Learning Management Solutions (LMSes – or Virtual Learning Environments, VLEs, if you’re in the commonwealth) are a category of software that serve a variety of functions at schools, from simplifying content distribution and assignment collection to flipping classroom workflows to delivering instruction completely online. The International schools I’ve been at have broadly agreed that teachers should use some kind of LMS. They diverge in two key areas, though:
1. Whether the LMS should be centrally mandated managed by the school or whether teachers should feel free to pick and choose the platform they use
2. If the LMS is centrally managed, which system it should be
Centrally managed LMSes offer enough advantages over individually-managed ones that schools should provide them if financially able (pricing is in the range of 8-10USD per student annually for most commercial products). This runs counter to what some ed tech leaders recommend; they see such implementations as “walled gardens” having “limited control and customizability.1” Continue reading Which LMS? Choosing between Canvas, Haiku, Edmodo, et al.→
I used to read a lot about new gadgets – smartphones, in particular. I’d pore over the latest announcement from Mobile World Congress and compare side-by-side photos of the next generation of the current device. After careful research I’d select the best device out there.
And then I’d look out the window and realize I’d spent hours of a beautiful day in front of a screen for a device that did pretty much what my old one did.
The danger of choice is that having too much of it confuses and complicates the decision-making process. It applies to shopping for smartphones as much as it does wading through ed tech software and hardware. Every week my RSS feeds me yet more articles about “10 Apps to Use for X” or “iPad vs. Chromebook: which one wins for students?” They tempt me, and my teachers, to get lost in a forest of comparisons that, ultimately, bring very little marginal benefit to student learning. Using HaikuDeck over PowerPoint will not result in a measurable boost to student learning as measured against the standards in any of the classes offered at our school (although teaching principles of effective presentations would). Teachers have other, more important decisions to make to maximize their instructional effectiveness.
I wish I’d had standards-based learning training when I started my FIRST teaching job – I would have been a more effective planner and assessor. Now that I work for a school that does SBG at the secondary level I can see how the approach leads to units more closely aligned with learning outcomes and facilitates feedback that is much more descriptive, relevant, and practicable than what I gave as a new teacher. But I also see where the criterion referenced philosophy standards-based grading is still working within the context of the norm referenced framework of college applications – and I’m coming to believe that these can be reconciled if you’re willing to accept the reality of the latter.
Like how many other countries insist on their own idiosyncratic way of life, there are some things in China that simply must be done in a Chinese way. Driving is one of those.
To drive legally in China, you need a Chinese drivers license; foreigners aren’t permitted to drive on their home country license, even with an International Driving Permit1 (which is actually just a translation of the home country license). Getting the license is famously difficult, chiefly because
everyone must take a written test; 90 percent is considered passing. The test consists of 100 questions drawn from a pool of nearly 1,000. The test is particularly tough for foreigners, owing to the volume of memorization and sometimes sketchy translations. 2
I got my driver’s license with motorcycle endorsement (C1E) in Guangzhou last week, and it was indeed a trial. (Some have reported on forums that Guangzhou is no longer issuing motorcycle licenses,3 but they didn’t give me hard time about that particular aspect of the process.) Passing the test wasn’t the hard part; after regular studying with the Chinese Driving Test website I was successful on my first test attempt. Dealing with the bureaucracy, on the other hand, ultimately required six trips to the main DMV office (岑村车管总所). Much of this is due to the lack of published information about the process, so learn from my experience so that yours is smoother.
In a previous post1 I described in broad strokes the components necessary for implementing standards-based grading. One of these is the elimination of grade averaging; specifically, using the mean of all the scores in the gradebook to determine a student’s final score. At our school we’ve done this to the extent recommended by Marzano but stopped short of giving teachers full discretion to determine the final grade. For us the challenge has been deciding which system should replace mean-based averaging – or whether full discretion should be left to the teacher.
In the roughly seven months since my last real post I’ve moved halfway around the world – literally – to China, where my partner and I now work at Nansha College Preparatory Academy. Of the many, many interesting things about this new experience is the fact that our new school uses standards-based grading (SBG) – at the secondary level. What we’ve found is that although our faculty are committed to it, it’s a challenge to make practices of SBG meet the potential promised by its philosophy.
I just transferred to a new blog hosting provider, Edublogs (practice what you preach, after all – they are a great option for schools looking to implement system-wide blogging), and I’ve managed to break my image and file links.
I’m working on fixing them. In the meantime, if you’re having trouble with dead links or broken images that inhibit your understanding of the post, get in touch with me (Twitter is the fastest way) and I’ll do what I can.