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Using a learning management system to meet digital content needs

An LMS with a professional community ocan enable cross-curricular lesson sharing.

As new learning technologies and digital tools appear in classrooms, educators may become overwhelmed as they try to integrate these ed-tech tools into their lessons. But they might find help in their district’s tried-and-true learning management system.

The typical learning management system has evolved to manage digital content, and can organize and provide access to that content so that digital resources are delivered in engaging ways, said Gail Palumbo, former director of curriculum and technology in New Jersey’s Montgomery Township Schools, during a series of edWeb webinars on learning management systems’ potential. Palumbo is now the Lead Faculty – Area Chair for Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Phoenix Online.

According to Palumbo, a learning management system has the capability to include a multitude of digital content, defined as any and all materials or programs stored on an electronic or digital medium that can be transmitted or used by computers and over networks and the internet.

The benefits of incorporating digital content into the learning management system are numerous, said Palumbo, including being able to access the content and lesson from any internet connection, modifying lessons from anywhere and anytime, and many learning management systems will let the user add standards postings with the listed digital content.

(Next page: How educators can take advantage of their learning management system)

Stores online materials: When it comes to online lesson plans, a robust learning management system will help a teacher create online lesson plans and create and upload related content and activities. In fact, an LMS would “serve as the basis for all of this digital content that you may find, as a ‘filing system,’” Palumbo said. In addition to tracking student and classroom data, a learning management system can help educators integrate Common Core-aligned materials, store digital resources for later use, and more.

Enables professional learning and collaboration and facilitates lesson plan sharing: A learning management system that allows for the exchange of ideas and resources can facilitate teacher-to-teacher communication. Teachers throughout the district can share lesson plans, curriculum, and resources, and can help one another as they try to align their lessons and resources to the Common Core. Working together can help districts improve instruction, Palumbo said.

A learning management system that allows for the exchange of ideas in a central place also allows for cross-curricular sharing—no longer are subjects taught in silos, Palumbo added.

“We are not isolating one subject,” she said. “We need to know so many things and bring that knowledge together. Schools are now realizing that no longer can subjects be taught in the silo method, and project-based learning is the best bet to show students the relationship [between subjects].”

Allows for data access in real-time:  This gives teachers a simple place to track how students use the digital resources in the learning management system. With a learning management system in place, teachers are able to share and access this data in new ways.

Has the ability to track standards and assessments aligned to those standards: Many district leaders are using the Common Core as the impetus to drive more innovative assessment strategies in their districts. If the Common Core State Standards define what students need to know and be able to do, student performance and assessment is how students can demonstrate that readiness—through their actual work product, Palumbo said.

Because the Common Core State Standards work to build conceptual understanding from kindergarten all the way through 12th grade, teacher collaboration between grade levels will be especially necessary.

Helps teachers focus on lesson delivery rather than spend valuable class time switching between presentation tools or locating digital materials:  When a learning management system acts as a one-stop-shop for stored digital resources, teachers do not waste valuable classroom time switching from one technology tool to the next, or searching for a specific video or website.

Palumbo also advises teachers and curriculum directors to seek help from their school librarian or library media specialist when it comes to incorporating digital content into the learning management system lesson plans.

“They have advice on the right information and resources that could best fit your lessons, as well as the right processes for efficiency, the right platform to use, how to develop white papers and reports, what materials are age-appropriate for your students, and what materials are best-suited for different types of learners.”

And above all, Palumbo said, a robust learning management system that organizes digital content and helps teachers collaborate with peers and track student data will enable educators to focus on their own teaching and lesson delivery, which in turn makes for a better student learning environment.

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