As an EdTech Leader on my campus and district I am often asked how something works, or rather how do you use a certain product. In years past I would show learners how to use the tool, but now I have stopped showing; I have started asking. I change my learners questions to this question: What is it that you are trying to accomplish? What is the goal? This in turn has my learners stopping and thinking what they are trying to do instead of getting a problem quickly fixed. Then we transition to having a mini session of them navigating through the tool as they are finishing the tasks. This means that I am not touching the product, they are and they are learning. So why am I telling you all of this?
Today I was in a session where leaders in my district wanted to know how to use two Learning Management Systems (LMS). The person leading the session asked my friend and I on using the tool. Quite frankly, I have only dabbled and played with the product. However, I decided to tell the person to change the conversation, not because I have only dabbled with it, but from what I stated above; what are you trying to accomplish? As a leader of the campus, what is your end goal? What is the technology infrastructure on your campus? What is your campus level in technology integration period? How are you going to lead and model using whatever LMS you decide to use? These are all questions that you have to ask yourself before you present an LMS to your staff. The biggest question that you also need to ask is what is the district modeling and implementing, and above all paying for.
I will say that for my district we have purchased an LMS that we have been using for a couple of years. What is coming down the pipe now is that district leaders and program directors are being trained to place their professional development courses and curriculum in this platform. I said this to principals and teachers not to scare them, but to get them to think. What is happening is that content will be trickled down from district leaders, to principals, to department heads, and given to the teachers. So eventually staff will have to learn how to access the platform and use it. Again, something for them to think about. I wasn’t trying to sway them in one direction, but I wanted to get them thinking.
The session quickly turned from a how to to a discussion. Which is what my partner and I leading the discussion wanted. There are several different EdTech tools out there that have listened and jumped on the bandwagon and started creating LMS features for their products. They are finally understanding teachers time when teaching and implementing. Like my director said some aren’t any better than the other, but as a whole they all do the same thing.
After listening to my friend and partner I do prefer one over the other, and even though I tinker with the product, it took a lot of convincing. The product helps my workflow when I blend and teach in classrooms and when I give professional development. My friend did make an excellent argument about certain LMS tools fitting a certain grade level. For example, for the younger grades using SeeSaw, for the middle grades using tools such as Google Classroom or even Classcraft, and for the higher grades tools like Canvas or Schoology.
I do agree with this 100%. What we should see is growth of implementing technology tools from each grade to the next, and from one classroom to the next; especially with LMS’s. Ideally by the time a student reaches high school they should have been exposed to at least 3 to 4 different LMS’s. Ideally the blended integration should be seamless and easy. I happen to ask a principal at another school how certain students were doing in the next grade since they were exposed to tech tools and blended instruction in the previous grade. I was told that originally it was the teacher that was going to push the students to use the tools, but the pressure was on because it was the students pushing her to do more and step out of her comfort zone; which is what you want. You don’t want to stop when kids want to push to learn more.
This prompted me to talk to my principal about joining and connecting our school with the elementary that feeds into us, the middle school that we feed into, and even the pre k. Nothing is set in stone but we want the conversations to happen and start being connected. All that being said look what has blossomed. From learning how to use 2 products, to thinking about campus and district infrastructure, to connecting schools to have a common goal for blended learning. All this from just learning how to use a Learning Management System.
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