Super Fast Screen Cast – EC&I 834

Here is a link to my summary of learning.

Thanks for a great semester, everyone!

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Connecting, Collaborating, and Creating!

EC&I 834 extended the knowledge that I gained in EC&I 833 … and it allowed me to, once again, connect, collaborate and create with so many incredible classmates – especially Ashley and Andrew!   Even though many classmates have now completed their Master’s studies, I know that the relationships that have developed – through Twitter, Google+, blogging, etc. will remain intact long into the future. (Go, PLNs!)

The highlight of the course, for me, was building an actual blended course on Digital Citizenship that I will be able to use with the high school students that I teach in the fall.   If you’d like to check it out, here is the log in information:

Username: ashleypmurray+canvas@gmail.com
Password: reviewer123

In this post, will introduce you to this course through the Course Profile.  I’ll then take  you on a journey of it’s creation (through links to my previous blog posts), and I’ll wrap up by sharing a link to a screencast, created with my teammates, Ashley and Andrew.  The screencast addresses some areas that require changes and basically responds to the  feedback that we received from our EC&I classmates.

Course Profile

You can find our Course Profile at this link.

Please note that it is written for the course instructor – not for the students.  A similar document (Syllabus) is included in our course on Canvas … but it is directed at the high school students who would be taking the course.

A Journey through Module Making

Here is a link to a few of my blog posts that discuss my experience in working with Ashley and Andrew to build this course:

Introducing our Prototype

Laying the Groundwork

Interactions in my Sections

Final thoughts on Module Creation

Responding to Feedback / Changes to Implement

My team had a chance to go through all of the feedback that we received; we

Photo Credit: Mufidah Kassalias Flickr via Compfight cc

appreciate the suggestions, the “oops-es” that were detected, and the positive comments!  Rather than each write responses to the feedback, we decided to discuss it and then record a screencast about it, as we walked everyone through specific parts of our course.   I did want to quickly comment on one very valuable piece of feedback that I received from a classmate.   The classmate noted that they didn’t notice any “artifact” that include content instruction in my module.  The Google Forms survey and the EdPuzzle were both intended to teach students about this topic.  The rest of the teaching would happen during our regular synchronous (or face-to-face) sessions.

As I state in the aforementioned screencast, I wanted the ideas about digital etiquette to come from the students.  It is for this reason that I start off having them record a Flipgrid about a time when someone upset or offended them by their use of technology.  The ideas that would be generated there would grow, very organically, as the module progressed.   I didn’t want to simply give students a list of what is considered to be good or bad digital etiquette.  What I would like to change about my module is the way that I used MySimpleShow.   In order to ensure that students understood what I wanted them to understand in the course, I would like to create another artifact:  a second MySimpleShow.  This one would be a sample of the final project (how to teach middle years students about digital etiquette).  Here’s a quick summary of my module… I’ve added a couple of details since receiving the feedback – just to indicate where teacher involvement would exist:

  1. Students will record a Flipgrid video describing a time when someone’s use of technology frustrated or offended them.
  2. Students will watch five classmates’ Flipgrid videos and they will write a blog post in response to a specific prompt about the content of the videos.  Students will be encouraged to read and comment on several classmates’ blog posts.  (The teacher will also read and comment on blog posts.)
  3. The students will anonymously complete a Google Forms survey that asks them about their own digital practices.
  4. The anonymous results of the survey will be shared electronically (or in a face-to-face setting or synchronous session).  The students will individually post their reactions to the survey results in their group’s Canvas discussion board area.  Students will be expected to demonstrate good digital etiquette when they participate in the discussion board.  (The teacher will also add to the discussion board posts, making sure everyone is modeling good etiquette.)
  5. The students will complete an EdPuzzle about digital etiquette.  They will be graded on four tasks that were included in the EdPuzzle.
  6. Students will read an article about digital etiquette.  They will prepare and submit jot notes covering ten key points from the article.
  7. The students will watch a MySimpleShow to learn about the final project that they will complete for the course.  The final project will be submitted electronically.  There will be opportunities to share the final projects with classmates during a face-to-face or synchronous session.  (Note:  I would like to create a second MySimpleShow … one that teaches middle years students about digital etiquette.  It could be another artifact for my project and it would be a great sample to which the senior students could refer.)

Here’s the link to the recording that Ashley, Andrew and I created in response to the valuable feedback that we received:

Final Screencast

To close, I want to comment that my team really enjoyed creating our “short course” on Digital Citizenship – and we learned a great deal in the process.  The fact that Ashley and I will be able to finish developing the course and put it into full use in the fall makes  this whole experience just that much more rewarding for us.  (Thanks, Andrew, for joining us on this journey!)  Congratulations to Ashley, Andrew, and the rest of the classmates who have completed their Master’s!!

Photo Credit: csu.montereybay Flickr via Compfight cc

I emptied the attic … and ran out of steam!

Photo Credit: april-mo Flickr via Compfight cc

So… in case you haven’t guessed…. the first part of this post is my ramblings about what I’ve finished (with Andrew and Ashley’s collaboration!) for the group project.  Anyone who has ever tackled a big project (for example, emptying an attic to sort, declutter, clean) and then got halfway done and ran out of steam might relate to how I’m feeling right now.   I worked SO hard on the project… thinking, planning, talking, thinking, creating, tweaking…  and I came up with, what I believe to be, a great collection of activities/assignments for my module.

And then, I ran out of energy…. or interest… or both.

I emptied the attic…

Photo Credit: april-mo Flickr via Compfight cc

I consider myself ‘very lucky’ to have Ashley and Andrew as my teaching AND learning colleagues!  Talk about the best of both worlds.  Over the last couple of months, we’ve had many opportunities to pop into each others’ classrooms to share an idea for “the modules” or “the project”.   Our initial planning took place using a Google Doc … but our close proximity and affinity for hallway chats seemed to take over where this tech tool left off.

Agreeing on the “course” we wanted to teach was pretty easy …  as Technology 9 / IP 10 teachers, Ashley and I were so grateful that Andrew was willing to lend his genius-ness to planning a Digital Citizenship “short course”.  (Yes – both Ashley and I will be using this course in our teachings next year!)   With Alec and Katia’s “Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools” document as our guide, we had no trouble selecting an area of “DigCit” that was of special interest to each of us.

Deciding on the platform to use (a totally new term for me… although I have been using

Edmodo for years 🙂 … I didn’t even know what it really was!).   We all explored Canvas and agreed that it was very user-friendly and visually appealing for students.  Once the “shell” was established, things started to take shape.  We independently planned the activities and assessment tools that would be used within our own modules.  (There was some conferring on this, as we wanted to make sure that a variety of tools were used and that a variety of assignments were given.)  I had trouble choosing what I wanted my students to do (explore, connect, share, etc.) for my module about digital etiquette.  I felt like a kid in a candy shop as I flipped through my EC&I 833 and 834 notes, finding one great ed tech tool after another.

I settled on bit of a collection…    for my module, the students will do a Flipgrid, blog about classmates’ Flipgrids, answer a survey about their level of digital etiquette, write a discussion forum post about the class’s digital etiquette, respond to other’s forum posts about #digetiquette, complete an EdPuzzle (that I made), read an article about good digital etiquette, and create a MySimpleShow to educate middle years students.  I was excited when I was creating these activities… and I’m even more excited to put them into action!

In addition to choosing our tools, planning our assignments and evaluation methods, as ed tech lovers, we all enjoyed MANY tangents into areas of digital citizenship that were not at all related to our specific modules.  Each of us had, as a result, gathered fantastic resources for teaching many Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship.  Filling in bits and pieces of the “extra modules” for our short course was a great way of making use of our excellent findings.

…and, ran out of steam!

Photo Credit: cseeman Flickr via Compfight cc

Just like the kid who chooses to a) watch TV and b) THEN go clean her room (truthfully, I’d be happy if any of my little people got to ‘b’ … regardless of the order of events!) … somehow, for this project, I did all of the fun stuff first – and I left the less thrilling tasks to the end.  Despite the fact that my two much younger, much tekki-er, and much more disciplined colleagues have finished all of their project responsibilities, I have yet to:

  • create any of my assessment rubrics
  • create the syllabus that will accompany our “short course”
  • fill in the extra resources that I found for the other modules
  • add bits and pieces about audience, rationale, objectives, etc.

Photo Credit: Mufidah Kassalias Flickr via Compfight cc

I actually know what I want to do / what I need to write for each of these remaining project elements … it’s just a matter of sitting down and getting it done.  I still have six days, right?  If I tackled one of these bullets each day, I’d still have two days to just sit back and relax, right?  Uhhhhmmmm… I mean…. Tweet, read and post on Google+, finish this blog, read a bunch of blogs and share my thoughts, plan my summary of learning …    … Well, too bad for me.  I can’t leave all of those attic items just lying in the middle of the living room.  I have to get back to work and finish this project!

I hope you are all well on your way to the state of “project completion” !  Happy planning!

Nancy

p.s.  Look at me… I just wrote this entire blog post INSTEAD OF FINISHING MY PROJECT.   How did I distract myself AGAIN?  😉

Preparing to Dip my Toes in Muddy Waters

Photo Credit: Melissa Hillier Flickr via Compfight cc

In Adam’s blog post, he stated that, “Unfortunately, many teachers are not familiar with the open source websites or how they can be used in a productive way.”  In some ways, I’m afraid I might be one of those teachers.  

Openness in education is quite a new concept to me.  I only recently learned that open textbooks were being produced and made available by a number of institutions, including the University of British Columbia.  Last semester, I heard about MOOCs.  Although I haven’t had time to explore these, I am fascinated by the learning opportunity that exists in this area.  My knowledge of open learning opportunities has been growing (exponentially) since September 2016, when I enrolled in my first class with Alec.

As someone who was completely new to Twitter, prior to taking EC&I 833 in the fall, I had some reservations about sending my thoughts out into the open, online world.  This feeling of trepidation didn’t exist when working with the other tools because they were ‘closed spaces’.  I didn’t anticipate anyone from outside of the class to ever come across my blog space or to read my Google+ posts or comments.  Although I had only ever met a handful of my classmates, I felt an immediate sense of trust … perhaps due to our shared journey (graduate studies) or because most of us were teachers, in one sense or another.

Some Challenges with Open Learning

After a month of so of using Twitter, I began to get the hang of it.  A classmate told me about Tweetdeck and Hootsuite to help me see more of what I wanted to see on Twitter.  I learned how to follow some excellent educational groups and I started to contribute to my profession with my own tweets.  Then one week, I received a couple of notifications that I had new followers … one was a student of mine and the other was someone whose profile details were definitely not in line with my interests.  Suddenly, Twitter became a place of discomfort, rather than a productive, connected learning space.  

My frustration with having a student follow me was unfounded.  I realize that now.  There was no reason for me to be uncomfortable with him reading my tweets, as they were all about educational technology and teaching, in general.  I suppose I didn’t want him to know about my own journey as a graduate student, because, at school every day, I was the teacher, not the learner.  My concerns were doubly-unfounded, as, I’m quite certain that, after seeing how dry my tweets were, he likely stopped following me anyway!

I decided not to wait around to see what the other follower thought of my tweets. After briefly consulting a more “Twitter astute” classmate, I decided to block the person.  Someone who could be so crude on his profile page did not deserve to take my valuable time reading his replies to my tweets.  Once I’d blocked him, my anxiousness returned, as I worried that he would see that I had blocked him and would, perhaps, be offended by this.  What I thought he’d do, I have no idea, as we likely live a million miles apart.  But, still… it was this unknown … this unwanted connection to the open online world … that I found to be a bit disturbing.

Another puzzling experience that I had recently involved using what I believed to be

“closed tool” that turned out to be “open”.  In an introductory ELA 10A lesson, I asked my students to create a Flipgrid video describing a famous person who had overcome an incredible challenge.  When I logged in to start viewing the Flipgrids, I was so surprised to see that some of the videos had 250 views.  In a class of 21 students, I couldn’t really explain how this could happen.  I didn’t send the link to anyone … I simply shared it in an Edmodo post for that class.  Some of the students asked how that could have happened.  I said that, perhaps the link was made public by someone? I really wasn’t sure.  I was happy that, with only the basic version of Flipgrid, no one could comment on the students’ videos.  I wouldn’t have wanted a bunch of outsiders sharing their “two cents” about the assignment.  I guess I wanted to maintain ‘control’ of the assignment and what students got out of it.

It’s no surprise then that, when I read Benita’s blog title, I could immediately connect to her ideas.  In her post, “Control vs. Chaos”, Benita looks at closed learning as being very controlled, while open learning might lean a bit closer to chaos.  According to Benita, “for those of us that love chaos, breaking the rules, questioning everything, make our own rules and like to be free then open learning is for us.”  Perhaps my own “still developing” knowledge of educational technology keeps me from allowing this type of “chaos” to become a part of my classroom.

I don’t even need 140 characters to explain my slight resistance to “open learning”… I could simply state the word “Twitter”.  Twitter?  No – I still have trouble imagining setting up a class hashtag on Twitter… especially with a group of grade nine or ten students that I’d never taught before.  How would I be able to trust that they would make safe and appropriate choices when it came to tweeting?  Education and good modeling has to happen first.

Angela made this point in her recent blog post.  She noted that, “with proper digital citizenship education starting when students are very young, we can set them up to have successful online skills.”  When it comes to considering adopting “open learning” in the classroom, the teacher must become informed about digital citizenship, too.  According to a Be Web Smart article, some tools clearly indicate that they are not meant for children.  Other tools, like Twitter, for example, don’t actually ask for age verification information… they simply state in their privacy policy that the tool isn’t really geared toward those who are under the age of thirteen.

Until recently, I didn’t even know that there were recommended ages for educational technology tools, apps, etc.  I just assumed that parents made the decision as to when their child was “ready”.   … reconsidering this, though, it is VERY clear that many parents are quite technologically illiterate and, in fact, have no idea what their children are doing when they’re online.  (On that note, here’s a link to the new Screenagers movie that explores “growing up in the digital age”.)  For parents or teachers who are interested in staying in tune with new apps and other tech tools, Common Sense Media is a reputable site to visit.

So, even though I’m still unsure about adding open learning to my teaching repertoire, I am definitely aware of many tools that are available should I choose to try this out AND

I know of many teachers who are comfortable in this “chaotic but effective” learning space. I feel relatively well-equipped to at least dip my toes in these muddy waters.  And … with each EC&I ed tech class that I take, I move one step closer to the “other end” of the spectrum.

Where do you fall when it comes to open learning?  Will you take baby steps when it comes to moving from a more closed learning teaching space to an open space… or will you just dive right in?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Nancy

Modelling Isn’t Just About Runway Swagger!

Okay, so no one can argue that this 80-year-old model has got that swagger that fashion designers dream about!   But, I’m afraid this isn’t the kind of modelling that I’m going to be talking about.  (Sorry to all of you fashionistas and catwalk queens!)

By “modelling”, I’m referring to the act of “serving as an example” (dictionary.com).  As Ashley stated in her post, and as Andrew reiterated, we are truly hoping to model the blended learning format that Alec and Katia have created for us in their series of five ed tech courses.

After MUCH deliberation, exploration, frustration, determination (and any other “tion” word you can imagine!), I believe I’ve finally decided on the ed tech tools that I will be using for my module.  [Backtracking for a moment…  Ashley and Andrew both already shared our overall group plans to include a Twitter hashtag for our Digital Citizenship class (with encouragement to use Tweetdeck or Hootsuite), a blog hub (with the option to use Feedly),  along with making full use of the assignment and discussion capabilities of Canvas (as our main learning management system).]  My (additional) chosen tools are Flipgrid and EdPuzzle.

JUSTIFICATION / PURPOSE OF EACH TOOL

Twitter Hashtag

Like so many of you have mentioned (Ashley, Andrew, and many others!), to busy people, Twitter can just seem like a waste of time.  I intentionally avoided Twitter, Facebook (still avoiding that one!), Instagram (intrigued by this, but not yet a user … can be a great tool to use to send students on a scavenger hunt, per Catlin Tucker!), Snapchat (laughed my head off at this one the first time Ashley showed me what the filters could do!!) …  but, I now feel that Twitter has become a reliable resource for me.  It connects me to educators from faraway places.  I can follow entire groups of people who are working toward goals that are similar to mine (ex. #skteachers or #21stedchat).

More than just being able to communicate easily with one-another, Ashley, Andrew and I want the students in our Digital Citizenship course to learn how to use this tool effectively, respectfully, and responsibly.  We will provide clear instructions about expectations for use and we will model good “tweeting practices” throughout the semester.

Blog Hub (likely WordPress)

My first experience with blogging was last semester for EC&I 833.  Completing my very first post took me several days, as I typed, deleted, restarted, and grew more and more unsure of what to write.  After reading the blog posts of so many incredible classmates (colleagues), I began to understand the true meaning of blogging.  (If you’re still unsure about it, WordPress has some great tips here!)

In both EC&I 833 and 834, I have acquired SO much knowledge – simply from reading the posts of classmates, clicking on their links, following up on my own pingbacks, etc.  For our Digital Citizenship class, we’ll use the blog hub as a place for students to share their work, view the work of others, and comment on what is being created.

Discussion Board on Canvas

According to the resource guide, Mastering Online Discussion Board Facilitation,  one of the benefits of using discussion boards in an online class is that, “Students are able to reflect upon their ideas before sharing them with the class, leading to more reflective responses and in-depth learning.”   Although I have had little experience using a discussion board (unless Google+ qualifies as a discussion board ??), I anticipate it being one of the key features of Canvas that my group members and I use for our modules.

With the discussion board, we’ll actually be able to create groups  – and we can assign different questions to different groups.  We could then let these smaller groups return to one large group to share what was discussed about their particular topic.  (A jigsaw activity, of sorts.)  For my particular module, I plan to let the students brainstorm their final assignment plans using the discussion board (in small groups).

NOTE:  We’ll also be using Canvas for posting assignment instructions, etc.

Flipgrid

I’m already a huge Flipgrid fan.  Thanks to Alec for introducing us to it at the start of EC&I 833!   Given that my module will be the first one for students to complete for our Digital Citizenship course, I plan to use this Flipgrid as a way for students to introduce themselves and hear the voices of their classmates.

My specific plan is to start my module off with asking the students to create a Flipgrid in response to the question, “In ninety seconds or less, talk about a time when someone used technology in a way that annoyed or frustrated you.”  This will be the “hook” of my lesson.

EdPuzzle

I’m a new EdPuzzle user (I’ve created one so far, but I haven’t had a chance to share it with students yet, as we’re just wrapping up a different unit).  Finding a quiet place to record my audio was the trickiest part of using EdPuzzle!  For my module, I have selected a TEDx video about digital etiquette.  I’ll add some questions for the students to respond to as they watch the video.  There will be either an activity or short quiz at the end of the video.

PowToon*

For my final assessment of student learning, I will ask the students to use technology to create a teaching lesson for a younger grade on the topic of digital etiquette.  Although I’ve never used PowToon, I’ve watched several that other’s made… including Natalie’s summary of learning from last semester…  and I think it will be just the right fit for children learning about DigCit.

It is QUITE possible that I will give students to option to create their teaching project using MySimpleShow instead of PowToon.  I recently checked it out after reading about it in Carla’s blog post…  it looks fantastic.  Maybe I’ll give the students the option for their final assignment for my module.

CONCLUSION

So… you might be thinking …. “Wow – this seems like a LOT of different ed tech tools for the students to be expected to use!”  … and you might be right.  We plan to provide the students with a quick “cheat sheet” about all of the tech tools they’ll be using.  (Focusing on the tool’s purpose and our expectations for frequency of use / application of the tools.)

In response to the question, “Can there be too much tech?” … the answer is “yes”.  But, as super techy teacher, Nakita Gillespie states in a video shared by Jen H. …

“Using various devices and apps in the classroom each day means [students] will become more and more fluent… it won’t be something they have to learn later to be successful.  That will just be second nature to them.”

Technology is not decreasing.  Its use is expanding into new areas all the time.  I acknowledge that, with the good, comes the bad but, hopefully, with good teaching, students begin to respect technology and its users so that the growth in this field is never viewed as a colossal mistake.

I’d love to hear your comments … or your experiences (good or bad!) with any of the tools that I’ve mentioned here.  Does this sound like a feasible plan (for our group to roll out and for the students to complete)?

Thanks for reading!

Nancy

Going where this girl hasn’t gone before!

Photo Credit: Martin_Heigan Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Martin_Heigan Flickr via Compfight cc

GOING WHERE THIS GIRL’S NEVER GONE BEFORE!

With a whole week’s break from most of my children’s activities, without having to plan lessons or do a bunch of marking, and with a night off of class, on February 17th, I looked forward to having time to relax… uhhhhhhh, no… scratch that.  I looked forward to being able to dive right into all of the amazing blended learning and ed tech tools that I had not yet had time to explore. (Typical teacher, I know!)  

Sure, I could have used some R&R but, after weeks of reading so many fantastic blog posts, and after several opportunities to gain wisdom from Tony Bates, I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the blog prompt for the break.  I wanted to “DO BLENDED LEARNING”.  I wanted to actually create some blended learning opportunities in my own classroom.  Yes, of course, I’ve been incorporating various ed tech tools and “moments” into my teachings this past school year (thanks to everything I’ve learned through EC&I 833 and 834) … but I wanted to do more.

Until now, I’ve been easing my way into the blended learning environment … my hesitation emerging as a result of some self-doubt … as a result of my fear of not getting it right.  But then, I read Natalie’s post.

I really appreciated the quote that she included by Fischer about blended learning being a “process of innovation”, rather than an “event”. Thinking of blended learning as an event – as I had, in some ways, been doing – made me feel that I would either get it right, or I would get it wrong. The idea of “creating” a blended learning environment through trial (and error) seemed much less daunting!

Kyle was also helpful in this regard, as his post included an article called 6 Disadvantages of Blended Learning by Scott Winstead.  Winstead’s six harsh criticisms of blended learning / flipped classrooms forced me to consider some possible areas of concern regarding this endeavour. Two of the criticisms that were mentioned were “teacher overwork” and “plagiarism/credibility”.

Addressing the “Teacher Overwork” Criticism of Blended Learning/Flipped Classrooms

My experience has shown me that, to make a really great lesson (or series of lessons), teachers often have to invest many, many hours.  In most cases, the students are able to complete the tasks – whether they be online, hands on, or on paper – quite quickly, compared to the time put in by the teacher.  For example, the ThingLink that I recently created for my Law 30 class likely took me more than an hour to make, but students could have easily finished it in twenty minutes.  So, why would I work that hard for such a short student experience?  Well… I hope that it was effective and memorable for the students AND I hope that I can use it again with future Law 30 classes.

I can’t disagree that preparing for a flipped classroom isn’t time consuming for a teacher – just as creating Socrative questions, developing Aurasma augmented reality experiences, or making up a Google survey all take time.  But, if students are engaged by these interesting ed tech tools, the time saved in dealing with classroom management issues or chasing down incomplete assignments would more than compensate for extra teacher “input time”.

Addressing the “Plagiarism/Credibility” Criticism of Blended Learning/Flipped Classrooms

I have to admit that I’ve wondered how many students cheat in “online learning environments”. Is the number comparable to a regular classroom environment?  Is it higher?  It just seems so much easier to share assignments, plagiarize ideas, etc. when a

Photo Credit: vozach1234 Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: vozach1234 Flickr via Compfight cc

teacher and classmates aren’t present – and when there’s little to no face-to-face interaction.  My gut feeling tells me that “cheaters are cheaters”.  The same students who would steal copies of old exams, hide cheat notes on an eraser or inside their watch band, etc., are the students who would have someone else complete online assignments for them or simply copy other people’s work to submit it as their own.  

With so many people committing to lifelong learning – whether through face-to-face classes, traditional online education, MOOCs, or just YouTube videos – I would like to think that cheating has subsided.  Perhaps people are beginning to enjoy the process of learning – and are no longer simply focused on finishing. (This is coming from a Master’s student – and is being shared with Master’s students – so those in high school or the undergraduate world may be of a totally different mindset!)

Ready to Try This!

As I read each critical point, I felt quite confident in my ability to dispute the author’s beliefs.  Kyle, too, was able to poke holes in the author’s skepticism about blended learning and flipped classrooms.  This only brought about a greater feeling of confidence in my ability to have success (or, at least, do little harm!) in trying some serious blended learning in my own classes.

And Then I Struck Gold …

If only my husband had shared my enthusiasm when, at 9:30 pm on a Saturday night, cup of tea in hand, I exclaimed with pure joy about having discovered Catlin Tucker and her list of “Favorite Web Tools”.  I was practically beside myself when I actually checked out a couple of her recommended tools, including CommonLit and EdPuzzle.  Three hours later, I pried myself away from my computer to find sleep for my screen-drained eyes.

MY UPCOMING PLANS FOR SOME BLENDED ELA 10

Big Thumbs Up for CommonLit!

CommonLit is an amazing site that includes stories, questions, quizzes, related text, and other media for teachers in most subject areas.  Stories can be selected based on theme, title, or related texts and are categorized by subject area and by grade leve.  I chose stories that involved struggles or challenges and limited my search to the 9th and 10th grade levels.

20170228_220828I was so surprised to find some of the stories with which I was already familiar included on this site.  One story was “The Sniper” … a civil war story that takes place in Ireland.  I’ve just finished working on this story with my students, so I looked at the “paired text” options that CommonLit identified.  I was happy to see several other war-related stories that would match up very nicely with “The Sniper”.  The story that I chose to use was “A Horseman in the Sky” – another tragic tale of civil war.   (I already have two other “paired stories” saved in my “Favourites” folder on CommonLit.  One of them even has a video that can be shown to provide more background information to the students!)

The students liked the format of CommonLit, but the story, itself, was very difficult to 20170228_222008comprehend. It was written in the 1800s and, although the vocabulary and footnotes helped to clarify things, my students still found it to be quite a challenge.  I loved, however, that they were able to complete everything online and that I could see their progress and their success at answering the multiple choice questions.  Thankfully, we have a face-to-face class tomorrow, where we can reconnect and discuss the more difficult parts of this story.

(Love blended learning!)

Here are a few things that I really like about CommonLit:

  • It was so easy to create my teacher account and set up my class(es)
  • I could have students join my class by sending them a link
  • I could easily assign different stories, poems, etc. by clicking “Assign Text” while viewing that piece of writing
  • While reading the text, my students could click on little bubbles positioned near challenging words in order to view a definition of the term
  • Each story, poem, etc. includes questions that the students must answer by the assigned date
  • Questions for stories are either “text-dependent” (in multiple choice or short answer format) or “discussion” questions (longer format)
  • This is great for blended learning environments because the text-dependent questions can be completed online, at home and submitted to the teacher through the CommonLit platform, while the discussion questions are meant to be shared in class
  • For each poem/story, there is the option to have the story read aloud right on the site (note:  it is a rather mechanical voice!)
  • There’s a “guide for teachers” to help share some deeper insight into the stories
  • On my teacher page, I’m able to see the progress of each student in the class
  • It’s free!

If you’re curious about CommonLit … here’s a link to the FAQs page!

EdPuzzle… You Go with Videos Like Milk Goes with Oreos!

With CommonLit in my back pocket, I decided to create more blended learning opportunities for ELA 10 (as this is basically a “new prep” for me this semester, after not having taught it for about 9 years!).  Thankfully, I came across EdPuzzle.  In an effort to have the students consider challenges that they might face in the years ahead, I selected a video called “Introducing Gen Z”.  I want to use this video in a new part of my “Challenges of Life” unit … basically showing the students some of the preconceived notions that people might have of them. I want them to question the accuracy of the beliefs about Gen Z.  This video shows the differences between what employers believe Gen Z’ers are like … and how the Gen Z’ers actually perceive themselves to be.    The video was about 3 minutes long, but I have trimmed it down to 2:41.  I added an introductory audio clip, explaining the purpose of the EdPuzzle.  I also added “audio tags” (questions) to help the students engage in the video – rather than simply “viewing it”, as they might view a television show.  The EdPuzzle wraps up with a five-question quiz that the students complete right on the EdPuzzle site.  (We have not yet reached this part of the “Challenges” unit, so I don’t have any student feedback to report at this time.)

Here are a few things that I really love about EdPuzzle:

  • It’s easy to create your own teacher account
  • This ed tech tool lets teachers add questions, activities, quizzes etc. to videos
  • The bank of videos is QUITE enormous, as it includes postings by sites like Khan Academy, TedTalks, YouTube, National Geographic
  • Teachers can trim the videos to focus on only the parts that they want their students to view
  • EdPuzzle walks you through the entire process, with help videos all along the way
  • If you can’t finish everything in one sitting, just save it to your account
  • You can share your EdPuzzles with students by sending them the link or through Google Classroom
  • You can set the EdPuzzle to “not allow skipping” so that students have to answer all questions before finishing
  • Students type their answers to the quiz at the end of your EdPuzzle and you can view them from your EdPuzzle account
  • It’s free!

Here is my final EdPuzzle regarding “Generation Z”!  (I wasn’t able to embed this.)

Mrs. Armstrong’s Generation Z EdPuzzle

Adding audio notes:

Video showing the view from a student’s account:  

Video showing how to share the EdPuzzle:  

Next up on my list of things to try …  Audacity, Movie Maker, GoAnimate, VideoScribe, Touchcast…. and the list goes on, and on, and on!!

Let me know if you’ve given EdPuzzle, CommonLit, or any of these other great educational technology tools a try!  I’d love to compare notes!

Thanks for reading  🙂

Nancy

Pump up the Volume! Pump up the Volume! Pump up the Volume! Learn! Learn!

Photo Credit: 2bmolar Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: 2bmolar Flickr via Compfight cc

Pedagogy.  Although it’s an integral part of my life, both as a learner and as a teacher, I sometimes have to take a step back to pinpoint its meaning.  According to dictionary.com, ‘pedagogy’ is defined as “the principles, practice, or profession of teaching the art or science of teaching; education; instructional methods”.

In his open textbook, “Teaching in a Digital Age”, author Tony Bates examines the pedagogical differences of media such as text, audio, video, etc.  Prior to reading his work, particularly chapter 7, I don’t really believe that I put a great deal of thought into what medium I was using during a particular lesson … or why.  I certainly wasn’t considering the “content, content structure, or skill” about which Bates writes.

In many cases, I used a resource simply because it was available or because it was something I’d used before.  At times, I would switch media simply to offer the students some variety – but not really with much consideration of other factors, such as how I might assess the student, based on the medium used.

So, given my limited pondering over the use of media in the classroom, I had to do some serious thinking about the blog prompts for this week:  “What are [my] learning preferences when it comes to digital resources?” and “How does Bates text line up with [my] own experiences?”

My Digital Learning Preferences

In reading Katherine’s recent post, I had to give full props to her teacher for his/her efforts to welcome various media into classroom assignments.  Katherine describes a particular assignment which she chose to complete by creating a video.  In her words, “the digital resource (in this case video), provided me with an opportunity to dig deeper and enjoy a text and medium I would not have otherwise.”

I could relate to this … but from a couple of decades earlier!  I had a similar experience in elementary school … about grade 6, to be more specific.  Our task was to prepare a mock news report.  Most students chose to write out articles in “newspaper format”; as the teacher gave us some freedom in this regard, two friends and I decided to create a radio show.  We planned our script (I remember laughing our heads off – we thought it was the funniest thing in the world), recorded it on a cassette tape, and played it for the class.  Take a trip back to a few decades to hear this for yourself!

(Oh my goodness.  It took me over an hour to try to insert this simple clip!  Apparently, WordPress doesn’t like mp4 files … and I didn’t know how to convert it.   I finally uploaded it to YouTube.  I hope this works!)

Not only was that project a lot of fun to complete… it was also a challenge, as we had never before worked with recording audio for an assignment.  To this day, I am drawn to audio as a learner … and in other areas of my life.  

Andrew once mentioned that he sometimes prefers to listen to a Jays game, as opposed to watching it.  I feel the same way about CFL games.  When I listen to the play-by-play commentary of a Saskatchewan Roughriders game, I am definitely more aware of what is happening.  Everything else seems to stop.  I turn inside my brain and just listen to the detailed accounts shared by the commentators.  I am somehow more focused – perhaps my ears are on high alert because I don’t have visuals to distract me.  Or, as Bates suggests, perhaps it is due to the sequential fashion in which information is presented when the medium is ‘audio’ (Ch 7.1).  I must be a rather linear thinker!

In spite of my fondness for audio as a learner, as a teacher, it really wasn’t in my repertoire.  In fact, I had never had my students listen to a podcast or other audio recording, nor had I given them the task of creating a podcast as part of their own learning.  I recently chose to step out on a small limb and try something new with one of my classes.

After reading chapter 7 of Bates’ text book, Teaching in a Digital Age, I decided to read a story aloud to my grade 10 English class.  Without copies of their own to look at, they sat silently and devoured every word.  Like me, they seemed to be more focused with only one sense ‘in use’!  

How does Bates’ Text Line up with My Experiences?

a)  Finding the Right Match

Photo Credit: gerrypopplestone Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: gerrypopplestone Flickr via Compfight cc

Now, although I feel like my ELA 10 “read aloud” lesson was successful, you couldn’t ever convince me to use audio as the sole medium through which to teach ‘the organization of a courtroom’ for Law 30, for example.  Or – even better – to teach sewing to a bunch of grade 9s, should I ever be given the challenge of a PAA class!

Bates puts it best when he says, “One of the arts of teaching is often finding the best match between media and desired learning outcomes.”  To successfully find these matches, Bates recommends considering content, content structure, and skills.  As I mentioned earlier, I’m afraid my inclusion of various media in my classroom has always been rather haphazard… or, at least, lacking in the kind of calculated method that Bates describes.

b)  Video is Best for Skills-Based Learning

Ashley, and many others, have stated that they use videos when certain skills need

Photo Credit: derekskey Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: derekskey Flickr via Compfight cc

to be taught.  Bates’ also suggests using video when “it would be too difficult, dangerous, expensive or impractical to bring students to such events”.  My only experience using video for teaching a skill would be in IP 10, showing the students how to create charts and graphs in Excel.  I suppose I’ve also used videos to show students what life is like inside a prison, as it would be difficult and possible dangerous to take them inside a real prison as a Law 30 outing.

c)  The Trouble with Text

Liz, Ashley and several other EC&I 834 classmates have “admitted” to loving good ‘ol fashioned text.  It is so true that this medium stands the test of time.  On that note, however, I had a major “Ah ha” moment when I read Bates’ statement, “Indeed, one of the limitations of text is that it requires a high level of prior literacy skills for it to be used effectively for teaching and learning”.  In other words, text is a great medium for students who are capable readers.  Students with weak literacy skills need (and deserve!) to have content presented in a different way.

d) The Power of Audio and Text Together

Bates’ conclusions about audio are that it is a powerful tool when combined with text.  Looking back, I suppose I have, on countless occasions, read aloud to students while they followed along in their books.  Come to think of it, in a recent action research project that my Psychology 20 students conducted, I noticed that, when given the opportunity, the grade 3 participants were reaching out to pick up and read the research questions to themselves while the researchers read them aloud.  They seemed to perform better when they were able to both read and hear the questions.  As an observer, this was very apparent to me, although I hadn’t ever considered it in my own classroom.

e)  The Limits of the Imaginations and Skills of Teachers

Photo Credit: USEmbassyPhnomPenh Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: USEmbassyPhnomPenh Flickr via Compfight cc

Bates states that, if teachers don’t have experience in video creation, they’re not likely to dive into that medium for a student project.  I have virtually no experience in creating videos, so I’ve never given my students the opportunity to use videos to submit projects.  In fact, besides allowing students to respond to a question using Flipgrid, I don’t really see how students could use videos to complete any of the content that they are required to complete for my classes.  This coincides with Bates’  suggestion that, “the imagination of the teacher” is an important consideration when determining the best choice of media.  

f)  Text May Still Rule – But Give New Media a Chance

I was surprised and intrigued by Bates’ comments about text.  My first reaction – surprise – came about when I realized the respect Bates still gave to text.  I was pleased that this ancient tool still could hold its ground. Later, I was intrigued when I read Bates’ comments about newer media:

“The value of graphics, video and animation for representing knowledge, the ability to interact asynchronously with other learners, and the value of social networks, are all under-exploited in academia.”

I feel as though I have just stepped into this world – beginning with EC&I 833 in the fall and continuing with EC&I 834 now.  I have, as Carla mentioned in her post, begun to recognize that “different media (text, video, picture) all contain a unique experience to the learner.”  I didn’t used to see the value in using a variety of media but, since last semester, I have started to regularly insert some interactive moments into my lessons (for example, creating a Menti word cloud or doing a quick Google Forms survey and projecting the results).  

I’d like to take this a step further, however.  When I compare my efforts to the SAMR model (see a video about this model), I don’t think I’m QUITE doing EdTech justice!  Rochelle, for example, talks about connecting with students from other schools using Twiducate.  I had NEVER heard of this before, but I definitely want to try it!!

Do you have experience moving “up” the SAMR model?  If so, I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks for reading!

Nancy

I Think They’ll Think with ThingLink!

I made this boring, old document come alive with ThingLink! (Just click on it!)

Thanks to Benita Struik for introducing me to ThingLink last semester in EC&I 833.  According to its website, “ThingLink Education allows you to use interactive images and videos as a new visual learning platform.”  I was intrigued by the interesting way that ThingLink allows teachers (or students) to add tremendous depth to a simple image.  In particular, I wanted a way to make pictures or diagrams more informative for students …  turning them into something that students could refer back to long after the lesson was finished.  

Account Set Up

Setting up my account was quick and easy.  The hardest question that I was asked was my birthdate.  (I lied.)  I received a welcome email that provided a link for

me to verify my email address.  After I verified my account, I was given the option to choose my type of account.  I went with the “Basic” version because it was free.  I am hoping that it enables me to create something fantastic for my students.

Tagging?!?

The message that popped up after I selected the “Basic” account was something about “Explore Tagging”.  I hadn’t ever heard the term “tagging” before … except when it came to identifying who was in a picture (or where it was taken) – and I don’t have experience with either of those tasks.  I accidentally clicked away from that screen, though, and could not get it back.  I found a different “Explore Tagging” option and decided to give that tab a try.

explore-in-thinglink

I saw a map of a university campus and decided to learn about ThingLink through that example.  When I looked at the picture, I noticed some small “video” icons, as well as “360” degree symbols.  I tried each of these out and I was very impressed with what I found.  The video icons each contained a short clip providing information about various areas of the campus.  The 360 degree symbols, when clicked, let you take a full tour of a different buildings.

Creating My thinglink

I started the process by watching an informative video from the ThingLink folks!

 

I decided to create a ThingLink to better explain the passage of a bill in parliament (a concept that I teach in Law 30).  I began by selecting “Create” followed by “Choose or drop files”.  I added my JPEG, entitled “Passage of a Bill in Parliament” from the Law 30 create-in-thinglinkcurriculum for Saskatchewan.  As soon as my file loaded, I was prompted to “click to add a tag”.

 

SO FUN!  I started out just planning to add details to the document… but it was so easy that I ended up adding some tasks for the students to complete.

Adding my first tag!

Adding my first tag!

I included a link to a YouTube video about the House of Commons and the still image of the video appears when you hover over that tag.  (I used Tube Chop to crop a second YouTube video, but, as it doesn’t provide a URL – only a code to embed – I wasn’t able to include the shortened version on my ThingLink.)   I wasn’t sure if it would work, but I created a quick Google Forms quiz to include in my ThingLink.  I was able to link to the URL, so students can find the quiz with just one click!

All-in-all, it took me about an hour to add all of my content (pictures, videos, text and a quiz) to my original image.  I’m so excited to have my students try this out!  I am hoping to get to this point in the course by Friday, so I’ll send them all a link to my ThingLink through Edmodo or Remind.  I’ll be sure to tweet about my students’ experiences with this!  Thumbs up for ThingLink!  (I think I’ll have to save up and buy the upgraded version … it would be well worth it!)

I’d love to hear about your ThingLink experiences!  For what subjects and purposes have you used ThingLink?

Quick Recap

Favourite Features

  • It’s free!
  • ThingLink can be used on your mobile (iPad and Android – without wifi), tablet or desktop
  • There are 70 “rich media tags” that will work with ThingLink (upgraded versions required)
  • When I clicked on various tags on the demos, new tabs always opened up, so I didn’t have to use the “back” arrows to get back to the page I was on
  • It was really fun to make!

A Few Negatives

  • The free version doesn’t allow you to change text font, colour, etc.
  • The icon images that you can use are very limited unless you upgrade
  • I couldn’t embed a video (but the URL worked)

NOTE:  With ThinkLink EDU Pro ($35/year), you can embed, for example, a Google Forms survey to assess student understanding about certain aspects of the content presented in that ThingLink.  You can establish up to 5 classrooms with 500 students, compared to the free version, which only allows one class per teacher.

Hey! Can you just look UP for a second?

Photo Credit: zenobia_joy Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: zenobia_joy Flickr via Compfight cc

If you haven’t heard those words before, I guarantee they’ve been running through the thoughts of your child, co-worker, friend, partner or cashier at the local store as they wait for you to take your eyes off of your screen.

Personal devices have become, for many people, a 24/7 companion and something without which we cannot function.  As much as I love my smartphone, I believe that there are times and places where technology does not belong.  I hope that, through this project, my group members and I will be able to create a blended learning course that can help us all to be better digital citizens. Now… where do we begin?

Even though I gained tremendous knowledge in EC&I 833, I still feel as though I’m nowhere near skilled enough in educational technology to develop an online course.  There are so many things to consider… so many modes of delivery… so many tools and apps at my disposal – it’s overwhelming, to say the least.  

But then I read what the experts say …

Tony Bates states in his text book, Teaching in a Digital Age,

“these forms of education, once considered somewhat esoteric and out of the mainstream of conventional education, are increasingly taking on greater significance and in some cases becoming mainstream themselves.”  

By “these”, he is referring to blended, online, flipped and hybrid learning environments (to name a few).  As a teacher, but, especially, as a technology teacher, I feel that I am falling short if I don’t incorporate some of these “newer forms” of teaching into my pedagogy.  As Rochelle states in her post, however, I don’t want to end up just “doing blended learning” for the sake of doing it.  It has to be authentic.

In order to successfully include technology in my classroom, I need to improve my knowledge about online, blended and hybrid learning environments.  I feel as though I’m still relying far too much on traditional teaching methods.  By the way, I loved Katherine’s post in which she admitted to using few “(*cough zero*)” simulations and not enough student collaboration activities in her classroom…. I am not alone!

Source: Personal Photo

Source: Personal Photo

 That being said, my experiences incorporating educational technology into my classroom last semester were very positive – for both the students and for me!  

This project is another (very steep) learning curve that I will climb – with the help of my instructors and classmates!  (The degree of ‘steepness’ became apparent to me when I read in a blog post by Kirsten – an instructional designer – that “defining blended has been hard”!)

Starting our Ascent

As Ashley stated in her post, she, Andrew, and I have decided to embark on this climb together. (I hope they don’t have to carry me for too much of this journey …   they are both more technologically inclined than me!   … as Andrew explains in his recent post – and, as I’ve witnessed at school – he is already quite well-versed at using ed tech in his teachings.)  We plan to create three modules based on a Government of Saskatchewan publication entitled Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools.  The esteemed authors of this 2015 document are none other than Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt.

One section in the Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools publication is the description of Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship.  These nine critical parts of digital citizenship are grouped into three categories:  Respect, Educate, and Protect.  As you can guess from the theme song for this post, I have chosen to develop a module for a topic within the first category of digital citizenship elements:  respect.

Aretha Franklin said it best, when she spelled it out for all of us …. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Respect, the verb, is defined as to show regard or consideration for. (Source:  Dictionary.com).  It can also mean to hold in esteem or honor or to refrain from intruding upon or interfering with. (Source:  Dictionary.com)

 

 

Within the Regina Public School Division, “I respect” is one of the four shared values statements that helps to make up the Division’s mission statement.  In the Shared Values brochure, it is stated that ….

Respect is based upon acceptance and understanding of the similarities and differences among people. In an educational setting, respect is an essential component to ensure that all students reach their highest potential.

Although my own children are not yet cell phone users (besides when my three-year-old dumps my entire purse to find mine so she can do her ‘bwain work’  … ie. play Endless Alphabet), I have seen more than enough harm done by my high school students when they fail to show respect for themselves and for each other in this digital world.

Digital Etiquette is the specific topic that jumped out at me when I perused the “Respect” category of the Digital Citizenship Continuum that is included in the aforementioned Government of Saskatchewan publication.

The Continuum includes two overarching questions:

  1. Are students aware of others when they use technology?
  1. Do students realize how their use of technology affects others?

I believe that many, if not most, students nowadays will have trouble even comprehending these questions, as they’ve never lived a day of life when cell phones weren’t in existence.  Young people today might struggle with recognizing some of the perils of cell phone misuse because they do not know life without this (and other) technology.  There’s a Dean Brody song on country radio right now that sums it up perfectly:  [Source]

Teenage girl and her grandad

He takes her fishing but he feels bad

She can’t take her eyes off that Facebook page

But someday soon, who knows how long

She’ll look up from that phone and he’ll be gone

If effective, my module will reduce the number of times in our lives that we will feel less interesting, less important, and less valued than a sleek, handheld device.

Vague Details of our Preliminary Plans

Is that subtitle an oxymoron, or what?!?  I digress.  As high school teachers, Ashley, Andrew and I chose to focus on the “understandings” and “demonstrations of understanding” for grades ten through twelve.  To clarify, for each of Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship, Couros and Hildebrandt identify several things that students within each grade grouping should “understand” and should be able to “do”.

Given that I haven’t ever created an online course, I’m not yet able to envision my end product.  I know that I would like to include opportunities for student sharing, of not collaboration.  I’ll likely pass along some introductory content, either through a podcast or slide presentation.  In order to retain student interest, I would like to get them participating almost immediately – perhaps using padlet.com.   Formative assessment will occur using one of the fantastic apps that I learned about last year (Socrative or Quizziz) or the tool that I just heard about (Spiral).

A final project might involve having the students create a something using Powtoon or StoryboardThat about digital etiquette that could be shared with children younger grades.  (I’ve never used either of these tools, so this would be a good opportunity for me to learn about them!)

The next thing that Ashley, Andrew and I need to decide upon is whether or not our modules will include any face-to-face meetings.  This will certainly impact how I set up my module.  My preference would be to have asynchronous, online activities coupled with one or more synchronous sessions, perhaps using Zoom.  Collaboration and planning for the final project in my module might be a challenge, because, as I described above, I hoping to do more than simply have the students create something using Google Docs or Google Slides.  I may have to rethink this.  Thinking, thinking, and rethinking will be my motto as I delve into yet another unfamiliar galaxy within the ed tech universe!

Paint Your Dream Learning Environment on this ‘Canvas’

Photo Credit: Sam-H-A Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Sam-H-A Flickr via Compfight cc

As I continue this educational technology journey, I realize that what I’ve learned is only a small fraction of what I will soon learn.  Last semester, I discovered terms like

 Photo Credit: Rick Payette Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Rick Payette Flickr via Compfight cc

MOOCs and ‘BYOD’ …  this semester, it’s ‘blended learning’ and LMS.  Although so many of these elements or components of educational technology are related … almost ‘interdependent’ …  I find that I am still only able to grasp bits and pieces of the puzzle.   With my mind currently being occupied by thoughts (anxiety!) about the major project for this class – developing a module for an online or blended course – the task of exploring learning management systems is perfect for me.

My new love of all things “Google” (thanks, @courosa) will likely lead me in the direction of Google Classroom one day very soon; however, for my group’s modules, we have decided to explore Canvas.

According to a recent PC Magazine article, Moodle and Instructure (the makers of Canvas) are really giving Blackboard a run for its money in the educational LMS market.  PC Magazine author, William Fenton, praises Canvas’ for its “tabs and contextual menus”, which make it easy to use for new LMS operators.  Unlike many other software programs in this category, Canvas lets users share their modules and assessments with others and has the ability to be connected to “third-party tools and services” (Fenton).

The only ‘con’ that Fenton identified in his review of Canvas was that, in some cases, prices listed might not be totally accurate.  I’m about to see for myself if there are any other weaknesses to this highly acclaimed software….  stay tuned!

Account Set Up

Account set up was simple.  I entered my name, teaching details, and selected a username and password.  I received two emails:  one from Instructure with a link to complete the registration process and the other, from a Canvas employee.  The second email contained a welcome message and then five links to help get me started with this LMS.  The topics for the links were:

  1. Meet the Canvas Community
  2. Overview of Canvas
  3. Canvas Instructor Orientation
  4. Canvas Guides
  5. Ways to Invite Students to Join Canvas Classes (links shown below)

The Links

I clicked on each of the links that the Canvas representative provided in her email.   I was pleased to see lists of very clearly laid out topics – most that would be beneficial to me in the coming weeks!

  1. Within the Canvas Community link, there was a video from an experienced educator who stated that, within an open source classroom, engagement levels seem to be higher.  Given my school divisions current emphasis on student engagement, Canvas’ focus on ‘sharing’ and ‘community’ really appealed to me.
  2. The Canvas 101 link provided a sample course, shown from a student’s perspective.  I could see how easy it would be to navigate the site … and I was impressed that one of the tabs was for “Collaborations”.  This is a space where collaborative work, like Google Docs or Google Slides, would appear.  One thing that I expected to see in this section was something about assessments.  I didn’t locate it, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there!
  3. The Canvas Instructor Orientation link was amazing.  Front and centre on the page was a “Start” button that lead to 45 minutes of informative video about how to set up a course.  Watching it once may not be enough for me so I think I’ll add that link to my “favourites” in Google Chrome!  One feature that I absolutely MUST point out is “Speedgrader”.  It isn’t quite as amazing as it sounds, but it does offer some real time-saving ways of viewing and grading student submissions.  AND … if you’re using Canvas with a Chrome browser (uhhhh….. like …. who WOULDN’T be), you can you talk-to-text options for your assignment comments.  (Talk-to-text is one of my FAVOURITE features on my Android!)
  4. The Canvas Guides link took me to the fine print – the complete details on how to use Canvas to its fullest potential.  The guides are split by user group:  instructor, student, administrator, and observer.  For the more visual or auditory learners, there are video guides!
  5.  Perhaps one of the most important links was the last one:  Ways to Invite student-enrollment
    Students to Join Canvas Classes.  It turns out that instructors can invite students to join in one of three ways:   a)  manually, using email; b) using a join code; or c) using a secret URL.   The instructions for each method of student enrollment were fantastic – each used text plus screenshots.   Source

Having visited all of the links, I decided to dive in and try Canvas out.  Immediately after I started exploring Canvas, a chat room message popped up:

canvas-chat

I didn’t actually take advantage of Matt’s offer to help – but I certainly appreciated the gesture!  I’m sure that I’ll require his assistance once I’m a bit further along in this process.

Dashboard

canvas-set-up-check-list

This was the first screen that I was taken to, once I’d set up my account.  There wasn’t really anything showing there, as I had yet to set up any courses.  When I indicated that I wanted to create a new class, I was prompted to click on the “Setup Checklist”.  The dashboard screen changed and I saw a long list of options for getting started with my course.  I thought I would begin by adding files to the course, so I clicked on that option.  A new message appeared – describing both what it meant to add files and with another button to click to get me started.  So far, Canvas has been incredibly user-friendly!

Adding Files

file-added

I was a little bit unsure of what to do when I arrived at the “add files” area.  I decided to add a folder (“+Folder” button) .  I was able to easily name my new folder.  I didn’t know how to add files to the folder, but I noticed the “upload” button, so I clicked that; the window that popped up showed all of my recent files – Word documents, PDFs, JPEGs, etc.  I selected one, just to test it out, and, within seconds, it appeared in my folder.

 

The Verdict

Photo Credit: Nick / KC7CBF Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Nick / KC7CBF Flickr via Compfight cc

Given my early experiences working with Canvas – and, considering both Ashley and Andrew (my amazing group members and colleagues) liked what Canvas had to offer, I have NO trouble giving this LMS two thumbs up.

I look forward to learning more about Canvas and what it has to offer.  I appreciate all of the LMS information that  EC&I 834 classmates shared in their blog posts – particularly all of the details about Canvas.  We will certainly be able to help one-another when it comes time to set up our online and blended modules!