edmettle – Kicking the Tires

In my Computer Science classes at the university, we use PBWorks as an LMS for the course.  It starts with a blank slate and you create the content and the things that you need to make the course work.  I could have used the university LMS but there were a couple of reasons…

  • it’s available while the students were at the university but not when they get a teaching job;
  • at the end of the semester, the content is erased;
  • like most LMS systems, it does have a steep start in terms of familiarization and we only have a certain number of sessions.

Things worked well and I never had a problem with the students’ use.  That is, until I taught a computers across the curriculum course.  The students wanted to know why we didn’t use Facebook in one of their other classes.  A closed group was the environment and it probably worked well for the purpose of the course but it led to a great teachable moment as we discussion the use beyond the course.

  • when you get a job, will Facebook be blocked from student use?
  • when challenged, how do you justify putting all that advertising in student browsers?
  • where does the student data get stored and what is it used for?
  • how many of you check your timeline and play Candy Crush Saga during class?  Would you expect your own students to be any different?
  • can you communicate with parents through it?  Do you really want to be friends with students and their parents?
  • and a whole bunch of other things…

Most importantly, when you look at the big picture, it’s nice to have an electronic system that doesn’t try to be all things to all people.  Often they become unnecessarily complicated for the task at hand.

And, I didn’t have to evaluate Learning Skills or communicate with parents.

So, it was a nice surprise this morning when Brian Aspinall asked me to take a look at his latest creation, edmettle.  You’ll know Brian from his work with Scrawlar, NKWiry, and Clipkwik or the interview on this blog.

In edmettle, Brian has tried to take the best from social and learning management systems and focus it for the classroom.  So, at this point, you won’t see any advertising.  We’ve talked – somewhere along the line he needs to find a way to pay for storage and bandwidth for these pet projects of his.

For now, with edmettle, you can request a teacher account and start right away.

If you’ve used any of Brian’s other projects, you’ll be familiar with the operation here.

  • teacher creates a unique class and code;
  • teacher creates student accounts and gives them a code to access their class;
  • (new) a parent code is created so that parents can be part of the process.

For students and parents already using social media, the presentation is familiar.

I was surprised at no support at this time for Scrawlar or NKWiry.  In fact, as you’ll notice from above, the editor removes some punctuation so that links to the web would have to be left to copy and paste.

Regardless, the discussion area for the class is the heart of system.  As Brian notes:

“Edmettle is a social network and feedback management tool for teachers and students. Members of the class can reward each other for positive behaviour.”

Within the environment, students and teachers have access and can comment on the skills the teacher deems appropriate for the class.  Obviously, this would be the place to talk about the learning skills from the Ontario Curriculum but the site is flexible enough to add you own.  As a teacher, you can add and remove them as appropriate.

I see a perfect opportunity here to link the categories to an NKWiry page with resources that explain fully what the expectations are.

Of course, the teacher is in charge of things.  Creating a student gives you both a student and a parent password.

All that’s required is the name of the class and the password.  That drops the student/parent into the class with view restricted to their daughter/son’s area.

Parent View

The presentation is straight forward and provides the information they need to see.

Student View

The student view is a little more social with options for interactions with in the class.  Here, the student creates her/his own profile…

… and can add endorsements (mettles) where appropriate.  I see this as a natural for Mozilla’s Open Badges.

endorse

One of the things that you’ll find missing is the requirement for student email.  That’s a signature feature for all of the software that Brian has written.  Many school districts don’t provide student email accounts and/or block personal email accounts.  That’s not a problem here.  Class and password are all that’s required.  Parents may elect to provide their own email address and be notified if/when their student receives a “mettle”.

The software is “new” so I’m sure that the feature set isn’t complete yet.

In education, we’re so fond of paper! edmettle provides a way to collect and manage comments and discussions about learning skills and classroom activities in an ongoing manner.  Anything that helps with that last minute barrage of documents and efforts for report cards would be welcome by all.  It’s worth noting that you don’t have to leave all the material in the system.  There’s a teacher option to export all the “mettles” to a .doc which would be really handy come reporting time.

Interested?  Visit the edmettle site and request an account and kick the tires for yourself.

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