18 March 2013

Why Teachers Might Desire an Inadequate LMS

Before I get back to why I think Moodle is superior to other Learning Management Systems, it might be worth exploring why a teacher might request his/her district to grant access to a school-wide account to one of the other lesser performing systems.

In an earlier post I mentioned that teachers tend to favor systems like Schoology or Edmoto because of their simplicity. There's a lot to be said for things that are simple but probably not in this case. Teachers gravitate to these tools because they're used to learning new things in isolation. They choose things they can figure out on their own. Systems lacking in features are easy to use but what will almost certainly happen is that as systems like Schoology grow they are bound to increase the number of features offered just to keep up with user requests/demands. Then guess what happens...they become more complex; harder to use and less intuitive. Then they'll require more intense training or those using the system will simply ignore what they do not understand. They may even learn some of the new features as they are launched, but what about the new teachers just getting into it. They'll look to some other simple tool that is out there, right around the time the current systems are bought up by Blackboard ;) It took me about 3 years to become proficient with Moodle and there are still probably things I don't know. That's just the way it is. You may have had a similar experience with Microsoft Word or PowerPoint; how many of you know what every setting and option is for in those programs? Do you need them all? No. Do some of those options come in handy for specific purposes? Once you learn the other functions is what you create even more dynamic?

There's a reason why Moodle has so many features and options. The developers and the Moodle community have been contributing additions and improvements for the last 10+ years. What it lacks in simplicity it more than makes up for in features and flexibility.

I believe that most teachers are overwhelmed with the day to day tasks they must perform and are looking at tools through the lens of what can help them in the moment. I'm taking a little bit more of a longer view. It may very well be that what people need right now is an online space to post course handouts. Here's what's important to keep in mind, education is evolving as will the demand from students, parents and communities. We must personalize everything (as quickly as possible). What kid in 3-5 years is going to sit still for some boring lesson that doesn't take them into account? Only the one who was going to do what you told him to do anyway. That's probably fewer students than will put up with it now (about a third). Students need choices, they need to work at their own pace, they need a place to share what they've created and they need it in a space that looks engaging and thoughtfully constructed. They need options. Did I mention that they need to work at their own pace?

That means that staff development must include information about content development, design and time to transform resources.

That can't be done in a Facebook for PDF's and PowerPoints.