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Three features to make #edtech classroom life easier

2 min read

One of the best parts of my job is speaking to educators and learning about how they teach. Teachers are amazing: creative and inspiring, often in the face of limited resources.

A trend we've seen is that teachers are frustrated by the social publishing and discussion features provided by their Learning Management System. While an LMS can help with grades and assignments, often it's important for a class to share their reflections, discuss ideas with each other, and post links, bookmarks and other resources relevant to their class from the outside world.

Known has always let you publish and discuss in a group using a variety of media: blog posts, bookmarks, status updates, audio, photos and more. It's always been mobile-first, had a choice of visual themes, and included full search and hashtag support. Recently, we also added per-post access permissions, so you can choose how widely you share your thoughts. (Not everyone is comfortable publishing to the whole group right away.)

Now, we've added a few new features to our turnkey campus product that we think make Known even better for class use.

Seamless single sign on integration with your LMS via LTI. If you're unfamiliar with LTI, it allows you to create a very simple single sign on link from your LMS. Students just click a link from their class in the learning management system and they're immediately logged into their class Known site.

A searchable student directory. See who else is in your class, search for them by name or profile information, and click through to see what they've posted.

File uploads. This is probably our most-requested feature: the ability to post any file, as well as your thoughts about them. If you need to share a PDF or a Powerpoint presentation with your class, now you can.

These features are only available as part of Known's campus plan, which also comes with unlimited storage and bandwidth. We think it's a great solution for institutions and educators who want to add better social discussion and publishing to their classes.

To learn more, check out Known for Education, or get in touch to have a conversation with us about how we can support you.

Running personal, connected courses with Known #edtech #edtechchat

3 min read

This fall, the University of Mary Washington in Virginia has been running the first online courses to use Known. As Jim Groom recounts:

Since August we’ve been working together to use Known as the syndication hub for the Wire106 course I’m teaching at UMW. It puts students in control of authoring in their own space, allowing them to push their work to a variety of social media networks like Twitter, SoundCloud, Facebook, and Flickr. Additionally, they can also push to a course hub, dramatically changing how simple it is to aggregate student work for a given course.

Known gives students a personal space where they publish their coursework, notes and ideas. They can then syndicate this content, if they want, to on-campus course software and their social networks.

We work with institutions to integrate with Learning Management Systems like Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard and Desire2Learn, but we've been surprised by how many educators want to bypass this step entirely and run their own course hubs. Known can provide a communal space for each class, that sits as a connective piece between each personal student site. More and more institutions are coming to us to ask about establishing these communal social spaces for their classes.

However you set Known up, students' personal Known sites are the key. As Jim notes:

One of the things that appealed to me immediately about Known is the simple, Tumblresque interface. Various content types, lightweight admin bar, frontend publishing, and a minimalist aesthetic. It’s everything I have learned to love about Tumblr, with the bonus of being open source and designed to capture a distributed network.

Learning Management Systems are designed around course administration, rather than learning. Institutions have been discovering that providing a space that encourages both self-reflection and social activity as a core aspect of its design is a better fit for their pedagogy.

Known is an open source platform, and every single feature has an API interface. That means it's easy to tailor for the needs of educators and institutions. (It's also worth saying that you always have control over your data and privacy.) We provide full support, and you have the choice of running Known on your own infrastructure or ours. That way we can match your institutional policy, technical needs, and available resources.

We're delighted that so many educators are following Jim's example. If you have any questions about running Known for courses, or at an institution, get in touch - we'll be glad to discuss the possibilities with you.