Article published on SmartBrief on May 1st, by Krystal Weiss, educational facilitator at Spring Branch Independent School District in Houston.
Before we implemented our new learning management system, our teachers stored their digital curriculum tools in Edmodo, Google Classroom, WordPress, Weebly and various other sites. In a district with 46 schools and about 35,000 students, this meant our digital content was literally scattered all over the place. With so many disparate pieces in use, something was sure to fall through the cracks. Knowing these instructors needed a single place to get data from their students — and share data with those students — we implemented a fully-functioning LMS that would serve as a central repository for all our digital content.
Of course, change is never easy; and we knew that simply dropping the itslearning LMS into our teachers’ laps didn’t mean they were going to use it. To ensure high adoption rates, we put a lot of work into introducing teachers to the new system, training them on how to use it and then helping them expand their knowledge of how to use it on an ongoing basis. Here’s how we did it:
- Take a top-down approach. Anytime you implement a district-wide solution such as an LMS, there has to be some amount of top-down support. Because our district was almost exclusively “grassroots” by nature, we were dealing with like-minded instructors. Impacting change and steering the ship required some help from the top. Our principals were onboard with the implementation early, and our superintendent challenged campuses with engaging 20% of the students in meaningful personalized learning –supported by our new LMS — during the platform’s first full year of use. These and other top-down involvements have helped ensure successful LMS adoption.
- Integrate Google with the LMS. From a professional development standpoint, the integration of Google and itslearning helps break down a lot of barriers with teachers that were Google Classroom holdouts. When teachers use the LMS, much of the experience is already familiar, thanks to their Premier Partnership with Google for Education. That is important because teachers immediately recognize their favorite G Suite tools and feel right at home. Teachers are more likely to adopt new technology if they’re working in a space that they’re comfortable in, and they don’t have to figure it all out alone. For them, being able to “push out” the content (e.g., a digital worksheet or rubric) was a top Google Classroom feature, so now they have that within the LMS platform. Also, from a student engagement and collaboration standpoint, it’s easy for teachers to quickly and easily get information out to students, and for them to collaborate and create groups among each other using the LMS’ group setting. A first-grade teacher, for example, can assemble a group of students to work on a slide deck together and share peer feedback.
- Give teachers ample exploratory time. It’s not enough to give teachers access to a new technology platform and then expect them to pick it up and start using it. That’s why we gave teachers more exploratory time with the LMS, including a three-hour introductory lesson to a two-day campout that put the LMS into the context of blended learning and personalized learning, rather than just a standalone tool. Giving teachers an entire day to work with their teams and to plan is invaluable because they don’t get that at any other time. Now, we’re looking at how we can use webinars and asynchronous learning to meet online and keep up the professional development momentum for the LMS during the summer months.
- Take field trips to other schools. As part of our professional development, we took field trips to see other teachers in action and using the LMS. This helped instructors envision how they could use the platform with their own students. It also helped them to hear an actual teacher talk about the LMS, give a tour of her courses and show how she creates the content and how her students access it. Now we’re trying to figure out how to leverage this approach during the summer when most of our professional development takes place (but when there aren’t any opportunities to visit other classrooms “in action”).
- Leverage the power of video. We created a video series that we call “itslearning Cribs,” because it basically gives teachers a tour of a classroom where the LMS is being used. Teachers who have watched the videos have told us the content really helped them, and that they got a lot of ideas by seeing how other teachers are using the LMS in their own classrooms.
Finally, we’ve found that word of mouth also goes a long way in increasing LMS adoption, which continues to climb at our district year-over-year. By taking a grassroots approach that’s supported by district leaders, solid professional development, webinars and video, we’ve replaced our old way of doing things with a tool that enables student voice and choice while empowering teachers across all grades.