It used to be simple.
Students used to have one place to look to know what they had to do. Their paper planner. Teachers would write assignments and messages on the blackboard, students would write them down. Done.
Oh how things have changed.
Teachers now have the opportunity to use some of the most innovative platforms out there to publish work to their students, ranging from workflow tools such as Google Classroom or Showbie, to full-fledged management platforms such as Canvas, eBackpack, Schoology and many, many more.
Sometimes, a school or District might choose one single tool for all that relates to student work, but more often than not, some teachers rely on their own preferred tool.
This means that sometimes they might use paper, the white board and any other means of verbal or written communication to inform students of work and due dates.
Where does this leave students?
Instead of having a single source of information, students must now track multiple ones: school LMS, calendars, email, paper, the board, verbal announcements, workflow tools, etc.
Middle School students are particularly affected as they start dealing with multiple teachers and multiple styles. Each of their teachers might use the school sanctioned digital tools or not. This is difficult enough at a time where student executive function skills, the ones which help them take action, decide and plan, need nurturing. This diversity of sources can definitely contribute to higher levels of student stress.
Being organized is a lot more than knowing about dates
One big issue is that most existing tools do not allow students to enter their own tasks. They might offer a way to publish information to students, but not for them to enter their own, let alone, plan when they will work on what teachers propose. These tools are focused on a one-way conversation from the teacher to the student, and then, only for the work they enter in the platform. Why is this an issue? When students can enter their own information, they can note tasks which are published outside of the standard tools in the same resource where the digital tasks are shared. They could do this on paper as well, but entering links to digital resources is not very easy and paper is no longer a productive tool for time management in the digital age.
Going digital does not improve organizational skills
It might not seem obvious at first, but from the student’s perspective, Middle School is already complicated.
Students deal with 7-10 teachers, each with their own style. It kind of looks like this:
When everything was all on the board and on paper, there was no variation and students saw everything in one place.
Now, things can look like this:
And the pressure is on students to link everything together.
In an ideal world, the student planner would be an open platform into which students and teachers could publish information and which could also display tasks from the school’s preferred educational technology platforms.
Until then, we must at least allow for students and teachers to enter information directly into the same tool, linking to external resources as needed, but allowing students to enter their own tasks is the first essential step which is lacking in most platforms.