When the pandemic started last spring, many schools found that educators needed to adapt in ways they never had before. The ways that they were used to teaching onsite had to be adapted for virtual learning. Teachers and students quickly found themselves overwhelmed and stressed. Millions of questions ran through their heads: “How do we move forward?” “What can we do to keep learning accessible and ongoing?” “Where do we even begin?”
Educators had to first start by picking a Learning Management System. After all, to move forward there had to be a digital platform that would allow teachers to provide instruction and that students could access from home before any other decisions could be made. Some districts already had a Learning Management System that was used districtwide, while others had to choose a system in a rush. But whether teachers already had a Learning Management System they used or found themselves quickly needing to learn how to use one, no one expected that they would have to pivot so quickly to teaching completely online.
New challenges arose from this pivot. Teachers found that, without having students in the classroom, engagement was more difficult, more responsibility was put on the student, and differentiated instruction needed to look different. Although it was a challenge for all, our youngest of students struggled the most because most Learning Management Systems aren’t tailored for Pre-K to third grade. Now, with a year of virtual/hybrid teaching under their belts, teachers have learned and grown tremendously. They’ve figured out how to make this work. Moving forward, they can refine what they’ve learned by considering what they want for their students and how they want to teach to choose the digital resources that benefit their young learners the most. So, let’s take a look at two Learning Management Systems specifically designed for young learners, and see exactly what they offer both teachers and students.
What Seesaw Has to Offer
Seesaw is a learning platform that can be accessed on a desktop or tablet. Seesaw offers early elementary teachers a place that provides age-appropriate digital tools to their students. Teachers can create or find lessons in Seesaw, students have a variety of tools they can use as they learn, and parents have access to view their child’s progress and stay informed. The Activity Library is where teachers have access to a bank of Seesaw activities that other users have created. It offers a starting point for teachers to begin and customize lessons for their students if they don’t want to begin from scratch. The tools that students have access to allow students to sketch, record, or take pictures of their learning, and teachers have access to those same tools to provide students support when completing their assignments. Teachers also have the ability for two-way communication with parents or can send announcements to both students and parents.
Users who have Administrator Rights for Seesaw can pull a Student Activity report, and teachers can click on daily activities to see which students have completed an assignment. Admin and teachers also have the ability to track progress using the Skills feature. Administrators are able to add skills for their campus, and teachers can tag assignments with those skills or add and tag additional skills. Teachers can then rate students’ proficiency levels for the tagged skills within an assignment and use the skills tab to see their progress.
What indipath Has to Offer
indipath is a new Learning Management System created by the innovative educators at engage2learn. indipath allows teachers to design intentional, differentiated instruction with the desktop interface and facilitate learning through the learner iPad app. Indipath offers a way for teachers to individualize students’ learning to mitigate learning loss and build learner agency. Within indipath’s teacher interface, the design process begins with the standards and scaffolding the learning pathway. Teachers can then align leveled assessments to determine a student’s entry point and assess when they are ready to “level up” so the flow of learning is fluid and not disrupted. Activities and resources that are added by the teacher are also leveled so that students can practice the skill and progress towards mastery of the standard. Creating new units within the teacher interface is intuitive and also includes additional features that help make designing differentiated instruction quick. The Discover Rubrics feature and Discover Resources feature can streamline scaffolding and adding resources or activities. These two features allow teachers to see how other teachers have designed their unit’s rubric or what resources or activities other teachers have created for the same standard.
The learner app then takes the teacher’s unit design and offers learners a digital system that allows them to track their progress using the learning pathway visual, keep work organized through to-do lists, celebrate growth through badging when they level up, and share their learning through video, picture, or text. Accessibility features are also built into the app. Students can click on the mic to have text read aloud to them, use speech-to-text for typed responses, or share learning through video or picture. The report page within the teacher interface also allows teachers to track student progress towards mastery of the standards in real-time, and the report pages can be shared through email or be printed out. There are also additional features on the way, such as two-way messaging, student portfolios that teachers can use to provide feedback to students, the ability to collaborate with other teachers on unit design, and more.
Consider What You Need and Want for Your Learners
Teachers expect their Learning Management System to include certain features, such as the ability to post activities, provide feedback, assess learning, easily track learner progress, and have an intuitive, user-friendly interface. Teachers also know the need for differentiated instruction and want their learners to have agency. Both Seesaw and indipath provide these features, while also offering differing services for teachers and students to serve their individual needs.
When considering what Learning Management System is best suited for you and your learners, first identify what your needs are and define what you need out of your LMS. Once you identify what you need and have a solid understanding of your expectations for an LMS, explore your options and keep your ultimate goal in mind: what is best for learners and will lend the tools to achieve the results you desire.