11 Reasons Every Classroom Needs a Learning Management System

Integrating technology calls for a lot of shifts in thinking. One shift is the workflow between teacher and students. The bin for papers on the counter isn’t going to allow students to share their digital creations. A digital rich classroom needs an organized way to communicate in a digital environment. A learning management system (LMS) is the answer.  Even without a device for every student, this can still be the digital hub for the classroom. 

What is an LMS?

Think of a learning management system or LMS as the digital hub for your classroom. Some standard features on most LMS platforms are posting assignments and resources, discussion boards, the ability for students to submit work, and parent access.  Some more robust systems may include a grade book, student portfolios, and data management. The use of an LMS may vary by grade level, but all grades can find features that are beneficial to students and parents from Kindergarten through College.

Why do I need an LMS?

  1. Create a smooth workflow in a digital environment- Teachers are able to post assignments and discussions for students to have all the resources they need. Students can turn in work in an organized manner.
  2. Share resources with students- Videos, graphic organizers, and any other tools or resources can be saved to the LMS for students to refer to as needed.
  3. Make content accessible to all students – Anchor charts, for example, are usually hung in one place in the room. If the teacher snaps a picture of the chart and puts it in the LMS, all students can use it while they work.
  4. Organize content for students- Content from many different programs can be centralized into one location.
  5. Differentiate activities easily- Activities can be individualized or students can be put into groups that allow for the differentiation of activities. 
  6. Create self-paced learning- When students are finished with an activity, they now have access to the materials to move on to the next task at their own pace.
  7. Easy feedback- Assignments can be annotated and the feedback and comments can go directly back to the students. 
  8. Student Portfolios – It allows students to organize their learning in portfolios that can be used to show the progression of learning.
  9. Parent Communication- Parents can access the platform to support their child in learning.
  10. Collect data- An LMS helps track qualitative data by keeping the students’ work in one place. 
  11. Teach Digital Citizenship – Students can use online discussions and share their learning with the class is an environment that is safe and overseen by the teachers.

Which one do I use?

Some school districts or buildings choose to use the same LMS with all teachers to develop consistency for students and parents. Even if an LMS is not provided by the school, there are many free versions that teachers can use with students. Here are a few systems, but many more exist. Check out a variety of them and see which system best fits the needs of your classroom.

PowerSchool Learning

Otus

Schoology

Google Classroom

Moodle

Canvas

No matter which one you choose, a learning management system will get the digital environment of your classroom running smooth.

 

Jenny Lehotsky

Coding

In honor of Hour of Code, one of our former 6th grade students blogged about their coding experience in health.

For my science project, I coded on Scratch Jr. In my project, there were two girls talking to each-other about carbohydrates. They went from a bedroom to the kitchen to eating pasta. Today, I will tell you how to code projects like that.

  1. Download the app Scratch Jr. It’s free!
  2. Open the app, press the “home” button and then press the blue plus button to create a new project.
  3. The first character (the character/s will be the things that you code) that will pop up is an orange cat. If you don’t want the cat as a character, hold down on the picture of the cat at the left side of the screen until the picture starts wobbling. Then you press the red “X” to get rid of it.
  4. You can also pick additional characters or objects to code. Just click on the blue plus sign on the left side and pick the character or object you want. If you don’t like the color, you can press the paintbrush symbol on the character’s picture and color it however you want.
  5. If you have multiple characters, press on the character you want to code at that time and then start. If you only have one, the same thing happens but you only have one person to code. Once you’re finished coding one character, you can go onto the next character.
  6. To start your coding sequence, put the character you are coding in the position you want by touching their picture in the middle of the screen and dragging them to the position. Next, go to the yellow section near the bottom of the screen. Click on the button and five different buttons will pop up. There will be: a green flag, a person with a finger, a mirror image of a person, a letter and a letter being sent. The easiest way to start is to drag the one with the green flag.
  7. Pick the color button at the bottom of the screen that you want to use. Follow the instructions below for that color group. Just drag the blocks you want into the coding section for the character you want animated. Put the blocks in the order you want them played.         

Blue– Movements

There will be 8 different blocks to pick from. The order they go in (from left to right) is: Move Right, Move Left, Move Up, Move Down, Turn Right, Turn Left, Hop and Back To Original Position.

Purple– Talking and disappearing

There are 6 different blocks to pick from.  The order they go in (from left to right) is: Talk, Enlarge, Shrink, Normal Size, Disappear and Appear.                             

Green– Creates your own noise/sound

There are 2 different blocks to pick from. The order they go in (from left to right) is: Pop Sound and Record Your Own Sound. For Record Your own Sound, click on the block, and press the red button that pops up to start recording. To stop recording, click the checkmark. If you do not like that sound after you record it, press and hold that block and a red X should pop up. Click on that X and the sound should delete.

Orange– Waiting, speed, repeating and grouping coding blocks

There are 4 different blocks to pick from. The order they go in (from left to right) is: Wait/How Long to Wait For, Stop, Speed and Group Blocks/ Repeating Sequences. To repeat sequences, put the blocks that you want repeated into the “middle puzzle piece area”. Then, set the number to the amount of times you want that sequence repeated.

Red– Repeating and ending “scenes”.

There will be a minimum of 2 blocks to pick from here. If you have multiple pages, those will pop up here too! The order they go in (from left to right) is: End and Repeat Scene. The following might not always pop up, since they only apply if you have multiple pages. The order would go Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4. However, one block won’t be there. It will be the one of the page you are coding on at the moment. Regardless, those blocks mean to go straight to that page.

  1. Also, if you want to add text to your project, click the button with letters on it in the top middle section of the screen. Type whatever you want to, then you can change the size and color of the text. If you want to delete the text, you can press and hold the words on the screen and press the red X that pops up.
  2. If you want to share your AMAZING coding project with friends, click on the yellow tab in the top right corner. You can also rename your project here.

Happy Coding!

Written by: Julia, former 6th grade student

Posted by: Whitney Cavanagh, 6th grade teacher @MrsCavanagh8                      & Janice Conboy, kindergarten teacher and former 6th grade teacher @Mrs_Conboy

How to Make, Scan, and Use QR Codes

There are hundreds of websites that make QR codes. But how do you know which one to use? And which apps are the best for scanning? And what are QR codes used for in the classroom? You’ll learn how to do all this in the next few paragraphs.

To make a QR code, first you need to find a website. There are a lot of them out there. Some require you to sign in and others are just plain bad. The one I used is called QR Code Generator. (A lot of them are called QR Code Generator though, so you’ll scan a QR code to get the ULR.) First you chose what your QR code will open up when you scan it. You can choose from websites, locations, contacts and text though there are more to chose. Pick your designated material and type in what you want to. Once you do that, find the QR on the right side of the page. Underneath it you’ll find two options: embed and download. Press download. Then some options will pop up. You can change the border, background, and foreground. But if you want to download it, find the four options of downloading in the bottom right corner. You can use any of the options but I used PNG, or image. When you click it, the finished QR code will pop up on a new page. If you’re doing this on an iPad (like me) just press and hold until save image appears. Press that. Your QR will be in your photos. You’ve just successfully made a QR code!

To scan a QR code, you first need a scanning app. Scan is a suggested app. Aim your iPad at the QR code so the square on the screen surrounds the QR. When it successfully scans the code, what ever you just scanned will pop up. Go to the website, read the text, or watch the video.

QR codes are a fun way to convey information. Whether you want to send them a link without emailing it to all of them or you want to do a picture walk without everyone getting up. They’re  also perfect in Breakout EDUs.

Now that you have the basics, you can do anything you want.

Scan this QR code for the ULR .

Written by: Sophie, former 6th grade student

Posted by: Whitney Cavanagh, 6th grade teacher @MrsCavanagh8                      & Janice Conboy, kindergarten teacher and former 6th grade teacher @Mrs_Conboy

 

Leaders: How are you modeling use of technology?

Educational leaders are often called upon to plan and facilitate professional development, team meetings, and other events that require engaging the audience in learning and/or collaborating.  This provides a wonderful opportunity to show staff various methods of using technology, and place them in the position to feel the effects!  Below are a few ways I have used technology:

Padlet

This free online tool has a variety of applications!  During instructional coaching meetings, each coach posts her celebrations to a Padlet.  Team members read the celebrations and are invited to ask questions to learn more about the post.  At the end of the year, we have a record of where we started, and where we ended up.  At a recent meeting for new staff, a Padlet was set up for posting questions.  Columns with headers included categories for questions, and participants added their “posts” below the corresponding header.  During the meeting answers were added.  This provides a place for new staff to refer back to as the information is needed.

Google Docs

Part of my role as an administrator calls for conducting informal observations.  At the start of each school year, I create a new Google Doc to record informal observations and provide comment access to staff being evaluated.  Sometimes the coaches I evaluate will send me video of their meetings with teachers and request feedback.  I link their video to the Google Doc, adding feedback and items to consider.  Then, we use the comments feature to communicate.   This method provides a record for me and the staff being evaluated to refer back to, and a meaningful way to document growth throughout the year.

Earlier today I facilitated a middle school social studies department meeting where we needed to examine our grade level priority standards and how they vertically align.  Accessing a Google Doc for each grade level and accessing another for the vertical 6-8 look allowed for quick and easy collaboration.  Staff were able to refer to their grade level doc, edit the 6-8 doc, and include additional information that will inform our upcoming curriculum revision work.

Twitter

This social media tool helps me to share information and celebrate what I want to see more of for students.  I follow other educators and experts in the industry, re-tweeting their helpful ideas and sometimes tagging staff members I know would benefit or are interested.  Often times during professional development I tweet out pictures of what participants are doing and learning.  By following many of the educators I work with, I am able to see what students are doing and share it with others.  It has also been a nice surprise to see how digital connections can morph into human ones- I have been in multiple settings, including a yoga class, where I have met new educators simply because we follow one another on Twitter!

 

Please share some of the ways you use technology with your staff in the comments below!

 

Written by: Becky Fischer

@bfischer_sd735

I need tech help! Who do I ask??

Today I participated in a meeting with a principal and an instructional coach who recently transitioned from being a technology coach.  Our goal this year is to increase the number of coaching cycles the instructional coach engages in, so we opened the meeting by reviewing her current partnerships.  We learned that a few staff continue to ask her to assist with technology items such as setting up Google Sites and teaching students how to use specific iPad applications.  The school these wonderful staff happen to work in recently had a technology support position added.  Our conversation quickly turned to the distinction between what the instructional coach is here to help with, and what the technology support position is here to help with.

The principal drew what I think is a brilliant line: If the teacher’s request is related to standards and student learning outcomes, the instructional coach should partner up with the teacher.  If the request is about teaching students how to access and use an iPad app for the sake of using it, the technology support staff member should be called upon.  The next step for our group is to create a flow chart or other document that staff can use to determine the appropriate staff member to connect with when tech help is needed.

You might think differently about the division of responsibilities described above.  That is ok!  The real take-away here is to be sure that roles and responsibilities are clear and articulated when developing an instructional technology plan.  This can ensure that teachers, and students, are able to get the appropriate help quickly.  Examples of this can be found in the Now Classrooms Leader’s Guide!

 

Written by: Becky Fischer

@bfischer_sd735

Connecting Students with a Global Audience

When I first heard about sharing with a global audience I was excited to do so, but like with some many things, the divide between great ideas and actions, was too big for me to jump across. I just didn’t know how to connect my students globally. Fast forward a few years, and now I realize I was taking the wrong approach. I was looking for an individual classroom in a certain area, like connecting a Spanish class with a class in Spain, to explore the exact same content together. A better way of thinking is to share to a broader audience, publish students ideas, and connect with an established group of people.  Here are a few ways to connect and share with a global audience.  

TED Ed Clubs

Just like TED talks, TED Ed has created a 13 lesson curriculum that teaches students how to design a TED style talk to allow students to share their passions and amplify their voice. Through the program, students are able to connect with other clubs around the world to share ideas and grow their global perspective. The lessons help them explore their ideas and craft their story in a way that is appealing to others. Animation lessons are also included. Students create and record their talk then it is published on the TED Ed youtube channel. Students can even earn a chance to attend TED Ed Weekend in New York City where they can give their talk on the TED stage.  Head to https://ed.ted.com/clubs to apply to run a TED Ed Club. 

 

Global Student News Network

Don Goble and his students have created a space called the “Global Student News Network” that allows teachers to submit student created media to be featured on the site. The goal is to spread positive student media to connect stories from around the world. You can find videos from the students in my district at “Youtube Playlist of Six-word stories on Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Infections.” Tweet your student work to @GlobalSNN to share to the site.

Global Math Task Twitter Challenge

Connect your math class to classes around the globe with the Global Math Task Twitter Challenge. Each week, you can connect with classes at the same grade level and share and solve math tasks appropriate for your grade. Students are able to share their thinking and learn how others would solve the problems. The chart of fall connection is already starting to fill up. Check it out at http://gmttc.blogspot.com. 

These three options offer a variety of ways to share your students’ voice and connect with a broad audience. I hope you will find something you are comfortable using!

Written by: Jenny Lehotsky

@JennyLehotsky

 

 

 

 

 

Perspective on Education by an Educator, Father of a Freshman and First Grader

I am starting my 17th year in the public high school system in the state of Illinois teaching at a large Chicago suburban school.  My wife and I have four kids; Luke 14, Jack 10, Reese 6, and Cole 3.  Luke started

Picture of the Parker Family

high school today, Jack fifth grade, Reese will be starting first grade and Cole preschool.

 

I am very excited to see what the coming year as for my three school-age children.  I have the unique opportunity to have three students in three different buildings at three very different points in their academic career. I am looking forward to seeing the environment the teachers and schools provide for them to thrive.

As an educator, seeing the changes occurring in education, I need to express my excitement for the #NowClassroom that I see happening throughout the public school systems.  There is some concern when I see some educators not quite as excited about the shift that is happening in the classroom.  This is where the building teacher leaders will play a role in demonstrating the benefits of the shift in education that we see today.

As in many professions, there is a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy, in education.  Teachers must have enough love for their profession and students to move forward despite all of the noise.  The teacher leaders in the buildings have to have the self-motivation to excel in their profession and the drive to stay ahead of trends in education.  A teacher has to love the adventure of being a pioneer at their school.  They have to be willing to experiment with new ideas, despite the chance of failure, for the hope that all learners in the classroom will be successful.  

Storytelling is a skill that the some of the most effective and memorable teachers I’ve known, possess.  They can paint a picture for the students to visualize and help the students tell their story to a global audience beyond the four walls of the classroom they sit in.  They have to knock down the walls and communicate with the world.  to ask questions, learn, and give the students a voice. Students need to learn how to share their work with an authentic audience, collaborate globally, give and take constructive criticism, and help design solution for global issues.  Teachers have to be innovators, but also give up control, allowing the students to innovate.  

The days of teachers setting up their classroom sitting in rows, handing out photocopy after photocopies of worksheets, all multiple choice test, allowing for no student voice, assigning busy work for homework just because, and several other traditional old school ritualistic practice work and assessments, that frankly do not allow the students to succeed to their fullest potential, are thankfully dissolving in our education system.  The teachers that I have collaborated and networked with, want their students to succeed now and in the future.  The teachers are willing to put in the time and effort for this to happen.  They just need the time and resources to allow for this work to take place.  The #Nowclassroom will prepare the teachers to help the student be prepared for the world outside of the classroom.  The students need to develop the 21st Century Skills and the Four C’s (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication) in order to be successful in the future.  As educators, it is our job to help the students develop these skills.

Students learning how to extract DNA from a strawberry.

My son and daughter are both excited for the start of the school year. Obviously, they will have different experiences in their respective grades, However, both have an excitement for learning that a #Nowclassroom teacher can mold and shape into great achievements throughout the course of the year.  I hope that the teachers that my kids come in contact this year, and their entire academic career, will build off of that excitement.  I hope the teachers help develop their skills of questioning, collaboration, reflection, how to learn and think, empowerment and ownership, ability to capture and share their ideas with a global audience and stay self-motivated.  These are just a few skills that the students of today and tomorrow need to be successful in the real world.

Scott Parker

Downers Grove South High School

@scottparker013

Starting a New Year: Focus on Learning

Typically the start of a new school year marks the implementation of new technology. In some schools, iPads or Chromebooks are introduced for the very first time. Organizations who have equipment might be readying to add new software, or have just trimmed down what was once a long list. It is important to make sure that, whatever the case may be, that student learning remains front and center.

In order to keep the focus on learning, it is important that the district’s plan for technology be based upon learning outcomes and a model that supports that vision. There are two models districts can use to put the learning first: the SAMR Model and TPACK.

The SAMR Model was developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura. SAMR is an acronym for Substitution, Augementation, Modification, and Redefinition.  It is designed to provide guidance for teachers to integrate technology in a way that will support student learning at the highest levels. Similarly, it is designed to help teachers identify the best method for integrating technology.

source: http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog

TPACK, or the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge, framework inter-weaves the three forms for knowledge to help teachers utilize these intersections to integrate technology. Whether it be student demographics, teacher proficiency, or available technology, every situation is unique so each combination of the three forms meets a different need.  Due to the complexity and overlapping nature of this framework, it represents an amalgam of work completed by many researchers.

 

source: http://www.tpack.org

Districts should explore each option and compare them to other driving factors such as strategic plans and belief statements about instructional technology. This can help bring to light the option that fits best. Then, it is important to train staff on the selected model to ensure it can be applied appropriately, no matter what technology is made available to teachers and students.

by Becky Fischer

Dir. of Curriculum, Instruction, & Assessment Skokie School District 73 1/2  @beckylynfischer

 

Loosen the Reins and Let Creativity Blossom

Letting go of control of your classroom is scary. Being in charge of 30ish kids is a big responsibility and we, as teachers, don’t want anything to go wrong. However, many amazing things can happen when we give our students choices and the freedom to explore and express their learning in new ways. With a little preparation, students will rise to the occasion and thrive in an environment where the “reins” are loosened ever so slightly.

As a library media specialist and technology coach, I recently worked with Tim Strezo to design a project for his 6th grade Social Studies students where they would be given the freedom to choose the technology tool they wanted to create a product showcasing their knowledge of Ancient Indian civilizations. Students worked in groups in our school’s MakerSpace to make videos using the Green Screen, created Stop-Motion animation films using Play-Doh, Legos, or Dry-Erase marker drawings, acted out scenes, and performed raps, all while immersing themselves in the Social Studies unit content. While the process of relinquishing some control was scary at times, watching students become so engaged they forgot the time made the whole experience worth it. Here is how we approached this project:

Planning
Tim and I met with our Instructional Coach, Erin Christie, to plan and discuss the project logistics. We decided that each student would choose to answer one question about Ancient India that was covered in the unit’s material. In order to put students into groups, Tim created a Google Form for students to take which asked them which question they would like to answer. Students also had to answer which type of medium they would most like to use to create their product; Green Screen, Stop-Motion, Audio Recording, or e-book. Based on how they answered, students were put into groups of 3 or 4 to work on their product.

Making
Before students could start creating their product in the MakerSpace, they had to make a rough draft. For Green Screen and Stop Motion movies this was a script, for audio recordings this was the song
or rap lyrics, and for e-books this was the book draft. Once the draft was approved, students could get to work on their final product.

In order to lessen the chaos of 30 students working in the MakerSpace at a time, we split Tim’s classes in half. Half of the class would work with Tim on new Social Studies material in his classroom, while the other half would work on their Ancient India project in the MakerSpace. Myself and my technology assistant, Julie Fredrickson, would supervise and assist students working in the MakerSpace. Halfway through the class, the groups would switch.
Students had roughly 4 of these class periods (about 2.5 hours) to complete their products. Groups that did not finish on time could arrange to come during lunch or after school to finish. For the most part, students remained engaged and on task throughout the project.

When students were finished with their product, they posted it to their Social Studies Google Classroom.

Reflecting
In order for Mr. Strezo to accurately assess how well each individual group member had mastered the content, he had each student answer their group’s chosen question through a Google Form. Students also had to rate their own performance while making the product as well as rate their groupmates. Students were graded on the Google Form response as well as the finished product.

Recommended Technology Tools
Here are some of the technology tools that our students used, but is by no means a conclusive list. You could create a list with any tools your students are familiar with or allow them to completely pick their own!

  • Green Screen by DoInk An easy to use Green Screen iPad app (costs $2.99).
  • iMovie a basic movie-editing application that comes for free on Apple products. Students can easily export Green Screen movies into iMovie and add music, titles, and voiceovers.
  • Stop Motion Studio is a free Apple and Android app that allows students to turn photos into Stop Motion videos as well as add voice-overs.
  • Garageband is a sound-mixing program available on Apple products where users can mix voice and instrument tracks together.
  • WeVideo is a web-based program and app where you can easily combine photos, video clips, text, and music to make custom videos. A paid subscription allows users to make Green Screen movies.

Try It Out!
You don’t have to launch a project of this scale your first time trying this technique. Start with something small, such as having your students recap a lesson at the end of class. Give students a few technology options and guidelines and see what that they will create…the results may blow you away!

by Megan Flaherty @D60WestviewIMC