(hopefully a thought provoking tirade)


Now here is a big statement. If you are not involved with or have not got access to a Learning Management System you should get out of teaching.
100 thousand teachers just jumped up and down with another 100 thousand rolling over in their graves.
I will add to the statement that if you are not using an LMS your curriculum is not evolving into a quality well structured program linked to learning outcomes in a way that allow for all Blooms Taxonomy, Brain Dominance's Learning styles and Intelligences.

In addition,you are not capitalizing on the huge amount of knowledge and understanding of educational processes available to all teachers and all students. In some cases, this can be so bad that the teacher is actually slowing the students learning process instead of enhancing it.

An educator in the classroom should take into account

Brain Physiology affects learning.

The brain needs a change of input and style of operation after doing one style of activity for more than an hour (most people vary).
Your lessons have to be structured to take into account brain physiology.
Read More about the implications of this research at the end of the body of text.

Length of time a student is studying in one area.

This varies with every student but intensive thinking should be no more than 30 to 40 minutes before the students do a different task. This estimation of time will vary with every teacher but the times here have been very successful for this author. The important thing is that every teacher should think seriously about the structure of their lessons.
Read More at the end.

Learning styles.

Teachers have their own learning styles and therefore a teaching style they prefer. Some teachers need to concentrate on adding a variety of teaching styles to their teaching methodology. If they don’t they will tend to leave a large percentage of their students behind or simply make it hard for some students to understand.
This will tend to be very noticeable in the learning of younger students with less life experience.
Read More at the end.

Brain Dominance's.

There are 4 main brain dominance's according to Hermann. This topic has been analyzed to greater depths but the original understandings of brain dominance's are easy to put into classroom teaching practices. It is all about know yourself and know your students. To get the best out of the student’s teachers should take account of their own brain dominance as well as their student’s brain dominance and plan a curriculum appropriately.

Intelligences.

Is the teacher giving the student the chance to learn all of the intelligence or to show what they can do within all the intelligences? Good planning is difficult and complex but a good teacher cannot use this as an excuse as they would be selling their charges short.

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Blooms Taxonomy.

How can teachers be sure they capitalize on the Blooms Taxonomy research and try to lift students to the higher orders of thinking? Lessons need to be structured to try to foster higher levels of thinking, as it is this type of learning that leads to autonomous and independent learners.

Scaffolding.

Is the organizing of the curriculum so that one topic leads into the next. This means the student is building up an understanding and there is time to consolidate learning between tasks. This works very well when the scaffolding can occur between subjects and subject matter. It should also happen from year to year, and when correctly done prevents the ludicrous situation where students are expected to study exactly the same thing from one year to the next with no altering of depth or scope. An example of a bad practice could be teaching common denominators before teaching an understanding of fractions.

Cross subject linking.

Cross subject, linking can be a very powerful teaching ally. The students start to formulate ways of using Science in Social Sciences, and Mathematics in Art or Health and Culture. This approach helps to break down the subject delineation and helps make links in the brain between all of a student’s learning’s.
This type of opportunity is only available to persons who can organize a good structure in their curriculum that still allows for flexibility.

Programmed learning.

The website encyclopedia.com tells us that
‘Research has shown that programmed learning often is as successful, and sometimes more successful, than traditional teacher-based learning because it recognizes the different abilities and needs of individual children. Students who have mastered the material can move ahead more quickly, while those who need more practice are repeatedly exposed to the problems. Programmed learning also allows teachers more time to concentrate on more complex tasks.’
Programmed learning used to be expensive and time consuming to set up but now it is very easy to utilize with L.M.S’s.

Lateral and creative thinking.

Logic thinking practices can have severe limitations, in that, solutions to problems end up perpetuating a similar problem or the same problem. Currently creative thinking applied to issues like the environment are sorely needed. Where is this a part of the curriculum or has it been overlooked due to the large emphasis on subject knowledge at the expense of thinking and education. (sorry a little cynicism again)

Problem solving.

This is a great pathway to education but sadly becomes the least thing of importance after knowledge. If there is no problem solving,  knowledge becomes useless packets of information inside the head, which is only a copy of what can already be found on Google.
The problem being how to ensure there is a substantial amount of problems solving in the curriculum and teaching teachers the difference between student centered and teacher centered classrooms. Teachers that say they put the students first are rarely relating this to a student centered classroom.
more at the end.

Positive reinforcement.

All students respond better to positive reinforcement as opposed to blame and criticism. The appropriate form of reinforcement will differ between students and can be anything from a wink at the student when they give a good response to a certificate presented at an assembly.
Intrinsic and extrinsic (certificates etc).
Intrinsically some students get their reinforcement from achieving the end goal of a game or a good score on a programmed learning activity.
Extrinsically students can get everything from their work being displayed to the class as a good example, stickers on their work or certificate presented to them.

Manage student stress levels.

When students are doing work that is too difficult for them there stress levels can go very high and there can be an associated drop in performance.
Adjusting the curriculum content and methods of teaching can change the imposed stress on the student to self imposed stress that is much easier for the teacher and student to manage.

Curriculum development (15% change in any one year and ongoing evolution).

A curriculum with good scaffolding should not be changed dramatically every year. There should be no more than an approximate 15 % change. Limiting change means the high performing parts of the curriculum remain and the low performing parts are upgraded. (administrators are always doing this) and that any carefully organized scaffolding is not destroyed. This approximate amount of change ensures the revisiting of the curriculum ideally every 6 months and the changes stay manageable for the teachers implementing the practices in the classroom. If the new practices require professional development there is time for the teachers to integrate new practices while still keeping the best from before.

Testing for data and testing for teaching.

Why do we test? Is it for data or is it for teaching? Some students learn well from a test environment that is similar to a programmed learning environment. A lot of time testing for data is not very effective especially if the testing in ESL. Teachers will say they need to know where there students are. This is relevant to a degree and more relevant to mathematics but it does not tell the teacher where there thinking skills are.

Teacher centered and student centered classrooms.

Student centered classrooms often require very careful guidelines and clever questioning to guide the students. Setting up guidelines for the different study topics needs to be done carefully and the resources the student may need organized in a way to keep students on task.

Blooms Taxonomy.

Educators should be aiming for the goals of Blooms Taxonomy and a simple version of the updated version is given to us by Richard C. Overbaugh and Lynn Schultz Old Dominion University.
The main problem with Blooms Taxonomy is that the complexity of a curriculum and the classroom environment. Most teachers have a tendency to only work on the first few levels of the taxonomy pyramid. Many of the upper levels of thinking take a considerable amount of work to assess and implement so teachers have a tendency to skip past these. Especially if the administrators have filled the curriculum up with must know items at the expense of must think activities.

The effective use of technology.

Technology now enables us to talk to experts real time anywhere in the world, it allows students to talk real time with other students from other cultures from anywhere in the world.
Teachers now have access to other good teachers, teaching in different styles and using different processes that they can implement in their classrooms.
The single biggest problem for teachers is how to organize these resources in a way they can be reliably used at the time the student needs them. It also helps to have it organized so that students get the resource without getting sidetracked on all the other things on the internet.

Inclusive students Autistic and physical disabilities.

A normal part of teaching for many teachers is preparing a worthwhile inclusive curriculum that caters for all students. This requires good planning and a method of delivering the planned curriculum to the students so all students still have a fair use of the teachers time. The same problem also apply to ADD and ADHD students who could take an excessive amount of teacher time it the teacher is not very well organized.
Students with a huge range of abilities in classes that are not streamed and teachers must be  professional and cater for all abilities.
As professionals teachers also have to cater for the advanced students who often do not get as much of the teachers time as the average and lower ability students as their demands are much larger.
With a carefully organized curriculum the advanced student can be doing higher order thinking work after they have completed the basic curriculum.

Behavior management.

An interesting thing here is that many behavior management problems evolve due to not enough time to plan or a lack of understanding of many of the above when planning. But, I am not so naive to think that planning is a magic panacea to solve all behavior management issues. The common point here is that a well organised classroom catering to the above has fewer behaviour problems. (no the classroom environment was not mentioned here but it can also impact on behaviour management).

The above is a teacher check list.

The hugely complex task of being a good teacher should be starting to become evident. There are obviously many things that have been missed from this list but I think the point has been made that as much as we all would like to think we are good teachers there is obviously some aspects of teaching the average teacher is not covering. Not covering some of the above is to the detriment of our students.

It is very easy to make an argument for the initial statement, all teachers should be involved in, or attempting to use an LMS.

A Learning Management System helps organize all of the above and ensure it is all part of a well designed curriculum.
Still it can be argued that every class is different and that too much structure squashes teacher and student creativity. Of course this would if the structure was not balanced and all the stakeholders did not have an input into the structure so as to ensure flexibility remained but the main goals were still reached.

In most cases, learning outcomes can be taught in different ways, to take into account teacher and student individuality, yet still ensure all of the above was part of the curriculum.

Every class is different.

A very common thing that is heard is that every teacher is different.  The author has saved many years of teachers courses and studies in files only to find the new teachers still developed their own courses. The interesting thing is that most developed a course almost exactly the same as the worked already saved on file. the problem appeared to be that they could not see the larger picture of why the previous teacher left the information. When the information is structured in a sequence and order such as in a LMS it is much easier to see the structure and see that all is needed is to alter small sections to suit the individual. This of course can save countless hours of work preparation and free the teacher up to be with the students asking questions.

Classroom practice.

Technology and LMS allows the teacher to spend more time with the students facilitating their education and asking complex question like what would you do with that if you were head of the ‘health’ department. What value is that skill to the human race? Most teachers would agree that they are more than likely valuable types of questions to make the student think about their learning.
Teachers say, I ask those question any way. Well done that is pleasing to hear. The argument is that those questions can be asked of nearly every student individually and the teacher can wait for their response to make it a conversation At the same time everyone else is still working doing their tests, work or research. When time runs out and the one to one questioning is missed the constructive feedback can be given to the students via feedback on their work submissions. This can be in a lot more constructive detail.

Assignment work.

Internet research is not the horrible thing many teachers’ have grown up to believe. The students copy everything. A good learning management system will do an automatic plagiarism check by comparing with documents on the Internet and the other students work. The work will then be given a plagiarism % check. Some universities state no more than 5% plagiarism. Use the Internet, but teach the student how to use it to advantage.

Learning management system order and organization.

A good learning management system places all the resources in order. The video content from the Internet is sequenced so it is shown at the appropriate time. The quizzes are there ready and based on the content. If the teacher does not like the course they can delete or edit the parts not needed. Mostly teachers only want to change small sections but if they want create a new course it is still very easy to organize resources and create quizzes. And presto there is another course ready for another teacher coming in if they want to use it.

Flexibility.

A good learning management system is very flexible. Courses and resources do not have to be deleted they can just be hidden until the teacher that uses that Brain dominance and understands those learning styles comes along to open the course do a small edit and deliver it to the students.

Many courses.

There is nothing wrong with having a social science course that is linked to the mathematics department for a year and after that it was found that it did not work that well so the decision can be made to link it to the science course. Linking courses often does not work due to the lack of time to coordinate and structure the course or simply the teachers at this time with this timetable and curriculum focus could not make it work. Next year could be very different, in fact it always is. A good LMS assists this coordination to make many new possibilities so the teachers can even be in different countries.
Well-structured courses in need of a new focus should only need editing a little or a copy made and edited. This leaves the old course for another teacher to use at the appropriate time.
If the departments focus changes, the school need only hide some courses and switch on others as the need arises.


A good L.M.S. can cater for.


A well set up course can cater for 4 different brain dominance's, Blooms Taxonomy several different intelligences and several Learning Styles all at once. Not only can it cater for those it can also take advantage of Independent Learning, the benefits of student centered classrooms, the huge amount of resources on the Internet such as quizzes teaching movies, movie editing, presentations, blogging. How powerful is it to present a topic to a class and then find a teacher presenting the topic in Youtube to supplement your delivery with a different learning/teaching style focus and brain dominance focus. The LMS allows the teacher to sort out the best supplemental videos and organize the in order. Add to that extending advanced students and helping inclusive students in your learning environment.

Anecdote

My daughter came home with lots of question on physics that she did not understand. I sorted through many you tube videos on the topic until I found one that was quite visual. We sat down and discussed the video and to the delight of my daughter, she gained a thorough understanding of the topic.

An LMS has the information as a student reference.

The LMS can have a few videos on a difficult topic and the students can browse these to see and hear different perspectives from different teachers. A teacher who knows the students will be able to look through 20 or thirty videos to select the appropriate 4 or 5 for the students to gain a broader understanding. the students also have a continuous reference point when they are confused about classroom content.

Miscellaneous.

Assignments that are based on sound can be recorded directly into an LMS system and it is irrelevant if the computer is of a specific type. Win Mac, Linux and others all work equally as well so students can take advantage of the cheaper Linux computer and still be able to produce state of the art products. In some cases better.

Costs Some of the best LMS are free. Moodle for example is an Open Source product and according to Moore & Churchward (2010) Moodle has evolved into one of the most widely-used Learning Management Systems in the world, with over 35,000 installed sites and 25 million users.

Most of the recommendations at present are against dedicated software. Most of the recommendations are for Open Source Software at almost all of the integration of technology into the classroom.

Many people have been caught with expensive licensing and having to destroy years of work when the software is not compatible with other LMS structures when an institutional change of direction is required.

Myths.

Why should everything be done on the computer. I can hear the chorus of voices from here. It is a learning management system not a computer geek tool. (oh it can be that too). Work can be handed in as art physical movement etc and then the results are cataloged adn recorded on the LMS so the students have access to their results and feedback the instant the teacher finishes and hits the save button or next.


I want to be with the student, which is no different to anyone who is a dedicated teacher. The LMS allows the teacher to spend less time marking, have more results and give feedback that is more individual to each student. As the teacher needs to spend less time talking and directing from the front of the class they can spend more time asking those in depth questions such as why are you doing this? What is your vision for the world?


I don’t know how to? From a teacher? Who has been through university? If the teacher cannot learn something that is more simple than using Facebook then they have to ask themselves some serious questions. Most of these teachers are using Facebook, which is far more complex.


It is not suitable for my students as they are too young. The words do not have to be hard and sound can be used, as can pictures. (Editing pictures is a little harder but still easier than navigating Facebook). One of the modules for Moodle has a picture drag and drop tool that can be used in questions.


It is too expensive. All the work can be completed to a high degree of expertise all on Open source software (free) including using 32 or 64 bit Linux computers where all the software to operate a high performing computer is free. This means you only need to get a base model computer or use the school computers.


The internet is too slow. Put your learning management system on a local computer and link all the other computers to this central computer. Down load your videos using free software and save it to your central computer so you have instant access to the classroom content. Once again all very easy and a person can learn from you tube or simply ask a computer teacher to assist.


I do not have a computer lab. Not all work has to be done on the computer the LMS can be used to roster students to various tasks both on and off the computer. A class of 40 with ten computers simply means the students need 3 off computer tasks.


I do not want to lose my job to a computer. Anyone who thinks the students do not need the positive reinforcement, redirection, someone to question their ideas and someone to give them a valuable place in the world is hiding from the job of teacher. LMS gives the teacher time to be a person or a significant adult helping guide and teach students how to learn.


Teachers complain that they don’t want to get locked into a course I want to take advantage of what the student knows LMS allows a teacher to stop being heavily involved with specific knowledge and unlock themselves so they can use guided learning and in depth questioning to individual students.


I want to link English with Science.
I have heard them all and have always found what the teacher is suggesting is of a far less educational quality than what can be achieved with a good dynamic Learning Management System.


I don’t know how to use it. Well then it is about time you learnt and stopped handicapping your students. (oops sorry that was over the top). There is a huge amount of assistance on the Internet and a growing expertise of teachers in schools. much can be learnt from you tube and if the internet is too slow make a selection of videos and download them with a download manager. Then you can watch the videos at your leisure.


Read More about each section.


Brain Physiology affects learning.

The brain needs a change of input and style of operation after doing one style of activity for more than an hour (most people vary). Physically the brains electro chemical function diminishes so the student’s activities need to be changed to allow a recovery time. Even the best students start to stop performing if they have had a pure theory lesson for an hour. The brain ceases to work efficiently when kept in the same learning mode for a long time. The student ceases to get educational benefit from the activity. Don’t underestimate the physiology of the brain, Nikhil Swaminathan | April 29, 2008 writes in the Scientific American website that ‘It is well established that the brain uses more energy than any other human organ, accounting for up to 20 percent of the body's total haul.’ The brains use of energy varies considerably with different types of activities so teachers need to be aware of how long their charges have been working on a specific style of thinking.
The brain runs on glucose the body supplies it so a healthy diet is important. The website .fi.edu also warns about too much glucose that can have a detrimental effect on concentrating.
The point here is lesson and curriculum structure, remember the end of the day is most likely best spent listening to music and reading a cheap novel to help refresh you for the next day. Readings so far indicate that the Finnish Education system does not put a large emphasis on homework. The question needs to be asked has the brain physiology got something to do with this.
Your lessons have to be structured to take into account brain physiology. The teacher has to keep asking how long has the student been using their brain on a specific type of thinking and activity.

Back to Brain

Length of time a student is studying in one area.

This varies with every student but intensive thinking should be no more than 30 to 40 minutes before the students do a different task. Younger students maybe 20 minutes or less, but it would depend on the style of activities. This estimation of time will vary with every teacher but the times here have been very successful for this author. The important thing is that teachers should think seriously about the structure of their lessons. There is a lot of heated debate about the length of a lesson, this author prefers half a day for a lesson, but the lesson time length is irrelevant. The teacher is responsible for breaking their allotted time into different activities that take into account many things including the length of time the brain has been intensely applied to specific activities. If the subject is something like independent study there is a lot of learning style and brain dominance variety so this style of activity could go for some time. A subject specific and intense topic such as maths should have variety built into the lesson and cater for different learning styles otherwise the students brain will physically run out of energy and the students ‘mind will wander’.

Back to Length Of Time.

Learning styles.

Teachers have their own learning styles and therefore a teaching style they prefer. Some teachers need to concentrate on changing their teaching style or add a variety of teaching styles to their teaching methodology. If they don’t they will tend to leave a large percentage of their students behind or simply make it hard for some students to understand (note the word understand is used rather than copy - a little cynicism is supposed to be healthy)
This will tend to be very noticeable in younger students with less life experience. The more life experiences students have, the more experience they can relate new learning to. Students with more experience have more things to relate new learning to and often they can understand more easily information given to them that does not cater for their learning style.
Learning styles are very important for the younger adult but as students get older, Kolb tells us that there is some evidence to indicate learning styles can gradually change
The On Purpose Associates write, that these are the teaching issues associated with learning styles
‘Curriculum–Educators must place emphasis on intuition, feeling, sensing, and imagination, in addition to the traditional skills of analysis, reason, and sequential problem solving.
Instruction–Teachers should design their instruction methods to connect with all four learning styles, using various combinations of experience, reflection, conceptualization, and experimentation. Instructors can introduce a wide variety of experiential elements into the classroom, such as sound, music, visuals, movement, experience, and even talking.
Assessment–Teachers should employ a variety of assessment techniques, focusing on the development of “whole brain” capacity and each of the different learning styles.’

Back to Learning Styles

Problem solving.

This is a great pathway to education but sadly becomes the least thing of importance after knowledge. If there is no problem solving the knowledge becomes useless packets of information inside the head, which is only a copy of what can already be found on Google.
Student centered classrooms capitalize on problem solving. The only problem is it takes longer to arrive at the end point than simply teaching a topic. Of course this is appropriate when training a student but is not much good for education.
This does not mean there is no teaching but it does take the form of setting guidelines more than telling the students precisely what they have to do. The occasional topic will need to be taught to get the students working but the teacher must be careful not to overdo that didactic style of teaching so the students can still ask questions.
The problem being how to ensure there is a substantial amount of problems solving in the curriculum and teaching teachers the difference between student centered and teacher centered classrooms. Teachers that say they put the students first are rarely relating this to a student centered classroom.

Back to Problem Solving.

 


References

An apology for the poor standard of referencing. It will be rectified during the holidays.

Churchward, Michael. Moore, Jonathan. (2010). Moodle 1.9 Extension Development. Packt Publishing. [accessed 25/03/2013]. http://www.packtpub.com/sites/default/files/4244-chapter-3-Creating-and-Modifying-Filters.pdf


http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-does-the-brain-need-s


http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/carbs.html#top


http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-weekly/2011/april-21/the-finland-phenomenon.html


Kolb
http://learningfromexperience.com/frequently-asked-questions/


On Purpose Associates.
http://www.funderstanding.com/educators/learning-styles-3/


"Programmed Learning." Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. (June 29, 2012). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2- 3406000512.html


http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom's+Digital+Taxonomy


Richard C. Overbaugh and Lynn Schultz Old Dominion University
http://www.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm

Additional information