Thing 12: Social Learning & Learning Management Systems (2013 version)

(2014/15 workshop begins in November 2014. These older pages will remain, but look for updated versions and new topics as the workshop progresses.) 


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photo credit: darrel_rader via photopin cc

In Thing 12, we’ll explore Social Learning Communities and Learning Management Systems. This is a big topic, but we’ll focus on a small selection of tools that represent a range of services.  As always, feel free to explore tools not mentioned and share your experiences with the group. We all gain from each other’s explorations!

Learning Management Systems

The phrase “Learning Management System” is a bit of catch-all for a variety of services that help educators manage student learning, regardless of whether the learning is taking place in an online course, in a flipped classroom setting or an in-school classrooms. LMS systems help you track student performance, provide learning materials and areas for discussion, among many other features.

Two services that are popular in K12 settings are Edmodo and Schoology. Both are free (with paid upgrade options) and  students don’t need email addresses to join. These services let you share documents with students, conduct quizzes, track achievements, continue classroom discussions outside of the classroom and much more.  Both have web-based interfaces that have a Facebook feel to them and apps for mobile devices so students can interact easily with the system. Popular library uses include book clubs, reviews writing, sharing “best of” lists, group discussions and more. Both are great tools for collaborating with classroom teachers.

  • Schoology – 2 minute video overview.
  • About Edmodo – short video at top of page provides quick overview.



MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses) are free online courses that are taught by experts (ususally!) and anyone with internet access can participate. These don’t always have strong community connections built in and might be a bit isolating as a result. One MOOC that was very intentionally built around community interactions was the Hyperlinked Library MOOC  run by Dr. Michael Stephens and Kyle Jones.

Some of the leading organizations that offer MOOCS include: Coursera , edX and Udacity. One role for schools in the MOOC movement could be to promote access to these MOOCS, provide course credit and if enough students in a region are all taking the same course, provide in-person or online collaboration opportunities. The LMS tools mentioned above would work quite nicely for that.


Other community based platforms to help mange flipped classrooms, enable blended learning, continue conversations outside of class time and for professional development include:

  • Mightybell – Set up group spaces called “Circles” for collaboration, discussion and sharing. No classroom tools.  Practice by joining the BookClub group set up for this workshop
  • Goodreads  for book groups, study groups, reviews and more. Check out this list of classes using Goodreads.
  • Facebook – Private or public Facebook groups can be used for classroom or group discussions with students over age 13.
  • EdWeb – Live webinars, chats, online discussions with other educators.
  • TeacherLibrarian Ning – A community for teacher-librarians and other educators.
  • TL Virtual Cafe – Chats, live webinars and more.
  • Classroom 2.0 – Free network for those interested in Web 2.0 and social media in education
  • Edutopia Groups – A great resource for news and interesting articles.  And also includes forums for discussion of a wide range of topics.



As always, we encourage you to explore tools that YOU are interested in and relevant to your needs.  Some suggested activities are:

  • Explore Schoology
    • Sign up for a Schoology account and join the CoolTools sample group as a student. The code to join is 5MT45-RKRQD
    • Set up your own group and explore what it’s like to be a teacher.
    • Install the mobile app to see what the experience is like.
    • Explore the App Center for interesting addons.
  • Explore Edmodo
    • Sign up for an Edmodo account and and join the CoolTools sample group as a student.The code to join is bznraa
    • Set up your own group and explore what it’s like to be a teacher.
    • Install the mobile app to see what the experience is like.
    • Explore the Edmodo Store for addons.
  • You Pick! 
    • Pick one or more of the other services listed above or pick related tools that we haven’t mentioned. Explore them and assess how you might be able to use them in your school setting or in your professional life.


Some discussion ideas:

  • Discuss your experiences with Learning Management Systems in your school.
  • What tools did you test? What features worked well? What was missing?
  • How would you put these to use in your school setting?
  • Will you be able to use any of these services in your school?
  • Will they benefit you professionally?

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