15 Educational Apps in 15 Days: Haiku Learning, the Premier Learning Management System

My beloved mentor in the world of Jewish EdTech, Dr. Shmuli Spero OBM, used to say, "What do you give to the person who has everything? You give him a box to put it in." This saying encapsulates the importance of utilizing a good Learning Management System or LMS with your students. It's the box to put everything in. When trying to integrate technology effectively to facilitate the construction and sharing of knowledge, creating high level technology-assisted learning activities, and ultimately moving towards a paperless classroom, the LMS is the key component to easily deliver this content to students.

I have seen and used many learning management systems with my students including adapting wikis and blogs to serve as an LMS, teaching online courses for the MOFET institute using Moodle, and hosting classes on Edmodo. In my mind, the two leaders in LMS for K-12 are Schoology and Haiku and my strong preference is Haiku.

What Haiku Learning Offers

Haiku Learning offers all of the typical LMS features including the ability to post, submit assignments and grade assignments; create assessments in many formats and that can be timed while limiting the ability for students to open other websites to "find" the answers; use an online gradebook to calculate grades and share them with students and parents; design wiki-projects where students work in groups;  integrate on a daily basis with the student information system; utilize rubrics for feedback and grading and the list goes on and on.

The Advantages of Haiku

What makes Haiku superior is its strong integration with Google Drive, its ability to create rich visually stunning pages, and its high level of support with a constantly improving feature set.

Google Drive Integration

One can set up Haiku for sign in through one's Google Account where a teacher can add files directly from her Google Drive into a Content Block on the Page and students can submit any file from their Google Drive to Haiku. In this way, it is similar to other learning management systems. However, Haiku goes much further allowing teachers to create shared Google Docs directly through Haiku which are embedded on the page and which any student in the class can edit. I and many other teachers at my school have used this extensively to encourage collaboration. Some teachers have even crowdsourced the creation of their assessments by assigning students to compose essay questions on a shared Google Doc in Haiku. The fact the doc is embedded on the page makes it super easy for the student to find. No longer do she have to search through a "shared with me" folder on their Google Drive or respond to a link that was emailed to them. See an example from my Bible class in Jeremiah below.

One of my most savvy English teachers crowdsourced his entire final through Haiku. He assigned each student to compose essay questions for the final on a shared doc embedded on the Haiku page. He then spent the class review discussing the various questions, editing, combining, and whittling down these twenty plus questions to ten that they had to study of which he chose 3 to include on the final. One important thing to remember when doing this. Do not edit the actual Google Doc when creating the final because then students can actually see the final taking shape. (Even copying and pasting individual questions to a new doc is a no no since students can follow your cursor.) Rather, save a copy of the doc and then work off the new copy when creating the exam.

Visually Stunning Haiku Pages

Haiku works as an online library for all of the information one wishes to share with the class. It can be visually stunning which will naturally attract students to the content. One can embed pictures, documents, links, and even videos directly onto the page so students rarely need to leave the Haiku page. See an example of a piece of a rich Haiku page below.

Furthermore, through wiki projects, students can design Haiku pages with the same features as teacher created pages. I have a history teacher who is planning her presidential election project for this coming school year through Haiku's wiki projects. She is assigning groups of students from different classes to follow each presidential candidate. (At the current rate of the election cycle, there very well might not be a need to work in groups as there could be a candidate for every student in each of her sections. ;) Students will add various political cartoons, news items, editorials and videos to these pages. They can even work together from different classes editing and refining the same page. As each candidate drops out of the race, they will publish an "obituary" for the candidate. In the past, she used wikispaces to do this project but Haiku offers so many more options. Below is more information about this project from my Crowdsourcing Google Slideshow.

Superior Support

Haiku offers excellent customer support. There is a dedicated Haiku admin support line where one can call and get an almost immediate support person, rarely waiting on hold. The support staff is always knowledgeable and pleasant to deal with. One can email as well which creates a ticket that is usually responded to within an hour. The staff will even follow-up a day later to make sure the issue has been resolved to one's satisfaction. I know that support is something the average user does not research when choosing an LMS. But I can tell you that for a system as important to a school and potentially complex as an LMS or the SIS, the student information system, the level of support is a key factor to a successful implementation.  

For these reasons, I believe that Haiku Learning is the premiere learning management system. I welcome your comments on which LMS you use in your classroom and your experience with it.