Educators Say ‘Meh’ to School LMS Choice — THE Journal

According to a recent survey, while nearly nine in 10 schools have adopted a learning management system that every teacher is supposed to use, fondness for functionality is hit-and-miss. While 85% of respondents said their schools have adopted an LMS, only two-thirds (64%) reported being satisfied with the current choice.
— Read on thejournal.com/articles/2021/08/05/educators-say-meh-to-school-lms-choice.aspx

Learning Elements of Our Digital World

Communication – multiple one way channels– district and school websites, newsletters, emails, texts, phone, social media delivering policy, processes and changes are potentially confusing and obscure to teachers, students, and families.

Instructional Model – Face to Face, Virtual, or Blended learning– Synchronous, Asynchronous, define the chosen models.

Instructional Content – District-defined, teacher- created content, external core and supplemental content offer a wide range of opportunities for diverse student needs.

Learning Management System –  A District level learning management system enables efficient delivery of learning and assessment, leverages content, delivers analysis. Classroom learning management offers teacher control but may not enable aggregated data or leveraging of resources.

Special Education System – Development of IEPs and learning tools to support special needs are supported in these systems.

Student Information System – District class scheduling, student demographics, cafeteria, bus, technology resource management are provided by the SIS.

Assessment Management – teacher-created, district, and external formative, interim, and summative tests may be managed in a separate system or a module of the SIS or LMS.

Compare School-Based, Distance, and Blended Learning

Face to Face, F2F, Onsite, or
School-Based Learning
Virtual, Online, Electronic, or
Distance Learning
Hybrid or
Blended Learning
Onsite – delivered in a school or other facility.Online – video, book, independent study  Instruction.Mixed Online and Onsite Instruction.
Synchronous live in-person instruction and  asynchronous Instruction  (homework, labs, study halls, independent study) andAsynchronous lessons and resource work and synchronous instruction and group work live via video or audio.Synchronous live in-person instruction and group work via video, and  asynchronous lessons and resource work.

Digital media lessons and resources including computer assisted learning in labs, at home, or in class– video, audio, text, coding, typing, AI.

Digital media lessons and resources including computer assisted learning at home- video, audio, text, coding, typing, AI.

Digital media lessons and resources including computer assisted learning in labs, at home, or in class– video, audio, text, coding, typing, AI.
Games – in class live games, CB video games. Interaction tools e.g. Top Hat, Kajeet, SeeSaw.Gamification, CB video games. Interaction tools e.g. Top Hat, Kajeet, SeeSaw.Gamification, CB video games. Interaction tools e.g. Top Hat, Kajeet, SeeSaw.
Teacher contact in person
No teacher contact if self contained.

If mediated, teacher contact through email, LMS, or video.
Teacher contact in person, through email, LMS, or video.

Onsite Assessment: teacher/district/or publisher created tests– linear computer based, adaptive, essay, authentic portfolio.

Online Assessment: teacher/district/or publisher created tests– linear computer based, adaptive, essay, authentic portfolio.

Online and Onsite Assessment: teacher/district/or publisher created tests– linear computer based, adaptive, essay, authentic portfolio.

Learning Technology Timeline

1436 – Johannes Gutenberg built the first printing press, opening knowledge beyond clerics.

1455 – The Bible is published.

1664 – Pierre Petit develops the “magic lantern”, precursor to slide projector, used in education into 1900’s. 1690 –  The New England Primer used to teach reading, 3m copies printed.

1728 – Shorthand correspondence courses were offered by a Boston 

1806 – Lancastrian system of master teachers, monitors, and sand boxes–eventually replaced with slates.

1841 – Horace Mann champions chalk boards in schools.

1888 – Thomas Edison made 341 films with a “kinetoscope” proclaiming the end of books in education.

1890 – Typewriters begin to be used in secondary schools.

1918 – Chicago public schools used 8,000 magic lantern slides.

1923 – Radio is used for instruction in schools starting at the Haaren High School in NYC.

1931 – Twenty five states had media or film departments

1938 – My mother wrote and performed radio plays to teach home economics for the Dept. of Agriculture.

1930-1957 – Radio, film, typewriters gains fail to cause growth due to cost and lack of teacher training.

1957 – The launch of Sputnik sparked a strong flow of investment in instructional television. 

1959 – PLATO computer based learning software is developed at the University of Illinois.

1960 – Development of the overhead projector using clear film.

1967 – Stanford’s Patrick Suppes learning research leads to Computer Curriculum Corporation (CCC) 

1969 – Taught animated filmmaking in a Philadelphia public high school while in college.

1971 – Ivan Illich develops the concept of “learning webs” as a model for people to network learning.

1972 – Seymour Papert develops Microworlds, children become mathematicians via programming.

1980 – Video conferencing systems begin to be developed.

1982 – SIS- First student information systems developed, NCS- SASI, Eagle, Aeries, etc.

1983 – Apple computer introduces Iie into schools achieving greater implementation due to ease of use.

1984 – First accredited distance learning University, National Technology University

1984 – Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) shortens testing, individualizing learning in over 30,000 schools.

1987 – TERC innovated with elementary Inquiry-Based Learning networks, probeware and data collection.

1987 – Interactive whiteboards support computer and video integration into classroom instruction.

1988 – 3 million computers in schools are used by students for an average of 30 minutes each per day.

1989 – ChannelOne News satellite school network launched bringing TVs and connectivity to schools.

1990 – LMS- First learning management systems developed, EKKO in Norway, Softarc in the U.S.

1995 – Project- Based Learning initiatives begun by Autodesk.

1994 – Open educational resources (OER) freely accessible openly licensed text and media begin.

1999 – GalaxyClassroom STEM teacher-led, videos, hand-so-kits, online labs, and online communications. 

1999 – IMS Global supports integrate based on LTI (Learning Technologies Interoperability) standards.

2002 – Moodle free open-source LMS launches, now used by 220k in 241 countries

2002 – AssessOnline – Georgia statewide adaptive assessment of teacher technology integrations skills 

2009 – Common Core Standards launch.

2011 – PBS Learning Media, NBC Learn, AwesomeStories.org and other OER and freemium media launch.

2011 – 160,000 students enroll in the first MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) at Stanford.

2011 – Chromebooks offer cloud-based inexpensive option for schools and families.

2014 – Google Classroom launches delivering classroom, teacher, managed lessons.

2015 – Smarter Balanced and PARCC assessment state consortia launch requiring more school computers. 2019 – Leading web-based SIS, Powerschool, acquires and integrates Schoology, rapidly growing LMS.

2020 – COVID-19 spurs the spread of online systems causes increase in virtual learning, shortage of chromebooks, likely to cause greater lasting integration into learning.



How Should We Learn & Teach Now and What Tools Can Help Most?

See also:

First, let’s talk about the point of education and the capability of today’s learning management systems to support that process.

Children enter our world loving to learn. It is our job to support that love of learning and to remove obstacles. Each child should have an education of equity and excellence. Each child needs to be supported, seen, heard, and valued. When they are seen by teachers, parents, mentors, and peers, they can see their own unique gifts. In this way they can develop their abilities and contribute to the community. The ability to contribute brings happiness, satisfaction, and financial stability. All of this nurtures our community to flourish in peace.

We have not been doing so well in meeting those objectives. Frequent testing interrupts learning and brings many students anxiety and shame. Our very testing to ensure that they not be “left behind” can be an obstacle. We need common, advanced, effective, simple-to-use systems that let our teachers reach each child individually so the magic of learning and happiness can emerge.

Parents for Public Schools of Hawaii began 11 years ago, and I have served on the board since its founding, usually leading communications for the group. When we ask parents what they love about our schools they almost always smile and say “the teachers”. When we ask them what distresses them the most about our schools, the answer is usually accompanied by visible discomfort as they say “testing”. Parents often explain that their children are anxious during testing times, come home upset, and do not want to go to school. Some kids love tests, but the ones who do not love tests are often hurt and discouraged by them.

How can we help all of our students and ensure that school is a productive enjoyable place to be so that they continue to love learning?

Over the past two decades, many of us have worked to leverage technology, and its related partner, assessment, to increase engagement, effectiveness, personalization, and equity. It has been a tough and frustrating struggle. Overworked administrators have frequently balked at trying new approaches. Or, if they have chosen innovative systems or tools, often they have been unable to invest adequately in teacher professional development, planning time, bandwidth or devices needed to be successful.

So it is with mixed feelings that we, who have been carefully crafting tools, see this this pandemic-driven rush to virtual learning. Many districts are using old systems or not using systems at all, perhaps not knowing that there are better options. Other districts do not understand the importance of interoperability (systems working together) or integration (systems actually married to deliver results.) In some districts, schools are left to decide whether to use learning management system at all or to pick their own. This creates inefficiency, wasted money, an inability to gather district-wide detailed learning data, and frustration by parents in dealing with multiple systems in different schools. While the schools and teachers should be seeking empowerment and freedom to localize content and instructional approach, energy and time are wasted when each school makes decisions on systems that should be district-wide.

We do not just need these systems because of the pandemic. Districts and schools would have benefitted from using learning management systems effectively for years. Effective implementation of integrated systems protects our student’s time and success, our teacher’s time and success, and delivers ease of information to our families. This work can save money, make teaching more enjoyable retaining more of our great experienced teachers.

Now, in this pandemic, we realize we need virtual learning and that we need systems to manage and deliver that learning. We need these systems for this emergency, but we also need these systems for the pre-existing non-pandemic emergencies and the post-pandemic critical requirements of 21st century careers and families.

No business would let different departments choose different management systems when they have objectives that must be met. We have learning objectives for each child that must be met. Each child must be supported to realize their own unique gifts. We cannot waste time or funds in setting up rival management systems. Great freedom and creativity can be wielded if all accept the best state of the art interoperable systems now. Then we can innovate, individualize, and localize those systems.

So what are all these systems and tools that need to be coordinated? I will describe the main types with some examples below. I will note what the District/State of Hawai‘i is using now, and what I think the district should consider.

Student Information Systems (SIS) — enable enrollment, finance, school buses, cafeterias, class scheduling, grades– and some deliver special education IEPs and manage assessments, Community (family/teacher/student) Portal, etc. (Some of the leading student information systems are PowerSchool, Grade Link, Infinite Campus, Skyward, QuickSchools, Alma, and Focus)
— The Hawai‘i DOE uses Infinite Campus which has many functionalities– some of which may not be fully used at this time.
— I think HI DOE could continue to use Infinite Campus, seeing if it can get more performance and value from it. But it may want to move to PowerSchool or another provider after the current emergencies.

Learning Management Systems (LMS) — class set up, instructional plans, lessons, grades, classroom and teacher to home communications, etc. (Examples are Canvas, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Google Classroom, Edmodo, Atlas, Schoology)
— Some schools within the HI DOE have used Blackboard Learn (Bb) for professional development and some classroom use. So now, in response to the pandemic, the HI DOE is offering the Blackboard Learn LMS to schools who wish it. We understand from the DOE that this is an interim decision as a team with members from the Information and Instruction departments. Bb was founded to serve universities, later developing K12- versions. However, elementary schools do not use Bb and Bb is not seen as desirable for middle school students or even many high school students. It is regrettable that teachers will spend time learning the Bb system, when we hope they will soon move to a more appropriate LMS.

Meanwhile, many teachers have begun using Google Classroom for their classes even though they have to enter student information themselves. (I have just heard that the district is populating the Google Classrooms for the teachers, that they were going to integrate the classroom content into the current district SIS, Infinite Campus. Then I heard that plan has been changed and there will be no integration this year.) These rumors and changes are an example of the confusion many parents and teachers describe.

It is good that the DOE has acquired gmail accounts for all students so that they can use Google Classroom (and other benefits.) As of this writing, Google Classroom is not a full LMS, however, Google has been continuously expanding their education applications. Google Classroom is needed by the HI teachers now, since Bb does not provide the same easy student interface or support teacher elementary level lesson creation. In a few years, our Hawai‘i schools might be able to manage learning through free Google applications, but we are not there yet.

Since many other apps/software need to be integrated with the LMS, using Schoology’s LMS (which was bought in 2019 by the leading SIS provider, PowerSchool) makes sense. Schoology has easy to use standards-based learning tracking as well as grading, rubric support for project-based learning, and is more interoperable than other LMS’s. It is IMS Global certified and LTI and QTI compliant. It is automatically integrated with Google Drive, YouTube, Ck12, Khan Academy and other useful apps. Should the district decide to move off Infinite Campus, it would be easy to use Schoology with its parent company SIS, PowerSchool. Perhaps the HI DOE should consider moving to Schoology or Canvas to avoid wasted transitional training on Blackboard Learn.

Special Education Management Systems— manage, generate, track IEPs (Individual Education Plans) such as EdPlan, SpedTrak, Frontline, PowerSchool Special Programs, and eCSSS. The HI DOE uses the eCSSS system which was reviewed in the 2018 Special Education Task Force Report concluding that a replacement tool for eCSSS should be adopted. The PowerSchool “Unified Classrooms Special Programs” appears to be an easy to use manager for IEPs, 504, ELL, Gifted, RTI, and more all translated into over 60 languages. The HI DOE could consider the PowerSchool Special Programs manager application.

Virtual Learning Tools — Synchronous video conferencing: (Webex, Zoom, GoToWebinar, MS Teams, Google Meet, etc.)
Currently, the HI DOE uses Webex. I do not know if teachers are finding it easy to use Webex. The BOE uses Webex without video for its meetings and the lack of video reduces the effectiveness of the meetings. Zoom has an expansion license that enables 1000 synchronous video users. If Webex has the same, it should be used. If not, Zoom should be considered. Zoom is easily integrated into Schoology. Adobe Connect is another highly scalable video conferencing alternative. The HI DOE should have easy to use synchronous and asynchronous video conferencing for teacher, admin and BOE use.

School Community Family Teacher Student Portal — Portals enable districts to reach teachers, students, and families with essential messages and to give dashboards to each user that gives them access to the appropriate student and learning information. Most SISs have portals and there are standalone portals. Infinite Campus offers a portal which is used by the HI DOE. However, from our PPS-Hawai‘i survey, it seems few families use it. The HI DOE website does not clearly feature it. Each school has their own website. Families seem to get lost between the messages on the HI DOE website, their school website, emails, and texts. The HI DOE website site map shows no pages under “G” for Guardian, no information under “F” for Families, and under “P” for Parents, few resources show up and no referral to a Parent Portal is made.

Despite district website, newsletters, flyers, and video interviews, in addition to school websites, principal and teacher communications, the district does not seem to be succeeding in communicating effectively with families. I hope that HI DOE redesigns its communications strategy using the existing SIS Infinite Campus (or PowerSchool’s or another provider’s Unified Portal). One simplified portal could provide two way communication to all parties. School websites could be connected– but the portal should be the easiest, clearest, simplest link to each student’s educational experience– for teachers, students and families.

To summarize my current thinking on Hawai‘i learning and education management systems:

Learning and education management applications have been developing quickly. Some SIS and LMS systems have been shuttered. It is appropriate to reevaluate existing systems given breakthrough new idea and solutions to old problems.

Guiding principles, systems should be:

1) Easy for teachers to use so that teaching time and flow is not interrupted and they are not frustrated learning codes or rules.

2) Engaging to students with a user interface they can relate to, delivering interactive, synchronous, asynchronous media and tracking learning in a way that is encouraging and motivational to them.

3)  Effective solutions for special programs — SPED, RTI, Gifted, ELL — maximizing quality data and faculty attention to students – not record keeping.

4) “Interoperable”— meaning that systems can easily connect, sharing data through APIs, with other applications. 

5) Inclusive of families, students and teachers— bringing easy, clear two way communication to all — linked to the instructional access and student progress details.

This summer, the HI DOE offered “Blackboard Learn” LMS to all schools- but made it optional. Blackboard Learn is widely known not to serve elementary or middle school students well. Investing teacher time on learning it now may be wasteful. We should rush to find the best LMS solution, preferably integrated with the SIS. Schoology appears to be a better LMS solution than Blackboard Learn or Google Classroom. We should develop an integrated SIS/LMS solution and train teachers to use it now. That will satisfy #1 and #2.

We should see if Infinite campus can provide solutions for SPED and if its portal, the HI DOE website, and communications strategies can be redesigned to better include two way communication with families and students. Infinite Campus interoperability should be analyzed. If Infinite Campus cannot meet these #2, 3, 4 needs, HI DOE should consider moving to PowerSchool or another SIS.

Designing Your LMS to Make Distance Learning Better for Elementary and Middle School Students | Edutopia

Intentionally setting up a learning management system where everything students need is easy to access can help them all be successful. Sarah Schroeder writes for Edutopia stressing that for teachers embarking on virtual learning, it is critical to start with EMPATHY and to BUILD COMMUNITY.

This approach seems exactly right to me. We should NOT begin by testing our students, wasting teacher time that could be spent connecting personally with the students to build trust. We must generate real human connection and we can do this virtually or in person.  But at a time like this, in this pandemic where their lives have been disrupted, it is yet more important to be sure they feel seen, that they are heard, and they feel valued. Testing can come later, and if possible be authentic project or portfolio- based assessment.

Here is the link to Sarah’s article.

Inside the Digital Transformation – Part 1

This article lays out important understandings of the need to design systems and organize technologies and content to deliver effective learning. With strategic planning, care, and appropriate architecture, our teachers and students could be supported in using the vast wealth of open education resources while making progress and needs easily visible to learners, teachers and parents.