Emerging Technology 1: Schoology.com

Capitalizing on a screen which both looks and works much like the ever popular Facebook (will ANYTHING they do make people stop using that?), Schoology.com is our new favorite tool at NHS (at least the favorite of several senior teachers).   Less than a month ago a good friend of mine, the social studies teacher who works in the room next door, sent me a link from a professional development   she was participating in with peers.  Well, teachers send me links all the time to their latest pet projects so I didn’t think much of it.  I signed on, created an account and logged off.  

A week later, I walked by her room and saw what looked like Facebook on her projection screen (our school filters Facebook so that only those of us with smartphones have access during the day).  Pause.  Stop.  Peek. What do you know?  Around the room excited students were signing on, creating profiles and responding intelligently to posted questions.  I immediately rushed back to my room and began to explore and think of ways to incorporate schoology.com into my classroom as quickly as possible.  This became my project for the first Emerging Technology blog!

 What is schoology, you ask?  Well…it’s a digital classroom.  A Learning Management System (LMS).  Within schoology, a teacher can create multiple classroom sections, post assignments, surveys, discussions, links, media, grades, class calendars, etc.  Many of the features of this classroom can be found in the district programs teachers are asked to use today; however, schoology.com has a few unique pluses.

One intangible positive is the excitement with which students approach the work.  Not only does schoology LOOK like Facebook, many of the functions are similar.  Students upload photos, post updates,  email each other, hold conversations on a site that looks like (and functions much like) a site they know how to use.  It’s like the non-threatening version of IPSOnline that never seems to temporarily stop working or decide two minutes into an assignment to bump them back out and shut down their computer.  Because we have become a “schoology school” we are also able to use their filter to stop cursing (I adore this because we CHOOSE which words/phrases to block and program them in as administrators).  This is a free function and means that not only is communication easier within the building, but we can send out building wide bulletin (the teacher in charge of yearbook is using this to create more involvement in our “Senior Best” list, for example.

In my classroom, I use schoology to make it easier for students to function when we are working online.  I post handouts in my classrooms for students who have missed class.  Schoology also makes it easy for me to link kids to wordle, glogster, individual google docs, research sites and then allows them to share the results with each other comfortably.  There is even a blogging function.  Which leads me to one of the reason I am currently enjoying schoology.  The reading we have done in our textbook (and other articles I read when I researched blogging for my classroom) emphasizes that blogging is a good way to improve student writing because they know writing is public.  Schoology allows their writing to be public within our building, but feels safer than when it is posted on a blog online where others can access the writing.  Right now when I am still teaching my students about  online safety and responsibility this feels like a good compromise. 

Most of the problems arising from schoology have been easily solved.  Administrators walking by were concerned to see students on Facebook, but after being reassured that, in fact, they were on an educational site working, they were very enthusiastic.  One student tried to test me by posting an obscene statement, but we quickly discovered that we could filter out words.  A few students were intimidated by the process of gaining access to the site (gaining access the first time is far tougher than using the site itself), but at this point, we are all safely on board.  My students and I are still struggling with the same questions we face on many blogging and classroom sites which involve what is appropriate, what language to use and so forth.  Finally, I have to be sure that I am not just using it because the students want me to.  Whenever I post an assignment on schoology, I have to be positive that it is content based and that it will accomplish at least as much as a similar project NOT completed online.

As a teacher, I have to recommend this site.  It is free.  It is easy.  Students love it and are comfortable using it.  You have to see this site to believe how well it works and how easy it is to use.  There is even an iPhone app (which students who forget their Netbooks have been known to use in my class).  So if you are interested, I have opened up my schoology account to the class (kind of).  Go to www.schoology.com and click on the LOG IN (upper right corner).   Use my email address (daninicolekramer@gmail.com) and the password clouds.  Your username is ctech (classroom technology).  Feel free to look at what some of my classes have been working on during the last three weeks since we began using this emerging technology or to go to the “Sample English Course” which is just for us and make comments or explore from there. 

Here are links to some reading  I did while I was prepping lessons and this blog:

http://techcrunch.com/2010/06/07/schoology-raises-1-25-million-for-learning-management-software/

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/schoology_aims_to_fix_one_of_the_greatest_pain_poi.php

http://www.emergingedtech.com/2010/07/the-schoology-lms-provides-a-lot-of-functionality-for-free/

One thought on “Emerging Technology 1: Schoology.com

  1. I am wodering if this would get the students more involved and using my classroom website. It’s like pulling teeth to get them to check assignment due dates and test dates and pull documents off. It sounds as if this may be a much better choice. Goodness knows I hear about facebook ALL the time…maybe class on a facebook like website would get them involved!
    Thanks for the idea:)

    Sarah Holland

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *