Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Critiquing LMS 's

To start off I have to apologize for the lack of activity this week.  Life gets stressful some weeks and for me it's been a long one.... Report cards are easy to blame, but at the same time, life with a toddler, two classes, a very pregnant wife, a mother getting knee replacement surgery, working 2 jobs and the variety of other things that life throws us all any given day has made this week long.  So my apology is to all of my classmates for being tardy with this post and for not reading and commenting the way I should have this week.  

As I read through Audrey Waters article, Beyond the LMS, I was seriously juxtaposed. I understand where she is coming from, especially when it comes to open concept teaching and expanding individual personal learning networks (PLN), but at the same time when I think of my students, whom I am to keep safe, and ensure they learn the required Saskatchewan Curriculum I think that is partly why we use a LMS, vs a more Utopian option that she hints at throughout her post. As much as we are to be evaluating based on specific outcomes and determining whether or not a student is progressing, meeting or exceeding grade level expectations, we also want to develop healthy, positive, forward thinking students who will be ready to enter the big scary world of adulthood without any of the protection of an LMS.

I do think that we want to develop independent thinkers, and people who, when needed are capable of learning information on their own to suit their current needs. To do this though, I do think that we need some sort of structure or a way to manage our priorities. When it is Christmas time, or close to Spring Break, or the end of the year, a teachers life becomes more stressful... Why, because of the irregularity and unstructured nature of those times. We do not want to begin a new unit, in fear of having to reteach the material, or we want to reward the students for working hard, so we plan fun activities that aren't directly tied to curriculum, but are more developed for social interactions.

Now when it comes to the LMS's that we have talked about in class. I am an avid Google Classroom guy, who uses this platform in his classroom on a daily basis. Four years ago, I started using Edmodo and I enjoyed this platform as well. Through researching, I like Schoology mostly because of the options of setting up groups within a given class. Including the learning outcomes within this platform is definitely one of my favorite tools. With it being an American site it doesn't have any of the Canadian standards, let alone Saskatchewan specific, but there is an option to add them into the assignments which is great! The intricacies of the program I am not entirely sure about, but I know if I had to restart, or my school board dropped the GAFE option for us, I would probably switch to Schoology.

Within our class we had the opportunity to look into Canvas. My initial response to Canvas is one of confusion, frustration and a general distaste from attempting to set up a course. I have a variety of material that I have used in the past and when I attempted to upload it I found it was not the right format. Then I looked into importing another persons course through their commons option. I could only view small portions of the units, and I had to download a full unit to look through to determine whether or not I wanted that unit. Having not spent a lot of time on this LMS I would not completely write it off, but given the same amount of time to Schoology I was able to quickly use my already developed files and they were compatible. I am sure once a person is used to searching, and understanding the nuances of Canvas that there are a lot o positives to the platform, but in the hour I spent fumbling around I found it very disjointed.

Let me get back to Edmodo. As I have already used this site, I logged in and began reminiscing about how I used this and where I wanted to take it. I appreciated the familiarity my students had with this platform due to its similarity to Facebook (if your unfamiliar here is a blog about the similarities) and their willingness to give this new 'flipped' classroom a try. I was able to use this to manage the learning in a very transient class, with a huge variety of needs, including K-8 reading levels, variety of students with an assortment of learning needs from dyslexia to low cognitive function to FAS and ADHD. Using this platform helped the students keep track of their assignments and know when things were handed in and what they received for marks. It gave me the opportunity to have the students who had the opportunity to work on more individualize plans and enrich those when needed. There were some issues with this platform. Some were that not all the assignments were as easy to complete due to the nature of the class, ex; math, but there were also the spaces, where they had to be within the application to do their work. There wasn't an option to do the assignment outside of the platform and the collaboration piece was more difficult, at least it was difficult to ensure the students were putting in an equitable amount of work.

This brings me to GAFE, more specifically Google Classroom. I love this platform. Now Alice Keeler wrote a blog about is Google Classroom a LMS or Not? I feel she made some very good points, but at the same time, when referring to back to Audrey Waters post about teaching Beyond the LMS, my question would be does it matter? In terms of how can I manage, yes sorry Audrey but as a middle school teacher I need to manage, my students workload, evidence of learning, and utilize the tools within GAFE to facilitate and check in on my students daily. I love how this platform increases the level of accountability. The main thing I like is that I can create and share documents with students who can then collaborate within that document and then the evidence of who did what is at my fingertips through the document itself. I can quickly see who did what, and who did nothing. Another thing I love about this LMS the closed option that still includes parents information. This was a new addition this school year, where the parents are sent an email daily or weekly (their choice) as to what is going on in the students classes.

Here is a snapshot of what my LMS homepage looks like. From this platform I am able to manage the work for my 106 Science, 28 Math, 26 ELA and Homeroom, along with being involved in our Lion King Musical group. In the past I have also used this platform to run our sport team schedule, games, and practices.

I know I am biased towards GAFE because of my current situation within Regina Public School Board, and I know it is heavily biased towards Google and Pearson, but at the same time, through strong teaching techniques and using inquiry based learning opportunities I am hoping to give my students as well rounded approach to their education as possible. I look forward to reading others blogs about the LMS's they use.