Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bored Teacher Summer Learning Series: Become a Blackboard Master

As you lay awake in your bed thinking of ways to pass the time while your students are away, I'm sure that it has crossed your mind to consider ways in which you will better connect, communicate, and deliver resources and content to them this fall.  Now really is the best time to think through that process, but it is also a great time to invest in learning to better use the tools that make this possible.

Well, Bored Teacher, it's time to take your Blackboard game up a level!

From the darkness of a summer without students comes the light
of having time to learn to better utilize tools like Blackboard.
Blackboard is our Learning Management System (or LMS) in the School District of Waukesha.  It has a growing number of staff users placing an exponentially growing amount of resources and content onto it.  Nearly every teacher in our high schools is using it on some level, many of our middle school teachers are moving in that direction, and even some of our elementary staff members are starting to explore the potential of having resources and content online in an organized, always available, digital format.

The real trick to Blackboard, the staggering point that holds many teachers back from adopting the
tool, is the initial learning curve.  Like anything that is powerful and new, getting started is the overwhelming part.  However, there are some resources that SDW teachers can utilize to jumpstart their Blackboard learning and get them on track to be a Blackboard Master by fall.

Stages of Learning Blackboard

When we teach Blackboard, we tend to do it in "stages."  In between each of those stages we encourage teachers to dig in and try the techniques, to build content within the courses, and to get hands-on with Blackboard.  Unlike many other tools, Blackboard is a tool that cannot be learned in a four hour PD session and simply mastered.  Blackboard is a tool that requires time, planning, exploration, and hands-on experience.  

With that said, we typically encourage teachers to go through this progression as they learn to utilize Blackboard for instructional purposes:
  • Course Design
  • Course Building
  • Course/Class Management in Blackboard
  • Communication and Collaboration Tools
  • Assessment and Survey Tools

In Course Design, we take people through the mental process of designing an online resource that is intended to be accessed without teacher support or presence.  Think about letting a contractor into your home to do some key tasks without you there.  Would they know where to go?  What to do?  Where to find what they needed?  These are key questions we ask in the Course Design section.

In Course Building, which is the most tedious and time intensive part of Blackboard course development, teachers build their course complete with resources, directions, media and all other necessary materials.

In Class Management, teachers "go live" with their course and introduce students into the environment.  This is a very logistically focused phase in which teachers need to "set it and forget it" as it relates to enrolling students and utilizing the course.

As teachers ask questions about what else can be done with Blackboard (generally after the first few phases are complete and there has been significant time within the Blackboard system), they enter into the question about how to have students communicate and collaborate within Blackboard.  They also may wonder about testing tools and assessment information, which can be utilized by students and teachers within the varied courses.

Resources for Learning to Use Blackboard

There are two centrally focused resources that we encourage you to use when learning to use Blackboard on your own time.  

Blackboard Course in Blackboard

This may sound counter-intuitive, but if you want to learn to use Blackboard as an instructional tool, one of the FIRST places to go is within Blackboard (  We have a professional development course, Blackboard in SDW, built out there that literally takes teachers through the Blackboard course building process from Design to Class Management.  With instructional videos and organized lessons, a dedicated staff member has an always-on resource to learn to use Blackboard as they see fit.

Blackboard in SDW is a self-enroll course when logged in as yourself in Blackboard (generally speaking, use the same username and password as your Google account).  Using a generic login will not allow you to follow the steps outlined in the video.

The video below will show you how to enroll in this course.

Blackboard Tutorials Playlist on YouTube

Another resource available directly from the School District of Waukesha is our Blackboard Tutorials playlist on YouTube.  We have curated this playlist to provide some of the most informative, personalized, direct tutorial videos we could find (or could make) to deliver relevant information as you learn to utilize Blackboard.  Many of these videos are also embedded within the Blackboard in SDW course mentioned above.

Check it out.  We are constantly adding new tutorials and videos to this playlist.

The link to the playlist is here:

Blackboard Learn Videos Direct from Blackboard

Blackboard has made an increasing commitment to establishing better tutorials and guides for end users (students, teachers, and system administrators) over the past few years.  One result of that has been the Blackboard Learn Video centers.  We recommend you check back here regularly to answer questions that you have about what Blackboard can do, how to do things within Blackboard, and to find resources to teach your students and parents about Blackboard.

The primary link (I'd bookmark this) is here:

Throughout that page there are subsequent links that may appeal to just students and just instructors.

All considered, there are SO many resources available to begin your journey to learning to utilize Blackboard well that you may just fill up your idle time becoming a Blackboard Master as you eagerly wait for your students to return.

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