Covid 19 – Never going back
Covid-19 has changed a lot.
A number of schools have had to think quick, move just as fast and definitely have had to be pretty creative figuring out how to deliver quality education, how to provide support for families and much more.
As we continue to navigate this pandemic people keep longing for the days when we return to normal. I have a sneaky suspicion that when those days do come, normal will not look like a school pre-Covid. Here are some areas that have been changed by Covid and will probably not go back to the way they were.Continue reading “Covid 19 – Never going back”
Freedom VS Structure
I left it alone. Everyone was using it. Everyone had the permissions needed to customize their space. So I left it alone.
I set some guidelines. I spoke to everyone about best practice. I even made exemplars and samples so people could have a visual representation of what best practice means.
Ultimately, I made a mistake. Too much freedom and not enough structure. Concepts of Freedom vs Structure needs to be designed and adhered to within any online learning environment or environment that provides shared resources. Without structure, there will be chaos, and this will often require a complete reboot of the design.
The questions are simple: which pieces do people have to live with, and which ones can they fully customize?
I thought about this, and created some guidelines to make certain when planning a design not to accidentally get carried away with flexibility and customization
Resources used by students across year groups, or across the curriculum, should be centralized and universally linked from all pages or courses
This means if I have a list of “things” that students use, and those students are
not all in the same course or cohort, then that list should be easily found regardless of where those students are in the online environment.
Build boxes or menus that follow users and never change position
Making hyperlinks is very easy, but they can be overwhelming in an online
environment to users who are in multiple courses, using multiple menus, etc.
In most content management and course management systems, boxes and menus can be created that follow all users from page to page. These resources are always on the same part of every page.
Teacher groups and subgroups need to follow a group plan for resources
Schools group teachers together in a variety of ways. Some by entire division, for example The Primary School Division. Others use departments, for example The Math Department. There are many that plan by grade level as well. In addition to these core groups, schools make sub-group combinations such as All Primary Math Teachers or All Secondary Year 9 English Teachers.
We often forget how complex these groupings can be. The online environment is supposed to be designed for students, teachers, and possibly parents to find resources easily. If these groups and subgroups do not agree on a standard for how they will design their content, then jumping from one course to the next could be very confusing.
Someone with oversight of the online environment must ensure that the groups are planned properly and follow a standard. One example of a group standard would be stating that every group agree required subscriptions for students be linked at the very top of every online course or page. Fairly, simple, but very useful and easy to communicate to students and parents.
Have a review cycle for subscriptions
Subscriptions in a big school are difficult. I will write a post on ways to manage subscriptions, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that a school (or your school) has the planning of subscription acquisition and renewal down to a science.
Now you need to ask yourself, how often are you checking on the actual usage statistics of these subscriptions? Who is using them? How often? In what subjects? Who is using them at home or off-plan just for additional self-guided learning?
These questions need to be asked and answered at least every other renewal cycle.
This is also a good time to see if new competition exists. Most new subscriptions require some trial period before adoption. I would advocate communicating the cycle to faculty, so that they have a time frame in which to introduce new subscription ideas.
Flexibility and Freedom to choose are important, but so are structure and standards. Like a neighborhood, without some zoning and agreements, one person’s choice could negatively impact another person’s property. Those involved in technology leadership are well suited to set standards that balance the environment for all user groups. This is not a popular job, and one that is never appreciated, but doing it well will result in a daily positive impact for the entire community.
The problem with LMS’s
I’m not going to lie to you – I really like Edmodo. Hell I’ve made five versions of an Edmodo guide that has been viewed over 50,000 times and the latest version is more than fifty pages. You don’t do something like that unless you like something, are paid to do or old told to do it by a superior. I’m lucky, I fall into the first category. I know that Edmodo can help organize a class, improve communication between the teacher and her/his students and make life generally easier for the teacher. I know Edmodo does this and more and I know that other learning management systems (LMS) do too.
However, I read an article in Hack Education called Beyond the LMS by Audrey Watters. The article talks about a great deal of issues but one that stood out was why Audrey doesn’t think LMS are a good idea. Her example was Blackboard but this point here really stuck with me.
After all, 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.
You see, she is right. After a class is over in Edmodo, I have three options:
- Delete the class forever – not a good idea.
- Keep the class open – Not the best idea either. Who knows what it could turn into.
- Archive the class – No one can post, delete or make any changes. The info is available but you have to scroll or search through it
I archived all my classes, but if you’ve ever used Edmodo and archived a class and then tried to find something – good luck. The search isn’t that great which means you need to scroll through everything, and it shows so much info at a time. I’ve had to do this and it is a time consuming pain in the ass. My students wouldn’t go through all that.
Sure, the info is there but not easily accessible which means no one is going to sift through that to find what they’re looking for unless it is a real emergency and even then maybe.
One thing I believe is that technology can bring unparalleled transparency to a school. It can let all teachers of a subject/grade level to consolidate all their materials in one place, collaborate on cornerstone assessments and thus make everything better horizontally aligned which is a problem I’ve seen at every school I worked at.
It can also allow teachers in different grades to see what is being taught above and below them and thus bring more vertical alignment within a school. Also a problem I’ve seen at every school I’ve worked in, but Edmodo and other systems aren’t great at that. Their focus is far smaller. Improve organization of a class, improve communication within the class and to help bring more transparency to the students in the class. I love that but now that I think about what Audrey wrote, I think of all the resources they lose out on after the year/semester is over.
This makes me think of good old Omar. Omar, uses WordPress blogs for his classes. At first I thought he was making more work for himself. He had to set up the blog, he had to manually add each student to the blog, he had to make sure they could access the blog through their account. He had to make sure that the categories and tags were all set up and more and more, but at the end of the day (or school year) that info is still there. It’s still available for his students. It’s a record of what they’ve accomplished, what they still need to improve upon and more. They can take that with them (or at least access it in the future).
I like that idea more. I like the idea of students being able to take their work with them from class, to class and year to year. I love Edmodo and will most likely use it again in the future, but I’ll also do something else. Maybe a blog or a website to help correspond with what the LMS is doing. I want to create something with my students that they can take with them. I don’t want my class to be a stand alone class – I want it to be transparent and to have longevity beyong the school year.
In the end, if every year is a blank slate what was the point of all the previous years?