A few months ago I finally tried out Edmodo. Back then I was just exploring it. Now, though, I've actually tried it on three of my classes. There's a bit of a learning curve, but I think it's worth it for the benefits.
Edmodo's assignment feature is great. Besides a name and description, I can add sample images, helpful links, and even videos. When students log in, the assignment shows up on their home screen (a little bit like the Facebook feed) as well as in the notifications in the upper right.
To turn in an assignment, students simply click on it, then either upload a document, paste a link, and/or insert something from their library (I haven't yet taken advantage of the library). Before grading, they can even resubmit the assignment, or add a comment with more documents/links.
The best part about assignments is being able to give instant feedback. As I go through and grade, I can leave comments about what they could do to improve their score, or simply tell them how great it was. Students can respond to the feedback, sometimes with any changes they might have made.
In the future I'd like to plan ahead a little more and have all the videos, links, and samples ready to go. Also, by saving assignments to my library, I can simply use them again and not have to prepare everything (more on this coming up next).
Setting Up Classes and Groups
For my three Graphic Design periods, I set up a single class and then created small groups as the periods. (This would be great except when it comes to transferring Edmodo grades to my ridiculous district grading system.) You can post to either the whole class or small groups. Next year when I use Edmodo with my rotational model Multimedia class, it will be perfect. I'll create all my assignments, then time them differently for the different groups. (This makes more sense if you use a rotational model.)
Quick Polls and Quizzes
I know there are polling and quizzing sites out there, but it's awfully convenient to have this in Edmodo. Students don't have to create yet another account to take quizzes elsewhere. You can even attach links or images to multiple choice options which adds all sorts of versatility.
What the Students Think
Overall, students seem to prefer Edmodo to having a website where students submit assignments via DROPitTOme. I'll keep the old website but try to synthesize the two by linking back and forth so it's not a hassle.
I haven't received any feedback from students on this, but I think it's fun and encouraging. Once again, there are other ways to give badges, but it's just so convenient to have them in the same place. Edmodo offers a few badges, but it's better to create your own, I think. You just need a square image, 114px, and Edmodo will turn it into a circle and add a border.
But you know what would be awesome? If you could set it up to automatically award badges for certain tasks. For example, I created the finisher badge for any student that finishes every single assignment. Unfortunately, I have to manually go through the grades and write down every student that has earned it, then go in and award the badge. Other badges are for superior scores on projects, acing tests, completing units, etc.
Final Thought: Training
Edmodo not only has a learning curve for teachers, but obviously for students as well. It would really only require a single class period to do it, though. Students simply need to be aware of proper commenting etiquette (don't spam the class page with your thoughts on pie), how to filter posts to see only assignments or quizzes, how to use the planner, and how to check progress. Many students are techno savvy and find all this on their own, but even those students probably miss some things.
[On that note, if I may editorialize a bit, this isn't how it should be. First of all, the site should be designed so all of this is intuitive. Secondly, it would help to give students a tour when they initially create accounts. However, as it is, it's satisfactory.]