LMS Does Not Stand for “Losing My Sanity”

This week, we had the opportunity to explore and review one of the LMS platforms that Alec and Katia introduced us to on Tuesday night.

Before I started exploring I first read through our readings for the week. I figured that I would gain a little more knowledge before heading off to explore a couple of the platforms and then review one of them. So, I dutifully clicked on both the Wikipedia page on the VLE and Chapter 6, A History of Ed Tech.

And then I read Audrey Watters‘ Beyond the LMS post.  Everything I read completely spoke to me. I believe Katia has spoken before (in another class) about how big a fan of Audrey Watters she is and, while reading it, I was converted into a pretty big fan.

My three top “ah-ha” moments, or things that I completely agreed with were:

  1. LMS platforms are “old school.” While you can dress up the same old, same old (Lipstick on a pig is my favourite expression for this) it’s still an old method that hasn’t gotten better
  2. Something that Alec alluded to, as well:

    At the end of each class, students would lose access to the materials — could lose, I suppose. there are some administrative controls to extend it. Anything they’d written in the forums, for example, any interactions they’d had through the messaging system: gone.

  3. LMS platforms are traditional. Audrey talks about the course online being very similar to the course that one would teach in person. Not a lot of change, or innovation.

So, with these thoughts in my mind, I went off to explore an LMS. Like Ashley, I too, received a phone call from Canvas a few days after registering for my account.  This was really impressive to me, especially as they called during lunch and asked if I was busy with a class at the moment before asking me more questions.

(An aside – getting phone calls during the school day drives me crazy. I know what I should do is turn my phone to airplane mode – I use it to take photos of my students for my blog or for SeeSaw – but I inevitably forget)

My face when my phone rings at 9:03AM
My face when my phone rings at 9:03AM

Photo Credit: jeancliclac Flickr via Compfight cc

Since I received the phone call, I decided Canvas would be the one that I would explore a little bit more.

My top three things that I liked about Canvas are:

  1. The “what to do” checklist. Checklists warm my heart and it’s always nice to have the option of taking the website’s walkthrough. The checklist itself was very straightforward and easy to follow.
  2. I LOVED the calendar. I’m all about organization and I loved the possibility of adding assignments and seeing what each class I taught had to do, on which date. Colour coding the classes is also awesome. Seriously, this might be my favourite thing. I use Planboard in my daily teaching life simply because it’s so lovely, organized and colour coordinated.
  3. The course email feature is handy-dandy.  It would be nice to be able to respond to email about the course within the course platform itself, instead of bouncing around to different platforms and email sites.

However, after I spent a bit of time on Canvas, I came back to my top reason LMS platforms are not for me.

Kindergartens cannot use them.

I know that this is the third time that I’ve mentioned this, and maybe it’s starting to get annoying, but it’s frustrating to think of having to adapt something that is clearly not meant for children. (Maybe their parents? But French Immersion at home is that much more of a headache.)

When I mentioned the fact that I teach kindergarten to the lady on the phone from Canvas, she said “oh, well…” After thinking for a bit, she said, “If your school division bought Canvas, we can work to design something with buttons… maybe?”

This is a great (probably expensive) offer, but still a little unrealistic. I believe that I will have to turn my back on an LMS platform and instead, as Audrey Watters proposed use “the open web” and use some more kid-friendly software to make my kindergarten class a little more blended.

All the "blended" jokes
All the “blended” jokes

Photo Credit: yourbestdigs Flickr via Compfight cc

Thanks for reading my (super) late blog post!

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To make a blended course, add one part…

After our class this week, I found myself a little relieved. When first signing up for the course, I thought to myself “well, I’m not 100% sure what blended learning is, but I guess I’ll find out.” After our first class, many questions popped up such as: how in the world will I design a blended course that I will be able to use as a primary teacher? And, not only as a primary teacher, but as a teacher of the extremely little guys – kindergarten students who aren’t as worried about reading as they are who took their favourite car during center time.

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Lucas took the black car, but I was using it!

Photo Credit: quinn.anya Flickr via Compfight cc

Honestly, one of my biggest fears about blended learning is that it is often very personal and personalized.  And therefore, as Downes wrote: if people are to become effective learners, they need to be able to learn on their own.  Learning on your own in younger grades is amazing to see. It’s what early years educators try to provoke with invitations to learn.

As Nicole wrote, learning is a process. Students, at all levels, kindergarten to university, need scaffolding in the learning process that takes time.  Therefore, blended learning, in any capacity, is something that can be done with all ages, although it might look very different! In my last blog post, I said that adapting for young learners was something that I worried about. Note the past tense. Worried.

However, once I read the article from Bates this week, I was not as worried. After reading, I thought:

Blended learning is an easy mixture: take one part teaching and combine it with as many parts necessary of technology, either through technology aids (such as smartboards or iPads), flipped classrooms or learning management systems.

Once I realized that blended learning was what was already happening in my kindergarten classroom, I was able to imagine designing a course to present to this class and possibly use to teach as well!

For this project, Angela and I decided to work together.  We are both primary teacher although I teach French Immersion kindergarten and she teaches grade three in English.  Although this is a large age gap, both groups of students have similar issues when thinking about designing a blended course.

For example, both kindergarteners and grade threes will need:

  • a lot of pre-teaching and scaffolding to accomplish their goals
  • safe spaces for sharing their knowledge
  • an easy to use learning management system
  • parent help with any aspects of a flipped model
All parents have this smile with homework
All parents have this smile when it comes to homework

Photo Credit: GSCSNJ Flickr via Compfight cc

 

With this in mind, what we have discussed so far is:

  1. Developing a course for grade three arts ed
  2. Working on a course for the visual strand of the Arts Ed curriculum
  3. Creating a few videos of techniques/background information for Arts Ed for parents and children to watch at home (flipped model)
  4. Using a form of learning management system for younger students.

While these are all very general, I feel like we have a good start.  I am used to using SeeSaw in my kindergarten classroom, and I feel like it might be a good option.  I saw from reading Amy’s post that she and Nicole have also considered using SeeSaw.  The ease of documenting their learning is what is drawing me to SeeSaw currently.

Not this seesaw
Not this seesaw

Photo Credit: a.rey Flickr via Compfight cc

One thing that I am still grappling with the distinction between blended learning in delivery and blended learning in final product.  Can you have one without the other?

I hope that Angela and I are able to quickly solidify our plans and develop an amazing course to share with all of you!

Back at it!

Hello everyone!

It is good to be back in a class with all of you – and some new faces! My name is Ellen Lague.

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Hello all!

I’m a French Immersion Kindergarten teacher at Connaught here in Regina.  This is my seventh masters class and my third with Alec and Katia.

One of my goals for this class is to reinforce my previous knowledge about using tech in the classroom and hopefully add to my skill set!

Another goal that I have is similar to Kelsie’s goal of exploring Google Classroom.  I too, would like to use Google Classroom, or a platform that is very similar.  Since I teach Kindergarten, I feel like a lot of the online platforms that we will see will be extremely interesting but might not be able to be used by my Kindergarten students. Unless I adapt it for them, or use it with their parents?

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Photo Credit: ryanvanetten Flickr via Compfight cc

My last goal is to expand my Twitter presence. I plan to participate in more Twitter chats and expand who I follow for education purposes.

All in all, I’m looking forward to this class and hopefully learning a lot!