Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Getting Started with an LMS

A learning management system is traditionally used to support students in an online class.  It is the hub of learning, providing opportunities for teachers to share assignments, assessments, and communications between members of the class and the instructor.  Many of our WRSD high school teachers have found Google Classroom to be very effective in doing this.  But what if we could take it one step further?

As part of the Personalized Learning Grant that we received from PDE, we have researched the best learning management system platforms and found that Schoology has good reason to advertise that it is the best on the market. While many of you may be familiar with it from the iPad course through Eduspire, it has made significant improvements since then.  With what they call “Enhanced Google Integration,” as well as the ability to connect to other top educational vendors, they do not ask that teachers recreate the wheel.  Instead they allow us to connect the best systems in one place to create a hub of learning for our students.

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As the middle and high school roll out the option of 1:1 programs in their buildings, you may be wondering how to make use of this excellent and diverse tool.  When we attempt to personalize learning for our students and allow them to work at their own pace, we find that they also finish at their own pace.  Being able to offer opportunities to deepen and extend their learning becomes an opportunity but also a challenge.  What does that look like?  Instead of thinking in terms of “lessons,” begin to think in terms of “modules,” with us helping students achieve mastery of the concepts instead of passing a test.

Schoology is set up to look like a social media newsfeed (think Facebook).  But you can connect to Sapphire (the new gradebook), Lightning Grader, Google Docs and more (it’s so much more than just a connection).  It takes the focus off of a test and talks more about what their learning was, such as through portfolios or learning objectives.  You can reward students for their progress with badges, too, capitalizing on the digital badge trend.  Student and parent accounts are linked, so parents can see their child’s courses and progress.

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If you aren’t sure where to get started, you can take a look at some courses that have been created by other teachers in other districts, copy and edit the content they have, and make it work for you.  This is especially useful if you teach the same course and use common assessments for multiple sections of the same course.  Administrators and other staff members will be using this system too, so that we are all familiar with this platform to share information throughout the district.

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With the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, some teachers may be creating online course content for WRSD, some teachers may be furthering their blended classroom, or some teachers may be trying to make use of their students’ chromebooks on a more regular basis.  Whatever the reason, Schoology is a tool for any teacher of any content area.  If you are interested in using it, please reach out so we can discuss it further.  I will be happy to help you in using this as an effective tool in your class.

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