Friday, May 10, 2013

Using an LMS in your class

I recently had the opportunity to attend a webinar hosted on and presented by Gail Palumbo.  She shared with the viewers a lot of information about LMS (Learning Management Systems) and how schools are using them in their web environments to expand learning.   I really wanted to investigate some of these tools more to see if there is a platform I prefer over the other.  First of all, let's talk about what an LMS is.  It is a platform online or via server that provides learners with a virtual classroom setting.  There are ways to upload documents, video, calendars, share files and links and collaborate.  A few you may know are Edmodo, Blackboard, My Big Campus and even moodle.  The platforms vary by how they work, but, all in all, they accomplish the same thing: Structure, organization and accountability.  Some of these platforms have built in quizzes and grading systems.  Some link directly to a lot of school based data software such as Powerschool, SDS and the like. The programs make it so much easier to accomplish some of the many things that need to be done in the classroom.

Being in a 1:1 environment, I think having some sort of LMS is important to being successful.  Deciding on a unified program can be good or bad.  Some teachers have different needs with their platform, so forcing everyone to use the exact same platform might not be best for everyone.  On the other hand (let's play devil's advocate here) having everyone on board can allow cross collaboration, paired lessons and potentially make it easier on the kids. (I say this because each one has a different way of getting kids online, each one has a different access code.  That can really overwhelm a kid.)  I hooked our staff up on Edmodo a few years back and a few of them continue using it.  I have also looked at a few other platforms that are free to create classroom settings.

The conversation about LMS is a big one.  There are a lot of them out there.  The key is to choose something you think you can use with students and staff to establish some collaboration.  Here are a few to peruse and try out.  There might be one there that strikes your fancy.

1. Collaborize Classroom:  free platform with a topic library featuring curriculum ideas.  Also has an app to use on an iOS device.
2. Edmodo:  Free, features an app (but I really prefer the web based.) Also has a very strong community with a lot of ideas and curriculum from the many subscribers.  A lot of people share things here.  There is also a capability to create a district account.
3. My Big Campus:  Free to use, online chat help to solve problems.  Good forum and also an app.  Downside, without access to a Lightspeed server, you don't have as much space so adding video and larger files is not a possibility.
4.  Schoology:  Free for teachers.  Good for online courses.  Worth looking at. (I haven't spent a lot of time checking this one out.)
5. Haiku:  I am not really super versed in this one, I saw someone comment about it on a chat once and it looks pretty good.  The person raved about it.

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