Archives for category: instructional design

LMS cartoon

A Learning Management System (LMS) is a useful tool in K-12, particularly for schools using one-to-one and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) technology. For one thing, an LMS gives secondary students a preview of how their college coursework will be organized (every university in my region uses one). If you want to know more about the benefits of using an LMS, check out Why Use a Learning Management System over at matbury.com.

Once you decide that your school needs an LMS, you’ll need to select one. How to Choose the Right Learning Management System offers a good overview of the complex and time-consuming process of choosing an implementing an LMS. This is not that blog post. Instead, I give you how not to choose an LMS:

1. Have someone far-removed from the classroom, like the PR guy, superintendent, or the IT director in your district choose the LMS (or at least make a short list to pretend to get input from teachers about). He or she will definitely be familiar with the instructional goals of the teachers, the preferred learning modes of the students, and the data needs of the administrators.

2. Don’t involve too many (avoid including any, if you can help it) actual potential users of the system when choosing an LMS. Students, parents, and teachers couldn’t possibly provide any valuable input, right? Listening to them would be too time-consuming.

3. Pick an LMS based on one simple and easy-to-measure factor, such as cost. Ease of use/navigability, possible accommodations for SPED and ELL learners, and integration with currently used 3rd party software aren’t important and shouldn’t really factor into the decision.

4. If you make the mistake of getting buy-in into the chosen LMS from several district teachers, and they implement it with enthusiasm the first year of the roll-out, quash that movement quickly so it doesn’t spread. Provide no ongoing professional development, lock down the teacher/user permissions so they can’t use the LMS easily, refuse to help integrate your district’s third-party software, and most importantly, don’t tell anyone in the district, whether parent, student, or community member, about the LMS. Aim for confusion, frustration, and despair on the part of those pesky early adopters.

5. Plan to dump your chosen LMS after paying for it, shelling out money for PD costs, and providing support after just a year or two. Either provide no LMS at all so teachers are left to their own devices and secondary students have to learn a different (free) LMS to use every class period or just pick another one. Base your decision on which LMS vendor gives you the most freebies at a conference or else just draw names out of a hat. Don’t forget to block the previous LMS on your network to make sure no one uses all the valuable content they spent hours creating in the former LMS. Teachers and students have loads of spare time, so they can just make it all again.

6. Do not, I repeat, do NOT, use an educator trained in project management, instructional design, or educational technology to manage the process of selecting and rolling out an LMS. All the various school sites in the district can just figure out how to implement it in their own way, if they bother to use it at all. When the LMS fails to be used by all but a small percentage of teachers, blame them and then reallocate the budget money you used to use on an LMS to buy a stable of ponies for the next school year.

******

Hopefully, this post has given you some examples of outcomes you’d like to avoid when selecting an LMS for your school district. Be sure to do your research, involve stakeholders, use project management principles, and prepare to use your chosen LMS for years to come in order to capitalize on your investment.

As a parent, I have often admired brightly colored and well-organized learning stations when visiting my own kids’ elementary school classrooms. For years, I’ve wished that I could integrate more movement and hands-on learning in my classroom, but there were three main barriers: 1. space 2. attitude and 3. time.

crowded secondary classroom aisles

These are a few of the backpacks I trip over in the crowded aisles in my classroom.

Space

Though I’ve taught in several high school classrooms over the years, most have narrow spaces for walking. With dozens of students and their large, heavy backpacks, coats, and lunch bags to navigate around, I can barely monitor my students’ work, let alone plan for large motor movement!

Teen Attitude

I remember listening to some classroom management tips given by an elementary school teacher to a K-12 group of teachers years ago. While her ideas were clever, the secondary teachers in the room smirked at them. One technique in particular, which involved students holding up an index finger to signal that they were listening, prompted one experienced secondary teacher nearby to mutter, “Yeah, the high school kids would hold up a finger all right, but it wouldn’t be the index!”

Time

As a teacher who sees about 130 students every day in my room, I’ve tended toward looking upon planning for stations as an idealistic and quaint notion. Gazing at a stack of 100+ essays to grade does not inspire creativity.

Learning Styles

While I pondered these barriers, another important reality emerged: when I gave my students a learning style quiz at the beginning of the year, I learned that the vast majority are kinesthetic and musical learners. Those styles are more than just “fun”; they’re how my students learn, and I need to teach their way.

Obviously, the idea of centers has to be modified for the secondary classroom, but it’s not impossible. I’ve been integrating more movement and music over the years. Here is one activity I came up with to address all of the above issues. Here’s how to give it a try:

These are the main supplies you'll need (clicker optional).

These are the main supplies you’ll need (clicker optional).

Supplies Needed

12 sheets of colored of paper (2 per color)

Subject area workbooks/worksheets (I used test prep work since that’s what we’re about to do around here)

Access to a printer & copier (black ink only is fine)

Class set of student response devices or clickers— optional

Computer with speakers and playlist – optional

Prep

This part is the most time-consuming, but it’s no worse than for any other lesson I’ve made myself. First, simply choose six different areas  in which you’d like your students to practice. Mine were vocabulary, literary elements, reading comprehension, and revision. I divided the latter two into two centers each. Assign them each a color and print signs with the category label on them (see photo below).

My Literary Elements center sign & Extra Practice folder label

My Literary Elements center sign & Extra Practice folder label (color coded)

Choose a couple of multiple choice test prep worksheets per category. One will be the actual center and one will be extra practice. Re-size the one you chose for the center on the copier so it’s easily read when posted on the wall. Make copies of the extra practice (I’ve no advice on this one – I made 30 of some, which wasn’t enough – 75 was too many).

Post the six colored signs around your room (with enough space for students to congregate). These are the beginnings of your centers. Then affix the second sign for each color/label on a folder. Put your extra practice copies for that category in there.

Be sure to have keys for both the center and extra practice worksheets for each station. If using clickers, input your center keys and randomize the order the clicker gives the questions to the students. This keeps the students from clumping up at one station.

Make some student instructions on your interactive whiteboard, chalkboard, or whatever means you typically use. Whether using clickers or not, students should write the station names/abbreviations on notebook paper. They can track their progress around the room this way. Make sure they record whether they got the item right or wrong because they’ll use that information to self-remediate in the next step.

Students pondering the best change to make at Revision Station 1.

Students pondering the best change to make at Revision Station 1.

Tell students that when you start the music (I made a peppy YouTube playlist with songs about circles but didn’t show the videos – we just listened as we worked), they will have 10 minutes (or whatever amount of time is appropriate for your activities) to go through the stations. They should mark whether they got the question right or wrong on their papers. Mine used the clickers to grade their work, but if you don’t have clickers, you could simply grade them together after everyone sits down.

When students finish all the stations, they’ll grab extra practice from the folder at the station where they missed questions and complete it. Those who didn’t miss any should have other work to do (mine had novel analysis to fill out). Place the answer keys at the stations so they can self-grade their work (I put them out AFTER they’re all seated, then take them up at the end of class).

After giving students time to complete the extra practice and grade it, you can do another rotation. We did the first question at each station the first time, and the second one the second time. Have them turn in the notebook paper they used or use the clicker data to get feedback from the activity.

Student Reactions

The best comment I heard was, “We should do this every day!” When asked why, the student answered, “Because it’s a lot of fun, we get to move around, and we burn calories!” I took the smiles and groovy dance moves of other students as they moved between stations as positive feedback too. Best of all, there wasn’t a bad attitude in sight. Since it’s standardized testing time around here, that’s saying something!

If you have questions or want to share how this idea might work in your classroom, please comment!

googlecalsyncMy first blog in this series introduced Google Calendar for the Classroom, so if you missed it, check it out first.

Using online calendars is all about getting one’s various events, appointments and schedules in sync. Syncing paper calendars, such as your desk calendar at work (which may have athletics practices, sectional practices, IEP meetings, lab schedules, faculty meetings, duty, conferences, etc), family appointments, and volunteering committments, just to name a few possibilities, can be nightmarish to keep up with! If you don’t sync them, you may schedule a personal appointment on top of an after school event, which results in stress and chaos.
Google Calendar can put all of your calendars together in one central location for just you or multiple people. Just as your ITunes music or Kindle books can sync across devices, your classroom calendar can too.

Today I’ll show you how to embed a classroom calendar into your Teacher Site, how to subscribe to multiple calendars, and share some ideas for using Google Calendar to collaborate with colleagues.

Embedding Your Calendar

If you already have started putting lesson plans, due dates, and objectives in your classroom Google Calendar, you should embed it on your classroom website. Or, if you’re an activity sponsor, scheduler of school facilities (like the auditorium or gym), or department head, you may want to make a calendar for that group and post it on a webpage accessible by faculty members. This will allow everyone to see the schedule as soon as you add to or update it. You only have to embed it once.

Get the Code

First, you’ll need to get the code from your Google Calendar. While logged in on your Google Calendar, select the calendar you want to embed on the menu at the left by clicking on the down arrow button next to it. Choose “Share This Calendar”.

Sharing options for your calendar.
Sharing options for your calendar.

On the screen that pops up, select “Calendar Details” at the top. About half way down, you’ll see “Embed this Calendar” with a code provided in a box. Select the code, making sure you get all of it. Right click to copy it onto your computer’s clipboard.

Google Calendar produces an html code so you can embed your calendar.
Google Calendar produces an html code so you can embed your calendar.

Embed the Calendar on Your Website

Then, go to your website. Decide where you want to place the calendar. I put mine on the homepage so it can be easily found. Use your website’s software to begin to “edit” the page you selected. Finally, click in the exact location on your website in which you want to embed your calendar.

My website software allows me to click an “html” button at the bottom left of the “Edit” screen. If you can switch to html, do so first. Then simply right click and “paste” the code for your calendar onto the page. Save your changes. Be sure to check your web page either by using the preview (mine is called “View page”) function or by logging out of the software and viewing your page as a visitor. You should see your calendar and its events displayed there.

Group Collaboration

My husband and I sync personal Google Calendars. This allows us to see when we’re free or busy. For example, if I want to schedule a parent-teacher conference for one of our own children, I can check his schedule to see if he’s available to attend too.

Even those who aren’t experienced with online calendars can benefit from a collaborative approach. A few months ago, a high school athletic coach asked me about using Google Calendar for his practice schedule. He was proficient in using online calendars with his smart phone, but had an assistant coach who wasn’t. After our discussion, he concluded that he could set up their athletic team’s practice schedule, along with notifications to remind him about them, on the assistant coach’s smart phone.

Subscribing Versus Sharing

Depending on how you plan to use the calendar in question, you may want to allow others to subscribe to it or you may want to share it with certain people.

Subscribing means that others can overlay your calendar on their own calendar, but they can’t add or change events. Subscribing works well for students who want to know what’s going on in the classroom (or at practice or rehearsal) when they’re absent. Like the assistant coach mentioned earlier, they don’t need the ability to change the calendar – just view it easily.

Sharing a calendar typically means that you’re giving or sharing control with others. For instance, If your 300-member high school choir has section leaders, you may want give those students the ability to add sectional rehearsals to the main choir rehearsal calendar.

Sharing also has unlimited collaborative uses. Here is but one example: if the teachers and the librarian both currently write in the library’s printed calendar to schedule class work in the library, that calendar could be converted to online use. The librarian would be the “owner” of the calendar, but would be able to share the calendar with teachers, who could add the times and dates their classes will visit the library without ever having to leave their classrooms.

Subscribing to a Calendar

The iCal subscription button on my district's calendar page.

The iCal subscription button on my district’s calendar page.

Before you try to set up your calendar so that others can subscribe to it, you’ll want to make sure you know how to subscribe to a calendar first. If your school district has a calendar you can subscribe to in an ical format, subscribe to it. If not, a universally useful one to try is Weather Underground’s ical. Here’s a link to instructions on how to do the latter.

Once you’ve succeeded in subscribing to one or more other calendars, now it’s time to make sure students, colleagues, or parents, depending on your calendar’s purpose, can subscribe to your calendar. Luckily, Google provides helpful instructions detailing various sharing/subscribing options, so I don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Check out their step-by-step instructions here.

The Wrap-Up

If the numerous benefits motivate you to share your Google Calendar with others, you can make it happen with some trial and error. My best advice is to make sure you try out everything you want others to do (such as subscribe to your calendar), because you may have to help them (or provide directions, or links to directions, with your calendar). Let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear how others are using their calendars!

%d bloggers like this: