One of the exciting aspects of being a teacher in the 21st century (there I said it) is the constant stream of new tech and apps that are able to make arduous tasks quicker, our students more engaged, our learning programs more dynamic and our own professional development personalised.
Alongside the excitement is a frustration that, in most cases, the technology is moving so quickly that we can’t keep up. (Or do schools move so slowly that it just appears that way?) After we have discussed, planned and implemented a new tech strategy, software/app or piece of equipment something new and shinier appears. I liken it to clothes shopping – at the time of purchase you never can be sure if this is going to be your favourite, most comfortable fitting pair of jeans. It’s not until 6 months after you have worn them, tried them with your existing clothing and put them through the wash that you realize – yes, these are good jeans. Or you see another pair advertised and wish you could buy them instead but no longer have the budget.
Another issue is that over time we end up with a hotchpotch of tech. I love processes and systems that make our ever-expanding roles as teachers more efficient, yet in most schools I have worked in, technology has been implemented in stages. What teachers have ended up with is a range of places to hunt for information in order to complete their administrative duties. For example:
- Professional development applications are via a link on the intranet to a Google Doc but then you need to also enter the information on PD Tracker
- Excursion information is in a folder on the network but you also have to complete the printed forms from the office
- Ordering materials is via a separate company through their website
- Course outlines and materials are on the staff portal (but have been added to over years by a number of people so you end up with five different folders called variations of Year 10 Art)
- Student information is spread between a student management system, the timetable/roll marking software and the reporting package
- And finally lots of different information is disseminated via bulletin, email, newsletter, website, notices and meetings.
I wonder (I do lots of wondering) if my students experience the same frustrations. Is it an effort for them to get their head around the fact that for media their teacher is using Weebly, for maths it’s Edmodo, for philosophy there’s a Facebook Group, science is on Schoology and the English teacher is using a combination of EduCanon and YouTube. Or, I wonder, is this the world they live in and accept as normal? Are my frustrations born from remembering a time when I only had to memorise one password to access my online tasks. i.e. check my email. Are our students, these digital natives, accustomed and adept at navigating multiple online tools for their social lives and learning? Would they prefer a ‘one size fits all’ solution? Or is this an individual preference derived from learning style and not the year you were born? Also if every teacher were doing the same, for example using Facebook, would the ‘glow’ wear off?
For media their teacher is using Weebly, for maths it’s Edmodo, for philosophy there’s a Facebook Group.
It seems a Learning Management System (LMS) for schools is the obvious solution to streamlining information and processes for students, staff and leaders in schools. But I can also imagine that such a unified approach could be detrimental to both teachers who are highly skilled in educating with other tools and students who prefer to learn in other ways.
I would love to know about schools that have implemented an LMS or developed a whole school policy for using Edmodo or Schoology and hear from teachers, principals, parents or students. In your experience has a whole school approach to an LMS worked? What are some of the pros and cons?