Each summer I try to hone in on a few apps/programs/websites that I feel can positively impact my classes. This past summer I hit the jackpot with Schoology.
Schoology is an LMS, a Learning Management System. In short, a LMS is an app or internet-based program that is used to plan, implement, and assess your classes.
In order to explain its powers practically, here are the top 10 reasons (in no order) I am obsessed with Schoology:
1- Paperless classroom
You can honestly become a paperless classroom with the use of Schoology, or at least quite close. With Schoology, you have a hub for all of your assignments and class work. Its simple integration with PDFs, Google drive and any app that allows you to either save the video or image to your photo roll, or open the file into another app. For example: Pages, Keynote, Numbers, iMovie, Explain Everything. Once the work is submitted it is easy to grade in Schoology's web-based viewer (you never need to download anything!) and give student feedback. Additionally it's built in Dropbox is very powerful and easy to use.
2- Out of school, still “in” class
Last week I had a teacher WOW moment thanks to Schoology. I was sick and unable to come to school. As we all know, class just isn’t the same when we’re not there. No matter who the substitute, they remain, a substitute. However, this past week I was able to be with the class even though I was not in the building. I set up a discussion (see more about them below) in our Mishna class about a particular case we were about to learn and asked the girls to analyze it and post their thoughts. After posting their thoughts they were to look at the others classmates thoughts and discuss online in our Schoology discussion page. As the thread went on, I was able to follow along from my home on my iPhone. The kids couldn’t believe I was responding to their comments from home. I posted a few links for the students to look at and I was literally completely with the class even though I actually wasn’t. It was an incredible 40 minutes!
Schoology has an incredible calendar piece to their program. All of a sudden it is impossible to forget things. All of your upcoming assignments or tests will show up on the right side of your screen in chronological order. In addition, the use of folders within a subject gives your class a built in organized feel automatically.
Schoology has a built in calendar which highlights the upcoming events and tests and quizzes. It is impossible to forget things. On your homepage it is neatly located on the right side of the page. For my Chumash class, I posted all of our vocab tests for the year, what they were on, and their dates. For my Student Council page, I was able to schedule all of our meetings for the year and due dates for projects.
5- Online Tests & Quizzes
This one is huge. With Schoology, there are no more huge stacks of paper that you need to grade sitting on your desk. Ever been early to a meeting, waiting in the car, or pretty much anywhere with a few minutes on your hand wishing you had your pile of tests? With their online tests, quizzes, or assignments (more info below) you can access all of your students work on your smartphone, tablet, or on the internet. You can create timed tests, randomize the questions, differentiated tests, set the app to stop the test if the app is minimized, and many more options for every kind of teacher out there. There are also many types of test questions available: True/False, Multiple Choice, Fill-in-the-Blank, Reorder, Matching, and Short Answer/Essay.
6- Incredible iPad and iPhone app
When I first started looking for an LMS to use, the all-popular Edmodo was always mentioned first. As many have said before, Edmodo does a lot of things well. However, it's pretty weak on iPads and iPhones. This can completely limit its uses in any 1:1 class. However, Schoology thrives with their app. Their app is user friendly, has a really clean, beautiful look, and is just as good as their website. It's a one-stop solution for turning in students' digital work directly to Schoology assignments - from almost every productivity / creation iPad app we use.
I love the discussions piece to Schoology. No matter what system or method you use in a typical classroom for class discussions, you always feel as though only a few students are participating. You don't have time for everyone to participate, and the tier students in the classroom can lose interest too. In a Schoology discussion, every student is participating at once. It's a truly beautiful thing to see. I usually set up a trigger question and let the kids run with it. After they've shared their opinions, they comment on others posts. Not only do you get a perfect lead in to a class, you also can naturally teach digital citizenship, teamwork, and positive communication.
When setting up assignments you now have the ability to input rubrics. There are solid analytics such as how much time a student has been logged in for, how much activity...etc, you can take your class attendance there and set up Facebook-like notifications too.
9- It's Easy!
If you have ever used Facebook, you will get used to Schoology instantly. If you haven't, it is extremely easy to figure out intuitively.
10- Best of all, it's free!!
I've been using the free version this entire year and haven't felt limited at all. There are certainly advantages to a school edition, but that blog will have to wait until next year when we hopefully go school wide :)Hope you enjoyed! Give it a try!