Over the past 10 years, new learning management systems (LMSs) have sprung on the scene to rival the Blackboards and Moodles of old. On the EdSurge Product Index alone, 56 products self-identify and fall into the LMS category. And with certain established companies like Pearson pulling out of the LMS ranks, where do you start?
As University of Central Florida’s Associate Vice President of Distributed Learning, Tom Cavanagh, wrote in an article for EDUCAUSE, “every institute has a unique set of instructional and infrastructure circumstances to consider when deciding on an LMS,” but at the same time, “all institutions face certain common requirements”—whether a small charter school, a private university or a large public school district.
The LMS Checklist
#1: Is the platform straightforward and user-friendly?
#2: Who do we want to have access to this platform, and can we adjust what they can see?
#3: Can the instructor and student(s) talk to and communicate with each other easily?
“Students and faculty live a significant portion of their daily lives online in social media spaces,” writes University of Central Florida’s Tom Cavanagh in his article on the LMS selection process. “Are your students and faculty interested in these sorts of interplatform connections?”
#5: Does this platform plug in with all of the other platforms we have?
“Given the pace of change and the plethora of options with educational technology, it’s very difficult for any LMS vendor to keep up with stand-alone tools that will always outperform built-in tools,” explains Michael Truong, executive director of innovative teaching and technology at Azusa Pacific University. According to Truong, “no LMS will be able to compete directly with tools like Piazza (discussion forum), Socrative (quizzing), EdPuzzle (video annotation), etc.”
As a result, Truong says, “The best way to ‘prepare’ for future technological changes is to go with an LMS that plays well with external tools.”
the Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education – CASTLE
If a school’s reputation and pride are built on decades or centuries of “this is how we’ve always done things here,” resistance from staff, parents, and alumni to significant changes may be fierce. In such institutions, heads of school may have to steer carefully between deeply ingrained habits and the need to modernize the information tools with which students and faculty work
Too often, when navigating faculty or parental resistance, school leaders and technology staff make reassurances that things will not have to change much in the classroom or that slow baby steps are OK. Unfortunately, this results in a different problem, which is that schools have now invested significant money, time, and energy into digital technologies but are using them sparingly and seeing little impact. In such schools, replicative uses of technology are quite common, but transformative uses that leverage the unique affordances of technology are quite rare.
many schools fail to proceed further because they don’t have a collective vision of what more transformative uses of technology might look like, nor do they have a shared understanding of and commitment to what it will take to get to such a place. As a result, faculty instruction and the learning experiences of students change little or not at all.
These schools have taken the time to involve all stakeholders—including students—in substantive conversations about what digital tools will allow them to do differently compared with previous analog practices. Their visions promote the potential of computing devices to facilitate all of those elements we now think of as essential 21st-century capacities: confidence, curiosity, enthusiasm, passion, critical thinking, problem-solving, and self-direction. Technology doesn’t simply support traditional teaching—it transforms it for deeper thinking and gives students more agency over their own learning.
Another prevalent issue preventing technology change in schools is fear—fear of change, of the unknown, of letting go of what we know best, of being learners again. But it’s also a fear of letting kids have wide access to the Internet with the possibility of cyberbullying, access to inappropriate material, and exposure to online predators or even excessive advertising. Fears, of course, need to be surfaced and addressed.
The fear drives some schools to ban cellphones, disallow students and faculty from using Facebook, and lock down Internet filters so tightly that useful websites are inaccessible. They prohibit the use of Twitter and YouTube, and they block blogs. Some educators see these types of responses as principled stands against the shortcomings and hassles of digital technologies. Others see them as rejections of the dehumanization of the education process by soulless machines. Often, however, it’s just schools clinging to the past and elevating what is comfortable or familiar over the potential of technology to help them better deliver on their school missions.
Heads of school don’t have to be skilled users themselves to be effective technology leaders, but they do have to exercise appropriate oversight and convey the message—repeatedly—that frequent, meaningful technology use in school is both important and expected. Nostalgia aside, there is no foreseeable future in which the primacy of printed text is not superseded by electronic text and multimedia. When nearly all information is digital or online, multi-modal and multimedia, accessed by mobile devices that fit in our pockets, the question should not be whether schools prepare students for a digital learning landscape, but rather how.
Many educators aren’t necessarily afraid of technology, but they are so accustomed to heavily teacher-directed classrooms that they are leery about giving up control—and can’t see the value in doing so.
Although most of us recognize that mobile computers connected to the Internet may be the most powerful learning devices yet invented—and that youth are learning in powerful ways at home with these technologies—allowing students to have greater autonomy and ownership of the learning process can still seem daunting and questionable.
The “beyond” is particularly important. When we give students some voice in and choice about what and how they learn, we honor basic human needs for autonomy, we enhance students’ interest and engagement, and we truly actualize our missions of preparing lifelong learners.
The goal of instructional transformation is to empower students, not to disempower teachers. While instructor unfamiliarity with digital technologies, inquiry- or problem-based teaching techniques, or deeper learning strategies may result in some initial discomfort, these challenges can be overcome with robust support.
A few workshops here and there rarely result in large-scale changes in implementation.
teacher-driven “unconferences” or “edcamps,” at which educators propose and facilitate discussion topics, can be powerful mechanisms for fostering professional dialogue and learning. Similarly, some schools offer voluntary “Tech Tuesdays” or “appy hours” to foster digital learning among interested faculty.
In addition to existing IT support, technology integration staff, or librarians/media specialists, some schools have student technology teams that are on call for assistance when needed.
A few middle schools and high schools go even further and assign teachers their own individual student technology mentors. These student-teacher pairings last all school year and comprise the first line of support for educators’ technology questions.
As teachers, heads of school, counselors, coaches, and librarians, we all now have the ability to participate in ongoing, virtual, global communities of practice.
Whether formal or informal, the focus of technology-related professional learning should be on student learning, not on the tools or devices. Independent school educators should always ask, “Technology for the purpose of what?” when considering the inclusion of digital technologies into learning activities. Technology never should be implemented just for technology’s sake.
his switch flipped when he learned more about why students like to play games. Games, he said, provide an environment where we get to try without penalty because failure is part of the journey. Everyone can be a hero, and games are goal-oriented and provide, in some ways, a representation of the world students want to be a part of. They’re social and provide positive stress.
Effective communication is one critical characteristics of effective and successful school principal. Research on effective schools and instructional leadership emphasizes the impact of principal leadership on creating safe and secure learning environment and positive nurturing school climate (Halawah, 2005, p. 334)
Halawah, I. (2005). The Relationship between Effective Communication of High School Principal and School Climate. Education, 126(2), 334-345.
Selection of school principals in Hong Kong. The findings confirm a four-factor set of expectations sought from applicants; these are Generic Managerial Skills; Communication and Presentation Skills; Knowledge and Experience; and Religious Value Orientation.
Kwan, P. (2012). Assessing school principal candidates: perspectives of the hiring superintendents. International Journal Of Leadership In Education, 15(3), 331-349. doi:10.1080/13603124.2011.617838
Yee, D. L. (2000). Images of school principals’ information and communications technology leadership. Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education, 9(3), 287–302. https://doi.org/10.1080/14759390000200097
Catano, N., & Stronge, J. H. (2007). What do we expect of school principals? Congruence between principal evaluation and performance standards. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 10(4), 379–399. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603120701381782
Communication can consist of two large areas:
broadcasting information: PR, promotions, notifications etc.
two-way communication: collecting feedback, “office hours” type of communication, backchanneling, etc.
Further communication initiated by/from principals can have different audiences
Blockchain technology has the potential to enhance the role played by libraries within their communities, however, there are many questions yet to be answered about how specifically blockchain technology might be used and how much value it would add to library services and the communities they serve. Ideas from within the information profession are needed as we formulate recommendations for the profession.
The San José State University School of Information (iSchool) received an IMLS grant to investigate ways that blockchain technology can be used by libraries as a community anchor to partner with other organizations and to support city/community goals. Some suggestions for blockchain applications in libraries include building an enhanced metadata center, protecting Digital First Sale rights, supporting community-based collections, facilitating partnerships across organizations, and more.
The year-long project will provide three opportunities for a national dialog among technical experts in libraries, blockchain technology, and urban planning and members of the information professions to discuss ways that blockchain technology can advance library services to support city/community goals.
The project website and blog includes information and resources about blockchain technology, potential uses of blockchain technology by libraries, and project updates along with a blog to foster open dialog. Seehttps://ischoolblogs.sjsu.edu/blockchains/
The National Forumscheduled for August 6, 2018 in San Jose, CA will be comprised of 20-30 technical experts in libraries, blockchain technology, and urban planning to identify and discuss key opportunities for libraries to serve as community anchors using blockchain technology.
The Library 2.018 conference, Blockchain Applied: Impact on the Information Profession, is designed for presentations and discussion on the uses of blockchain technology in libraries. Registration in this open online conference is free to the profession and public. Scheduled on June 7, 2018 from 12:00 – 3:00 pm PDT. The call for proposals is located on the conference website.
We are seeking nominations of individuals to represent the professional associations (e.g. LITA, PLA, ULC, CLIR, ARL) and information organizations by participating in the National Forum in San Jose, CA (August 6, 2018). Funding provided by IMLS is available to support most of the expenses (travel, lodging, meals) for the National Forum for invited participants.
Nominations (including self-nominations) are due by February 15, 2018. Nominees should be knowledgeable about blockchain technology and libraries in order to have an impact on the recommendations that will be made and discussed during the Library 2.018 conference and National Forum.
Nominations to participate in the Blockchain National Forum should be submitted by February 15 using this Google Form.
From ransomware to phishing and other types of security breaches, direct contact is the number one way that you can create a vulnerability in your system. Those who commit these online crimes are finding smarter and sneakier ways to infiltrate your data every day. Sometimes the attack can even come as an email from a legitimate sender, or appear to be a perfectly normal message on social media. The goal is usually to get you to click on a link.
Solution: Make sure the security preferences for your email account(s) are set up to filter spamming, phishing and executable files that aren’t recognized.
2. Unknown Devices
Solution: Your IT system should include a solution that tracks all devices, including those not owned by your school, that enter the network.
3. Out of Date Technology
Contrary to popular misconception, user interaction isn’t always required for a cyber attack to be launched. The WannaCry attack targeted hundreds of computers all with the same security vulnerability on their Windows operating systems.
Solution: Again, an IT solution that tracks all devices is important, but one that can also check on software upgrades and block access to certain apps is ideal.
4. User Error
A data breach in Florida is just one example of the chaos user error can provoke. This issue didn’t begin with hackers at all. It began with carelessness that caused sensitive information to become public.
User error occurs regularly, and a common root of this is failing to restrict access to files or certain sites that may be compromised.
Solution: Restrict user access to sensitive documents only to those who absolutely need them, and make sure that your site architecture is set up to require a secure login for access. You may also want to create a white list of safe sites and applications and block the rest.
5. No Backup
As disheartening as it sounds, even when you take all the necessary precautions to protect your vital information, data breaches can still occur. When an attack happens, it’s often a major blow to productivity to try and get all the information back into a secure place. Worse, vital work can be lost for good.
Solution: Install a backup system on each school device that sends data to a remote server throughout the day (not just at night) to help make sure nothing is lost.
This is another example of blanket statements aimed to bank on buzzwords and fashionable tendencies. Indeed, use of social media is an imperative skill for any educational leader, since it provides a modern venue to communicate with the rest of the stakeholders in the educational process: parents, students etc.
However, the process of social media use in education is rather more complex as presented in this article. e.g.:
why the hashtag use is the one and only altmetric consideration for deep data analysis? The author suggests taking “advantage of an analytic tool to measure effectiveness and participation,” but there is no specific recommendation and the choice of the analytical tool as well as the process of analysis is a science on its own
how educators, as suggested by the author, “want to guide students on comment intensity and type while keeping them on topic”? Indeed, an educator abiding by constructivism will facilitate and guide, yet there is a fine boundary between facilitating and dominating the conversation with “guidance.”
The most useless suggestion in the article:
“For administrators, Twitter chats also provide an opportunity to gain student and parent perspectives while giving them more voice in what’s going on within a school or district.”
Are administrators willing to yield that power to their constituency? What does the current research on educational leaders’s attitude reveal regarding their willingness to engage in such open (and difficult to control) discourse? How is such attitude to be changed: this is missing in this article.
What is your approach to the institutional use of social media at your school?