To LMS or to not LMS: Part two


There has been an interesting question posed by Clarie Amos, (very interesting blog that is worht reading) the new DP of Hobsonville Point Secondary School in which she ponders whether the school should have an LMS or not. Below is my answer.

It depends on what you want out of your online environment. It is important that any school examines its philosophy on learning and ensures that the learners’ online experience aligns with this. In this case, we have a brand new school that is thinking very carefully about how it approaches learning. Various posts in Claire’s blog reveal they want to develop student agency and self-directed learning – they are clearly wanting to take a different approach to learning than most traditional secondary schools and so they should imho. They have a chance to work from the ground up and I envy them that opportunity.

Now I must make it clear I am not “rabidly” anti-LMS. I have been a long time Moodle user and I understand the use of an LMS in large institutions like the University of Canterbury. The trouble with an LMS though is that it is not a disruptive technology – it is rooted in orthodoxy and because of this steers the teacher and learners in a certain direction. If this is what you want then it will do this very nicely, but don’t we want to change things in the secondary sector (and this is where I am mainly directing my argument)? Some would argue that it isn’t the tool, but how you use it that matters and there is some truth to that, but in an LMS there is a subtle push for the teacher to be in control. For example in a Moodle course the teacher is structuring the learning including the tasks, resources and activities and then inviting the learners to interact with those. But what if you want to take quite a different approach to learning?
This year as part of a Knowledge Building project I am involved in, my course is entirely inquiry based and starts with the learners. In such an approach I need online environments that promote collaboration and where the teacher and students are equal. I need them to co-construct knowledge together with me helping and guiding (and sometimes doing as well). A class page in an LMS won’t do the trick for me here at all – it just doesn’t work. This year the class is actually using a Google Plus community which fits the bill exceptionally well, in conjunction with knowledge forum which is designed to support knowledge building. I am not missing an LMS at all – in fact it seems positively antique compared to what we have been using (although I must exclude knowledge forum from that observation by hopefully that will change this year).
We also have to be aware that there are significant shifts taking place because of the web. The ability to connect with anyone, anywhere, to access untold high quality resources, to get help from experts all over the world, means there is a real blurring of informal and formal learning taking place. In informal learning I am in control, I can follow my passions and use what technologies I want. Generally in formal learning I am bound by structures, curriculum and technologies imposed on me. Currently accreditation is locked into formal education, but what if this changes (or perhaps this is just starting to happen now)? It is extremely important schools (and Universities for that matter) take note of how easily a person can learn in engaging ways outside of formal education. Any new school should consider this when developing not only its philosophy on learning, but the online environments to support this.

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