I wrote a post recently about the different tools we have available in the school board. You can read it here:

The Complexity of Choice

This is a popular conversation in the 21CL team here at HWDSB, and it is happening with renewed vigor as I redesign a landing page for the HUB (the HUB is the name of our instance of the Ministry-provisioned virtual learning environment). The HUB is our Learning Management System (occasionally referred to by Desire2Learn/Brightspace as an Integration Management System: a distinction we will examine further)

This is still just a draft as we continue to iterate. You can follow along on the development over here on Github.

As we build out the “integrations” tab, the conversation invariably turns to the plethora of tools we offer at HWDSB:

  • Do some of them cannibalize on adoption of the HUB’s internal tools?
  • Do we end up creating silos with too many tools?
  • Do they eliminate the ability for neighbours to help each other with adoption?
  • Do we need to concern ourselves with the rogue?

It’s this last point I get a bit stuck on. I am a self-professed “rogue”. I like shiny new things, and tried to foster an environment where my students understood the need for agility when it came to our use of digital tools: what Alan Levine would call a “de-centralist” approach, of small tools, loosely joined. What one might consider doing within a Discussion Forum in an LMS, we would select an appropriate web 2.0 tool for the brief moment we needed it, and then move on to the next space. This dipity timeline assignment is a good example of that type of thinking, loosely joined through our classroom blogs.

So the question becomes, how can system supports like the 21CL team enable a “de-centralist” approach, without creating an environment where users feel overwhelmed by choice? (I use the word “enable” with intention here, rather than “promote”) Should we turn off Google Classroom because it cannibalizes on HUB adoption? Should we turn on the OneNote Classroom Notebook that could act as a content delivery system, when we already have a few different ways to do this (because it might meet some teacher needs)? Is the HUB a learning management system, or is it an integration management system: A pass-through that allows for “small tools, loosely joined”. Can we concern ourselves with trying to serve the rogue, or will they shirk our offerings on principle. And where do you draw a line? Example: the use of Seesaw in the board is concerning because the content doesn’t easily travel beyond the school year, and one of the great features of an ePortfolio is the ability to look back on a previous year’s work and reflect on growth. Using the ePortfolio tool in the HUB (although admittedly less engaging from a User Interface perspective) would allow for students to carry their artifacts from year-to-year, school-to-school, and around the province while they attend publicly funded schools, and then beyond via myDesire2Learn. Can we be hard-nosed about some tools, while offering choice in others, without creating chaos.

How do we differentiate responsibly?

Published by jarbenne

Jared Bennett is the Student Information System Consultant at Hamilton Wentworth District School Board.

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  1. Jared, I always appreciate reading your thinking here, and hearing your questions. While I see a lot of what you (and others) do as a teacher in the system, I don’t always know all of the ins and outs. I just stumbled upon this recent post of yours, and thanks to the link, the post that you wrote on March 20th (not sure how I missed this one). I will say that I like the many different choices offered through our Board, and depending on the grade I’ve taught and the interests/needs of my students, I’ve used different ones. I don’t actually use The Hub a lot with students, but I have used it a lot myself, or to access content that I can share with students.

    The following comments/questions are more personal ones connected to Kindergarten, but I’m wondering if some others out there are questioning these things too, so I decided to publish them here.

    1) How have young primary students done with logging into The Hub, especially to access the Virtual Library? Are there tips that work well? I’ve used screenshots in the past, but most of my Kindergarten students still find this a challenge. Any tips? I would like to use the Virtual Library more, especially with some of my SK students.

    2) I can totally connect to your comment about Seesaw. This is kind of the reason that I’ve held back on using it. I LOVE the idea of the ePortfolio, and I think that the app would be easy enough to use (even for Kindergarten), but it’s the access of the usernames and passwords that make things more complicated. I’m trying to think of how this would work in a Kindergarten (or even young primary) classroom. Have others tried it? Do you have any tips for ease of use?

    Thanks for your help! I know that these questions only loosely connect to your blog post (or so it seems), but they came to mind after reading the post, so I decided to share them.


    P.S. Please keep doing the amazing things that you’re doing! The time and effort that you and others on the 21st Century Learning Team put into making these decisions are huge, and it’s clear how passionate you are about what you do. HWDSB definitely benefits from this passion!

    1. There are a few questions there. Some are easier than others. Here goes:

      In K I think I would make QR codes that go directly to the tool or resource from the virtual library. Many of those tools, although housed within the VL listings, authenticate through what’s known as an exit IP address. This means that within the school network you don’t need a username or password in order to access the resource. So something like Pebble-go or Book Flicks, could be made accessible via a QR code that the students could learn to scan. Try visiting http://school.eb.com within the school network to see what mean.

      With ePortfolio I would suggest you being signed in as the teacher and using the ePortfolio collection creator functionality to create collections shared with each one of your students. The students would then add content to their portfolio using the iOS app on a shared device, adding the content to the appropriate collection created for them using this tool: https://tv.hwdsb.on.ca/media/ep-collection-creation-tool-2

      We’ve noted the ease in which tools like Seesaw and Sesame provision access via QR codes. I would love to understand how that works. I assume it’s based on something like this: https://www.grc.com/sqrl/sqrl.htm. Seems like a great project for a computer science class to tackle.

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