Our blogger today is Michael Gorman, the Director for Instructional Technology Professional Development at Southwest Allen Schools in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He also provides PD with such organizations at the BUCK Institute (BIE), Discovery Education, ISTE, and Alan November Learning. He has consulted and written for Tech and Learning, Follett, PBS, and has been included in several ed tech publications. His presentations have brought him across the United States including ISTE, FETC, ICE, NMSA, Siemens STEM Academy, CUE, MECC, CELL, and BLC to name a few. Mike has provided numerous consults and PD workshops at schools across the state of Indiana.You will find his blog... including information regarding 21st century education, Project Based Learning, Technology Intergation, Web 2.0, and STEM at http://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/.
As we celebrate another Digital Learning Month it is appropriate to explore what many call Digital Learning Management Systems. There are a number of these systems on the education market and they include such titles as Edmodo, Schoology, Curriculum Loft, Blackboard, and My Big Campus to name a few. Some are free while others have a cost. All of them have a vast array of amazing tools, and each provides some unique attributes available only in their specific product. In this article I will take a moment to outline some new developments within My Big Campus.
My Big Campus is a free LMS provided by Lightspeed, a well-known school website filtering company. Schools that already pay for the Lightspeed filter are eligible for the full functioning version of My Big Campus at no additional cost. Schools using another filter can still use the Freemium version which has some awesome features… but offers a differs a little in the filtering. You can read more about all the features of My Big Campus in a post I provided last year. Right now, I would like to discuss some ideas that surround training and implementation of My Big Campus, including some of its ever growing features.
1. Carefully Consider User Policies Upfront and Inform Stakeholders – MBC has a wide range of user policies ranging from keeping users within very rigid constraints to providing great latitude. Remember that it is always easier to open up a policy that has more constraints, than to start limiting a very open policy. Educators should discuss and decide how and when various policies are open such as chat, conversations (email), and public wikis. It is important to make parents aware of student capabilities in MBC through a formal letter and to state that one of the district goals is to promote proper digital citizenship.
2. Design Backwards From The Parent Portal – By now you may be aware of an awesome feature that MBC has rolled out known as the Parent Portal. This is a wonderful tool and school districts should carefully look at all possibilities before implementing it. Take a look at what the final product looks like and develop a consistent way for teachers to post. This will take some discussion as to whether assignments are sent to the Calendar as an event, or as Schoolwork. There are definite advantage in both and I have found there may actually be an opportunity to use a little of both tools. As you determine your procedures, test your results by setting up fake student and parent accounts seeded in real teachers’ classes. Take a look at the views on all types of devices, whether it be a laptop, tablet, or smart phone. As you do this, be sure to go beyond assignments and determine some common places for teacher profiles and course syllabi. As all teachers, students, and parents become part of My Big Campus… some continuity and conformity within the district will help the end user.
3. Where To Start - The beauty of the My Big Campus interface involves the combination of a robust content management system with a highly interactive collaboration system. District coaches and trainers may have to decide where and what to emphasize first. I have found it useful to promote the collaborative portion first. This involves teaching educators how to set up Groups with the idea of promoting Discussions first. Pages and Resources will come soon enough, but giving teachers the opportunity to conduct, monitor, and engage students in a discussion is a great first step. I will cover some ideas that are useful in facilitating a class discussion in a later step. When setting up a group your school may wish to decide on naming conventions for groups… again that consistency factor. Teachers will also need to reflect on how they wish to have groups established. With multiple sections of the same course, they may wish to have each period as a separate group or they may wish to have one large group. It really is OK to start simple!
4. Flip The PD – We have all attended in-service sessions where the facilitator takes the group through a step by step process. Many times, it isn’t too long before we discover that this process leads to some confusion as teachers begin to travel at different speeds depending on their comfort and tech ability. Directing teachers to videos and bundles already within MBC can allow teachers to work at their own pace. Districts may even decide to make their own custom videos or bundles. It can also be wise to package these first steps outside of MBC in a Weebly or Wiki until teachers gain some comfort with MBC.
5. Promote Digital Citizenship and Academic Behavior – It is important that My Big Campus and its collaborative abilities teach students proper digital citizenship along with essential academic online behavior. I believe that teachers must give specific instructions for a discussion. These may include having students answer in a set number of complete sentences, use proper grammar, correct spelling, and be content specific. A rubric can even be designed to asses this important 21st century skill and may include not only responding to the teacher’s question or prompt, but also posting a set number of comments to other students. Teachers must also model an academic discussion by contributing comments in the discussion. Last, they should demand that text lingo be kept in its proper place including text messaging, twitter, and Facebook :) lol
6. Show Teachers How Bundles Can Save Time – One of the neatest features in MBC is the addition of Content Bundles. Before a teacher ever creates a Bundle, in-service time should be provided for them to search for already created and shared Bundles. They will be amazed and impressed with the amount of digital content already available to them. In fact, before making a Bundle they should also learn to branch and then remix that Bundle for their use. Of course, sooner or later, all educators should be encouraged to create their own Bundles and consider sharing them. After all it is this sharing that helps the digital world of collaboration go round and round.
7. Discover The Power Of MBC Docs – OK… they are not quite Google Docs… we would all like to see that real time! What MBC does allow is for teachers to put out one document such as a syllabus, agenda, outline, or content sheet and share it everywhere. Perhaps it is time to transform out of the dropbox idea and discover how shared documents between teacher and student can be even more powerful. Of course I don’t have to explain the possibilities of MBC Docs and Project Based Learning.
8. Promote Bloom’s Higher Order Skills – Through discussions, pages, and bundles encourage educators to discover ways to push the higher order skills of Bloom. Go beyond sharing a video that explains how. While this can be valuable and has a place in flipped instruction, it is also possible to flip the learning. Encourage deep thinking, real inquiry, and divergent thinking skills though discussions, videos, and web quests.
9. Break Down The Classroom Walls – As teachers become more at ease with My Big Campus, encourage ways to promote authentic learning while making connections outside the physical classroom. As teachers blend the learning the classroom will begin to lose its boundaries and students will begin to interact and learn from real world possibilities.
10. Model… Inform… Limit – Expect MBC to be used by more than teachers and students. Provide parent information nights. Administrators must create and contribute to groups that promote professional learning communities. In doing this, it is important to limit the number of groups and possibly have one all encompassing group with multiple discussion threads. Teachers cannot be expected to check dozens of groups for each program initiative. Once again, it may be important to design a building or district PLN’s through backward design. How is it useful and productive to the end user?
Extra For Indiana - Did you know that the eLearning Division at the Indiana DOE has provided educators with two special valuable resources inside of My Big Campus? First, you may wish to discover NBC Learn, which is an amazing video collection tied to lesson plans and the state standards. It covers all curriculum areas. Learn more at the special NBC Learn Link for Indiana and also watch this archived eLearning Webinar for the full scoop. If that is not enough… you may wish to check out NROC (National Repository for Online Curriculum). NROC contains high-quality, media-rich course resources that are aligned to state and national standards. NROC resources are now available free to all Indiana educators. Best of all, they are incorporated as a resource in My Big Campus. View this archived webinar detailing NROC content and how to access it, with or without access to My Big Campus.
As you can see, an LMS such as My Big Campus is much more than a repository of content. It must be carefully designed, nurtured, promoted, and used by all stakeholders. It allows for more than the dissemination of information; it can be a catalyst for educational transformation ensuring engaging delivery of essential content while promoting essential 21st century skills. Take a moment and enjoy the wonderful video (below) MBC has recently produced. It really does describe it best! Please feel free to engage with me as I write about numerous educational endeavors at my 21centuryedtech Blog at http://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/ . Feel free to contact me anytime with questions. Have a wonderful Digital Learning Month!
by Michael Gorman at http://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/
Explore the NROC resources, either through My Big Campus or through the NROC site. How are you using (or planning to use) NROC resources in your classroom? Or do you have any My Big Campus tips or tricks to share? Share your thoughts and ideas in the Comments section below.