Sneaking Ed-Tech In Through the Back Door

When a 21 year old student walked into class on the first day, stopped by my desk and informed me that  HE “doesn’t do” computers in English, I knew that the time I had spent agonizing which Ed-Tech to use and how to get the students to use it, was not wasted. In my previous course a sizable number of students had trouble with the online component of the course (on Moodle, I’m not in charge of it ) and expressed a significant lack of willingness to try online tools that could help them.

Time to be sneaky.

Epstein Family Photos

My latest class is incredibly diverse, even more so than the last one. In a class of 37 students, the youngest is 19, the oldest is 54. There are representatives of either 3 or 4 religions ( I don’t ask such things) and different sectors of society. They are all in my class because they failed to pass the minumum threshold on the English component of their college entrance exam.

How to use the Moodle section was rammed down the students’ throats both at the beginning of the first and second lesson. Pure “front door” approach. Some students seem to tense up and tune out and then need to get individual help over the phone.

Another tool was sprung on the students – use of a QR code to take attendance. Since that required use of their beloved cellphones (in case you don’t know this, Israeli’s are inseperable from their cell phones) that seemed to be less intimidating for most of them.

Nonethless, I decided that the only way to go was to add one more thing. You see, you need a framework, a building, in order to have a back door to use. Especially in such a large class.

I told the students that we would be using Edmodo, which is built like Facebook but is not on Facebook and is completely closed and private for our group. I explained that we need it because this way they can get more support from each other and that assignments done on Edmodo are “Process assignments”, they can be commented on, corrected and even regraded.

I signed the students up and gave each one a card with their password (same username and password). You should have seen the sigh of relief when they realized they were already on the group without doing anything (the registration process is simple but they do need a code from me). In addition, the fact that emails were not necessary for registration reassured some students that it was really a private group. I explained only the minumum they needed to know to get started. Let them discover things on their own and  / or explain as needed. Too much explanation in class is wasting precious face-to-face time and intimidating.

In my previous course most of the students did not take advantage of the vocabulary lists I put up on Quizlet for them to practice with, despite extolling the many wonderful things one can do with Quizlet. Many students told me that they had studied for the quizzes only from the book. Quizlet sounded like a whole new program to learn to deal with.

This time, I posted a reminder about the quiz and added a link to the Quizlet page. The definitions they need for the quiz are all there, so I’m pretty sure almost everyone will enter the site. Whether they choose to practice from the list or try to click on buttons to enter different practice modes is up to them.

There have only been two lessons out of nine so far, though I’ve been in touch with some students through Edmodo (it’s great to read how they introduce themselves). We will see how smoothly use of Edmodo progresses and which other tools I can bring to their attention.

Will keep you posted!






8 thoughts on “Sneaking Ed-Tech In Through the Back Door”

  1. Hi Naomi
    I always get a lot out of reading your reflections on what you’re doing in your classes, and this is another terrific post.
    I also use Moodle and have similar frustrations with getting all students using it, made more frustrating because of all of the time I put into trying to make it an engaging and useful place for learning! I think my approach to encouraging use of Moodle is a bit ‘back door’, but then, I’m not offering them a choice of doors!
    I’m not sure that I would want to take my students off into another place, such as Edmodo, but will be very keen to watch what happens with your classes.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences once again.

    1. Lesley!
      Thanks so much for your support, Lesley! I’m very interested to hear what you do with the moodle. I don’t see how it can be used for process-learning (not sure I’m using a correct term). What I’ve seen so far are things that have to have a specific answer, can’t be commented on, corrected and regraded. Am I missing something?
      I’ll know more how this works out in 7 weeks…
      In any case, I decided I had to have edmodo because I do not manage the moodle part myself.
      Thanks for commenting!

      1. Hi Naomi

        I was commenting more on my approach to getting students to use Moodle as ‘back door’ using your words as a guide 🙂 I don’t push it, but quietly encourage use by modelling use in the classroom and using it for discussion forums (both text and voice, using Wimba Voice Discussion). This does allow students to support each other and comment on each other’s work. Though, with only a very few exceptions, they tend to wait for me to comment.

        Re the process writing, I’ve only used Moodle for assignment submission on a few occasions, and not for grading, but so that I can comment and they can correct and resubmit, and I can re-comment. So I guess it does have that facility, but only between teacher and student. I’ve just been to a Moodle symposium (MoodlePosium) and a few teachers were talking about using the Workshop module for peer assessment.
        Here’s some inforamtion:
        We don’t have this module in our institute but expect we will in the next upgrade. Here’s an interesting article I’ve just found, written by the chief @moodler himself:
        Using Moodle in ESOL Writing Classes –
        And this is also interesting:
        And this:
        Customizing Moodle for Language Learning –

        I’m keen to hear more about your experiments with Edmodo, but suspect I’ll stick with Moodle and try to get it to do what my students and I want to do!

        Cheers, Lesley

        1. Oh, Lesley, I see what you mean!
          Yes, I most certainly think that by quietly modelling it you are getting the message across much more effectively, through the back door. I’m not impressed with the results of ramming it down the students throats!
          Thank you for the information and links – I’ve already shared it with my coordinator.
          Appreciate it!

  2. Edmodo -yes, I’m glad you’re using it and have found it acceptable to the kids.
    I think you’ve helped me out with a non-facebook group I’m trying to deal with.

    I’ll see what I can do.
    best to you, Naomi!

    – judih

    1. Judih,
      Oh, do share if I’ve been able to help you out in any way! Got me curious!
      I haven’t tried this in school, this is with the adults. At school things are more complicated in totally different ways, but that’s another ball game!
      Keep me posted!

  3. Hi Naomi,
    Long time no comment – sorry! Great to see how you’re using Edmodo and Quizlet with your students. I’ve recently discovered that you can embed quizlet flashcards directly in to Edmodo. Maybe that will help them to take advantage of the vocab without going to a different site.
    Find the set you want to embed.
    Click on ‘link or embed’ in the top left corner.
    Choose the ‘flashcards’ embed code (about half-way down the box). It should start <iframe
    Go to Edmodo. Click on the 'link' button (as if you're adding a normal link). Paste the embed code in there.
    Give it a title
    et voilà – flashcards in Edmodo 🙂

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