I’m currently in a session at NAESP on using Blackboard, a Learning Management System, in elementary schools. This is interesting, because LMSs or CMSs (course management systems) are almost always only used for high school and higher education, and sometimes in middle school. But elementary is almost unprecedented.
Betsy Jones, an administrator in Greenville, SC, uses it for:
- sharing info and resources
- formative and summative assessment via surveys & tests in Blackboard
- self-directed learning
- collaborative learning experiences
- 21st century skills
- parent involvement
- activities for early finishers
- differentiation for different types of learners, and learners who learn at different speeds
She teaches a few students to use the system … then the students teach each other. Interesting! Then students start playing with what they’re seeing, and sharing what they’re learning.
Even more interesting, she had requested students with major discipline problems, and so filled her class with kids like that … and saw huge improvements in learning and behavior. Betsy attributes that almost entirely to student engagement.
She had one student who was a “problem” introduce Blackboard to the teachers … a huge bonus for him and also a major boost to teachers using technology – if this 5th grader could do it, they had to be able to do it. Teachers were scared to use tech … but the students helped them along. Betsy even had some students attend professional development for teachers when the school acquired SMART boards.
… currently getting an overview of Backboard functionality … fairly standard stuff.
A teacher in the group pipes up and talks about how she uses their LMS to post the weekly schedule every Friday night, and updates with announcements every morning.
I asked Betsy if she lets students use discussion boards. Some classes yes, some classes no. When she does, she gets parents trained at the beginning of the year with students, and they sign an “acceptable use form.” Has worked very well, even in a high-poverty area where only 2 of her students had computers at home. Some parents even started coming into school with their kids in order to use the computers and get on the class site. Very cool.
For spelling tests, she recorded words and then had kids listen to them, writing down what they thought the spelling was. She had 5th graders post notes from Math classes to Blackboard so that they could access it at home later when they were doing homework and needed to refresh their memories.
Overall, she felt there was much more student excitement and engagement … resulting in much improved student learning