and growth - skills we also want for our students. I think its important that you perservere with this type of learning for your students. Firstly because they will be learning so much more than maths and technology - they will be learning the social skills you were mentioning. Secondly, by contextualising learning within their own social environment you are making powerful links with relevance and significance which in turn motivates the learning of maths. You are setting a standard at the school and one which you can be proud of - you are modelling both teacher and student expectations and learning. Use the support of the welfare network at the school and of your HT to get through the current issues. I believe that the benefits of what you are doing are worth the effort.
Deanna Knapman on  25 October 09  at  04:39 AM #
An interesting experience and it is great to post it - as it gives us all food for thought as we start working with students with their laptops. This week Qld teachers have been banned from having current students on their social networking sites - or face termination: [url=][/url] - great to see Big Brother is always watching and - instead of embracing technologies - banning, shutting them down and restricting is being promoted as the best option - rather than education, guidance and common sense. Prohibition has never worked has it???

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Simon Job — eleventh year of teaching maths in a public high school in Western Sydney, Australia.
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