LMNOP ??? Coulda fooled me …

Flickr via Compfight cc

When I wanted to feel really smart this week, I would tell people I had to decide which LMS I was going to use for my blended/online course prototype.  When they said, “Wow!  I don’t even know what language you’re speaking. That’s way over my head,” I nodded my head in acknowledgement of how smart I was indeed. Moments later, when they asked,  “What exactly does that mean?”, my head hung in shame as the words to describe LMSs or even course prototypes evaded me.

Okay – so in reality this conversation only happened with my husband and I did feel smart for a moment, but he is clever enough to know: 1) I didn’t really know what I was talking about and 2) panic ensues within me when I am trying to learn something new and do a good job of it (so he made no comment).

This whole blended/online course creation dealio is very new to me.  To be honest, the LMS portion of this assignment seems to be the biggest hurdle for me as I’m not sure what everything should look like or what I would like to do.

When I read Sarah’s blog this week, not only has she decided upon using Canvas as her platform, but she has her entire outline basically planned (insert inner panic here)!!  For a moment, I felt very overwhelmed, but then I realized how helpful it was to see someone else’s thoughts flushed out on paper.  As someone who appreciates visual examples, it was very helpful to me. You should check it out!

Flicker via Compfight cc

Logan mentioned in his blog that the LMS is the wrapping, not the present.  So clever, Logan!  It is not the be all and end all.  It’s merely a tool, so perhaps I’m overthinking it. Katherine, Logan, and Sarah all chose platforms or LMSs that intermingle with their beliefs about teaching and needs as a teacher, which shifted my thinking.  I need to think about my own philosophies of teaching and how I believe kids learn and factor that in to the “wrapping paper” that I choose to use for this course.

Audrey Waters discusses how some LMSs simply replicate the old school traditional classroom and states that

each course is a separate entity — one instructor and a roster — hermetically sealed in a walled off online space, much like a walled off classroom                  

This is the opposite construction of what I value as I teacher.  I believe learning is richer when learners interact, share ideas and create together.  It strikes me as odd when a more advanced system (technology) can enter the world and perpetuate old school realities. That seems like an oxymoron to me.

So, here is what I’m looking for in a platform:

  • allows collaboration and interaction; can be student driven
  • allows accountability
  • is organized and has a layout that makes sense
  • easy to use for both teacher/student
  • allows various forms of content (videos, google docs if possible, apps)

The platforms my partner, Lindy, and I are looking at are Canvas and Google Classroom.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-8-09-55-pmI just started using Google Classroom in the fall and I really love it.  I am still new to the whole idea, but I love so many things about it.  In fact, Jayme Lee showed a poll indicating that Google Classroom was by far the favourite LMS out of those presented.

In Google Classroom, I like that:

  • I can share documents for students to view, edit or make their own
  • I can embed google forms or any of the GAFE to use
  • students can collaborate in real time on documents
  • students can hand in completed work to the classroom
  • grading can be done and reported back to the student online
  • I can look at a student’s progress whether or not it has been turned in (allows me to collaborate with them or look at where they are at in the process – or even mark what has been completed)
  • I can share videos
  • students can ask questions of me or each other
  • I’m already using it so it’s familiar

What I’m not sure about:

  • I don’t love the layout in that I can’t click on a module and go to a separate page.  It’s a scrolling screen (unless I don’t know everything – entirely possible).  I’m not sure I love this aspect.  Can I create a layout that is easy to navigate for different modules?
  • can I integrate various formative assessment apps?

Lindy’s school division does not use GAFE so we weren’t really considering using Google Classroom until accounts were set up for us by the lovely Alec and Katia.  At this point, we are still considering using this.

The other platform we are considering is Canvas.

When we experimented with Canvas in class, I liked:

  • the layout – it seems to be able to set up separate modules easily and seemed easy to navigate for the teacher.  It separates the course into different sections and you navigate from a home page.
  • can be used by multiple users
  • allows google docs to be uploaded
  • able to use multiple apps with it
  • Logan discusses some of the advantages of Canvas in an in depth way in his blog so you can read further here about that here

Possible disadvantages:

  • doesn’t seem as user friendly for students as google classroom
  • can’t see what students are doing as easily; less accountability
  • Lindy mentioned she got a ton of email from them upon signing up.
  • It is new to me and I would have to learn a new program

    Photo credit

Lindy and I will meet to discuss which one of these platforms best suits our needs and the needs of the students for whom this course will be designed.  Prior to that, if any of you have any suggestions one way or the other, please let me know!  Perhaps I’ve misjudged one of the platforms.  I welcome your thoughts and input.


Ecosystems … Online again?

Photo credit

      Yes … I’m sure you’ve seen this image before…. in every science text ever published…

The common ground of middle years brought Lindy Olafson and I together to design our course prototype project.  As a grade 7/8 teacher, I teach almost all subject areas so I was fairly open to any option for a course related to middle years.  Lindy works as an instructional coach and has worked in many capacities with a great deal of experience in grade 6/7.  After some discussion, we decided to pursue a course around the grade 7 science unit – Interactions in Ecosystems.  It’s been a while since I’ve taught this unit and it is coming up again in the late spring, so I’m hopeful that we will create something that can be used beyond the scope of EC&I 834.

Ironically, after Lindy and I decided on this topic, I remembered that in my undergrad ECMP class, with none other than Mr. Alec Couros, I designed a website around ecosystems.  I tried to do a quick search for this website, but alas, it has disappeared into cyberspace.  This is for the best.  I still have flashbacks to the home page – a cranberry- coloured, overly patterned page with ugly font.  Oh, if only I could find a photo for you…  In hindsight, it was terrible – but I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d created.  It’s funny how a changing world and changing perspective shift my understanding.   I am hopeful that this project may have more longevity than that initial website.

Photo credit

As I consider the design of an online/blended course, I feel fairly overwhelmed with the “how-to” of the process.  At this point, as Amy mentioned in her blog, finding a learning management system (LMS) to use seems the most daunting.   For me, until I try to utilize a system, it’s hard to know its benefits/drawbacks, but I know I won’t have enough time to explore them all, so I am really hoping for some suggestions within class and from classmates.  Google classroom is the only platform that I’ve had any experience with at this point.

Additionally, as an educator, I am used to looking at curriculum and deciding how to plan and implement it; however, I am not sure how to do this well in an online format.  Oblinger and Hawkins (2006) discuss how learning is an active process and that students learn through interaction with each other.  I wholeheartedly agree with them, but I am not really sure about how to make this happen in an online environment.  How can I be sure that the learning is engaging and meaningful and not just data in, data out? Also, the idea of studying ecosystems online seems counter intuitive.  Can this be done well?   How do I reinvent the info in that ecosystem diagram published in every science text in a meaningful way?

As I think of my student population, for whom I would be creating this course, I am inspired by the following image.  I want this to be true for my students whether or not they are working face to face or learning within an online environment.

Photo Credit

So, as I head into these unknown waters of online course creation, I welcome your feedback about LMS as well as how to fully engage kids and facilitate meaningful learning and interaction.  Share away …


And we begin again … On to online/blended learning!

Hello all!  I’m Natalie Schapansky and I spend my days with grade 7 and 8 students.  I love the land of middle years. As unpredictable and quirky as they are, they are also fiercely loyal – which I love.

                                                  Photo credit

In addition, my husband and I have a son, Nate, who is my 10 year old thinker and analyzer with a heart of gold.  My daughter, Bella, who is 8, is our joy and theatrical drama queen. Our kids keep us busy with activities and provide joy and chaos in daily life.  I also have two cats with polar opposite personalities.  My 15 year old cat, Sydney, is the best lap cat around. Louis, my 8 year old cat, patrols the neighbourhood entering houses at a whim making himself at home on any random couch.  Juggling all these components and throwing in grad school keep my brain on a tightrope of sanity.

This is my second edtech class. Despite creating a blog and using it for a whole semester, I still found Katia’s videos on set up very helpful.  I still have so much to learn.  So for all those first timer’s, have no fear; we are all still learning new things.

My goals for this class are to:

  1.  Understand all the tech components necessary to create an online and blended course:  This feels very daunting for me.  While I enjoy using technology, I’m not sure I excel at all the understanding and lingo related to the tech creation components.  I can get behind the pedagogy and development of curriculum, but my LMS knowledge is lacking.
  2. Like Elizabeth, I would like to use more pingbacks and interactivity in my blog posts. I often wrote my posts early in the week and hadn’t read a lot of other people’s posts before I wrote my own.  So, I will try to incorporate more of that and balance my time as well.
  3. Increase my twitter use.  Last semester, I started using twitter.  I scrolled through it a lot, but didn’t always know how to interact with it in a meaningful way.  I’m learning that it relates more to my professional profile than a personal one.
  4. Incorporate/increase my use of GAFE as my knowledge of blended/online learning increases.  I started using google classroom last semester, but I know I barely scratched the surface so I hope to find new, efficient, and effective ways to use google classroom.

So … here’s to another edtech journey!