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).
The important and missing element from a teacher’s EdTech arsenal is the ability to capture the back and forth conversations about learning between a student and their teacher. Educators know these conversations are where so much learning occurs and as John Hattie states – “what happens next” is what matters. By having the right tools to personalize learning for each student a teacher can not only meet their needs but show growth over time using qualitative learning evidence. We designed the Collaborative Learning System (CLS) out of necessity and implemented in the classroom to capture this qualitative data. This platform makes it easy for both the student and teacher to add, communicate and revise work all the while incorporating self, peer and teacher feedback and reflection. Through the CLS, students are partners in co-creating their learning story and showing growth all while developing student agency.
We designed the CLS to be built around how a school pedagogically operates. Foremost, we put students at the center with a focus on the qualitative data that tells the story of learning overtime. Secondly, we designed it around how contemporary schools and classrooms operate including the partnerships with the special educators, instructional coaches, teaching assistants, emerging language learning educators, counselors, psychologists, school administrators, parents, etc. We designed gotLearning’s CLS to ensure the particular nuances of these roles are addressed. For instance, a special education teacher may be a co-teacher in one class, teach multiple self-contained classes of their own and also need to support students in other classes. We have designed a way for the special educators to manage their student support under those different structures in partnership with other team members and with a focus on students. School administrators, as the instructional leaders, need to quickly understand how students are doing beyond attendance or grades. Our CLS allows administrators and specialists to see the student level qualitative learning data in real time across their entire school. The CLS supports a whole child approach allowing easy collaboration and support, student by student.
We also knew that the CLS needed to integrate with education systems world wide. It is purpose built for the contemporary classroom focusing on the student but designed to be flexible. Our CLS is technology agnostic allowing teachers and students to use the technologies that they already know. Content agnostic allowing teachers and students to choose their own illustrative content. And process agnostic allowing users to organize and communicate how they want to communicate. Finally, there is a platform designed with students truly at the center, allowing them to partner in their learning, easily communicate with others and demonstrate growth overtime.