I’ve been working on setting some things up for next semester’s iteration of my class, and one of the things I have been looking into is setting up a learning management system (LMS) for my students. Both my undergraduate and graduate schools use(d) LMSs with us, and I enjoy having course information at my fingertips. A good system is also important if I decide to go the flipped-class route next year. I’ve been spending a good deal of time playing with the options for LMSs, and each has its pros and cons. It’s made the decision-making process difficult for me. Here is a little bit of what I’m thinking about three of the choices I’ve looked at so far:
Pros: Appears to be the trendiest option available. Edmodo is currently in favor with a large number of teachers and schools. My own district has an Edmodo domain, though they do not require anyone to use it. Edmodo bears a strong resemblance to Facebook. It’s widely praised for its ease of use and setup. You can provide parents of students in your classes with view-only access codes, so they can see what their child is doing in your class. Edmodo also offers good mobile support. Students who use Edmodo generally seem to really like it, which means they’re more likely to look at it.
Cons: Edmodo is a third-party company. There’s always a chance they could simply fold and go out of business, taking you and your class down with them in a blaze of glory. There’s also a chance they could require paid subscriptions in order to use their site. And that’s not a remote possibility, either; I heard it happened with Ning and a lot of teachers who used that site were upset. You can’t enroll students in Edmodo yourself; you have to give them a code and let them enroll themselves in your class. Edmodo also seems to lack in structure. I was not able to locate an option to set up my content in modules or anything similar. Edmodo also has terms and conditions that contain the following statement, which appears to indicate that Edmodo can use your content for whatever it wants:
You understand that by posting information or content on the Website or otherwise providing content, materials or information to Edmodo or in connection with the Services (collectively, “User Submissions”), Edmodo hereby is and shall be granted a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty free, perpetual, irrevocable, and transferable right to utilize and exercise all rights with respect to such User Submissions…
Pros: Moodle is an open-source LMS with a surprisingly wide adoption at all levels of education. You can host Moodle on your own server, which avoids many of the terms-and-conditions issues Edmodo raises. In my case, my hosting company offers a “one-click install” where they set up Moodle for you. Moodle is very sophisticated and offers a ton of features. It is highly structured, with the ability to create different forums and modules to break up your content as you see fit. Students can be manually enrolled, and an e-mail address is not required. Moodle has a very high level of customization available to the person designing and running the course.
Cons: Running Moodle on your own server means that you alone are responsible for fixing it when something breaks. There are companies that will host your Moodle class for you, but that requires payment. Unless you get heavy into the customizing and templates (requires some web design knowledge), you may be disappointed with the default themes available. My Moodle looks a little bland and industrial. I doubt students would find it visually appealing. No mobile support that I’m aware of, and I didn’t see any options when I set up my self-hosted account. There is a learning curve involved, for teacher and students. Unlike Edmodo, Moodle looks nothing like Facebook.
Pros: New to the game, Canvas tries to strike a balance between Edmodo and Moodle. For the most part, it does a good job. Visually, it has an “Apple” feel to it. Canvas lets you pick and choose the features you want to use, which is nice. Canvas offers some type of mobile access, though I couldn’t find out exactly what that meant. This is the first LMS I’ve seen that offers wiki pages that students can create and edit together. Canvas does not look too complicated for middle school students to use.
Cons: At only a couple of years old, Canvas is relatively new to the came, and isn’t exactly proven yet. Other users report there are bugs still to be worked out. No ability to generate parent codes for access, though it appears you can set them up as “observers” in your class. Requires a student’s e-mail address to add them to your class (same for observers). E-mail is not ubiquitous in my student population, which could be a problem. Still not as visually appealing as Edmodo.
It’s such a close call. Because they all have different pros and cons, it’s difficult to get a clear picture of which one is truly “better.” I think I have mostly eliminated Moodle from the competition. As much as I like it, having it depend solely on me to function is not a great position for me to be in. Edmodo vs. Canvas is a more difficult decision, which may take some time.
If you’ve got experiences in different LMSs, I’d love to know your opinions.
Last night’s #edchat topic was:
What makes a bad PowerPoint presentation and how it hurts learning. Is it the fault of tech or teacher?
There are a few things that concern me about the topic itself:
The pursuit of shiny objects: I had a feeling a topic like this would show up one day, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. The topic’s bias against PowerPoint (and, by extension, Microsoft) reveals what I consider to be a growing problem in educational technology. Why are we after the website of the moment? Will we now begin thrashing about every six months, trying to import our Prezis into this website that does all the same things, but in 3D? I made several Prezis this year to try it out and I was extremely disappointed. It took me much, much longer to put together a presentation(the path!), and in the end the information was about the same. I fail to understand the educational value of explaining to students the fine art of drawing a path in Prezi. And the students who use PowerPoint are just as excited about their work.
What’s our role here?: Are we as teachers really preparing students for the future by making them prepare Prezis? The current worldwide standard for presentations is Microsoft PowerPoint. I know it’s not trendy or cool to be a PowerPoint person, because everyone can do PowerPoint, but isn’t that exactly the point? I don’t know why we’re not focusing on exposing our students to the software that is the current global enterprise standard.
Content: Is it all about the content? Shouldn’t we be focusing on creating great presentations anyway? PowerPoint 2020 may not look the same as the 2012 edition, but I’d be willing to bet the underlying principles and ideas are the exact same. Look at Office 95. Very similar in basic design to today’s product.
“Is it the tech or the teacher?”: This implies that there’s a possibility that the technology is to blame for poor decisions by users. It’s also the oldest trick in the book: you don’t want to learn how to do it right so blame it on the technology. It’s PowerPoint’s fault the templates are worn out (even though you keep using them). Something is wrong with your laptop (you forgot your password). I see plenty of it, enough to know that really the tech is only as good as the person behind it, and is not autonomous or really to blame for decisons made on it.
Where I’m going with all of this is that I’m afraid there’s been an element of groupthink in the chats I participate online, and it worries me. Everybody jump on the Prezi bandwagon because that’s the new, hot presentation thing. Everybody jump on iPads in schools because that sounds awesome. Let’s bust out e-textbooks as fast as we can because e-everything is absolutely what we want 100% of the time, no holds barred. I would like to talk a little more about this, but it’s 12:20AM where I am, and I have to be up in six hours for a conference, so I know what I’ll be writing about tomorrow!
Ever since I found out in going to be teaching a class next year, I’ve been checking out the flipped class model. I have been more than a little skeptical that this was more than just the flavor of the month in education; however, the more I’ve seen, the more I think there might be something to it. I have looked at a few examples of flipped classrooms and I like what I have seen. I also participated in a webinar this week that was very practical and down-to-earth and I am encouraged. I’m looking forward to looking into this more over the summer.
As I mentioned yesterday, I am very interested in finding ways to increase my marketability and grow, both personally and professionally. Along with researching grad schools, I’m also looking at new skills I can attain that are more universal.
One area I wouldn’t mind focusing on are professional certifications in technology. I looked yesterday at some Microsoft Learning courses and might be interested in some of those. There are some that play into what I do now, like the Microsoft Office Specialist certification, that would be fairly easy for me to get. I don’t think Microsoft or Microsoft Office are going anywhere anytime soon, so I feel pretty safe that anything I do with them will be valid for a long time.
But I also am interested in things like HTML, which are truly universal and independent of platform or computer. That makes it hard to find recognized, acceptable certification agencies, since pretty much anyone can offer whatever they want, but finding a reputable place and learning some web programming-type stuff might be a good move for me too. I randomly thought about looking at the tech school next door for summer classes–we’ll see.
Hopefully soon I’ll be able to sit down and figure out what the right track forward is for me.
I want to go to graduate school so bad it hurts. Here’s what I want:
- Must be 100% online unless extremely local (and even then, must be 95% online).
- Must offer a masters’ degree in instructional technology.
- Must be a versatile degree which will work for K-12 as well as the private sector (If I’m paying for it, I want something versatile).
- Highly prefer programs that don’t require applicants to take the GRE. The GRE is not an effective measure of my ability to learn. Plus, I hate math and the GRE has some of the craziest math questions I’ve ever seen. I’m worried I wouldn’t pass.
- I prefer programs that have some sort of simple-ish project at the end, rather than having to write a big fat thesis. It’s not about writing. I love to write! It’s about the time commitment that would be involved in putting together something that massive while still working during the day.
I think that’s pretty much it in terms of academic requirements. And I’ve found a small number of degrees that appear at first glance to meet most or my requirements. But it turns out a masters’ degree is so expensive! The worst part of this is figuring out how I am going to pay for this whole ordeal. Especially since I continue to owe plenty for my bachelor’s degree and it will be a long, long time before I get out from under that.
But at least there are choices out there–that’s something, I suppose.