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Digital age learning incomplete without learning platform, teacher says

Student assignments scattered over different cloud computing services. A separate program for grading. Teaching and learning would be an administrative mess without itslearning, says Ann Michaelsen, an English teacher at Sandvika high school. Ann, who recently led her students in a book publishing project, is a proponent of the digital classroom, where itslearning plays a central role. In this interview, she debunks misconceptions about which teachers are more likely to use digital tools. She also offers tips for how learning platforms can better support student-driven learning. Plus she explains why some teachers love itslearning while others are hesitant to use the learning platform.

In your experience, are most teachers willing to use digital tools such as learning platforms in their teaching?

Most teachers are willing to use digital tools like learning platforms. That is because learning platforms offer an administrative help for teachers in their daily work. The learning management platforms offer easy access to student work, grading and instructions. Most teachers do not think twice about using a learning platform because it is part of their everyday work. In my opinion, they would be surprised if they came to a school that does not have an LMS.

What are some reasons why teachers are hesitant to use digital tools in their teaching?

There is a belief that learning has to be hard work and that using digital tools somehow is like cheating and just having fun. Some teachers don’t know enough about the use of digital tools. With a heavy workload they are not that tempted to invest the time it takes to figure it out. This is where the school leaders and the educational systems should offer more help and assistance. I know research in Canada states that it is the older, more experienced teachers who tend to embrace technology in class more than the young, newly-examined teachers. That is because you need some time in the classroom to be confident with the subject matter, pedagogy and different learning methods before using technology. Another thing is that teachers do not share that much. They share with colleagues at their own school, or just the teachers they share their office with. Teachers should explore the possibilities of sharing online. That way they would learn more from each other.

Your English class recently published the book 'Connected Learners: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Global Classroom'. What did you learn from your students as a result of this process?

I learned that all students have a huge potential, that all my students performed and contributed individually, and that some really stepped up to the challenge. I got to know my students in a different way and I got to work with them in a team. It was a great experience. They all reflected on the process after we were done, and many concluded that they should have written even more articles. I wrote about what my students taught me about motivation in school here.

What group is more eager to use digital tools at school – students or teachers? And why?

I would think it is equal 50/50. Students are just as conservative as teachers and if they are offered no alternatives they will both be happy with traditional teaching and learning. It is when the teacher and students start to explore together that we really gain knowledge and find how digital tools can enhance learning.

Try to imagine teaching without a learning platform. What sorts of challenges would you face? In other words, how does a learning platform make your life as a teacher easier?

It would be more difficult in the administrative part. I would have to use a Dropbox or Google Drive for the assignments that I grade. The grading system is great with the LMS. That said I would like the learning management platforms to change and be more student centered. Since I have changed my classroom from teacher centered to student driven I would like to hand some of the responsibilities for engagement and assignments over to the students. I would like to see how they have performed and what they have submitted in one single view. I would like the possibility of the students being able to assign tasks for other students as well. That is my challenge to the developers of LMSs.

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