Over the past 15 months or so, the Ed Tech Office has been leading a process to evaluate new possibilities for our Learning Management System (LMS). We have been using StudyWiz for a number of years, but with our move to Standards Based Grading and Reporting (SBGR) and a ore focused emphasis on personalized learning in our strategic plan, the time was right to examine our options.
Middle School and High School staff were surveyed about “must have” features of an LMS and time was spent examining different frameworks for evaluating various LMS options. The evaluation rubric provided by Longsight and adapted from McGill University was particularly helpful in getting our evaluation process straight.
After starting with a long list of 12 possible services, a short list of 3 was put forward: Haiku, Schoology and Teamie. Each of these three were then looked at more closely against our criteria by some of the Ed Tech Facilitators and we were quickly left with two: Schoology and Teamie.
Sandbox areas in each of the platforms were set up in Spring 2016 and we were able to dig further into what each of them were able to do. In Fall 2016, we gathered volunteer feedback teams of teachers and students to try out each system. We created some demo classes and guided teachers and students through “student uses” such as accessing content, participating in discussions, submitting assignments and taking online quizzes. We also asked teachers to go through the process of creating sample content for their classes and to have a look at the built-in grading/feedback features of each LMS. (Here are the feedback rubrics we used with the student view and teacher view.)
While theses features of both Schoology and Teamie were similar, both students and teachers overwhelmingly chose Teamie in terms of look, feel and overall usability. In general, it was felt that Teamie would better suit the needs of our learners.
Another important factor to our decision was/is the overall relationship and level of support that we received from Teamie. We have had great ongoing conversations with co-founder and others about possible customizations to suit our community needs. We have had long discussions and have been seriously involved with the development of a standards-based gradebook for the platform. All in all, I feel that we have developed a strong relationship with Teamie. I am confident that this will ensure that we will have a voice in the continued development and improvement of the LMS so that it continues to suit the needs of our teachers, students and parents.
Going forward, there is a lot of work to do to ensure the smoothest possible transition to Teamie. In addition to all of the back-end technical integration with our current systems like PowerSchool, there is a lot of discussion and professional learning that needs to take place with teachers so that we can launch Teamie for all classes in Fall 2017. Some of the big ticket items on that list are:
- Work with teachers and admin to develop Essential Agreements for use middle school and high school teachers.
- Develop online/blended training modules for the skills necessary to use Teamie based on the Essential Agreements.
- Deliver and support these training modules to all MS and HS teachers during Quarter 4.
- Provide parent training and information sessions during Fall 2017.
- Continue to use professional learning opportunities to develop capacity and share best practice in the use of Teamie.
- Revisit and revise Essential Agreements mid-year to ensure they are appropriate.
This is (obviously) an ongoing process, but I for one am excited by the possibilities that a modern and responsive learning management system will provide to us as a school. As we continue to evolve our own understanding and implementation of personalized learning, a robust and student-centered platform that allows for content delivery, in-depth discussion and interaction, and detailed data and analytics regarding assessment and usage is going to be crucial!