Kelley L. Meeusen

Oh the Humanity of it - Final Words from a Weary Agent

Blog Post created by Kelley L. Meeusen Champion on Jul 29, 2017

I am home now, and will share my final thoughts; although, since this is a journey and not a destination, nothing is final.


Thursday, July 27:

I continued to follow my trend on Thursday and interacted with attendees all day and night, only attending three sessions - two keynotes, and our Community session late Thursday afternoon.  The keynote also continued a recent trend, and one I greatly appreciated, they were about people - our users, the broad focus and need for strong online pedagogy, how ed tech can and does improve access and so much more between the lines spoken - they were about people, they were about community! Our Community session was the same, and we provided the attendees a snapshot of a few of the people in our Canvas Community. We talked about who they were, what they contributed, and how they helped the entire Global Canvas Community! And that is what we truly are, a global community and that was brought home to me in a very poignant way as I was waiting to hop a shuttle to the evening festivities. As I stood there one of our Brazilian Canvassadors came running up and he said, "I have been looking for you, and I wanted to give you this just to say thank you for making me feel welcome!' The physical gift was trivial, except that its physical presence is a reminder of his gesture and the community that is Canvas and Instructure, and has now made it the best of the six years of swag accumulated by me! I might be a sentimental old fool, but he brought tears to my eyes, and he completed an epiphany that had been forming all week, and has been brewing in its developmental stages in my mind all these years.


The Epiphany:


I have been in elearning, online learning, digital learning (DL seems to be my new fav), distant learning (still relevant, as was well demonstrated  by the video of Pacific Islanders shared by Jared Stein during his afternoon keynote) a very long time. Long enough to remember the first true LMSs, and to have built a very primitive way to accomplish organization-wide instruction delivery using a network before then. For many of those years the discussions were almost always about the tech. Yes, we always talked about how the tech could change the world, and improve access to learning and provide new ways to deliver instruction, but the focus remained on the tech, and not the people impacted by the tech except for a few folks for whom the vision was always the users. And then came Canvas, created originally by two students dissatisfied by the user experiences in online education, and Josh Coates who shared their vision of an LMS focused on the user, and Instructure/Canvas was created.  I am not sure if I will ever be able to separate those two names again in my mind because combined they equal the global community of  builders and users who believe that technology and users cannot be considered separately.


Instructure, as an organization, is a collection of administrators, builders, and staff of various kinds (and I will just call them the "Builders") who form a community to develop and deliver educational technology that creates a global learning community. They are truly disrupting the educational technology industry in a way their competitors do not seem to get......


IT IS NOT ABOUT THE PRODUCT! It is about the product, the culture of the company that provides the product, and the community the company promotes for itself and its product's users. 


I said that Instructure is a community, because this is amply proven to me through every encounter with the Instructure team. From top to bottom each member of that team, despite their official titles, dons whatever hat is needed, whenever it is needed; and this is true both at InstCon and it's offices. And the company's community forms the core of the global community of it's builders and users. Nowhere does that become more apparent than at InstCon each year where they intimately interact with the user community in whatever way is needed to support the community and make it stronger.


So we have a global learning community centered on a product called Canvas, and the builders of that product continues to improve that product as a part of the community that uses it. Communities within communities! The communities of teachers and their students centered around a single teaching/learning moment in a single classroom who are part of a community of a school (or a business) using Canvas, who are part of a district or state community using Canvas, and where Canvas has spread to other countries they are forming communities of users, and all are contributing to that global community that is Canvas/Instructure.


And this, our official Canvas Community where both users and builders from all those other levels join to share what they know and what they need to make the global Canvas/Instructure community even greater! We, all 185,000 of us, are the representatives of that larger community.


Oh the humanity of it!


Can you envision a world where instructional technology and the users of that technology are almost indistinguishable? Where they contribute to a whole that is so much more than its parts? I can now!


At InstCon 2017 I gained some new technological awareness, skills and perspectives; but my sense of being part of something so much larger and more important grew beyond measure.


Agent K signing out.








InstCon 0017



The major takeaways from this session were:

  • It is not all about the tech
  • Communities
  • Communities within communities



For everyone I already knew and every new person I met, I say, "THANK YOU!