Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The LMS Plot Thickens

Though not quite as life changing as having a new baby, my school district’s press conference earlier this week is definitely shaking some things up. 

-Online learning at least until the end of October.

-First time seeing and hearing the new superintendent- she seems nice. 

-Using Schoology district wide. 

-Wait, what?

Learning Management Systems are a wicked problem, and I can’t help but start running Berger’s why-what if-how on this. 

Why should we try to manage learning digitally? What is the ultimate purpose of an LMS? What should an LMS help students do? 

What if an LMS fostered student inquiry, discovery, and storytelling?

How can a project management platform scaffold and share student inquiry, discovery and storytelling?

My fear is that traditional school is baked into the DNA of almost any LMS out there. The cycle of teacher assigns, student works, teacher grades, wash-rinse-repeat is at the core. Percentage/points based gradebooks are a default. The problem is, my school is trying to cut bait with lesson/review/test and instead create divergent projects, self organized learning, and just-in-time workshops. We are trying to dismantle the idea of grades and instead adopt a competency based mindset, feedback cycle, and glorified single point rubrics. Does any LMS start with this kind of radical outlook?

Even if there was, professionals all over my city use project management software to curate ideas, processes, initiatives, and workflows. Why not use those same creative and design tools with students? Anecdotally, if you give high school students Trello and Slack and an authentic problem, watch out!

I’ve been nosing around the edge of the wicked problem of inquiry curriculum for the last few weeks (what if a curriculum was built on questions rather than answers?). The recent LMS bombshell is giving me pause about these systems and why we have them. If student inquiry is truly the experience we want, what kind of systems foster it? 

To that end I am working on a survey for my graduate course. It’s tough. I feel like my own teaching biases are hard to remove from how I ask questions. I’m struggling to land completely on my survey’s purpose and pragmatic result. I guess that’s why they call them wicked problems.

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