A few years ago, The Canvas Community hosted a blogging contest regarding Spring Cleaning. This was a great opportunity for me to consider ways I could tidy up my courses. (It's Time to Regroup, Reorganize, and Reflect was my contribution to that contest...)
Spring is back! Thank goodness. I mean, in Minneapolis, we endured a blizzard and received 20” of snow on April 16th. That extra time indoors due to our extended winter gave me more than enough time to reorganize my house and my six courses...so spring cleaning is done, or at least for now. However, with the beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures, it’s time to open up the windows.
Year round, windows allow us to see the outdoors, even with lingering terrible weather. However, the fact that this ordinary transparent object now may lead to a bigger experience is such a great feeling. I love the smell of spring breezes and how these open windows encourage us to savor that beautiful breath of fresh air. This momentary slow down also encourages me to be optimistic and productive.
Alright, so if you’re still with me, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this blog. Since we’re all here in the Canvas Community and unified by the products we use daily, all created by a company founded on openness, it seems natural to compare Instructure to the open windows I value so much this time of year.
1. I appreciate how Instructure plasters windows all over their company, figuratively of course. From either perspective, this transparency works to everyone’s advantage. Even when it’s dark and stormy outside (think about those times when Community Members get particularly passionate about a Production Release Note), Instructure wants to connect with us. More positively, if we share our ideas and desires, Instructure is able to see our perspective. This clarity and transparency is incredibly valuable. With the transparency, we are able to always catch a glimpse into Instructure’s process. Windows are two-way! For example, in 2015 and 2017 Project Khaki welcomed users to headquarters, and participants learned about the idea process, current projects, and met with employees.
2. It is so refreshing that there is such open and free-flowing communication between users and Instructure product teams. Whether the interaction is with a CSM, sales, an engagement team member, community manager, support, company leadership,...etc etc etc, Instructure has created this environment in which communication is clear, open, and important.
I know there are many MANY Instructure employees I could thank for their open communication, but In my daily routine, there are two people whose presence in the Canvas Community is very noteworthy. Erin Hallmark's presence in Documentation is outstanding. With every release, she’s there to clarify the updates and existing features. She always does so kindly. It’s not easy to explain the same thing multiple ways, and those of us who teach can relate. Add in *new* and *tech* and *always changing* and you have another set of challenges she balances amazingly. Then, there’s Peyton Craighill. He is a stand-out Product Manager for Mobile. His presence in CMUG is unmatched; he routinely shares updates about the team, the apps, and he actively engages in conversation with enthusiastic mobile users. It’s awesome that so much of the mobile process is made available to the Canvas Community. It’s even better that everyone is encouraged to participate in the process.
3. Instructure values openness in the sense of fostering open source platforms and content. (This truly kicked-off with 2016: Canvas and the Year of Open.) Whether you add a variety of LTIs, make your course public, share your work to Canvas Commons, or decide to use the open source version of Canvas (instructure/canvas-lms Wiki · GitHub), there’s a lot about the platform that’s open and flexible.This allows Canvas to be customizable for all kinds of learning environments.
The Canvas Community has even dedicated a space for people who want to focus on this. So if you’d like to add Open Education resources to your Canvas courses, you have a few places to start, including this list of Open Content Providers. Notably, in the spring of 2016, there was the Unlock OpenEd Blog Challenge. Many wonderful ideas and resources were shared with that, and with the Open Education group, there are always new discussions!...and then, there’s more! There’s Canvas Network, a place full of free online courses for all types of learners with a goal to “to promote openness, innovation, and experimentation in education.” To learn more, read Canvas Network: Committed to Open Education.
4. I know it’s a stretch, but I feel like I need to round-out this blog with a shout-out to those in the Canvas Community. This space that many of us visit frequently could perhaps be a virtual window that defies time and space. From Q & A to Ideas to CanvasLIVE, Community members are making connections and sharing ideas all the time. People from all over the world freely collaborate and making the process of professional learning transparent. The best part of learning in this way is the fact that you’re never alone; we’re all in this crazy yet fulfilling journey together.
So, whether literally or figuratively, this spring, take a moment and open the windows. Enjoy the breeze, celebrate the warmth of season, and be thankful!