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Web 2.0 meets Web of Life

June 3, 2010

The assignment was this: take an established lesson that you teach, and rewrite it to include a Social Network. You might envision how grade sevens could use Facebook to do their fractions, or perhaps how Twitter could be used to explore word usage in Language Arts (come to think of it, these ideas have the seeds of successful classroom learning activities, but I digress). This lesson took a standard summative assessment task assignment for Grade 7 Science in the Ontario Curriculum, and used a lesser know Social network, Edmodo, for students to share and evaluate their products.

In the Ontario Science Curriculum, the unit Interactions in the Environment includes the following expectations:

  1. explain why an ecosystem is limited in the number of living things (e.g., plants and animals, including humans) that it can support
  2. describe ways in which human activities and technologies alter balances and interactions in the environment

Using the theme of “Local Endangered Species,” students will gather, organize and analyze information about a local species under threat and create a mindmap using a Web 2.0 tool. They must then post their mindmap to the Edmodo discussion forum, and use a Rubric to checklist their own as well as some peers’ work, and add their comments too. The Mindmap should include information about: biology, habitat, local range, status, an action plan for improving the status as well as images, maps or links. Of course, students would have received direct instruction about mind mapping as well as introductions to the various Web 2.0 mind mapping sites before beginning. They would also require an introduction to Microblogging, specifically the use of Edmodo.

I experimented with three Web 2.0 Mindmap tools in the process, and these were invaluable lessons in themselves for assessing the strengths and weakness of various tools for school use. Mindmeister was the most flexible (it has lots of features such as links and images), Mindomo the most robust features, but with a steeper learning curve and was the simplest to use, and also yielded the plainest mindmaps due to limited features. Each has advantages appropriate for various learners and could be used to assist in differentiating instruction.

The choice of Edmodo as the social network tool was simple. I wanted a tool that I had limited experience handling (I tried it out with a few colleagues one day over a year ago but never in the classroom) and it also had limited features that would not overshadow the learning goals of the unit. The focus was on local endangered species, and peer sharing and evaluation, not the many features of a full blown social network. Click on the image below for a closer look at the Edmodo environment.


Edmodo Screenshot

Edmodo Screenshot

Before starting, I reactivated my Edmodo account and became re-familiar with the Edmodo environment. It handles simple posts (140 characters) but also handles embedded objects, like the Mindmaps I was going to create. I made three “student” accounts and a class group in which to work, and then set about trying the three Mindmap products. When I opened Mindmeister, I discovered a map that I had created for a previous Wilkes course some time ago. It was related to the same ecosystems topic so I posted it as my sample.

Teacher Sample
After setting up my student account, I set out to improve on the quality of the teacher sample and use Mindmeister’s full set of features. The results are embedded below.

Monarch Butterfly Mindmap

Jefferson Salamander Mindmap using

Hooded Warbler Mindmap using Mindomo

The Mindomo embedded Mindmap may not appear, so its direct link is provided here.

An added element for evaluation would be to include a Google Form for the self, peer and teacher evaluation, like the sample below. The form would include all elements of the Rubric as well as comment spaces, that correspond to how well each expected feature was done and the depth of research that was completed.

Example Google Form for Evaluation

Please email me if you wish to obtain access to my Wilkes Edmodo group and see how the embedded links and student submissions appear.
This is a practical example of the merging of Science and Web 2.0, and I look forward to implementing it with students.

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