In the Spring of 2015 a group of teachers, administrators, and tech members at Marian Catholic came together to decide two things. First: Do we need a paid Learning Management System (LMS) or can we utilize Google Classroom or other free tools. Second: What LMS would work best with our environment of a high school with 1:1 iPads and PowerSchool as our Student Information System (SIS).
We opened an invitation to our faculty to join, and the teachers who joined us already had some experience with tools like Google Classroom and Showbie. Admin and tech wanted to know a couple things from these teachers. What tools are necessary to make the workflow in their class better & what did they like most and least about the tools they had already tried.
We discovered teachers liked the ability of all these programs to collect student work in multiple formats – PDF, Word, Google Docs, JPG, etc… The math and science teachers especially liked the ability to write directly on the assignment on their iPads. This was a feature they first utilized in the free version of Showbie. Then we found out what they didn’t like. That was simple – they graded in Showbie or Google Drive and had to record grades again in PowerSchool. Also they wanted an easy to use interface like Google Classroom.
Administration and tech were looking for a couple things in this process. Although cost is always a factor, it was agreed that it would not stop us from putting in place the best LMS for our students and faculty. Tech wanted to make sure the user interface would be easy enough for every teacher to use, no matter what their level of tech knowledge, the integration with PowerSchool would be smooth, and we wouldn’t be adding a heavy workload to tech’s plate.
We started with a list of approximately 10 different products to look at, but were able to quickly dwindle that list down to 2 finalists – Canvas and Schoology. Both products integrated with PowerSchool, were accessible on the iPads, and costs were very similar. Everyone on the committee was then given accounts, and asked to test drive both LMS’s. A Canvas sales rep came out and gave us a demo, and we ran a Google Hangout with one of Schoology’s ambassadors – Robert Schuetz. After all this work we felt that Schoology was better suited for the iPads, had an easier user interface, and at this point was just a little further ahead on the iPad integration than Canvas.
Our teachers were told of our decision over the summer, and were assured they would have time to learn Schoology through professional development and ‘playtime’ throughout the 2015-16 school year. They were also informed it would be mandatory in 2016-17. Admin and tech felt a majority of teachers would use it right away, but as of October 1st we believe the entire faculty is utilizing Schoology in some way, and most are using it on a daily basis.
Personally I want to take credit for this success because of the awesome professional development sessions I created. However, the user interface, and our teachers helping each other learn how to use Schoology is why it has been a success at Marian Catholic. There is a group of teachers who are doing more than we ever expected to see this year, let alone in the first month of school. Their leadership is making it much easier for the other teachers to follow suit thanks to the “If they can do it, I can do it” mentality. Our administration has also made a strong push over the last 1 1/2 years to build stronger community among our teachers. I feel this stronger sense of community has made it easier for teachers to help each other learn not only Schoology, but other apps and tech integration as well.
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