Tuesday, June 29, 2010

ISTE 2010: Schoology

Pretty darned blown away by Schoology, an LMS based on a social network that seems as both as easy to maneuver and as accessible as Facebook. In fact, the thing kinda looks like FB as students create profiles -- profiles that could grow into an academic digital portfolio over the course of a student's school career.

Does it have a grade book? Check. Can you take attendance? Both in class and schoolwide. Can students and teachers create profiles and share links, class material, class/homework, projects? Check.

But wait, there's more! (I feel like I'm selling a ginsu knife...)

In Schoology, users get: dropboxes, class analytics, blogs, bookmarking, collaborative workspaces, calendars...

Oh, and it monitors student profiles for abusive language and content and sends immediate notice to the teacher.

Oh, and the base version is free.

And for a set of fees, schools can choose what add-ons -- including archiving, different forms of back-ups, branding -- that they individually need.

I haven't used Schoology yet; heck for all I know it might be totally clunky. But beings that it is based on social tech and social learning, it represents another move -- along with Elgg, and to an extent Google Apps for Ed -- to further integrate the reality of the digital environment as it exists today into the reality of the formal learning experience. That's the key.


  1. Have you used Moodle? How are the two different/similar?

  2. Okay, I watched the video on the Schoology website. It looks great. The feel of Facebook but the background of a school.

    However, it has the same problems that other LMS systems have, in my eyes. It is based on traditional teaching. Also, it is closed to the course.

    I think that you, Shelley, are beating both of the issues with what you are already doing. You aren't creating assessment pieces to be graded. And the students are putting things out for the world beyond the classroom.

    I think a LMS is great. However, the work that students are doing should be outside of the LMS if at all possible. Someone on the other side of the globe or even another school can see the publishing if it's in an LMS. If you are using something like Blogger or Wordpress, Google Docs, and Twitter, then it is all out there. The learning and publishing is relevant and connected. That is where the real learning and educating happens.

    You are already doing that. Don't give into to LMS if you don't really need it.

  3. @Knaus

    I'm looking at it from the point of view of an LMS, nothing more. And as that, at least on the surface it seems to shine.

    You do raise a really good point about the work students are doing being beyond the LMS; I'd say having students run a concurrent blog and Twitter account shouldn't be any problem with this sort of general organizational structure any more than it is without one.


  4. Right on! All I'm saying is that all those features (blog, wiki, networking, posting) appear to be built in. If students use those in the closed system, then you lose the audience. If you use the LMS with outside blogs & wikis in addition to the LMS, you gain valuable tools. It would be nice to have a private message board for the class.

  5. @Shelly - Thanks for the post!

    @Knaus - We understand your concerns entirely. When designing Schoology we kept a few important elements in mind. One element is that not every student is comfortable having their information public on the internet -- beyond their control. Another element is exactly what you are saying: If work is within an LMS, it should be able to be viewed outside an LMS.

    Using the privacy settings that Schoology provides users can keep information private to a course, or they can open them up to various levels including their school, district, other Schoology users, or the entire internet. Ultimately, the school has full control over all settings, but we believe it is important to give our users a choice. We would love for everyone to share their academic content within a public arena, but more importantly we feel that students need to feel safe in their academic environment, whether that is in the classroom or out of the classroom, before we can expect them to participate to the fullest extent.

    This is a great topic and we would love to hear more ideas!

  6. Edmodo is very very similar in ideology ... but yet to be monitized - as an LMS - this (and Edomodo) promote cybergogy not pedagogy - but of course the Moodle/BB crowd will argue on features etc.,

    For students, whom we have to engage in social conversation (and provide climates acceptable to them to do it), this feels like a 'better' way to go to me. I might be better thought of as Engaged Learning System, not an LMS, as seriously, unless your a Moodle-Admin fanboi, it just aint social and students will avoid it unless they have to. I am pleased you found something on the Vendor Floor.


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