Edmodo  started out as the Facebook  (or Yammer) for classrooms--a social network-style place for teachers to coordinate online with their students (and sometimes parents). Today the company becomes even more like Facebook as it opens up its API so that outside companies can build apps that sit on top of the Edmodo platform.
CEO and cofounder Nic Borg tells Fast Company the change will make things easier for teachers, helping them save time by allowing them to plug the digital tools they often are already using directly into their Edmodo classrooms. But it also presages a larger digital shift in schools--one in which every classroom may very well one day have an online hub that will sit at the center of their on- and off-line worlds.
The system launches today with 35 apps, including, for example, a tool that allows teachers to create bubble-style multiple-choice tests and then use their computers' cameras to automatically read the results back into the system. Another app allows students to run science labs online. And a third app helps teachers analyze data about their students' performance and identify opportunities for improvement.
Borg says connecting the apps with Edmodo means teachers can save time setting up accounts and transferring student information from one system to another.
But he also says it will accelerate the development of new digital products for classrooms. The biggest challenge many education innovators have is getting teachers and schools to become aware of their products. Edmodo's store, which will officially open this fall, solves their marketing problem.
"They'll have a place they can distribute at scale," Borg says. There are currently a little more than six million teachers and students in 70,000 schools using Edmodo today. Three-fourths of those are in the United States, with the rest in countries abroad. (Edmodo is available in Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, and Greek, in addition to English.)
As with Facebook, the system is free to use, and adoption has mostly taken place at the grassroots level, with teachers making the decision to use Edmodo themselves, rather than, for example, school systems mandating its use.
The apps, however (many of which exist as standalone products today) are often paid. Borg says Edmodo currently charges its partners 15% of those fees.
Edmodo is also launching a Teacher-Developer Exchange, which will connect app developers with classrooms, both to research future tools and find real users to provide feedback.
"This is really all about fulfilling the transition to digital in the classroom," Borg says. "A lot of the move from paper to digital has been a little bit slower than it should be because of the overhead. We see this as a real catalyst for new and better types of content to be created as well as a way to shift away from more paper worksheets and assessments to actual learning objects that are interactive and provide meaningful data back to teachers."
[Image: Flickr user Svadilfari ]