Matthew Esterman, Director of Learning Technologies and Innovation, Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta
We are now in the 20th year of the 21st century. Many organizations struggle to keep up with what seems to be the constant, overwhelming waves of updates and version changes to our lives that come with increasing access to technologies in a globalized world. Despite some reporting in the media and elsewhere, schools are often at the forefront of technology use to support their core business—learning and teaching.
The most prevalent technology solution to support contemporary teaching and learning expectation and needs is the adoption of a Learning Management System (LMS). Most of these products have traditionally developed in the higher education space and then sold to schools. As such, many schools not only face the challenge of finding a solution that is right for their educational context but also to then adopt and adapt the various features of that platform to both strengthen and enhance the experience of students.
In my experience, the vast majority of teachers use an LMS to increase efficiency of workflows and resource management, including the submission of draft or completed work, increased access to class work (anytime, anywhere), asynchronous class discussions, maintaining a ‘source of truth’ for what is communicated within a course, and many other tasks and experiences.
Having an LMS also provides for teachers to explore their pedagogical strengths and for teams of teachers to draw on the strengths of their colleagues
One of the most powerful aspects of adopting an LMS in contemporary education settings is that it can provide 24/7 access to resources and learning opportunities which breaks down the assumption that a child must be at school to learn. Educators who use innovative approaches to reach more students in more relevant ways, more of the time and with more diverse choices can increase student participation, voice, and agency and shift the dial towards students owning their learning.
Having an LMS also provides for teachers to explore their pedagogical strengths and for teams of teachers to draw on the strengths of their colleagues. Each teacher will be particularly experienced or expert in certain facets of the educational experience and share these strengths much more rapidly and widely than in less technology-supported contexts. For example, I have been lucky enough to teach History courses with teachers who have gifts in all kinds of areas such as subject knowledge, the art, and skill of teaching, technology adeptness, pastoral support of students and so much more. If I am deficient in an area of teaching, an LMS can help mitigate that and give my students a better experience than if I am a lone ranger on the field of learning.
Another key aspect of adopting an LMS is the appropriation and invention that can occur when teachers and students are given the power to remix and remodel information to suit their context. Teachers have always done this “offline,,” creating worksheets or plans that led to more relevant learning for the students in their care. However, now we can not only remix information quickly and easily into an LMS platform, but the very fact that we can do so with myriad types of media is also a game changer. Developing multimodal experiences for students (and with students) is an excellent learning experience in and of itself.
Each LMS will have its limitations, but that is not a reason to avoid exploring everything they have to offer. No LMS will replace a great teacher, for it is the relationships teachers can build with students that then form the basis for great learning and teaching to occur. An LMS can open doors, but it is we who must walk through them.