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LMS: Help or Hindrance? - Tech Learning

LMS: Help or Hindrance?

The LMS is like a walled garden.  We need to open up that garden and let students interact in the “real world.”
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My Question:  In its current form, does an LMS help, or hinder learning?


I share a lot of articles and resources with my PLN on a regular basis, usually adding a few words to share my reaction to the item. I often get retweets, and sometimes, a thank you or a few tweets exchanged, but every now and then, something really special happens. Sharing Audrey Watter’s blog post “Beyond the LMS” in September was one of those special moments. This blog post seemed to hit a nerve with several others in my PLN. There was a desire to talk it out, exchange more thoughts and ideas, more resources, and gain a better understanding. My friend and fellow Coloradan, Jessica Raleigh, (@TyrnaD) responded to my comment in a Google Hangout, “This really made me think!” sharing that it made her think too! She offered to put together a Voxer group to discuss, and proceeded to invite others to join us. I had no idea how to use Voxer – I don’t think I had ever heard of it before then, so I was excited to learn this new tool on the way to gaining a better understanding of LMSs. Soon, we were joined by Chris Rogers (@chrisrogers07) and Sarah Thomas (@sarahdateechur), as well as Lisa Goochee (@blubirding)

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Thus, the stage was set for our learning. We had:

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Note that there is no LMS in this learning scenario. It is happening freely, serendipitously, utilizing social media of many kinds. No one gave us this “assignment.” We all participated in this learning out of our personal desires to know and understand, in order to best meet the needs of the students we serve.

Over the course of 4 months, we have discussed, shared additional articles, and even wrote (and it was accepted!) a proposal for an unconference-style conversation on LMSs at this summer’s InnEdCo conference in Keystone, Colorado. We have tweeted, blogged, Voxed, curated, and texted each other sharing our “ahas,” additional resources, and further questions. Some things we discussed included:

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Image CC Licensed by Wikimedia Commons.

-The word “management” is problematic. Who should manage a student’s learning? It seems to be more about control. It can stifle learning.

-The LMS is like a walled garden. We need to open up that garden and let students interact in the “real world.”

-The LMS could best be viewed as “training wheels” – but eventually, those training wheels need to come off.

  • The LMS affords some level of accountability and safety. This is why it may always be with us. This means we need to find a balance between management & control and, well - learning!

Here’s the thing. We have been participating in really wonderful, self-directed, unfettered learning. On our own terms. In our own time. With the tools of our choice. It has been a powerful, heady experience! Relationships have formed – even though most of us have never met face-to-face!

This is what I want for our students. What are the chances that this kind of learning could take place inside an LMS? That is the question that continues to haunt me.

What I see in practice is that the LMS basically picks up the 20th century teaching and information delivery style, and transfers it into electronic format. The LMS seems to make the S (substitution) in the SAMR model easiest to accomplish. It is hard for a teacher and students to form relationships inside its electronic walls. It is hard to foster creativity.

When I have been a student using an LMS, I have felt isolated and alone, other than a very artificial sense of community in the “mandatory” participation in the forums. Some comments there seem so contrived, they are laughable.

This is not the kind of learning I want for our students.

So, I will continue to seek answers, and try to find that perfect balance. I am excited that we have an opportunity to draw even more people in our conversation at InnEdCo.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the LMS. What do you think? Does it help, or hinder learning?

Ed-tech must not become an extraction effort, and it increasingly is. The future, I think we’ll find, will be a reclamation project. Ed-tech must not be about building digital walls around students and content and courses. We have, thanks to the Web, an opportunity to build connections, build networks, not walls. – Audrey Watters

cross posted at Innovations in Education

Nancy White is the 21st Century Learning & Innovation Specialist for Academy School District 20, providing professional development on 21st century skills and technology integration, and working with the IT-ES team to carry out the district’s 21st Century Learning Plan. Nancy served on an ad-hoc team to help with the integration of 21st century skills into Colorado’s revised content standards, and co-authored The Colorado Learner’s Bill of Rights. Read more at Innovations in Education.

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