Implementing an LMS

Implementing an LMS

Paul Mears (Firbank GS)



Paul talked about

1 How to be strategic with human-centred design

2 selection process of an LMC

3 Implementing for success

This was interesting, beginning with a focus on ‘human centred thinking and design. ‘Opportunities, not problems’, which came out of Stanford.

He argued for ‘shadowing’, observation, interviews … and the importance of ‘student agency’ Bring the students in, give them respect and they’ll rise to the occasion.

When he talked to students the students hated the ‘mushrooms’ that had popped up with different teachers all doing their own things. They wanted to select a unifying LMS and shared the process they used to select that company. (Firefly)

Mears prefers ‘integrated learning platform’ to LMS, as the platform should integrate diverse things like YouTube, ClickView, Google Docs, PowerPoint

This was the most practical session I had for the day. Good advice, ‘The main thing is to make the main thing the main thing’




Sitting at the airport waiting for a flight gives you time to think. I’m heading off to EduTech in Brisbane for a couple of days and am trying to figure out just what I hope to find out, that I couldn’t get from a Twitter Feed. 

Of course, there’s power in the networked connections you can make in conferences, but I’m hoping too that there’s more that I’ll come back to my school with.  I’ll blog my thinking over the next couple of days but I’m particularly interested in:

  • The state of play in the LMS world (and specifically where Schoolbox sits in that)
  • IOS student response systems and apps
  • Are there possibilities in Chromebooks I’ve ignored for too long?
  • What do the new iPad admin settings look like
  • How can I get on board the next OneNote thing
Mixed up bunch isn’t it? Tech agnostic: Google, Apple, Microsoft … I’ll be interested to see if I’m any clearer on some of these key questions by Tuesday night.

A new organisational architecture to support blended learning

A new organisational architecture to support blended learning Saint Stephens college, QLD

This session was about how one school is moving to blended learning approaches, and the shifts in teaching and structures required to make that happen.

They focused on the changed role of the teacher and the new ‘architecture’ needed. This approach is a team based one, and the Principal questioned the importance of the teacher in the future.

The session explored the role of the 21c teacher in pretty familiar ways really. They explained their approach to blended learning, the teacher guiding the students through understanding and checking for understanding.

They talked of a KnowledgeWorks article: 7 future roles for educators including ‘data steward’ and ‘micro-credentialing analysts!

They are working on a data dashboard with Independent Schools Qld.

They also appointed a learning coach, targeted using data and said that the roles were definitely increasing.

Interestingly, their students were required to enrol in a MOOC.

They also talked about their LMS, their development of a robust network as the bedrock for the journey and their choice of BrightSpace.

it was interesting to hear about the way they gradually moved the conversation towards blended learning and responding to the Netflix generation, evidenced in weekend and after hours ‘when they want to learn.

They argued for the self-paced benefits of blended approaches.

so, their stages were:

– Infrastructure


– Blended approaches

The last one can make teachers uncomfortable but you can do the first two without making any change at all.

They talked about data, and moving to predictive data, along with a data dashboard to look at results, particularly achieved results against ability. (NAPLAN vs English and Maths results)

Finally, they made a good case for their Academic Advisor program, which they’re expanding, partly based on the parent feedback.

‘If you build it they may not come, but if you don’t …’

Finally, they talked a little about physical architecture, their LOTE building, the Team Projects Area, the Arts and Applied Technology Precinct, I-Centre and ‘Science in Action’ building.

They see a future with fewer teachers and less classroom time.

They talked about the School of One in the USA

it was a good session presented by a passionate team.

Below: three slides from the presentationIMG_9413 IMG_9414


A deluge of possibilities

When you come back from some time away, particularly when you’re wandering around beautiful landscapes like I was, you do get out of the pace and rhythm of a school. So, it’s been a bit of a jolt coming back and getting used to timetables, bells, hundreds of daily interactions and the pace of the day.

And, one thing that has particularly struck me, in an area I’m very keen about, is technology. Schools seem to be at the center of a perfect storm of change, particularly in terms of ed-tech.

At my own workplace, for example, we’re grappling with the virtues of OneDrive and Google Apps for Education and probably going to opt for some of both. The OneNote notebook creator (see video below) looks like a great leap forward to this product that is so powerful, but so tricky for setup at times. We’ve been a school that uses Outlook and Office, so the collaborative features of OneDrive will be welcomed, but the sites and the survey tools in Google are excellent.

At the same we’re weighing up options for an LMS that might supplement or replace our current wikis, with teachers looking at things like Blackboard, Schoology, Edmodo and others. It’s an arms race of features out there. I’ve been using Schoology with my own teaching, and I think it’s terrific, but what about a reporting tool? And how’s the mobile app look?

Finally, we’re talking a lot about ebooks and replacing / supplementing the paper text books with e-book versions. Do we go with a single vendor, try to accommodate a range of vendors and portals or look for an aggregator? And how do we transition our teachers and parents to that model?

Lots to think about. Sometimes I think back to the simplicity of a day’s walking in Skye last term, but it sure is an exciting time to be a teacher. I’m pretty sure that OneNote will be part of my teaching next  year. Here’s that video:

First look at Schoology

So, it’s one week into using Schoology and pretty impressed so far. It has all the essentials you’d want to see in an LMS including flexible resources and management, assignments, discussion forums, file submission, even badges.

I’d like to see a better looking update system that’s not so teacher-centric, like when a student posts a discussion post or not so m manual. Students shouldn’t have to dig down through the folder list to see if there’s something new, and I shouldn’t have to manually tell them either.

This is how the resources are organised;  there’s folders that can contain a range of resources.


In this folder there’s some PDFs, a JPG and a homework assignment. Assignments get reminders on the front and I get an email when a student has submitted some work.


Early days but the rubric section looks pretty powerful. I set up a homework assignment with four criteria and a simple rubric and you can see here that one student has already submitted it. It was easy to mark, but the in-house editing and annotating tools were pretty clunky. It wouldn’t highlight where I pointed, and a comment spread over the whole document . In the end I chose the option of downloading the file, annotating in in Word, saving it, then uploading it again. A bit of a disappointment as far as work-flow goes.

Also, I haven’t found yet whether I’m able to just tick that something has been submitted (like a bit of homework) without assigning a grade.  It wants a number of letter. I’ve tinkered around with a simple rubric that says Done/Not Done, but even that wants to assign some points or grades.





I did have a quick go at a class quiz and that does seem to have some pretty powerful features with a range of question types available like multiple choice, true/false, short answer and match-up the answers like here:




In the end, whether Schoology works will be in the workflow for me and my students.  It’s got to be better than email, or a shared Dropbox folder. So far, it’s promising, but the fact that new resources don’t automatically create an  update, and that the in-house annotating tools are so bad, it might not last for me or my students as a tool beyond our initial semester trial.


Edu 2.0


No idea what this application really runs like but I like the features list of edu 2.0 and it made me think again about what would be the deal-making features an LMS MUST have.

For me, they’d include:


RSS feeds of updates

Web hosted (platform neutral)



Assessment and markbook options: publishable, customisable, publish selections to parents

Personalised Home (portal, customisable)


Multimedia (audio, vide0)



Audio (podcasting, mp4 capability)

Messaging (in-house ‘twittering’)








Community resources, access to external resources