Edmodo's K-12 Social Network Helps Teachers Connect with Students---and One Another

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Back in 2008, when Edmodo co-founders Nic Borg and Jeff O’Hara were still working in IT for Chicago-area school districts, they noticed a big problem. Teachers were increasingly trying to bring Web tools into the classroom, but they didn’t have a safe and secure way to collaborate with students online. (Clearly, Facebook wasn’t an option—and still isn’t.) Drawing on the free space in their garages and the money in their pockets, Borg and O’Hara created Edmodo, a social network that allows K-12 teachers to interact and share resources with their students over the Internet.

Now, three years later, the San Francisco-based company has connected approximately 5 million students and teachers globally. And in December, marquee investors Greylock Partners and Benchmark Capital showed how much they liked Edmodo’s product by shelling out $15 million in Series B financing. (The company’s other backers include LearnCapital and Union Square Ventures.)

Edmodo co-founders Jeff O'Hara (left) and Nic Borg

It was a big validation for the company, which has created a social network that teachers can use to assign homework, create quizzes, share materials and lesson plans with each other, and communicate with students in the same way that they communicate with their friends. The education-specific network doesn’t come with the same distractions that others have (FarmVille, friend updates, gossip) and it keeps its members in a closed community. “Edmodo is really built around the teacher-student relationship and what a classroom is,” Borg says. “There are a lot of roles in a social network when you look at the education side of things, and Edmodo really captures that.”

The company is part of a larger crop of Web startups working to create new management tools and facilitate communication in K-12 schools, among them San Francisco’s LearnBoost and education incubator Imagine K12′s Class Connect and Goalbook.

In early versions of Edmodo’s network, the emphasis was on sharing with students, but Borg says it wasn’t enough. Both he and O’Hara were working with teachers daily—the two met because O’Hara’s wife was Borg’s high school biology teacher—and Edmodo quickly received requests from teachers wanting to be able to connect with each other, not just their students.

“This group of teachers came on board really early and helped shape the product,” Borg says. “They’ve driven it from day one up to this point.”

Because of their feedback, the Edmodo service has evolved so that teachers can connect with each other, notify students of overdue homework, award badges for merits like good attendance, and even contact parents through the network.

Educators have also frequently asked for more ways to motivate their students. “The digital rewards have had an amazing impact,” Borg says. “Teachers clamored to create more and more badges.”

For Edmodo, it’s been particularly important to take the product directly to teachers, as opposed to … Next Page »

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  • http://www.aroundtheworldin80Days2012.com Steven Rafter

    Great Article! I have been using Edmodo in my school… I have made heaps of mistakes with it and have seen, first hand, the improvement in learning outcomes of my class – particularly Students who don’t always feel comfortable or confident within the school environment. I am learning just as much as my students – but in a different way. I would suggest to any teacher to have a go at it – if you want to begin by yourself – start by connecting with other teachers and then introduce it to your class – YOU CAN’T BREAK IT! The kids will be teaching you quicker than you know… I am so impressed with it I am undertaking a research project into the link between the transformation of knowledge and improved learning outcomes… cheers Steven Rafter

  • Meredith Harris

    I have been using Edmodo for over a year. I led my school in adopting it school-wide, not just to use with students, but as a really effective professional learning community.

    It has been a big question: where does Edmodo get its money? You’ve answered that here, but only in part…what is bringing a return on investor’s money? There is no advertising (that I’ve noticed)…

    This is actually really important to a lot of folks. Before you bring your class online with this, you kinda wanna know what you’re getting into…

  • http://simplybax.edublogs.org/ Bakary Singhateh

    I am impressed with your initiative, so I thought it important to let you know that you are heard of the world over. I live in the Gambia, West Africa. Currently, I an Instructor/Lecturer at the University of The Gambia – School of Education.

    As we speak now, my professional ambition is to see to it that Gambian Teachers are computer literate,this way, they will be able to benefit from the online professional networks of teachers and students across the world.

    It’s a new era, characterized by availability of new tools on the web 2.0 platform, most of them free and shared by professionals around the world; tools which will be of immense help in the hands of Gambian teachers to better deliver educational services more effectively. Therefore, I strongly believe Gambian teachers would inevitable need to employ new teaching and learning styles.

    In fact, the Gambia government is currently reviewing its higher education policy, and I am hoping the new policy will put these concerns on board.

    Notwithstanding, I am going to use any available opportunity I have to, even if it means creating it, to add my little and lonely voice to see to it that our education system responds to the emerging educational trends in our society. Estimates about the number of teachers in the Gambia who are not computer literate is more than 75%, but the possibility is there to change this trend.

    Through collaboration, consultations, research, and training, a new direction in education better suited for the new generation of learners in The Gambia is attainable. I am therefore launching an appeal to Edmodo for suggestions, expert opinion, collaboration, networking, exposure to seminars/conferences etc. in a bid to start/trigger the beginning of the transformation of our educational system. Like I said earlier, I can’t do it all by myself; but I need your collaboration to launch this important initiative.

    Best Regards

    Bakary

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