On The Rise K-12, eLearning Conference Part 1

Insights and reflections on the recent e-learning conference I attended. This past week I joined educators from across Ontario to share best practices and experiences with e-learning and blended learning implementations. There was tremendous energy and many great examples of innovative teaching and learning.

John Baker CEO of Desire2Learn began the conference by providing updates on a number of different areas in which the LMS is continuing to evolve. You can hear the passion and conviction in John's voice when he explains how the new tools are going to help teachers and students become more successful. He talked about flipping the learning paradigm by letting students find the problem they want to solve in order to increase their motivation, level of engagement and empower them to find solutions. He said that it was this kind of approach that helped him to develop the skills and knowledge to build his own company. Below are some of the product announcements that I found interesting;

The new elementary elearning carousel is to be released shortly. This simplified interface will make it much easier for younger students to access the activities in the Ontario Education Resource Bank according to the subject and strand they are studying. I wonder what is going to happen to all of the Flash-based resources in the OERB as HTML5 emerges as the web standard? The predictive analytics tool that runs in the background will help teachers to identify students that are struggling in their course so that they can plan early interventions to help them to become more successful. I was very happy to see that D2L seems receptive to my idea of including a draft post button for students working in the discussion board. This occurred to me during a recent class when my students were posting their online reflections in the digital stewardship unit and it came to the end of the period. The students that were not done had two options; post incomplete work (which can't be revised later or copy and paste to another application). This just did not make sense to me. I think having D2L staff at the conference and willing to sit down and talk with educators about their experiences in the LMS is key to their ability to improve their product and the way it functions. We will see if my suggestion makes it into the new release due of the discussion board out in about a month. The D2L binder is new a mobile app that will make it possible for students to interact with and annotate course documents and information on their tablets.

I attended some great sessions on how to engage students using web 2.0 tools such as glogster, voicethread and jing. I was very impressed by the quality of student work and the level of engagement and collaboration. As an 'early adopter' of instructional technology I can immediately see the value of these approaches and the tools that the teacher used to achieve the learning objectives. It's no surprise that the majority of people who attend the conference are keen on seeing new methods and tools that will help them to change the way they teach - that's why they attend. However, as the conference continued, I began to reflect on how to encourage the mainstream classroom teacher (not present at the conference, not currently using web 2.0 tools) to undertake the process of re-examining their teaching practice in order to discover new ways of improving student learning.