As for now, I am SO SO excited to have come across a great website for teacher/student collaboration: "Edmodo". Edmodo provides teachers and students a secure place to connect and collaborate, share content and educational applications, and access homework, grades, class discussions and notifications.
I started a page, and am so bummed that I can't fully utilize it until next school year. I am tempted to ask a few of my old students to sign up for it so that I can test out the different features. For now, here is a picture of my page and a short video with a brief introduction of how it works.
So, how would I use this in the classroom? Obviously my ideas are just that...IDEAS, because I can't put any of them into practice until next year. But in the short time that I have been able to ponder this, here is what I have come up with. Clearly, most students have a computer or phone with internet capabilities (I understand that there are students/families that do not have access to a computer, but there is no reason those students couldn't take 10-15 minutes out of their week to stop by the school library to participate). To begin, you can post assignments on edmodo...so students who lose their assignment could log in and print another copy of the assignment. Students could also post questions to the teacher under the assignment, and other students could also post replies and help each other out. You could post different videos that are related to the current units in the classroom. You could require them to watch it by the end of the week and post some sort of reply. You could ask review questions throughout a new unit in the form of multiple choice questions, poll taking, or discussion. On the other hand, instead of the teacher posting everything and the students simply replying, the role could easily reverse and students could post questions as well. You could put one student in charge of posting a discussion question each week...and then the rest of the students would have to reply to their post. You could also hand out an interesting article related to your unit, and then have the students discuss the article within a certain amount of time (within a week or over the weekend). Edmodo has "badges" that you can assign to students...so as students reply or discuss different topics you can award them badges. I use a classroom economy in my room as one form of classroom management...so my students could earn classroom money based on their badges or just random GREAT posts from them.
I'm sure there are so many more ways to use Edmodo, this is just what I came up with in the last couple of days. While I work on my curriculum at home this year, I will be coming up with different discussion questions and posts to use next year for each of my units!!! If you use Edmodo...PLEASE share what works for you and your students. I look forward to hearing from you!