Google Apps as Free LMS and Academic Discourse
After much prodding from Ian (@wiobyrne) I am attempting to move my classes this fall from BB9 to using Google Apps as an LMS. I always wanted to break away from Blackboard. Not because I do not like the affordances of the platform. My main reason was I need to model digital teaching and learning using digital texts and tools that future classrooms will be able to access.
Testing out Google Apps as an LMS
I piloted it this past year with an iPad professional development course I ran with Branford Public Schools. I had a few revelations around discussion in online courses. First and foremost is the idea that social networks are not the place for deep analytical academic discourse.
I have had this belief for almost as long as social networks emerged in the classroom. I remember back to NCTE in 2007 when a few of us were sitting around a table discussing research agendas. Nings were the thing and everyone wanetd to hop on and move their class to social networks. I argued then, as I do now, that stackable unthreaded conversations do not have the affordances for deep conversations.
Yet I do see the power of social media in terms of building a sense of community and I have had wonderful conversations in Google+ Communities. Still running a classroom in Google+ or Edmodo is does not have the efficacy of an onld school discussion board.
Discussion in Google Apps as an LMS.
I thought you basically had two choices. Embedding Google Groups or creating a Google+ Community. I am now leaning to a more a hybrid approach that incoroprates three elements:
Google Groups will be used to discuss readings (videos,texts, picturres). As an instructor I need to be able to track the thoughts and developments of threads. I do not need to lose posts based on the tyranny of the immediate.
Google+ will be used to build community. Thus I will create a class community for picture sharing and general discussion. Most important folks will share resources they find. We will curate our class identity. Students will also share links to their longer form writing via personal blogs.
You can’t teach writing and not be a writer. Period. The class I will be testing out is a course in children’s literature and literacy. Thus I ask my students to write. I have used Blogger in the past and created a bundle in Google Reader. That option is now out. So what I will do now is ask folks to share their most recent posts to our Community. They will also enable Google+ comments on their blogs.
I love the integration of Google+ into my WordPress blog. I am finding my most active discussions come from Google+ versus my followers or those unlucky few who stumble on my blog. I will have my students do the same in Blogger. You can easily integrate comments from Google+. I feel this will go a long way to creating a community of writers any literacy classroom needs.