This morning, I attended a presentation called ‘Pack Light for Performance’ by Nichole Lemmon and Bruce Douglas, both from Springfield Public Schools (SPS), MO.

The tl:dr summary of the talk offered by Nichole was ‘Needs vs Solutions.’ Rather than focusing on big, long range solutions, she emphasized focusing on the needs of the school district and instructors and finding light weight solutions that can be changed or updated whenever needed.

The presentation was targeted towards K-12 people, so some of the solutions developed in the SPS system aren’t applicable for my school, the University of Oklahoma. However, a couple of their ideas are universally applicable.

The first was their focus on student voice. In choosing an LMS, Springfield Public Schools sought student input. They had the students attend the LMS demos and provide feedback. The inability of many of the LMS providers to connect with their students and demonstrate the advantages of their systems ruled them out. Canvas’s sandbox platforms on the other hand allowed students to get into the system and evaluate it.

At OU, Mark Morvant led a ton of town halls and sought as much input as possible from students as we evaluated LMSs. Student sign-off was a big factor for us in deciding to make the move from D2L to Canvas.

The second idea that really struck a cord for me was the way that Springfield Schools uses Canvas to organize their PD. They have constructed a portal course with all of their PD courses nested inside of it. They also integrated videos within their own instructors to demonstrate various PD principles. Nichole noted that paperless PD is both effective and cost efficient in that simply moving away from reams of printed material for PD saves a good bit of money.

I really like the idea of using a single course as a portal for PD. One of the hurdles that I see in Canvas is a proliferation of courses that will make discovery difficult. The idea of a big course hub for PD may provide a single, course that lives in an instructors course portfolio from which we can push notifications about new initiatives and new PD. This might also allow for a sufficient user base of instructors and ID folks for an active, centralized discussion board.

A third idea that I need to look into more is the use of mobile hot spots. SPS uses Kajeet hot spots, both for instructors and for any student who doesn’t have internet access at home.