Category Archives: Open Education

Don’t Let Your LMS Take a Vacation this Summer

School is out for the summer. Although educators acknowledge learning happens outside the school house 24/7 and 365 days of the year, districts should intentionally plan to help extend and support student learning throughout the year even when the brick and mortar schools are not in session. Your learning management system or LMS is a great way to do this.

Start by thinking about all the different activities students engage in over the summer. Wouldn’t it be great to challenge them to come up with ways to document and share this learning? You could organize a summer learning course in your LMS and give students the ability to design and create the structure of how they will share their experiences. You might have to hire some staff to keep this organized, but I think it would be worth the investment. The LMS would not be used for staff to teach students, but rather for students to share their learning to learn from on another.

A key aspect of organizing this work is anticipating the use of micro-credentials or badges, and figuring out how student learning outside of school can be stored in student portfolios. Starting the new school year by having students share their learning badges earned over the summer is a great way to create an incentive for students to take ownership of their learning both in school and outside of school. Consider it a modernization of the old, “what did you do over the summer” activity.

An LMS is also an effective means to harness the “developer” capacity in your community. I borrow the term developer from the software industry where the open source development model has revolutionized that industry. In education, development refers to the creation of curricula and other learning resources. Development in education can be open sourced as well, and summer learning is great opportunity to harness the dynamism of open development in order to expand learning opportunities for students.

Consider inviting community members, parents, and local organizations to become developers for summer learning activities in your LMS. You will have to do this before school gets out and you might have to train them a bit, but I think many people in your community would be interested in learning how to use an LMS. Here are a few ideas:

  • Parents who go on family vacations could share their itineraries and places they found to be interesting and educational. These trips could be curated and shared in the LMS with other families to give them ideas for future trips, or to give teachers ideas for possible school field trips.
  • Retirees might be interested in creating pages on topics for which they have a particular expertise.
  • Local organizations could share their summer work and create learning activities in the LMS to augment their efforts. For example, a local library could use the LMS to structure its summer reading activities.
  • Sports teams could document their summer seasons in pictures and videos, and provide an opportunity for students to document their experiences through structured writing prompts on LMS discussion boards. For example, “Reflect on Saturday’s 2-14 loss. What did you learn most about yourself as a person and as an aspiring professional athlete?”
  • A 4-H student could document his or her experiences raising dairy goats in the beautiful Vermont summer landscape.

These “outside school” learning activities can be stored in the content library of the LMS and mashed up by teachers during the school year as part of school-based units of study. In order to do this, it would be important to establish an open license such as a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License for all content. I think it is a good idea to license all LMS content under an open license especially if your LMS was purchased with public funds.

Of course this development work would be a bit messy and need to be curated and organized, but that is the nature of open development. What a great way to expand learning all year, however, while at the same time creating stronger relationships between schools, families, and communities.

Don’t let your LMS take a vacation this summer when there are so many exciting learning activities to document and share!

Social Share Counters Presentation, October 8, 2016

I look forward to presenting at conferences with open source themes. My experience with Linux and open source software has greatly influenced my thinking as an educational leader. In education, “Open” refers to the larger historical narrative pertaining to enabling all people to become educated as a human right. This narrative begins with the idea of schooling. Public schooling was an important innovation in schooling, and now technology is letting us re-design the structure of schooling once again on behalf of opening or expanding educational opportunity. It is an exciting time to be a student of educational leadership!

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Some Thoughts on Personalization vs. Customization

I draw the distinction between personalized learning which is a function of a student’s aspirations and customized learning which is an extension of differentiation, or finding ways to make a standards-based curriculum more digestible to the individual learner.

Personalization is more consistent with Progressive educational ideals which place the student at the center of the learning process. In school, the learning process is based on a relationship between the student, the teacher, and his or her parents. Personalization puts a renewed emphasis on the student-parent elements of this relationship by asking, “what are your hopes and dreams” and having this conversation inform the learning process and the purpose of education over time. In this relationship, the teacher represents accumulated knowledge (e.g. standards), the wisdom of the human experience, and society’s interest in seeing students develop a commitment to civic ethics.

For the first time in history we have the tools and technology to manage, and put more emphasis on, personal student learning aspirations as a design element of the schooling experience. In the US, however, we continue pursue education policies focused on customizing standardized learning experiences to meet narrow societal outcomes such as “college and career readiness.” Of course, we want all of our students to be successful. The point is they will most likely be successful if we help them reach their full potential through education which necessitates acknowledging who they are and who they want to be in the process of schooling itself.

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