Sunday, November 9, 2014

Article #4: Training to Manage Multimedia in the Classroom

Cavanaugh, S. (2014). Pressure on LMS Companies to Provide Quality PD. Education Week, Sept. 29, 2014. Retrieved from

In the article, Pressure on LMS Companies to Provide Quality PD, Sean Cavanagh writes about how important it is for teachers and school districts to get the proper training on learning management systems. An LMS is a multimedia tool that can be used to do a wide variety of classroom tasks. Not only can they keep records: attendance, gradebook, seating chart, calendar; they can also organize assignments, push assignments out to students, and give quizzes and tests, and facilitate discussions. It can also store resources like documents, videos, screencasts, podcasts for students to access.

Cavanaugh highlights how difficult it can be to learn all of the features of an LMS. He tells about Susie Weetman, a language arts teachers, who explained that, “ was kind of like jumping into the deep end and not knowing how to swim.” Cavanaugh wrote, “The third-year educator's experience last school year paralleled those of teachers and administrators across the country who've gone through professional development meant to introduce them to learning management systems…” There seem to be as many ways to attempt training an LMS to educators as there are LMSs.

Since an LMS can be so comprehensive in its functionality, Cavanaugh implies that there differing views on the best way to conduct professional development. Schools can be at many different levels of technical ability. Some school will need a lot of training; some schools will need little; and then there are schools who may be switching from one LMS to another LMS. “LMS companies try to meet those needs by training K-12 officials directly, or by training educators to advise their peers,” he writes.

The article explains how Ms. Weetman was trained to use the D2L LMS. She had a one-hour session led by a fellow teacher, followed by peer-to-peer tutoring. Cavanaugh writes that Weetman has had success with her training in her classes, D2L “strongly recommends that [districts] pursue some sort of training…”

Cavanaugh writes about another LMS company, Alma. He says Alma agrees that training is important, but that “Alma officials are also convinced that the power of their LMS, or any LMS, ultimately rests on its ease of use—meaning that not much training should be needed on how to use it, added Jack Macleod, Alma's president.” Cavanaugh found out that the LMS should be intuitive for teachers’ use. There really just isn’t enough time for PD in many districts. He found that training should not be a “single event” but an ongoing series of trainings, starting with administration. Alma thinks that by having administrators trained on using the LMS that teachers will more likely buy into the new tool.

The end of the article talks about another LMS by Follet. They agree with letting users jum right in and begin using the LMS. Functionality is so great it would be impossible to train every teacher on every aspect of it. Weetman tell of her use of uploaded video clips of the plays of shakespeare to “...bring the plays to life.” Students are able to get multiple perspectives on the plays.

I think that training on an LMS is a must. While I tend to “play” with computers, apps, add-ons, and extensions on my own time, others don’t. Others merely use the tools at work, and leave it when they leave. We’re all at different levels of ability. On a recent site visit to a local jr. high, they explained how they viewed technical professional development. It wan not only a new LMS, but included a rollout of  a district-wide 1 to 1 program. That could be overwhelming for anyone. They introduced the devices and the LMS (two actually - Google Classroom and Hapara). Once everyone had an overview, the trainers allowed educators to choose 1) stay in the large group for more training, 2) break into smaller groups for collaborative learning, or 3) go off on your own to learn and explore.

I have been using Google Classroom this year. I have not heard much from students about it. They seem to take it in stride that that is where they go to find the next assignment, and once they have assignment in their Google Drive, they don’t think about Classroom. It is a good tool that slips into the background as something we just use. Google has a ways to go. I’d like to be able to push an assignment out to a smaller group of students, and I’d like to see a calendar added. As of now, I am using a Google Website for storage of resources for students to access, and I have embedded my calendar into the website.