The following is a guest post by Kristin Kipp, author of the forthcoming book, Teaching on the Education Frontier: Instructional Strategies for the Online and Hybrid Secondary Classroom.
It’s no secret that the demands placed on educators on a daily basis are extraordinary. From RTI meetings to grading, planning, and actually teaching, every moment of every day is scheduled and squeezed. If we’re honest, too often technology feels like “one more thing to do” and the idea of making serious changes is scary and, we fear, time consuming. It doesn’t have to be that way. What if I told you that some technology tools are not just time stealers? In fact, what if I told you that some of them could make your life significantly easier? That’s definitely worth your time!
One of the best tools you can use to speed up the teaching process is a basic Learning Management System. A Learning Management System (LMS) is a space where you can organize information about your class, share due dates, and collect electronic files for grading. It’s a “home base” for everything that’s happening in your class, both face to face and online. LMS systems such as Blackboard and eCollege first came on the scene to assist schools in creating online courses but now they’re evolving into an essential resource in face to face classrooms.
Instead of piles of unruly paper crowding out your entire desk, students can submit a file to an electronic dropbox, which will add the file to your electronic gradebook. You grade the files right on the system and then they get returned to students immediately. No more of the painful process of marking and returning papers—“Chris, where are you? I have your spelling quiz. Joey? Here’s your worksheet…” Students get faster, more in-depth feedback and you find extra time in your day (and more space on your desk). It’s truly a win-win! And that’s just the beginning of what these systems can do.
The best LMS systems will also have a space for a course calendar, announcements, quizzes, assignments, and even a discussion board. The possibilities are amazing! Even better? There are free options out there for hosting your class in a high-quality LMS. Schoology and Edmodo are both excellent, free tools with everything you need. Pearson’s Open Class and Blackboard’s Course Sites are also worth a look. They’re free versions of the company’s more complex paid products. Finding an LMS to use with your students is definitely worth your time as you begin this new school year. A few minutes early on will save you time throughout the year and, as a bonus, will make your class more engaging for students.
Kristin Kipp is a full-time online English teacher and instructional coach for Jeffco’s Virtual Academy in Golden, Colorado. She was named the 2011 National Online Teacher of the Year by the International Association of K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) and the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). In the past she has taught eighth through twelth grades, both virtually and in a face to face classroom. She presents across the country about best practices in online learning and blogs at http://www.educationfrontier.org. She lives in Evergreen, Colorado with her husband and three children.