This past Friday (February 13), we talked with teachers about using the Schoology platform to share digital content resources. In fact, this ability was one of the reasons we chose Schoology this past summer, and you can read more about how they envision it working. I wanted to write a few things about this capability, and why it is so important when we consider 1:1 computing in our schools.
First, not everyone is of a sharing mindset. Schoology gets around this by creating personal, local (district/school), and public sharing areas in resources. I get that not everyone wants to share the “things” they’ve created for teaching. From my own experience, when I came to Goochland, I was forced to invent my curriculum, my syllabus, and I started out creating 10 major projects for the advanced class I taught in Graphic Communications. While every student got a print-out of the semester’s projects, and they went into 3-ring binders, it wasn’t necessarily “public.” I needed some time to try these new projects out with students before I was ready to “publish” them. But for whom? No other teacher at the time taught what I did, so, what was the point in sharing them?
In Schoology now, I could share this content with teachers outside my district. Okay, that sounds interesting… we’re not just talking one high school now, but a lot of high schools. I think of folks like Dan Meyer, who has published his Algebra curriculum. He’s confident, for one, and he’s published his stuff to a worldwide audience. Schoology feels a little more safe; it’s not open to the world (unless you want it to be), but the modular system of learning object and course makes it possible to easily integrate whatever it is into what you want students to see. If I were teaching today, I’d start with sharing stuff I thought would be of value to others, but also content I was familiar with, and knew worked for my students.
Second, I might still utilize a textbook. Textbooks are reliable sources of information that someone else (an author, a publisher) has organized, added pictures, maybe graphs, and packaged in an accessible way for students. As successful #futureready leaders told us recently in Raleigh at a regional summit led by the U.S. Department of Education, their districts are choosing not to spend money on textbooks because do not adequately address the needs of today’s learners. New tools are available, but in addition, so are new pedagogies. To replace the role of a textbook, teachers are re-thinking the concept of the book or binder around the construct of the learning management system, one like Schoology. With Schoology providing the construct of courses and instructors, teachers are able to compile digital assets as resources and then add these assets into as many or few courses as they like. When the resources and activities are tagged with standards, it becomes possible to track student mastery of these standards providing a new level of assessment. In effect, Schoology becomes the new textbook, with resources culled from a teacher’s own personal library, commercial resources, and resources that are freely being shared by other like-minded teachers.
Third, everyone doesn’t have a lot of digital learning assets, yet… If you have not taught traditionally with a computer, then it may be challenging to embrace the idea of a collection of digital assets in lieu of a textbook. The 1:1 computing project we have begun helps with this in a big way by providing each student with access to a mobile computer that allows them to access the same Schoology system (read: twenty-first century textbook replacement), but with the enhancement that this system can keep track of access to the resource (Schoology reports how long students spend in each course), can assess student learning, and with the guidance of the teacher/course creator, can provide different students different types of learning experiences based on preference or need. Sounds great, but how do I start with these assets?
The Peer to Peer University organization capitalizes on the idea of free content exchange. Not to mention the OpenStax Project, with online content. The problem is, these projects are focused on higher education. But the same sharing exchange already exists within Schoology. We just have to be willing to first, share our own content (our content is someone else’s freebie!), and peruse what’s out there. In addition, there are some K-12 resources too worth exploring.
Khan, as an example, can be integrated into Schoology as an app. This means it’s even easier to plug content right in without having to navigate between multiple windows and services.
In the end, by putting a device in a student’s hand, and by accepting that a new tool like Schoology can offer more flexibility in how the content we use to teach can be organized, we are well on our way towards taking full advantage of collecting and organizing our own set of curated digital learning assets. Whether these assets are something we have purchased (a Discovery video, as an example), one we’ve created (a PDF, or a video tutorial), or one we’ve found online from a resource we like (a Ck12 activity), a learning management system like Schoology will become the place to house this content and share it with students within the context of a course. If you attended our sessions led by Bea, Zoe, and Glenn on Friday, thank you! We can’t wait to get started!