Making the Most of your Learning Management System-Part 1

How many of you have been in this situation?  Student A comes back from being gone on a sports trip and asks, “What did I miss?” You think to yourself, why didn’t the child check the classroom site?  Or Student B asks, “I’m going to be gone on Thursday for a sports trip, will I need to do anything when I’m gone?”

Now, it is perfectly ok for my students to ask, “What did I miss?”  But I spend a good deal of time creating online spaces for my students that should make questions like these a thing of the past.  And if my students aren’t using my pages, I need to take a close look at what is on my pages.  Do they actually communicate what I want them to?

Over the next three weeks I will be blogging over at Haiku Learning (and cross posting here) about how I transformed my classroom sites from Pinterest style blocks of resources that kids never used, to a space where kids could wayfind on their own, interact with each other, and show their understanding.  

While I use Haiku Learning to communicate with my students, the concepts I will be discussing are universal to anyone using a Learning Management System.

Let’s get familiar with the concept of Wayfinding:

Wayfinding is key when we are designing online spaces for kids.  Yes, I know they are sitting in your class and you can tell them about what you are doing.  But what about later? Most middle school students can barely remember last period, let alone what you said 12 hours ago.

Think about an airport.  Most of us have probably flown into a destination where we have never been before.  You get to the destination and somehow you manage to find your way around with little to no help.  You find the ticket counter, you find baggage claim, you find the toilet, and you find your taxi.  The architecture of the building, the lighting, and the signage all point you in the right direction.

How about your classroom site?  Can kids figure out where to go?  Do you have a structure and visuals that engage them and send them in the right direction?  Do you have signs that tell them what to do next?

Here is what my classroom pages used to look like.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 09.55.47Take a closer look.  Where on the page would a child go if they missed class on Monday? Can a student see what we are going to do on Thursday?  Is there anywhere on the page that tells a student how to use the page?  And is there anything on the page that a student might interact with and leave his/her mark?

The problem was I didn’t have a clear vision of what my students would need when trying to figure out their homework at 10 o’clock at night.

When kids come to my pages they now see something like this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 09.17.11

They see a calendar.  They get a whole picture overview of what we will be doing each day.  Of course the calendar changes.  Things happen.  Some lessons take longer than I think or less time than I think.  Yet the kids still know what is coming if they want to budget their time more wisely.  

Students see the objectives of the unit or lesson.  The student gets to see what they should know and understand at the end of the unit.  Here is where you would place the standards as well.  If using AERO or Common Core, kids will want to know what you will be assessing them on.

Each day’s lessons are in order down the page.  The date of the lesson is clear.  There is a visual that relates to the subject or skill we are learning about. There is a description with directions for the assignment.   And if it is something they turn in, the due date is highlighted.  If the child needs a text or handout for the lesson, that is attached as well.  

Along the side of the page are the discussions, quizzes, and extra resources they can use to gain greater understanding.

Now these pages are good, but it doesn’t mean my students will use them.  I have to do things to make sure they go there, interact, and leave their mark. More on that in the next week.

Other tactics I use to help my students wayfind are:

IMG_0254Start each lesson with your classroom site. Project your page on the whiteboard.  Give students instructions for the lesson by using the instructions you have on your page. When they go home that night to finish, they will have a better idea of what to do and where to go to find the information.

Give the students an LMS Scavenger Hunt. At the beginning of the semester give students a series of tasks for them to show you that they know how to find the information they will need.  Also include tasks that show they can participate in polls, discussions, and create a wiki project.

Create a Student Help Desk. Create a discussion block where students can ask questions and seek help from each other.  Students are online when we are not.  Reward them as well for helping each other by responding to questions in the Help Desk.

Do you have other tips on how to help your students wayfind?


Next Week Part II-Collaboration- How to use your classroom site to increase student participation and collaboration.   Also check out Haiku Learning’s Blog for other great resources.

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