Is it really possible for young learners to effectively use a learning management system (LMS)? This is a common question administrators and educational practitioners ask when considering LMS adoption at the district level.
Through my work with educators across the country, I know the number of elementary school districts and administrators turning to LMS adoption is increasing for all grades—preparing students at a young age to use the technology they will need to master for high school, college, and beyond.
Here are three reasons why districts should consider adopting an LMS for elementary and how they can begin technological integration for all classrooms.
1. Young learners are already surrounded by technology
Since young learners are still developing their reading, writing, and fine-motor skills, the notion is they are not developed enough to benefit from using an LMS. But young students encounter technology in every facet of their lives and school should be no different. The market is flooded with apps and games to teach everything from making music to developing vocabulary. Rather than avoiding robust academic technology, educators should look to create engaging experiences through the tools young students are most familiar with today.
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some LMS vendors whose platforms are used throughout K-12 recognize that connected students tend to succeed academically. In order to lay a strong foundation for college and career ready skills, these vendors are making advancements in their products to better engage younger learners.
Schools are realizing that a strong foundation for college and career readiness must start with their youngest students.
“Elementary teachers are often concerned about the time they are spending at the start of the school year helping students log in to the LMS,” says Sarah Finizio, Schoology product manager for the academic portal team at Denver (CO) Public Schools. “What they don’t realize is that many of the students are already familiar with how to login to other online tools and adapt to a new technology tool fairly quickly.” Her observation is that vendors are already making advancements in their products to better engage younger learners, and these changes are helping mitigate the apprehension that some elementary teachers express when using technology with their students. She continues to be impressed with how quickly and easily young students master the basics of using an LMS to access important learning materials.
2. Students at all grade levels need to take ownership of their learning
An important element to great learning experiences at any grade level is helping students take ownership of their learning. This approach is the best way to ensure students develop skills for success throughout life. How does an LMS do that? By providing transparency into the learning process, encouraging active learning, enabling easy access to course materials and reports, and providing opportunities for students to interact with their peers both in, and beyond, the classroom.
Districts could accomplish a similar result with a handful of tools, but there are immense benefits to having everything in one place. “Our vision as a district is to continue integrating all things related to a student’s school experience into Schoology,” says Kevin Whaley, director of instructional technology at Lee’s Summit (MO) R7 School District. “This includes providing access to daily assignments, assessments, portfolios, external tools, calendars, and extra-curricular groups for students.”
3. Districts want to engage parents
LMS adoption allows for parents to be involved in their child’s learning from the first day of school. Research shows parent engagement in the early years of student learning is traditionally higher in the younger grades and declines steadily as students progress through the school system. Successful implementation of an LMS bridges the gaps between the classroom and the home, creating a shared learning experience between the student and parent throughout the student’s academic career.
Adopting an LMS throughout the district also allows the entire school community to have a single place to look for information. During Lee’s Summit’s first phase of its Schoology adoption, Whaley shared that the desire was to create a one-stop shop for students, teachers, parents, and administrators. Parents of multiple children within the district are now able to find information about each of their children without having to search through multiple backpacks and folders looking for information.
LMS platforms, if used correctly, help prepare students for learning in middle school, high school, college, and business; enable teachers to work more effectively because they’re able to collaborate at all grade levels; and provide opportunities for self-pacing and differentiation to meet all student’s needs.
The truth is, younger students are not too young to use technology, and using the same technology in the classroom that students will continue to use throughout their lives has its merits. It’s time we stepped beyond this question about whether or not an LMS can or should be used in elementary education but, instead, how and in what use cases an LMS is best integrated for long-term student success.