For teachers just getting started with managing distribution and assessment of digital assignments and resources, Google Classroom is an excellent starting point. It’s intuitive, pretty easy to get started with, and really excels at promoting collaboration between students. It’s not a fully featured learning management system (LMS), but what it does, it does really well!
Google Classroom is just one option for managing your online learning space. DDSB educators also have the option to leverage Moodle and Desire2Learn Brightspace (more commonly known as D2L) in their classrooms. Both options are robust learning management systems, but because they do so much, they’re often a little overwhelming to get started with.
This post will focus on just two of the many, many features of D2L that are actually pretty easy to get going with and don’t require that you know too much else about the various features that D2L offers for creating courses, discussion forums, assignment management, quizzes, etc.
The Portfolio tool in D2L is an impressively intuitive option for promoting student voice, reflection and metacognition. Students can capture snapshots of their learning through pictures and videos. They can submit files of pretty much anything that they’re creating to demonstrate their learning. It offers several methods for learners to submit evidence of their learning that makes it accessible to our youngest learners in kindergarten all the way up to our oldest learners in grade 12.
Methods of submitting evidence of learning can be done through various methods:
- Using the Brightspace Portfolio app (accessible in the DDSB App Catalog and free in the App Store and Play Store), younger learners can use the “Funster” in-class mode paired with individual QR codes and a shared class QR code to submit photos and a spoken reflection of their learning;
- Using the Brightspace Portfolio app paired with individual QR codes, older students can use the In-Class mode to take a photos, video, or selfie of their learning along with a spoken and/or typed reflection of their learning;
- Students that bring their own devices to class (BYOD) can use the Brightspace Portfolio app in “My Device” mode to submit evidence of their learning anytime to any of their classes that are using Portfolio. Connect the app to their DDSB account once, and it’s ready to go whenever they need it;
- Students can login to the Portfolio web tool to upload pretty much any file stored on their computer, Google Drive or Office 365. Once submitted, they can add comments to their submissions.
Once students submit evidence to their Portfolio, there’s a range of options for teachers to organize, tag, and identify how the evidence connects to the learning and expectations that are going on in their classroom. Teachers have the option to:
- Categorize student evidence: the four-frames of the Full-Day Kindergarten (FDK) program and “literacy” and “numeracy” are available by default, but you can add your own and use as many tags as you’d like;
- Write feedback that’s visible to students;
- Record anecdotal notes that are only visible to the teacher;
- Tag evidence with pre-populated Ontario curriculum expectations.
An additional option available in Portfolio is the option to “star” evidence of learning in order to spotlight evidence. For example, adding spotlight evidence could be done by the teacher ahead of a parent-teacher or three-way conference. Students who are accessing their Portfolio through the web can also take ownership of this decision so that they’re self-selecting which work best demonstrates their academic growth and achievement.
For details on getting started with D2L Portfolio,
- Access the Teacher Mobile Campus at teacher.ddsb.ca
- Click D2L Brightspace
- Click Teacher Resources
- From the Teacher Resources menu, click Portfolio Instructions.
Distributing OERB Resources through the Activity Feed
The Ontario Educational Resource Bank (OERB) offers a wide-variety of interactive tools and activities for students to explore. For example, the Targeted Implementation Planning Supports for Math (TIPS4Math) Scope & Sequence documents on the Edugains website makes reference to numerous student and teacher resources applicable to grade 1-10 numeracy resources. These documents reference a number of curriculum connected OERB resources that can enhance student understanding of a math concept. The one challenge with the OERB website is that it uses numerical coding to identify the resources that isn’t always easy for students to search and access.
As both D2L and the OERB are ministry-supported digital resources, they are easily integrated. Adding OERB tasks to the Activity Feed in D2L makes it easy for students to access those resources, supports a learning center approach to having students explore concepts, and can be done in just a few clicks. For those familiar with Google Classroom’s Stream or Classwork section, the Activity Feed in D2L will be familiar.
To use D2L as a method of distributing OERB activities to students:
- Make sure your D2L class has been activated (click here for instructions);
- Click the “+” in the Activity Feed to create a post;
- Decide whether the post will be a message or an assignment;
- Provide a title and/or instructions for students and decide whether students will be permitted to post comments to the post;
- Click the Attach icon and then click the “Attach Link to Existing Activity” icon;
- From the list of resources that can be posted, select “OERB QuickLink” found under the Third Party section (near the bottom of the list);
- In the “Type your search term here” field, enter the OERB ID of the activity you want to distribute to students.
For example, in grade 7, to explore identifying and representing integers, students could access the OERB task with the OERB ID “ELO1471080”. Type or paste this number in the search field and click Simple Search.
- A summary of the task will be shown in the search results. Teachers can preview the task by clicking the “Preview” button, and can insert the task into the Activity Feed by clicking the “Insert Link” button.
- At this point, the teacher can post the activity to the feed, or add additional activities in order to create a grouping of tasks that students can select from or work through during a learning center, or even reference for practice later or at home.
D2L offers a range of other options for managing digital content distribution, assignment management, online discussion, etc. If you’re looking for an easy entry point, focus on the Activity Feed. You may decide to ignore all the other features of D2L, or to look at them closer once you’re comfortable with the Activity Feed. Regardless, it’s an effective and accessible tool for making OERB resources available to students.
For more information on D2L Portfolio, check out the Using Portfolio in Your K12 Classroom webinar. For information on using the Activity Feed in D2L, check out the Building Lessons and Using Activity Feed in Your Classroom webinar. You can also connect with an Educational Technology Coach or Innovative Education Facilitator for more support.