Edmodo CEO Crystal Hutter reveals the popular platform’s role in education today
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
“Education has always been a big part of my life,” says Crystal Hutter, CEO of the 19-million user strong Edmodo education platform. Growing up, both her parents were teachers. Her dad was the principal of the high school she attended, and her mom was the school psychologist. Prior to joining Edmodo, Crystal worked to develop educational resources in India and Sub-Saharan Africa. “I’ve seen firsthand how access to a high-quality education can change outcomes for students of all backgrounds,” she says. “I’m incredibly proud to be at Edmodo, where our mission is to connect all learners with the people and resources they need to reach their full potential.”
Victor: Let’s keep a basic view and take it from there. What is it, exactly, and who created it?
Crystal: Edmodo is a free and secure K-12 social learning platform that connects all learners with the people and resources they need to reach their full potential. Edmodo was started by Nic Borg and Jeff O’Hara in 2008 when the two were working in IT departments at local schools in Illinois. They realized that there was a need to blend the online and offline learning atmospheres and bring digital tools and resources to the classroom.
Victor: What does it do and what are its benefits?
Crystal: Edmodo connects all learners with the people and resources needed to reach their full potential. The platform is free and removes the constraints of classroom only learning, giving teachers the tools to fully engage students in the learning process. On Edmodo, teachers and students can collaborate, share content and use educational apps to augment in-classroom learning. With users in every U.S. state and every country in the world, Edmodo connects a global network of teachers, enabling teacher-to-teacher interactions: problem solving, sharing resources, lesson plans, best practices, etc.
Victor: How is it unique and how does it differ?
Crystal: Edmodo was specifically built and designed for K-12 classrooms. We provide a safe and secure environment that enables teachers/students to access all their digital content in one place. Teachers provide students a six-digit code that grants access into a private group with only their teacher and classmates. Teachers then have the ability to monitor student activity, remove members and stay in control of their class through Edmodo.
Victor: When was it developed? What is something interesting or relevant about its development history?
Crystal: The Edmodo site has been live since 2008 when the company was founded by Jeff O’Hara and Nic Borg. The actual Edmodo launch was through a tweet that read, “We are launching Edmodo…now!” At the time, Nic and Jeff were working full-time as school IT administrators and being asked every day to block social networking websites in schools. They recognized the power of social in schools but the inherent need for safety. Thus Edmodo was born and today boasts more than 19 million users.
Victor: Where did it originate? Where can you get it now?
Crystal: Edmodo started in the IT departments of the Illinois School District where Nic Borg and Jeff O’Hara recognized a need for a secure social network that could connect teachers and students. Edmodo is available in every U.S. state and country in the world. You can access Edmodo via the web or any internet-enabled mobile device.
Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?
Crystal: Edmodo is free for all teachers, students, schools, districts, and parents and always will be. The only premiums associated are with specialized apps.
Victor: What are some examples of it in action?
Crystal: On Edmodo, we have teachers sharing from every corner of the globe, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We have so many great examples. One teacher, for instance, used Edmodo to share a field trip experience with students that weren’t able to attend. He kept his classroom connected using Edmodo, and students posted Voicethreads from the road to share details about the field trip.
This past year during the Presidential Election, we created a new Elections community where thousands of teachers came together to share resources to help students understand the election process. Along with the community, we launched Edmodo Votes, as a way to give students the opportunity to participate in the election.
We also host our annual virtual conference, EdmodoCon. It’s a full day of professional development for teachers led by Edmodo educators. In 2012, there were 12,000 attendees from 117 countries!
Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for?
Crystal: Edmodo is tailored for K-12 teachers, students, parents, and school districts and administrators. Technology is evolving in the classroom, and Edmodo was specifically designed to provide a digital learning experience that is secure and easy to use. Many of our team members, including our founders, are former educators, so we have a deep understanding of in-classroom needs. Our core focus remains on helping teachers save time and access the resources they need to teach a digital generation of students.
Victor: What are your thoughts on education these days?
Crystal: It’s an exciting time to work in education. Traditionally, education has been one-dimensional, with a teacher delivering a lecture to students sitting at their desks. Today, classrooms have become more interactive with teachers and students connecting and learning in ways never before possible. We recognize the importance of focusing on students’ needs first, and our learning environments are just beginning to reflect this. With the support of technology, teachers can now really begin to personalize learning for every student.
Victor: How does Edmodo address some of your concerns about education?
Crystal: The learning process is constantly evolving and what Edmodo does really well is streamline educational content into one place. We are helping teachers and students learn the way we live our lives – on multiple devices, from multiple locations. We also have real-time data to see, understand, and react to how students are absorbing information. With these tools, teachers can individualize instruction for their students, as well as see the larger learning trends taking place in their classrooms.
Victor: What is your outlook on the future of education?
Crystal: Learners today are part of a digital generation. With the ubiquity of the Internet, students are constantly exposed to information, and technology comes second nature to them. A textbook with its decades-long cycle is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of this generation of students. They need real-time information, interactive learning tools and stimulation to keep them engaged in their education. In order to keep up with the needs of these learners, we must meet them where they are. Using modular, engaging content is no longer a nice-to-have but an imperative.
Victor: Got any quirky or funny anecdotes?
Crystal: We work in a fun environment with a great team, some who happen to have a bit of a competitive streak. The other day, I walked up to our boardroom at the end of the day to see a group of engineers cheering on their colleagues in the Edmodo after-hours ping pong tournament finals (the table in our boardroom doubles as a ping-pong table). We definitely work hard at Edmodo, but it’s always wonderful to see folks having fun.
Victor: What else can you tell educators and other leaders in and around education about the value of Edmodo? What makes you say that?
Crystal: Edmodo provides common ground for all students, teachers, parents and publishers to come together. It facilitates building communities around areas of mutual interest and enables easy resource sharing. Over time, there has been a huge amount of educational content posted to the web; Edmodo safely connects and surfaces up resources most suited to meet the needs of each learner. It really is the place where learning happens.
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