Facebook, Edmodo, & Schoology. Oh my! Choosing a social network platform for learning

3/28/2013 12:00:00 AM
When deciding on a social networking platform to use with your students and/or the school community, there are several considerations to keep in mind. What are the age restrictions of a particular platform? Which platform is most comfortable for students? What are the teaching and learning goals you have in mind?  What are your school’s filtering settings? What is your district’s social media or internet responsible use policy?

Below is a comparison of three platforms, Facebook, Schoology, and Edmodo. It is important to keep these questions in mind as you consider the pros and cons of each.

The competition:
Facebook vs Edmodo or Schoology

FeatureFacebookEdmodo / SchoologyDescription
Building student personal learning networksYesNoFacebook allows you to make global connections with those who share your passions and interests. Edmodo and Schoology are confined to those in your classroom and classrooms or experts chosen by your teacher.
Building teacher personal learning networksYesYesFacebook is a great place for teachers to develop personal learning networks (PLNs) using groups or pages. An easy way to start is to just type your interest in the search and take a look at what shows up.

Adult PLNs are also possible in Schoology and Edmodo.  For example a Twitter hash tag (#histedchat) created in Australia has led to an Edmodo group for those involved where history resources are shared. All you need in order to join is the appropriate group code.
Strengthening your digital footprintYesNoWhat happens in Edmodo and Schoology generally stays there.  Facebook allows you to set transparency so your teachers can model and guide you in putting your best foot forward to start creating an online identity leading to academic, career, and citizenship success.
Must be 13YesNoFacebook collects personally identifiable information from students. Schoology and Edmodo do not require such information and also require student use under the supervision of an educator.
Access from schoolTBDYesWhile Edmodo and Schoology are sites that can be accessed from schools in most cases, sites like Facebook are often blocked. If this is a site you want to use, see if there is an unblock method or determine if this would be a good homework tool instead.
AdvertisingYesNoFacebook is funded by advertising. Schoology and Edmodo have other funding models.
FreeYesYesMost features on all three platforms are available free.  There are some paid for options in each.
Closed moderated groupsYesYesAll three platforms allow you to have groups that are closed and moderated.
Open moderated groupsYesNoOnly Facebook allows you to have groups that are open for others to find and join.
Messaging between studentsYesNoFacebook users can set their profiles to allow messaging or not allow it. Schoology and Edmodo don’t allow private messaging between students.
Events / CalendarYesYesYou can RSVP and communicate within Facebook events. You can not with Edmodo / Schoology.
Global connectionsYesNoYour connections are usually limited to your class and classes the teacher has connected with.
Students can post assignmentsYesYesYou can post assignments in all three platforms, but Edmodo and Schoology are designed for this with a sleek system. This would be much clunkier on Facebook.
Google Docs integrationNoYesYou could of course post links to Google docs in Facebook but Schoology and Edmodo have Google Docs integrated directly into the platform.
Create pollsYes YesSelect “Ask Question” in Facebook. Select “Create Poll” in Schoology and Edmodo.
Create quizzes No YesYou can create quizzes that are embedded into Facebook, though you could share a link to a quiz.  Edmodo and Schoology have quizzes embedded into the platform. Educator David Grills says quizzes are great for checkups on learning, and the students used it a lot for peer help and communication with him.
Access after graduationYesNoYour Facebook activity is usually available to you even after you leave a class or graduate unless your group is deleted. This is something to ask your teacher.
Edmodo and Schoology are generally school-based platforms and usually not continued after a school year or graduation.
Requires private information from usersYesNoFacebook requires private information and uses that information for advertising.  Schoology and Edmodo do not.
Gradebook and assignmentsNoYesSchoology and Edmodo are specifically learning management systems that let you capture and record student work. Facebook does not have such a feature.  

The verdict

Facebook is the platform where our students and parents are already communicating.  That is why Facebook is a great choice when working with students over 13 years of age or when trying to strengthen the home school connection.

While Facebook isn’t the best tool to serve all your needs, it is your best option for social media savvy teachers who want to help students make global connections to authentic audiences, establish a digital footprint, and/or develop a personal learning network. Doing so is not only a good idea because it helps students achieve academic and career readiness, but it is also a good idea because they need our help as responsible role models and guides in their online worlds.  

If Facebook is your platform of choice, remember students can “join” a group and “like” a page without friending the moderator. As mandated reporters, friending students may come with more responsibility than teachers are interested in taking on.

If working with students younger than 13 or for teachers who are uncomfortable using social media themselves, Edmodo or Schoology are terrific platforms (see a comparison here and here).They are also the preferred choice if you are looking for a closed learning management system.

Regardless of what platform you choose,  remember it is important to know your school or district’s social media / internet acceptable use policy before choosing a route. It is also a good idea to have a discussion with your supervisor about what you plan to do.

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

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