“Escaping from the LMS” –– #PressEdConf22 presentation

Last Thursday, 24 March ’22, was the 2022 #PressEd conference, “A WordPress and Education, Pedagogy and Research Conference on Twitter.” With some encouragement of Alan (aka Cogdog), I submitted a proposal and the next thing I knew, Natalie and Pat told me that I was in, and I had to figure out how to fit my idea into ten to fifteen tweets. Below you find my proposal, and the presentation, all in one handy blog post.

The original tweets went out starting at 9.30AM EDT, every minute (prescheduled) and you can find them all together in this “Moment” if you like to respond there.

Changes I made:

  • deleting the #PressEdConf22 hashtag in all posts,
  • adding captions for the images [Alt Text was already included, and is copied here]

Table of contents


Grades were the only thing keeping me inside the LMS. I went gradeless, and embraced the freedom of the www outside the LMS, using a WordPress site as the main platform, with student blogs and many other digital tools integrated into an online or “mask-to-mask” course.


1. Hello! I am Tineke, and I teach East Asian history @berghistory. I want to share how I inadvertently escaped the #LMS, and how #Wordpress helped me do that. The only reason to stay was the gradebook, where student grades were safe.

teacher climbs over a bookcase out of an open window and rolls out of the classroom
Escaping from the LMS

2. Background: I’ve been wary of the #LMS since I realized how many data points it collects on students (that I can see). Then in 2018 I heard about how Instructure once upon a time planned to use that (and more!) data: https://tinyurl.com/26mf3hb9

3. *Their* plan was shelved, but I stick to *my* plan: “Keep calm and don’t feed the monster”. So this means circumventing the #LMS. Suits me, because its focus on the gradebook goes against my focus on teaching as I moved to #ungrading.

Text "keep calm and don't feed the monster" in the style of the classic WWII British propaganda poster
(Trying to, but it’s not easy)

4. I adopted a fully #gradeless classroom, and use midterm and final check-ins to agree grades with students. Small classes are a privilege, I know! No gradebook needed, just tasks, reflections, peer feedback. So no need for the gradebook-centered #elemess.

Black man drags a bag over the drive to the curb and puts it decisively in the bin
If it doesn’t spark joy, throw it away!

5. After some adjustment, most students are ok, many are excited, some feel liberated. Plenty find it’s more fun and feels less like work. Real question from student: “Is it actually work? I feel like I’m having too much fun!” YES!! Likely you’re learning *more*!

A parakeet walks and hops over a white table. In the GIF arms are drawn in animation, as if the bird is walking with swinging arms, then jumping up and down with its arms stretched out in excitement
Happy dance!

6. In WordPress, I can show what students can do with their own domains: embedding content with iframes, creating pages vs. posts, linking to the outside world, playing with the sidebar (seen the Growth Mindset cats yet?) https://hst124.tdh.bergbuilds.domains

7. Borrowing from @OnlineCrsLady, I gather Ss blogs on a single page + randomize student feedback. I write response posts to class for feedback, highlighting individual posts and address common issues + model best practices, e.g. hyperlinking, incl. images etc.

A collage of three GIFs of cats furiously typing on a laptop keyboard
“How to internet”

8. Feedback on student posts is in our private @hypothes_is groups. It feels better to point out “oopsies” when it’s just our class, not the entire internet looking on! + you can add GIFS, video, hyperlinks (still waiting for audio comments 🥺 pls)

Animated form of a cat, who realizes he's made a mistake and holds his paw in front of his mouth as his eyes open widely.
Oopsies happen, it’s part of learning!

9. Result? Students have become more adventurous and use new, digital formats to show what they learned, e.g. interactive SPLOT on herbal medicine (play w/ tags) https://tinyurl.com/2p8aj6pc; or scroll down for the Zodiac race map: https://tinyurl.com/3tmprha6 (cont.)

10. Also a podcast on footbinding https://tinyurl.com/ac4sww93, and a documentary on trad. China in videogames: https://youtube.com/watch?v=El1YExJ991w (grab a cup of tea and sit back, it’s amazing!). These non-essay formats require good research and writing skills!

11. It’s also much easier to share assignments and resources with colleagues, even beyond my institution. One found me via Google, looking for teaching materials about Modern China, and wanted to know more about the map annotation assignment we did in 2018.

A white unicorn holds a tiny red heart and winks. On the white background, a rainbow appears behind the unicorn
Sharing is not just for unicorns

12. I now embed a link to an Airtable for tasks (assignments). I couldn’t make my LMS look this pretty. I haven’t perfected this side of #ProjectManagement yet, but it’s a touch more personal because *I* follow up missing tasks, not some “AI” thing 🚩

Screenshot of the embedded iframe on one course website; there are colourful pictures, titles of tasks such as First draft, Peer review, Second Draft, and due dates.
Screenshot of Airtable embedded in Assignments page.

13. I’ve played with WordPress in teaching since 2014, but am very lucky here @Muhlenberg we have #DoOO for students with great support! This opens so many creative possibilities I don’t know where to stop. Why do it? Because it’s there!

Gandalf the wizard with his pointy hat and long grey beard, holding a walking stick, says "I'm looking for someone to share in an adventure"
I can never resist an invitation like this.

14. Want to talk more? Check out my blog posts on #DigitalToolsForTeaching, many using WordPress or tools that integrate with it: http://tdh.bergbuilds.domains/category/pedagogy/digital-tools-for-teaching/ And I’m around for Q&A right now! #PressEdConf22

cartoon tiger in Asian style tilts it head to the left and a question mark appears over its head.
Questions? I may have answers!

Concluding thoughts and thank yous

  • If you get a chance to do a twitter conference, give it a try!
  • It’s harder than you think to fit it all into a handful of tweets –– lots went by the wayside, but a lot of people learned about my work and I learned about theirs. I like the asynchronous format with a synchronous component. You can catch up with the conference still, and with the presentations from earlier years, using the hashtags.
  • A big thank you to Natalie and Pat for organizing, and to Alan for poking me (wouldn’t have done it without your encouragement!)
  • A big thank you to Prof. Tom Mullaney, whose “Twitter thread builder” Google Sheet was a precious timesaving tool to create my presentation! (see also the video on why and how to use this thing)
About this blog series

This post is part of the second series explaining the digital tools I use for teaching courses online, face-to-face, and mask-to-mask.

If you like this post, please explore the others in the series, and sign up for new posts in the sidebar, under the Growth Mindset Cats 😀, add the blog to your RSS reader, or check back every other Monday, 6pm CET/12 noon EST, so you’ll never miss a post!

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