Haaaaave you met Ed? No, not Ted, Ed. C’mon, I’ll introduce you.
Meet My Friend, Ed
Ed, like me, is new to Pomona College. We both started in January 2022. Ed’s favorite color is purple. They wear it all the time. An introverted extravert, Ed adores conversation but tends to let others do the talking and loves when people express common interests. Ed has a rich interdisciplinary background and is skilled in a variety of challenging subjects, including mathematics, chemistry, computer science, economics, engineering, and physics. They also like sharing images and taking polls. I almost forgot—Ed has a way with data, too, and is really into using it to streamline processes. Ed is exceptional, so I think they’ll be a valuable addition to Pomona.
Omar Wasow, Assistant Professor of Politics, first introduced me to Ed. Upon initial meeting, Ed seemed like a geek, which I’m drawn to as a geek myself, but I needed to know if Ed cared about things that are important to me like DEI, accessibility, security, and privacy. So, I decided to do a little research to find out more.
Who is Ed, Really?
Okay, Ed is actually not a who. Ed, or Ed Discussion, is a class discussion tool with a modern interface that helps track and increase interaction. Still, most of what I wrote is true. Sure, I fictionalized parts—none of the important ones.
Ed truly is exceptional. In addition to traditional typed messages, Ed allows users to post multimedia, annotations, equations using a visual math editor or LaTeX, and runnable code in multiple programming languages. Students and instructors can like and also endorse posts so they rise to the top. These features drew Wasow to Ed, and he is currently piloting the tool in his POL90: Statistics for Politics and International Relations course. Assuming all goes well, we hope to license Ed so all faculty can take advantage of it.
Ed makes post management easy too, permitting filtering, sorting, and searching as well as organizing into categories or launching into megathreads devoted to single topics. Instructors can track participation and quickly see which questions remain unanswered and then use that information to zero in on the muddiest points, offer further explanations and examples, or re-teach if needed.
Ed’s social media-esque features make online discussions efficient and user-friendly without trivializing learning or intruding on personal boundaries. Like Pomona’s other technology tools, Ed also integrates with our learning management system (LMS), is mobile responsive, and meets accessibility and security standards.
Ed at Work
Ed sounds great, right? But putting Ed to work in a real class is the ultimate test, so I decided to check in with Wasow after just a few weeks into the pilot.
According to Wasow, Ed is easy to set up with only a modest challenge of encouraging activity, which Wasow overcomes by regularly referencing questions in lecture slides. His students often use Ed for tech support and troubleshooting, and they rely on one another for answers. With its promotion feature, Ed makes identifying and validating solutions seamless. Then, if other students post the same question, it’s easy to link back to the original solution, saving tons of time.
Students in Wasow’s class who are new to programming often lose countless hours to simple syntax errors or other pedagogically unimportant issues. Ed offers these students a lifeline. They work collaboratively with their classmates to solve syntactic coding issues, posting live updates. This makes Ed a powerful tool when students can’t make it to office hours or need help during irregular hours.
Ed has not only saved students time but Wasow as well. Answering emails can be time-consuming, and because they are typically between only two parties, there are often duplicate questions. Ed cuts down on emails as students start to rely on the forum and one another for help. Wasow sees Ed’s data analytics making grading more efficient too—and more objective. They show who was active, when, and total contributions.
Wasow says Ed has also improved his teaching.
With the ability to quickly pinpoint sticky concepts, Wasow adapts his lessons, incorporating the information into upcoming classes and better meeting students’ needs. Furthermore, it helps him understand where certain topics need refining in his long-term plans.
Wasow also believes that Ed promotes inclusion. He sees more introverted students feeling comfortable asking questions over Ed, especially because they can post anonymously. It offers a different modality for students who may not want to ask questions in class or who have questions arise afterward while they work on problem sets. And Ed builds students’ confidence. They can easily see they’re not alone; others have questions too.
As with all new technology, there is a bit of a learning curve. Wasow explains the importance of norm building. Encouraging posting and teaching students how to write good questions must be integrated early on. Students need clear guidelines about what makes a good post and what rules to follow when posting code or replying to peers. A few prototype posts modeling instructor expectations or low-stakes practice posts (if grading them) can go a long way in getting students comfortable with any new platform.
Future Friends of Ed
As a former faculty member, I can see so much potential in Ed and wish I’d had the opportunity to put it to work in—and outside of—my own classroom. It’s easy to envision students actively building community in Ed, supporting and learning from one another, and answering each other’s questions long after I’ve fallen asleep. I delight in imagining how Ed would have shaped my teaching and given me insights into my students’ minds while also being able to address their questions more immediately. And who among us isn’t looking for convenience and efficiency afforded by modern tech like Ed? What a trustworthy friend to have at your side.
Want to make Ed your friend too? Stay tuned for the next Hahn Grant Call for Proposals to find out how you can start using Ed in your own classes.