In the education sector, we are seeing the increased interest and broader implementation of competency-based learning, personalized learning, standards-based grading, teaching soft-skills and building student agency among other things. Twenty months into the pandemic schools are forced to reflect on some of their long held practices that were upended due to virtual learning and to devise ways to partner with students and their families in more student focused ways than ever before.
While these student-focused methods are shifting our educational approaches, we are trying to implement these shifts with tools that were designed for more typical, teacher focused school structures. Take for instance the Learning Management System (LMS). SoftArc was the first to arrive in K12 education in 1990, followed at a wider scale by Blackboard in 1999 (note: I started the K12 group at Blackboard.) Currently, the K12 market is dominated by PowerSchool’s Schoology, Instructure’s Canvas and Moodle. Each of these is true to the LMS name – managing a classroom using the traditional teacher/class/student design. The LMS is a great tool for a teacher to share class information online. However, education is much more than sharing content with students.
John Hattie in his book Visible Learning states:
“The act of teaching reaches its epitome of success after the lesson has been structured, after the content has been delivered, and after the classroom has been organized. The art of teaching, and its major successes, relate to ‘what happens next’”.
The LMS focuses on structuring the lesson, organizing the online classroom and delivering content, but what go-to platform do we have for the most important part of learning “what happens next?” We have so much data generated from our classrooms; it’s like the wild west. No platform exists (until now) to help teachers and students navigate the “what happens next?”.
Consider this scenario, a teacher shares an assignment in their LMS, a student generates a rough draft in google docs, they conduct peer discussions in Parlay while editing in their google docs. The teacher then asks the students to reflect on their thinking in FlipGrid and submit their final work in an online portfolio. Take that scenario and layer on the typical teacher load of 100-125 students and you can see how hard it is to manage so many disparate sources of data.
Teachers are setting up systems in online drives, storing videos in online video systems, storing data in instructional sites (like NoRedInk, Khan Academy, Algebra Nation), and this doesn’t even include the student constructed, non-digital work. Yet, we haven’t had one place to capture this important work, nor have we organized it according to the student and the duration of their experience (over the year or many years). We need one place to capture/link to this qualitative learning data that tells the story of a student’s learning and it needs to be focused around the student. Enter the Collaborative Learning System (CLS).