At St. Gregory this year, about half a dozen of our teachers are piloting a new program called Schoology, which functions simultaneously as a learning management system for teachers and a social network platform for students and teachers.  Inside it, teachers can post their syllabus and assignments, and, if they choose, track student attendance, maintain a gradebook, and much more. On the site, teachers can provide students resources and links, and organize materials into folders for better organization.

As Peter Smith writes in a helpful overview at EdSocialmedia, teachers can also “Quick Post Lesson Assessments:  Schoology gives the ability to create quick online quizzes, which I plan to use as post lesson assessments. These quizzes will be less than four questions and will give me a quick snapshot of how many students understood the material that day and how well I did as a teacher.”   Furthermore, the analytics sections of Schoology offers teachers “a great analytics tool which allows the teacher to know when and how often students access virtually anything in my course. This is a great way to hold students accountable who need the extra help but are reluctant to access it.”

More importantly, Schoology provides students a better tool to manage their various courses, keep track of assignments, and benefit from the calendar functions, which they can use as a planner for all courses operating within schoology.  Now, certainly many other LMS (learning management systems) offer all this, but what schoology adds is a social network element with a look and feel very similar to facebook, making it more intuitive and natural for regular facebook users.   Students can use a vehicle they are so familiar with, facebook style posting, commenting, threading and linking, and do so with their classes to enhance their learning.

For example, even as I write students in AP Government are discussing a recent Newsweek article by Howard Fineman, on the role of argumentation in American democracy.  The student conversation is rich and thoughtful: one student writes “The ability to bounce ideas around in the form of arguing allows us to refine good ideas (hopefully), as well as dispense with ideas that are not so well crafted by the power of questioning and criticizing.”  So often, this kind of student discussion happens only inside the classroom, and is limited by time constrains, such that only a few can have the time to talk, and by shyness and hesitation: it is hard for some very thoughtful students to jump into the fray of classroom discussion.

Another side-benefit: having been invited into the St. Gregory courses posted on our Schoology network, I as  principal/school-head am finding myself now to have considerably more information and insight into what is happening in the courses happening here on our campus.  This is a lovely, illuminating, and empowering window into our student learning assignments and experiences and the richness of dialogue and debate happening in our courses.

I intend to share again here on the blog the progress and, I anticipate, success of our Schoology experiment.  Readers using or familiar with Schoology are invited to share their experiences by writing a comment below.