To LMS or not?

An interesting discussion on Twitter for #ohedchat today about blended learning which not surprisingly turned to the necessity of an LMS for effective teaching in a blended classroom. But first what is blended learning? Wikipedia defines it as:

Blended learning is education that combines face-to-face classroom methods with computer-mediated activities.[1] According to its proponents, the strategy creates a more integrated approach for both instructors and students.

The terms “blended,” “hybrid,” “technology-mediated instruction,” “web-enhanced instruction,” and “mixed-mode instruction” are often used interchangeably in current research literature.[2] However, recent researchers in the United States tend to use the term “blended learning” with more regularity.

To me it is the use of digital technology to enhance and extend classroom learning experiences.

So is an LMS essential? Well it depends….

My first teaching job was at Trinity Grammar School Kew – the first school in Australia to have a school wide wireless network to support a laptop program. In the same year I started they also employed a teacher to look at a means of providing access electronically via the web to resources. He designed his own LMS (called school tool from memory) and I spent lots of time trying to break it. Anyway after a couple of years out of teaching I went back into a school that used Moodle – once again I always pushed the boundaries (often getting frustrated and the limitations!) using Moodle extensively.

The change of schools (and systems!/ states) to Coffs Harbour High school also coincided with the start of the Digital Education Revolution – so of course I set up a school Moodle ( ) that is still up and running today. the reception to this was to say the least varied! But now four years on I myself only use Moodle for some things (e.g online administration of diagnostic tests at the commencement of the year and for subject selection for senior years) preferring to use a blended (pun intended!) mix of tools to assist with the digital support of students learning. This includes blogs, Edmodo, Adobe Connect, Facebook, OneNote, DropBox,Mathletics, Mangahigh….

Of these I have found FaceBook to be the most successful (for senior students) mostly because it is an online ecosystem which my students already inhabit. Ever since I started teaching my mantra with regards technology has always been “see what the kids are using in their own time and try to find an educational use for it”. If I post a message on Facebook (in our class group) at 5:30 am (I am a morning person!) 90% of my class will have read it before school – why because the first thing they do when they wake up is check Facebook! But this approach is not for everyone –  it is to unpredictable and ever changing.

Whenever a new way of digital delivery is suggested many teachers want to: be trained;  know exactly what it should be used for; know how it will be managed etc. Now this is all fine but my question is how will you ever keep up with the continual changes if you expect a training course in everything! Consequently many just don’t do anything! An LMS offers a nice safe place for these types of teachers and will perhaps expose them to alternative options down the track.

The biggest problem I have  with any LMS is that it is a walled garden (this includes things like Yammer too!) but once again this is what makes them attractive to some people and institutions.

I guess there is no “One-size fits all approach” some will want to use an LMS and others not – but at what point does an institution no longer provide an LMS for those who want to use it and are not confident elsewhere?  Will removal of something perhaps destroy the confidence of a teacher who has either just taken or is about to take steps to use online tools in the classroom? How can our professional learning as educators be more about taking risks and experimenting with new tools? And WHO IS GOING TO TAKE OVER ADMIN OF OUR SCHOOL MOODLE? :0 Any volunteers?

Launch of the EGATs Programme (on Moodle) – North Coast – Central Network

On Wednesday  North Coast Region – Central Network lauched its EGATs (Electronic Gifted and Talented) programme using the Coffs Harbour High School Moodle.  Region staff have spent many hours preparing a vast array of activities for students, and have adapted traditionally based activities well to an online format.

Student will mostly use the Moodle Assignment Activities to upload their completed tasks, however participation in weekly guided discusion forums ensures that have the opportunity to network virtually with other students and to seek assistance for teacher/mentors as well.  A traditional “journal” has been replaced by a student blog, that will be checked by assigned mentors each week. For many students participating it will be there first opportunity to engage in a “virtual community” and this offers not only the opportunity for them to complete GAT activities but also to learn the nuances of social networking in a safe online environment.

I Like Martin Dougiamas’s method of analysing the pedagogial value of various Moodle Activites (taken from and like the way that a programme such as EGATs uses a wide variety of these different activities. And all this was set up by a DET consultant who has never used Moodle before and spent 2 afternoons being instructed in how it works.  An excellent example of how easy Moodle is to begin using (oh and I did a deal where she will present just how easy it is to use to CHHS staff when we begin using Moodle in earnest later this year).

There was initial fear that some of the GATs students would not cope with the use of unfamiliar technology, however this was certainly not the case. The enthusisam they showed was motivating for parents and teachers alike. All students logged on as soon as they got home, and continued the discussions they had started.