Yeah, this happened! But...we'll get to that.
Where to start... I guess best to go in chronological order lest I talk myself, and you poor reader, in circles.
Canvas Intelligence Exchange
The morning started off with a lovely brisk bike ride from my hideout down to a covert meeting location to...well... exchange intelligence. You can ride along with me in the video below if you're curious.
I can't say enough about this event or the wonderful human beings that volunteered a TON of their time to organize it. Kona, Beth, Garth, Marc, Kenneth, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU! You pulled off one heck of a mission here.
Here's how it went as far as I recollect. First, we all loaded up on spy rations after arduous journeys from afar (see video above), while Agent Kenneth Rogers guarded the entrance.
Next, we received a briefing from Field Operations Commander, Agent Lentini. Then we grabbed copious amounts of sticky spy notes and our field issued tactical pens, and started encoding topics of conversation vital to our operations on said sticky spy notes.
Agents Marc Lentini and Egbert rapidly decoded our messages in expert timing, organizing them in a scheme known only to the two of them. Agents dispersed to various sections of the meeting space according to interest in their operations. This is where the real intelligence was exchanged.
I can only report back what I overheard from my table where I sat with agents from Iowa State, UPenn, Charlotte School District, Australia, Golden CO, Pendleton CA, and Tulane New Orleans. Agents from those organizations, feel free to identify yourselves but I shall not give up your names here (because I of course can't remember all of them and only managed to scribble down Amy, Karen, Becky, Kate, Jake, Colleen, Susan, and David in my notes).
We exchanged intel from the front lines of operations on the course design mission. Information and tactics were shared on Accessibility, Master Courses, Canvas Release: Blueprint Courses, Canvas Commons, the myriad of objectives in the course design effort, and how best to organize agents within operational units to accomplish the mission of course design. Points of specific interest in my notes:
- Importance of the mission
- Complexity of the mission
- Necessity for diverse teams collaborating
- New tools and resources on the market
- Continued need for tool and resource refinement
After so much vigorous discussion, a break was required to prepare for our next exchange.
Managing 3rd Party Tools
In our second chance to exchange intel, I joined the group discussing Canvas Administration. Much to my delight, the topic of choice was one of special importance to my organization's operation, Management of 3rd Party Tools (Integrations, LTI's, etc).
These tools can be incredibly powerful, even mission-critical, but without proper inspection and training, these tools can also cripple or jeopardize even the strongest of organizations. Due to the difficulties of scale, larger organizations were more likely to have already experienced first hand the negative consequences and to have put in place some measure of protocol for how to mitigate the risk and ensure the tools were used strategically. Administrative guidelines for issuing Canvas Developer Keys was referenced as an example.
My big takeaway from this exchange was the similarity of the situation within each organization and the need for communication channels between organizations to share intel on protocol and successful tactics. I suggested the community as an option.
Love it or Hate It
In our last activity, agents were pitted against one another on various topics, and then forced to use their powers of persuasion to coerce fellow agents to their position. Everything from SpeedGrader to Canvas itself was posited. Agents put on an astonishing display of psychological warfare in this mental war game.
Agents left this event with their skills of conversation and collaboration honed to a razor sharp edge, voluminous amounts of notes to report back to their front lines, and connections with fellow agents they may never have met before. They are sure to perform well in the rigors of the week and beyond.
Just Lounging Around
After dispersing from our secret meeting location, I elected to spend some time in the Agent Lounges for the Canvas Community and The specified item was not found. to see what else I could teach or learn, my mind still running in overdrive from the intel exchange. After touching base with my community associates, I traveled across the conference center lawn to the Canvassador lounge (just next to the Google + Canvas tent).
Here I met a special agent operating from deep within Canvas headquarters. His name was Chris Moore, and while I did not record in my notes his exact title, from reconnaissance I am able to ascertain he is involved with Global Content Marketing. What impressed me most about Chris was his language skills. I observed him conversing in at least two separate languages with agents from around the world who inquired about Canvas. See my tweet of the moment. I was able to capture this photograph of the moment as well.
In general, I was able to converse with many agents on a myriad of topics, relay the nature of the Canvassador program to many, and even interest several agents in applying to join our ranks. I even had a little fun with a few of my known associates, Kona Jones and Kelley L. Meeusen.
After much lounging, I returned to my hideout to strategically repack my gear and obtain pizza rations in preparation for the remainder of the first day of InstructureCon 2017. Around this time the rumors of a special guest at our gathering began surfacing. She turned out to be a real gem (easter egg there for Renee and James Jones, let's see if they get it). It was also established that our fearless mascot had also made a triumphant return. More on him in a bit.
Once properly re-equipped, I headed back out for the first of what will be several key briefings for the event. There's a lot that could be reported about this briefing, but perhaps it's best if you just review the intel on your own. I will say there was emotional warfare involved. Check your standard communication channels in the near future for the recording. Meanwhile, I'll just leave you with this. I call it, "Mitch on a Hitch." (Photo Cred: Jay Jackson Twitter: Mr_Jays_class)
Grub and a Reunion
After the keynote, all agents were encouraged to obtain free rations from the mess hall. I engaged with some unfamiliar agents at a table where we discussed the finer points of distance education, natural disasters and the logical conclusion that living by the ocean is insane (ok maybe that's just my opinion), and a young child's affinity for Sharknado 2. After finishing our meals, a special agent with a lovely accent was dispatched to inform us the evening's entertainment had been moved into covered facilities for strategic purposes. After giving her a jovial amount of grief, we dispersed and went our separate ways. On my way back indoors, I was reunited with a close friend of mine, and Canvas mascot, Agent Panda. He spread his arms in a wide embrace at my arrival of course.
Old Friends and New Friends
Upon arrival at our covert indoor facilities, I was greeted by agents Ryan Seilhamer and Kori Schneider. After recounting the days events, we decided to head towards the entertainment. Fortunately for us, a rack of special agent disguises had been placed in our path, obviously purposefully to alert us to the importance of proceeding with the rest of the night's activities with our appearances properly masked. While reveling in the effectiveness of our disguises, we became acquainted with agent Evan Karagiannis from Sydney, Australia. He too, was in need of a disguise and we aided him as any agent would and should do in such a situation.
After obtaining our official agent headshots for our agent passports, we went our separate ways. Evan and I proceeded to agent game training and had great conversation and laughs along the way. He's an up and comer this Evan from Australia. Definitely an agent to keep your eyes on. He could totally be hiding a shotgun in that jacket too so I wouldn't front on him. I even got to meet an agent I had only admired from afar on the Twitters, and he was every bit the special agent I had hoped and expected. He travels the twitter by the handle of @eduridden but some of you may just know him as Julian.
And that's where the story ends for today (yesterday when you read this, and OK fine, technically it's yesterday/today right now for me too, but days are so illusory anyway). Looking back I'm leaving out a lot and still not sure how I managed to pack it all in, nor am I sure what I ever did before I became part of such an amazing community of positive, well-meaning, friendly people. We're all pretty lucky here.
A message to our friends who couldn't make it this year
You are missed but not gone or forgotten. Many of us are taking #stepsforbeth or connecting with our remote agent-friends in other ways. The magic of community is that our fellow agents are always with us in some way because the intelligence we exchange is a part of us and never completely fades away.