Skip navigation
All Places > InstructureCon > InstructureCon 2018 > Blog > 2018 > August

I took some time this morning to play with the InstructureCon videos which you can find here: 


What I learned today is that, glory hallelujah, you can embed the videos in a Canvas Page (even if you cannot embed them here at the Community), so here at last is the promised video from the ladies of Broward County, complete with the cute graphics and music from their presentation as promised. We couldn't hear the music during the presentation, but it was captured for the video! I've embedded the video in a Canvas Page at my InstructureCon archive:

Video: Broward County: InstCon Remote Control 


video in Canvas page screenshot


I snagged the embed code, and then tweaked it a little bit, switching the width from 400 to 600, and the height from 225 to 340. (If you want more tips on embedding in Canvas, check out Sean Nufer's presentation of course!)


There are lots of good reasons to embed videos like this. For example, it gives you a better URL to work with (you can link directly to a video at the Instructure site but the video is very slow to load that way). It also allows you to add context to the video, like the way I provided a link here to my blog post about this presentation and, if I didn't already have a blog post, I could include my notes right here in the Canvas Page.


And here's another unusual benefit... you avoid the awful pop-up if you watch the video embedded somewhere else. I am definitely not a fan of the pop-up challenge you get at the Instructure video gallery, where a form comes up that challenges you for a whole laundry list of information, including your phone number, interrupting the video at the 30-second mark and not letting you proceed until you fill out the form. And you have to fill out every single field to proceed, including the phone number.


screenshot of popup

I personally do not want to fill out that form, and it makes me reluctant to share the videos with others because I do not think anybody should have to supply all that information just to watch a video. Phone numbers, in particular, are private IMO, yet the form requires you to enter a phone number to watch a video. It's really annoying (I would never even think of entering my real phone number there), and it seems to serve no purpose at all. Surely they are not going to actually call people...?


Thanks to the power of embedding, though, I can just embed any video I want to share in a new Canvas Page, and people can watch it... and also see how easy it is to work with videos inside Canvas! So, if you are interested in what the wonderful ladies from Broward County presented, you can watch that video here in an open Canvas Page, inside a Canvas course space where you will find other InstCon materials and resources:

Video: Broward County: InstCon Remote Control 


And kudos to the Broward County graphic designer who created all those carnival animations: it was fun to get to see them again, and this time with the music! And kudos also to the video editing team at Instructure: the way they combined the speaker footage and the presentation media is really impressive and makes the videos a really great resource to use and share.

screenshot of Canvas Page with video


Pinging Stephen Simpson and Bobby Pedersen because I know they were interested in this presentation. :-)

I learned something AMAZING today at Twitter, which was a cause of much rejoicing (and for Kristin Lundstrum too!): the ever-generous and ever-ingenious Martin Hawksey has added an embeddable widget to his array of TAGS tools for working with Twitter hashtags. 


You can see it in action on the front page of my InstructureCon Canvas site: better late than never! Just think about how great that will be for next year!

InstCon Remote Control


#InstCon hashtag widget in Canvas course screenshot


Thanks to the great job Adam Williams did in creating our #InstCon archive (searchable!), it took just a few minutes to create and embed this widget. It's exactly like embedding a regular Twitter widget, except that you use Martin's  form (instead of The 1-2-3 steps to embedding a Twitter widget in Canvas are explained here at Twitter4Canvas. And now that hashtag widgets are back in action (thanks to Martin!), I will update that site this weekend with more information and tips.


And Kristin already has a #GetUpOrGiveUp widget ready to go for our Michael Bonner reading group which starts soon! More about that group here:

Reading Group: Get Up or Give Up 


Sneak peek in the Canvas course she built for the group:


screenshot of Michael Bonner widget in Canvas



It was such a blow when Twitter eliminated their support for hashtag widgets this summer... but now Martin has given us something even better because this widget exists in the ecosystem of TAGS where there is so much we can do and learn about our hashtagged content. THANK YOU, MARTIN!!!!! You made my day today!!!!!


cat bump: you're awesome!

(Purr Partners)

Laura Gibbs

22. Ted, UX Wizard

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 24, 2018

We don't have a video for this one, but Ted has shared his slides!

As I mentioned in my previous post on the UnConference, while Kona and her helpers were arranging all the post-it notes into sessions, we got a crash course in "user experience" from Ted Boren ("Senior UX Researcher at Instructure" says his tagline here), and it was fabulous! Very detailed, very informative, and something that even people like me who don't know anything about UX research could follow along.


I don't know if Ted has shared his slides here somewhere or not (???), but I hope he will: the slides were very detailed, and they also contained references for people who wanted to follow up and learn more.


I also totally vote that Ted do this presentation as one of the regular sessions at InstructureCon next year! That way it will be part of the regular program and leave a video trail behind (since this unofficial "session" was part of the UnConference, it's not in the video gallery of the regular conference sessions).


I should also add that Ted was one of the Instructure employees I kept running into again and again during InstCon. I met him at the very start of the day on Tuesday when he was recruiting UX research volunteers and we struck up a conversation while he was waiting for a Bridge session to let out. That's how I found out he was an English major in college, so of course we could bond about writing and creativity (yay!). The next time I ran into him I think was when he was doing "crosswalk duty" over by the big tent -- and that was something I thought was so cool about the conference; there were Instructure employees everywhere doing all kinds of helpful things (crosswalk duty, driving the golf carts, etc.), and you could always tell who they were because of their T-shirts.


So by the time we got to Friday, I knew who Ted was and I was excited about getting to learn more about his work! I had thought it was going to be just a quickie few minutes, but it was a full-blown presentation with slides and everything, a bonus session for all of us who had come to the UnConference! I took this picture:


Ted Boren at InstCon


The part of Ted's presentation that I appreciated most was the kind of anthropological field study work that some UX researchers do: it's not all just about clicks and time-spent-on-page, but actually observing -- closely observing! -- what people are doing when they interact with a website. As Ted pointed out, even self-reporting cannot take the place of observation because often people are not accurate self-reporters since observing yourself is actually pretty hard to do. Being able to observe what people are doing while they work, sitting side by side with them, and also to ask questions while sitting with them, sounds like such a rich field of investigation, and it overlaps powerfully with what teachers do (or should do IMO) in order to help their students.


And on that theme of observation and just being with our students, I want to mention an amazing new book that just came out this summer by one of my teacher heroes, Ira Socol, and his colleagues Pam Moran and Chad Ratliff: 

Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools


Timeless Learning book cover


You can see that word "observation" is right there in the title, and one of the most important themes in the book is of observing children at work and at play, in formal learning situations and in informal learning situations, so that we can build our practice on the basis of those observations.


Just to take one example, Ira mentions his practice of observing students' feet while they are sitting in the classroom:

During a classroom walkthrough, Ira says, "I videotape kids' feet. That's what I always look at. Kids keep their upper bodies compliant. Their feet tell you what they're doing, whether they're asleep, or just totally panicking. If you look at their feet, you get this whole different perspective on how they are doing in class. Principals walk and when they do observations, they look at the teachers mostly. That's completely wrong."

Just from that one anecdote, I think there is a lot that we can all learn, about teaching, about observation, about data, etc.


One of the reasons that I use a blog network for my classes, with every assignment leaving a digital trail in the blogs (or at their websites), is to that I can get a glimpse into their thinking. The blog posts and comments are all open-ended (unlike a quiz or test), so with each sentence in each post or comment, I am able to learn something about each student. It's not the same as being able to sit with them side-by-side and talk with them one-on-one, but then you do not usually get a lot of side-by-side one-on-one time with students in a classroom, especially not in a 150 minutes per week college classroom. Teaching  this way, I feel like I can observe my students more and spend more time with them one-on-one in our blog network than I ever could in a traditional classroom (although I sure would have enjoyed teaching in the very non-traditional classrooms of Ira's school, where on any given day a student might be sawing a classroom chair in half to make a seat for a go-cart...).


You too can take a peek if you want into our blog network; it's all open and full of inspiring stuff I think: Myth blogs and India blogs. There are around 400 posts so far, and more to come this weekend; the last three assignments of the Orientation week are a chance for me to get the students' reactions to how the class is going so far and to learn more about their own goals so that I can focus my work with them based on that knowledge.


That theme of "observation" is just one way where I see our work as teachers intersecting in powerful ways with the kind of work that Ted does with UX research for Instructure, and I am really glad that his talk was part of our UnConference experience. Thank you, Ted! And any time you want to share some of your projects or thoughts here at the Community, I know you would have many eager readers, me among them. :-)

So I got out of synch here when I saw the video had been made available, but they are still putting the finishing touches on that (just speaking for myself, I hope they will disable the popup that asks for personal info like phone number to watch the videos)... anyway, I will cycle back around to the breakout sessions when the video gallery is done.


Today, it is my pleasure to write about something that was not videotaped, but which was my favorite part of the entire time in Keystone: THE UNCONFERENCE. It happened on Friday morning, after the "official" end of the conference.

Kona Jones organizes this (thank you, Kona!!!!!!!!), and she wrote some earlier posts here at the Community that explain the goals and process:

What is an Unconference? 

Why You Should Attend the UnConference


Here's a recap from Matthew Jennings ; the UnConference is different for everybody, and he went to different sessions than I did (in fact, I don't remember even running into him there: there were a LOT of people, which was great to see!), so make sure you check that out also:

InstCarn Recap: Day 4 - Unconference 


I showed up early because, like many others, I was toting my bag (heading to the airport after the UnConference was over), and I wasn't sure if there would be a convenient place to stash it. I shouldn't have worried: we basically took over a couple of floors of the Keystone Lodge, and as people arrived, a big heap of luggage accumulated, so that was not a problem at all. We had a delicious breakfast too; this was actually the only day of the conference I had breakfast because the other days it was kind of hectic trying to get from place to place.


A lot of people showed up (yay!), and we all received post-its from Kona (plus all the expert UnConferencers that were helping her) to list our ideas. Then, while Ted Boren gave a super-informative talk about UX (more about that in a separate post; I wish they had videotaped his presentation -- it was like a bonus session!), Kona and her helpers organized the ideas from the post-its into a series of concurrent sessions in the three different time slots. I snagged this picture from Matthew's blog post:



Imagine my bliss: each of the three time slots had a FEEDBACK topic (there must have been a bunch of feedback-related post-its), and they were all in the same room. And yes, it was the FOX FIRE room......... a sign! :-)


So I shamelessly just stayed in that same room and got to talk about feedback with people for three hours.



The groups of people who showed up for each slot had their own dynamic (a few people stayed for two sessions; I think I was the only one who stayed for all three). People were there from totally different types of schools, and there were people with different roles (instructors, IDs, sysadmins)... so many questions and ideas!


One mantra emerged; I think it was at the end of the second session:
Everything is feedback, and feedback can be fun!


True confession: I got so into the conversations that I did a terrible job of taking notes (Matthew experienced the same thing!). I should have brought a voice recorder so that I could have recorded everything and then listened again later. Given that feedback is my theme for the school year (I have some feedback posts in my Community blog), it was really exciting for me to see how that is a topic of shared interest, with so many people thinking beyond grades and tests about the best ways to help and encourage their students, and also to gather feedback from the students about the work we are doing and how we can do a better job.


Just one example: I kept reconnecting with Robert Carroll throughout the conference, including a walk we made around the lake (I can't even remember why that happened; where were we even going???), where he was telling me about the work he was doing on analytics and I expressed my hope that analytics could also include feedback from students about the content, rather than just clicks, time spend on page, page navigation patterns, etc. Anyway, we had had that previous conversation, and then he showed up at one of the Feedback sessions, which was so cool: I know that it really helps me to talk to people with awesome technical knowledge that I don't have, and I am also so eager to share my perspective as a teacher with sysadmins who might not have direct contact with students.


That interaction among people of different roles at different schools is one of the best things about the Community in my opinion, and the place where I experienced that the most at InstCon was at the UnConference. Of course, I know there was a great mix of people at every official session too, but in the hectic rush from session to session and the big size (usually) of the session audience every time, I didn't really get a sense of the mix. But at the UnConference, there was time for everybody to be themselves and get to know each other, sharing our ideas and experiences. It was fabulous.


I need to write up another post about the UX presentation and also some more Unconference details, but for now, just to say: thank you, Kona, for organizing this wonderful event, and to Instructure for making it part of the conference (venue, catering: it was all excellent!).


Here's a picture Kona took of those of us who just couldn't get enough. We finally said our goodbyes, but if it hadn't been for our airplane itineraries, who knows how long we would have just sat around talking! The gigantic heap of luggage dwindled on down and down and down until we were finally out the door:


end of the unconference: a few people still left talking!

You can see the embedded video here: Linda Jean Lee


Wow, the end of the summer really is here, and the official first day of class is (gulp)... tomorrow. I probably should have tried to get myself to write two of these InstCon posts per day back in the bliss of late July and early August! Anyway, I will write up the notes promised yesterday about Linda J. Lee's fantastic presentation on Blueprint Courses, which finishes up my Thursday morning InstCon adventures. Luckily, Linda has made my job that much easier by having shared her slides here already, and also with all the documentation she provided throughout the year as her program got their Blueprint Courses workflow up and running.

Lessons Learned from a Year with Blueprint Courses


... and the videos are out: video link. Although at first glance I don't think we can embed a video here (I was hoping for YouTube that we could embed), and I'm also not sure how we can link to specific videos. I'm having trouble navigating the videos too since I'm not sure how they are organized. I'll explore that and report back tomorrow, but for now I wanted to post about Linda's session.


There was a LOT of interest as you can see. (I'm there in my beanie with Bonni Stachowiak in the front row.)


Linda's presentation at InstCon with panda drone in front row


Even though I don't use Blueprint courses, I was really interested in hearing about Linda's experiences since this is a situation in which the LMS has some advantages, and Linda did a fantastic job of explaining just what goals they were trying to reach with their implementation of Blueprint courses last year. These were the main takeaways for me:


1. Power of InstCon. Linda began this project right after InstructureCon last year: that is really inspiring! So, even though it was a real time squeeze, she went back to Philadelphia and got this big experiment up and running, and now she is back at this year's InstructureCon to report on how it went. What a great spirit of learning!


2. Overlords and minions. Yes, this is unofficial terminology, but I love it! "Overlords" and "minions" is how the folks in Linda's shop use to refer to the parent-child courses (or whatever the official Canvas terminology is; I'm not sure).


3. Community shout-out. I really appreciated how Linda had a shout-out for Ken Black's contributions here at the Community about Blueprint courses. There is clearly a lot of interest in this (as the full room showed!), and I think it is great that people like Ken and Linda are so generous with their expertise all year round here at the Community; you don't have to wait from one InstructureCon to the next to learn about what they are doing. You can do that here at the Community right here, right now. And luckily "blueprint" is a great term to search on, pretty much unambiguous; here are the Community search results:


4. Total process clarity. I would urge you to go through Linda's slidedeck to see the incredibly clear way she described their process in terms of goals, benefits, challenges, etc. Much like with the Broward County presentation, even though this was about a world and work that is very different from anything I do, I felt like I was able to understand the decisions they made and learn from the process. So kudos to Linda both for the really clear workflow at Wharton and also for her really clear presentation of that in her talk.


5. Ouch: no room! The session filled up, and there was someone who came and announced that nobody was allowed to sit on the floor because that would be a fire hazard (I think this is the session where they made that announcement). I heard from people and saw tweets about being turned away when other sessions were full likewise. That is a real problem, and all the more reason to make the videos as fully accessible as possible (more about that tomorrow). Especially if people were turned away from events and told to just watch the video later, I think that is all the more reason to make sure the videos are as open and easy-to-find and share as possible. And of course there are lots of other reasons for open sharinig too, totally aside from doing right by the people who found themselves turned away at the conference from the sessions they had come a long way to attend. I didn't have time to really explore the video collection yet, but I'll see if I can figure out how to make better use of those videos tomorrow. 


Happy Back-to-School for all of you who are starting school tomorrow! :-)

You can see the embedded video here: Sean Nufer


I got behind on my InstCon posts yesterday (busy day!), but it works out really nicely to get caught up today with two wonderful sessions from Thursday morning: Sean Nufer's session on embedded (which I will write about here), and Linda Lee's blueprint courses presentation (which I will write up later today).


For his presentation on embedding, Sean actually created a Canvas course where you can see the embedding in action: perfect! You can find the course here:

Embedding Content in Canvas 


So, for example, this is his Canvas Page with an embedded Sway:


screenshot of Sway in Canvas


Isn't that cool? So we got to see what was actually happening in the Canvas Pages and other course areas as he embedded dynamic content from tools like Sway and Padlet and on and on.


Even better: Sean edited the Pages for us right there during the session. So when the videos come out, you are going to want to watch this video to see how he did that! The idea is that he had pasted in the raw embed code in advance, and then he loaded the code so we could see the magic of the embedded content as it appeared on the Page. He walked us through the process step by step, and he repeated it a few times so that we really got a sense of how easy the process is, while also having a chance to demonstrate a wide array of different tools.


Because I am comfortable with HTML view, I always forget that it's possible to just use the embedding prompt on the default content editor to accomplish the same goal of getting widget code into the page (or discussion board or quiz or wherever). So that was a great reminder, seeing Sean show people how both options are possible, based on the editor that people prefer to use. In the editing bar, the embed option has a video icon, but it's not just for video; you can use it for all kinds of embed code:


screenshot of embed dialogue box


Sean's "anatomy of the embed code" was also really helpful. Especially for setting width and height of the iframe, knowing a little bit about the HTML code can be very helpful, and this page breaks it down really clearly:

diagram analyzing components of the embed code


For me, a big takeaway was new Padlet ideas based on how Sean is using Padlets in his courses. My favorite was the idea of a "personal Padlet" by way of a course introduction. My students do introduction posts in their blogs, but I'd like to introduce them to Padlets, and of course if they make a Padlet like this, they can link to it from their blog. Especially for students who want to share a mix of pictures and videos, Padlet is so nice. Here's Sean's About Dr. Nufer Padlet:


Dr. Nufer Padlet


I'm also thinking of making a "Pet Padlet" where everybody in all my classes can post pictures of their pets. That would be so fun to see, and it would also be a way to get students used to the idea of how Padlets work and how easy it is to create a group padlet where different people can contribute content.


Sean also had fun quiz questions with Kahoot polling. More totally fun Kahoot nicknames! (I wrote about Kahoot names here.) And there were prizes for the quiz winners! If the person who won that awesome jester hat reads this post and has a selfie wearing that hat, it would be great to include here!


You can find out more about the magic of embedding in Sean's Embedding Content in Canvas  Canvas course and also at the Community blog post he wrote about that event.

Embedding Content in Canvas, or: How I Learned to Stop Being Bland and Make My Content Amazing


For me, being able to embed dynamic content in Canvas Pages is one of my very favorite Canvas features... if you haven't tried that before, I bet you can find a tool in Sean's magic tool chest that will be fun/useful for your classes!

Laura Gibbs

18. Michael Bonner's Magic

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 16, 2018

And so the whirlwind-of-learning began again on Thursday morning with the Michael Bonner keynote (banner image above is from his website). The presentation was FABULOUS! I hope lots of people were watching the live stream for this one. Maybe people watching the stream even got up and did the right-hand-left-hand oh-my-gosh-what-is-happening-to-my-brain exercise that he had us all doing there in the big tent. It's exactly what we needed to get us -- and our brains -- ready to go for the day ahead.


For people who did not attend that keynote or watch the stream, I highly (HIGHLY) recommend reading Michael Bonner's book: it is excellent!

Get Up or Give Up: How I Almost Gave Up on Teaching (available at Amazon; there's a Kindle version!). 


And thanks to Kristin, we are going to have a Canvas Book Club to read that book together this Fall. Are you interested? Join in where Kristin has that set up here:

M. Bonner - Book Study/PD 


You can also learn about Michael Bonner and his work here:

Canvas Blog: 5 Questions with Michael Bonner


He is also active at Twitter (follow him there!), and here's what he posted about the InstCon event: let go of the fear, everybody. Fear is an illusion!


fear is the illusion: Michael Bonner tweet


Heather Hurley snagged one of the great takeaway quotes from his presentation: that's a call to all of us to invest in our students in this new school year to come. (Thanks for the slideshow picture Heather Hurley!)


You can't demand a withdrawal from someone you have never invested in.


you can't demand a withdrawal from someone you haven't invested in


And I just have to say kudos to Michael Bonner, and to Adora Svitak and Jared Stein also, for keynote addresses that did not shy away from the politics of education today. Here's one of Michael's slides about implicit bias (thanks to Michelle Lebsock for that one):


slide about implicit bias


One of my favorite things about Michael Bonner's book is the list of challenges that he includes at the end, challenges for each and every one of us in the teaching profession. It's pedagogy, it's politics, it's psychology: ALL the things that are part of the big picture when teachers and students go to school together. If you are looking for a way to get started blogging here at the Community, you might try writing up your thoughts in response to one of these challenges. They are powerful stuff, and I really like how Michael Bonner ended the book this way, asking readers to do something based on what they've read.




For readers who are also teachers — If you think you’re ready to “give up,” ask yourself these questions:


When was the last time you visited your student’s house?


What systematic procedures are in place that could potentially harm the trajectory of my students’ success?


Have I addressed any internal problems that are affecting me as a teacher? (Death in the family, past trauma, divorce, and so on.)


What experiences with other ethnicities has affected your ability to build effective relationships with every student in your classroom?


What changes can I make within my character that would benefit my students, school, and community?


When was the last time you offered to help a fellow teacher become a better educator?


Are your lessons designed to bring cultural awareness, or only classroom content?


How are you contributing to the school culture and climate? Would your co-workers invite themselves into your classroom to learn something from you?


Is your grade level team comparing data, collectively working together to build lessons, and consistently communicating about ways to improve student learning? If no, how you change this?


How are you keeping track of the academic and behavioral data in your classroom?


When building a lesson for your students, ask yourself, “Would I have fun learning this?”


How would you describe a dynamic classroom? What could you do to create those qualities in your classroom?


What have you learned about yourself in the past year? How does that affect you as a teacher?


Do you hate getting up every day to teach your classroom? What could you change within yourself to fix this situation? If you have changed yourself, what things could you change in your classroom that would help the situation?


I am looking forward to talking about these topics and more in our Michael Bonner book club, so big thanks to Michael for his book and for the keynote, and for Kristin to helping us explore and learn more in the weeks to come! :-)

Laura Gibbs

17. Local AND Global

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 15, 2018

After all the keynotes and session on Wednesday, my brain was... TIRED. But the River Run Street Fair brought me back to life: it was wonderful! I got to meet up with friends there, including Instructure friends like Biray Seitz (hi Biray!). The weather was beautiful, as you can see in this photo from the Twitter stream:


River Run Street Fair


And the dancing was so great; it carried on into the dark, and there were some people who really (REALLY) know how to dance. Beautiful! I couldn't find a video of the Latin dancers, but here's a tweet with some dancing while it was still light out. And this picture shows the party carrying on into the dark:


fair by night


Fun, beautiful, relaxing: everything that we needed after an intense day of conferencing.


I then went back to my room to upload my notes from the day (the gremlins attacked my conference wifi, but not my condo wifi, thank goodness), and I also caught up on the Twitter stream... which is where the GLOBAL comes from in the title of this post. As I was retweeting the great photos and the quotes from the day's events, someone I know in India, the writer Usha Narayanan, started retweeting some of them. How cool is that? So news of InstructureCon was circulated among Usha's many Twitter followers in India:


Twitter screenshot


It was a hard decision choosing between Hack Night that evening and just hanging out (and dancing) at the Street Fair, and then having some  time that night before going to bed... but I'm glad with how it turned out. If I ever get to go to an InstCon again, I will give Hack Night a try... but getting to enjoy that evening at the Street Fair in Keystone was completely delightful. Well done, Instructure!!!

Laura Gibbs

16. The Wednesday Keynotes

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 14, 2018

You can see the embedded video here: Jared Stein (Adora Svitak's keynote is not available, unfortunately).


After reporting on the five sessions I went to on Wednesday, I wanted to also say something about the Wednesday keynotes. I missed the morning one by Adora Svitak (because of the evil wifi gremlins! argh!), but Karen Bowden did a beautiful Wakelet of the tweets from that session based on all the good tweeting: Educators as Nation-Builders


I'm sorry that I missed the talk because I've been a fan of Adora Svitak for a long time, and you can learn lots at her website: The inspiring words from her keynote provided a welcome counterpoint to the more corporate keynote from Tuesday night.


Here's a tweet from Daphnee St. Val; click that link for the video in the tweet:


screenshot of Daphnee St. Val tweet


And here's Heather Hurley's screenshot of a link of young people to follow for more inspiration; this is a post at Adora's blog:

Young people doing cool things who you should follow 


screenshot of Heather's tweet

The themes from Adora's talk resonated with many of the things that Jared Stein talked about in his keynote; what was the most powerful to me was the video about Canvas and the Larch Corrections Center:



If you have a few minutes, WATCH THIS VIDEO. It was even more powerful knowing that there were graduates (I think two?) from the program right there in the audience with us. I also found this article about the educational program from Clark College at Larch; this is from back in 2016. I am so impressed by all of this: 

Inmates at Larch Corrections better themselves through educational programs | News | 



Matthew Jennings did a sketchnote of Jared's keynote: so cool!

InstCarn Recap: Day 2 - PM Keynote 


And these two keynotes both resonated with more to come from Michael Bonner. I'll write about that in a future post, but for now, let me spread the word about Kristin Lundstrum's great work organizing a book club so that we can read Michael Bonner's book together this fall:

M. Bonner - Book Study/PD 



Laura Gibbs

15. RATS: Strong RATS.

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 13, 2018

You can see the embedded video here: Matthew Jennings


This whole 30-post approach is working out great: I'm halfway through the posts, and I've also reach the end of the first day of sessions, which is a good halfway point also. So, after Kona and the ladies of Broward County, I went to see our own Matthew Jennings who shared an experiment with moving TBL (Team-Based Learning) ; he was working with Dr. Cheryl Robinson who was the instructor for the course. Matthew has made my job easy by posting his slides already and lots of links here:

Oh, RATS! 

(And of course you should check out Grab the big shoes and pile into the car too!)


Since Matthew has made all his materials available (the slides are very detailed and well-organized), I can focus on the three big takeaways for me from this presentation.


1. Some educational innovations are NOT just trends. I've know about Team-based Learning since I first arrived at the University of Oklahoma in 1999; Larry Michaelsen, one of the people who pioneered this teaching/learning strategy, was a professor there in the Business School, and at that point he had already been doing TBL for ten years or maybe more. He left OU around 2003 or so (???), but he had made a big impression on me... mostly because his students made a big impression on me: they absolutely loved TBL in their classes. And here we are, almost 20 years later, and people are still using and exploring TBL strategies in their classes. Dr. Michaelsen must be very proud of that!


2. New  technology makes more and more possible. I was already interested in onnline teaching back in 1999, and I remember asking Dr. Michaelsen if he thought TBL could work onnline. He said he did not think it would work...

[does anybody know why the word "" drops out of the Jive editor when you publish a post? I've had that happen in a bunch of posts now... anyway, trying to add it back in with onnline to keep it from dropping. I've tried in both Firefox and Chrome and same problem in both. That is weird!]

but of course that was back before we had onnline video, social networks, etc. etc. I was really interested to see the balance of synchronous and asynchronous that Matthew and Dr. Robinson used in their onnline experiments with TBL. (I also totally loved the joke from Matthew's son that all you had to do to turn a synchronous event into an asynchronous event was... to add the letter a! ha ha, like father, like son).


3. Matthew is an incredible artist. You should check out the link to his slides just to see the circus artwork he did for the RATS (which is an acronym used in TBL) and other circus animals.


one of Matthew's slides

He even designed a T-shirt for the event... and I won a shirt because I knew that the winning answer to the final poll-quiz question had to be the one that was the FUNNY answer. Right is good. But funny is better! 


So, THANK YOU very much for my T-shirt, Matthew! I hand-washed it carefully when I got home (after proudly wearing it on Thursday), and my weight-lifting rat is doing great. :-)


Matthew and Laura showing off the T-shirt

Laura Gibbs

14. Go, Broward County!

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 12, 2018

You can see the embedded video here: Broward County


After Kona's inspiring presentation on student-centered teaching, the next presentation I went to was something completely different, and equally wonderful. The lovely ladies of Broward County showed us how they used their school district's adoption of Canvas as a way to completely transform their district's professional development efforts, including secretaries and teachers, bus drivers and principals, and everybody in-between... over 20,000 people participated in professional development activities as they moved to Canvas this past year. The range and depth of what they did with Canvas in a single year is amazing. I'm really glad that Stephen Simpson and Bobby Pedersen sent me to this presentation: it's not the kind of thing I would have chosen, and it turned out to be a great experience.


I'm really looking forward to the video for this one because the graphic presentation was so charming: there were arcade-style circus graphics for each segment of the presentation, and apparently the music that goes with it is really cute. We couldn't hear the music during the presentation, but the AV tech who was there said we'd be able to hear the music in the video recording.


They also had applause signs! And of course the audience gladly applauded; it was a fantastic presentation. I can definitely believe they offer lots of fun PD in Broward County because they made this presentation very fun!


The lovely ladies also had hats; you can see them in their hats during the presentation here:


Broward County presentation screenshot


And here they are having fun afterwards:


ladies in hats


The 3-Ring Circus: Optimizing Canvas to Meet the Needs of a Diverse Workforce


The women presenting are self-proclaimed "creative people with knowledge to share" ... my kind of people! And they each have 20+ years of experience in education and employee development. They had over 20,000 instructional and non-instructional staff participating in Canvas-based professional development last year, and that's in a huge school district (6th largest in the nation), with over 226,000 students and 15,000 teachers, plus 8,000 non-instructional support staff.


As Broward County's teachers and students moved to Canvas last year, they decided to do their professional development in Canvas too, so that everybody would know Canvas. They designed the PD using the principles of adult learning, problem-centered, autonomous and self-directed, with an acknowledgement of the skills and experience that learners already have, while helping them to develop new skills.


They saw a wide range of learners and skill levels, and the way they sought buy-in was by helping everyone to see that they would directly benefit from learning about and in Canvas, using it as a fun and non-threatening learning environment, friendly to learners who might have never done any kind of  learning before, adapting to the learners' lifestyles and schedules. For example, they used people's familiarity with their mobile phone's home screen to design the homepages for the Canvas PD courses. They wanted to use Canvas to promote technology literacy for all, including employees, introducing all staff to 21st-century learning.


Be sure to watch the video for details about how they used Canvas course modules so that learners would unlock the modules by passing a quiz, demonstrating competencies, etc. If I understood correctly there was a core module included in all the courses -- "Canvas as a student" -- that would allow everyone both to use Canvas and also to understand how the students would be using Canvas too.


They also used Canvas to build content hubs where staff could find instructions, policies, resources, always current and up-to-date in one place. My favorite part of the presentation was about a staff person (a secretary? I am not sure) who created an Employee Handbook for her middle school, all in Canvas. She took all the available Canvas professional development courses, and then used her expertise to create the Handbook. Instead of Sharepoint or endless email, she consolidated everything in a Canvas course space, and she used assignments to get people to confirm that they had received/used the information being provided. I think that sounds amazing!


They have big plans for their second year (their first year sounds like it was monumental)... I hope we can get some of the folks from Broward County to participate here at the Community and share their ongoing developments!

Laura Gibbs

13. Our Coach Kona

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 11, 2018

You can see the embedded video here: Kona Jones


So, we've reached Wednesday afternoon! And the first Wednesday afternoon session that I went to was... the Canvas Community's own Kona, Coach of Coaches and all-around Canvas Guru. The room was packed, and there was so much interest and so many people who couldn't squeeze into the room, that they even scheduled a repeat performance on Thursday! The group from Tec de Monterrey had to cancel (I had planned to go to their session), so the conference organizers asked Kona to fill the gap, using the room for which the Monterrey folks had been scheduled. Perfect: that room did not go to waste on Thursday and even more people got to hear Kona's wonderful presentation.


Energize Your Class With Student-Centered Course Design


I don't need to do a detailed summary of the many (MANY) topics that Kona covered because she has already shared her slidedeck here at the Community: yay!

Energize your class with Student-Centered Course Design 

(And check out the InstructureCon18 homepage for a whole long list of posts by presenters!)


Even better, you will find a TON of links there for all kinds of resources here at the Canvas Community to support the practices that Kona talked about in her presentation. The slides link is down at the very bottom. And this is the key slide that really says it all: Connect with students. Motivate and challenge students. Promote critical thinking. Be present in my  course. (Of course I am pinging Michelle Pacansky-Brock for all of this!)


Kona's slide: be present


So, since you have access to Kona slides and links, I can zoom in on the items from the presentations that I connected with the most.


I love the way Kona collects and uses "stats in the wild" to make the content of the course real and immediate, showing her students who they can apply the things they are learning in class to what they might read in the paper or on Facebook, or what they might hear on the news. That sounds so fun! Just hearing about that makes me want to take her class. It sounds like a great way to engage students, and also to have the students working on things that other students will be curious to learn about too, student to student.


I really like the idea of students having to writing up one-paragraph findings that summarize their projects, while they share the whole project with Kona. Helping students learn how to do both short-form and long-form writing sounds excellent! I was also interested to learn about how she has the students on break up their big project into manageable chunks of work; that's something that is so much easier to do in a digital environment where you can share your work stage by stage, get feedback (Kona uses a lot of peer feedback it sounds like, in addition to teacher feedback) and then use that feedback as part of the whole process: timely, positive, meaningful feedback. I say yes to that!!!


My very favorite part of the presentation was Kona showing how she uses the Notes column in the Gradebook to record important information about each student so that she has an immediate reminder that a given student might be coping with something, having some kind of problem. That way, whenever she communicates with that student by sending Canvas messages she can see right there in the note the information she needs to humanize that communication. Nudges are really important, but you are going to nudge a student differently if you know they have a child with a serious illness, or that they are working a full-time night-shift job, or dealing with dyslexia etc. etc.


slide showing Notes column in Gradebook


I also really liked how Kona makes her own videos, and she said that the students really like the fact that they are spontaneous and not scripted, with Kona just talking through things as she would do in class. Those kinds of videos sound very humanizing, more so than the high-tech, "professional" videos that you might see in some kinds of  learning. Kona's videos sound like fun, and also quick and easy to make. They have ARC at her school, although she also recommends SnagIt as a good free tool. I don't use quizzes, but I really like the idea of doing a video for the quiz answer key, talking through the problems step by step.


Kona has a TON of practical advice for people who use Canvas tools like the discussion board, integrated Google Drive for assignments, etc. I'm happy with the outside-of-Canvas blog network that I use, but when I hear Kona talk about using Canvas, I realize that there are a lot of very create, student-centered ways you can use those tools too. I really liked how she set up checks for students to complete in the Modules to make sure they had completed each item ("mark as done") and were really ready to move on to the next, which also helps Kona track their progress too so that she can intervene before things get too serious. If you are interested in using mastery paths in addition to module sequencing, she has lots of advice about the best strategies for making the mastery path approach flow really smoothly for the students.


And then: DATA. She teaches statistics, so that makes sense... but the data for her outcomes when she started implementing these student-centered strategies is pretty amazing. Before, 50% of her students were getting Cs, but now it is down to just 12%. The quizzes and content are the same as before; what's different is the more student-centered approach she is using both in planning the class and then in her teaching week by week.


outcomes for Kona's class


One of her students summed it up like this: I feel like you sent out a safety rope to us before we realized we needed one.


How awesome is that quote.....???! Here's the actual slide:


slide with student quote


I am really glad I got to hear this session and see Kona in action. From the way she connected with us in that session, even though it was a huge room full of people, I am sure her students feel very connected in her classes, both in person and . Be sure to check out her links and slidedeck for all the details.


Thank you, Kona Jones!!! It was WONDERFUL.

Laura Gibbs

12. Blog on, everybody!

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 10, 2018

Today I want to write about one of those "hallway moments" that people often mention with regard to conferences... although in this case, it was a food tent moment! After the engineering panel, it was time for lunch, so I found myself standing in line at the food tent, and I started a conversation with the person standing next to me. I thought I recognized his name --  Guy Saward -- and sure enough, he had chimed in here at the Community, and that is how I knew his name. Although it was just a brief conversation , we had previously had a back-and-forth in the global search discussion, which is why his name left a lasting impression.


So there we were with lunch on our paper plates and plenty of time before Jared Stein's keynote, so we walked back to the conference center and proceeded to spend the lunch break in a lovely conversation. He is from the U.K., so there were all kinds of things to compare/contrast and discuss, and he was also interested in project-based learning, all the dilemmas in providing good student support and feedback as students work on extended projects, etc. etc. LOTS to talk about. It was a complete pleasure, and I cannot think of any circumstances other than InstructureCon where Guy and I could have had such a nice encounter face to face.


We planned to meet up again at the UnConference, and I actually saw him in the hallway there at one point, but then when I went to talk to him afterwards, he had already left -- and had left his computer, as we discoverd later. I hope Guy and his computer were reunited before he headed back to the U.K.!


And that leads me to my general question here: how do we carry on connecting after the face-to-face moment is over? In Guy's case, we happened to need to contact him urgently that Friday afternoon to tell him we had found his computer (we emailed, since no one had his phone number; I really hope that reached him before he headed out of Keystone...) -- and now here it is in August, and I am hoping that I will get to learn more about what Guy is up to and how his school year is going, his school's Canvas adventures, etc.


Maybe that will happen here at Canvas Community (which is definitely a place to build your PLN in addition to asking questions about Canvas features), or maybe at Twitter (Twitter is very chaotic, but I've got Guy on a list so hopefully I will catch any tweets to come from @guy75)... or maybe at Guy's blog...!


And how do I know he has a blog? Because of something really charming he mentioned during our conversation: he had started a blog, but found he didn't have time for it. I hear that from people all the time of course... but Guy had a great acronym for it. Instead of tl;dr, his problem was tl;cw -- too long, can't write. I'm not sure where his blog lives on the web, but if he does revive it, I will read it! :-)


Meanwhile, I'll be blogging here at the Community. I don't have time to blog, it's true... but I also don't have time NOT to blog, if you see what I mean. By blogging here at Canvas Community over the past two years (my Community-versary is coming up: I jointed August 15, 2016), I've built up a body of reference material that helps me in my work, saving me from reinventing my own wheel ha ha, and also making it possible to share my work with others. It sometimes takes time to save time, and that is how I see blogging time. I cannot imagine being a teacher without a blog.


And listen: you can blog right here at the Community if you want. Just go to the any of the group areas to see where your work fits best, and create a blog post. There are instructions for how to do that here:
How do I create a blog post?


Do you have ideas you want to save from InstructureCon? Then blog right here in the InstructureCon 2018 area! There are 78 blog posts in the InstructureCon area right now (here are mine), with room for an infinite number more! There's always room for more blogging...


So, everybody (and that includes you, Guy!), BLOG ON...!



cat leaning on computer keyboard

Descartes Cat says: I think, therefore I blog.

Laura Gibbs

11. Fun with Polling

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 9, 2018

So far I've written about the first two sessions that I attended on Wednesday, and both of them used live polling: that was really fun! Mollye used Kahoot in her OER session, and the engineers used There were other live polling tools that people used in other sessions I attended, and I enjoyed it every time. That is something new since I did classroom-based teaching (I left the classroom behind in 2002!), and if I were teaching in a classroom now, I would definitely be using these fun tools.


In fact, one of the fascinating things about an education conference like this is how the problems instructors face in the classroom are very similar to the problems conference presenters face also: how can you connect with all those people in the room and get a sense of what they are thinking even while you are doing most or even all of the talking...? I saw people using these polling tools to get a sense of audience awareness of a topic and their current knowledge, I saw them using polls as a way to direct the presentation based on what the audience voted for, and I also saw tools being used to have fun competitions (I even won a T-shirt in one presentation; more about that later ha ha). You can do so many fun and useful things with these tools above and beyond good old-fashioned raising of hands.


And I have to confess that the nickname generator in Kahoot is seriously cool. When I first saw all the names popping up, I was thinking, "Wow, these people are incredibly creative! Look at all these fabulous names they are making up!" ... but then I saw how it worked: it's a generator inside Kahoot. Since I teach storytelling, I'm thinking it would be a fun extra credit tech tip challenge to show my students how to use Kahoot both as a polling tool and also as a fun way to get characters they could write stories about: Fanciful Aardvark... Fierce Hedgehog... Honorable Panda... no kidding, those are the first three that came up! Don't you want to tell a story about them...?


Here's Fanciful Aardvark:


picture of an aardvark

(made with

Laura Gibbs

10. Searching for Search

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 8, 2018

You can see the embedded video here: Engineering Leadership


After getting off to a great start with the OER session on Wednesday, I then rushed off to the Engineering Ask-Me-Anything session. This was something I was excited about because there had been an opportunity to submit questions in advance both at the Community and at the InstCon Flipgrid. I shamelessly posted my question in both places: what's going to happen with global search? It was a big item from Khaki which was shelved without making any progress (details here), and I was really hoping to find out how the conversation was going to move forward and what we, as users, could do to help the engineering team sort through different use cases to rescope the project so that, if not global search, we could at least get improved search in different areas of Canvas and Canvas Commons.


So, the way the session worked was that there was a fantastic engineering team who was there to answer those questions plus other kinds of questions that regularly come up in these engineering encounters. I did take notes on the session (you can see my notes here), but this is not content I'm familiar with, so I don't trust myself to expand on my notes -- suffice to say, they covered a lot of really exciting topics, and the engineers are a very humorous bunch so it was a lot of fun too. Big focus on security and also on accessibility, which was great to hear about.


But here's the thing: as they worked their way through the questions, my question about Khaki and global search didn't get asked. And then they said they were all done with the questions from the Flipgrid and from the Community, but nobody had mentioned search. That felt weird: I made sure to ask my question in both places so that it would not get missed... but somehow it did.


So, I just went ahead and asked my question, and the answer was really disappointing: Chris Hunter explained that it was just too difficult to make search work with all the different levels of permissions. He didn't indicate that it would be rescoped. He didn't indicate that they would pursue search for content that was CC-licensed without limiting permissions. He didn't indicate that there would be search for Canvas Commons where permissions are presumably not a problem. No forward progress of any kind.


From the other discussion about the deferral of global search (including several comments from me, especially here, and with a really good comment from Joe Allen you can find here) , I learned about Atomic Jolt and how they do provide a search service, albeit for a very steep fee. If Atomic Jolt can get schools to pony up money for the search service, that proves in another way, beyond the Project Kahki vote, that this is something Canvas users find valuable. I strongly believe that if we are going to take Canvas seriously as a platform for developing and deploying content, we need to have search tools. Is anybody at Instructure listening? I hope they are...


Let's just take one example: Canvas Commons. Jared Stein shared in his keynote numbers about Canvas Commons usage, which was very encouraging, but the poor search features of Commons dramatically limit its usefulness. It does not search content right now, only titles and tags (and perhaps also the brief descriptions people include? I'm not sure), and, even worse, there is something very broken about the search that it does of title and tags right now: for some reason it seems to be just searching only on the first three characters of a search term. Maybe someone can figure out what's up with that. This has to be a bug and NOT a feature, right? Examples:


I search for elephant 

and I get elephants and electricity and elections.


search for elephants



I search for calories 

and I get all the calculus materials:


search for calories


I search for ballet 

and I get ballet and ballots and ballistics. And also "balance," which is what makes me think it is searching on just the first three characters. But who knows? It's just ... weird.


search for ballet


I am a huge fan of open content, and I would love to see Canvas being a force for good in the world of open content development (see my post here about open Canvas courses) ... but it is really hard to take content development seriously when Instructure is not going to provide content search features. I really could not recommend to any faculty member that they invest time in developing content on a platform that makes it hard, or even impossible, to discover that content in order to share and re-use it. 


And since Chris said that the problem with search is permissions, then maybe global search could be rescoped ONLY for content items that have some kind of CC license so that permissions are NOT a problem. Then we could get real search, including content search, for the Commons, plus a search feature for anyone who opens up their course content with a CC license. That sure might be an incentive to get people to think about the advantages of open course content!


So, I really enjoyed the engineering presentation, and I am impressed by all the great work they are going on security and accessibility in particular (you can watch the video when it comes out to learn more about that). I definitely understand the big projects going on, and how important they are... but I am not going to stop asking about search. The vote at Khaki showed that users put a high priority on search, willing to dedicate serious resources to it compared to other ways of spending those resources. I will keep hoping for more/better conversations about content development generally in the Instructure ecosystem (it needs some love, people! learning requires more than just quizzes, gradebooks, and data tracking), and I will also keep hoping about more/better conversations about search in particular.

Laura Gibbs

9. OER and TIME

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 7, 2018

You can see the embedded video here: Mollye Russell


And now at last I am getting around to the actual sessions that started on Wednesday (I clearly had too much fun on Tuesday, hence all the posts so far before the sessions even started). The first session I attended was at @geonz's request... and it really was a great session; you'll want to check out the recording when it becomes available. I hope we will also have access to the slide deck; I explained to the speaker, Mollye Russell from Baton Rouge Community College in Louisiana (but relocating to Colorado!), that it is possible to upload the slidedeck right here in Canvas Community, and to carry on the conversation here. (I'll send her an email after I post this to see if she might want to jump in.)


Here's a pic from the Twitter stream (thanks, @skyvking!)


screenshot of OER's dirty little secret: it takes time


The title of Mollye's talk was Dirty Little Secret About OERs, and as you can tell from the title of my blog post, the dirty little secret about Open Educational Resources is the TIME it takes (compared to an off-the-shelf textbook) -- which, in my opinion, is actually the dirty little secret of education in general: no one, not teachers, not students, no one has enough time for all the learning we could be doing!


You can see my rough notes here; some key takeaways for me were as follows: I really liked how much practical advice Mollye shared with us, especially for people who might just be getting started with OER.


Libraries: your librarian is your friend! Go to them for help with copyright and your questions about OER. Mollye emphasized again and again the usefulness of libraries, both your own school library and the libraries of other universities. 


(At my school, the Library is absolutely the go-to place for OER; that's where our OER initiative lives: OpenEd at OU -- check it out; you'll find lots of value there, and it might also give you some ideas for strategies to use at your school to promote OER awareness.)


First-day access: Mollye saw that her students were having to choose between money for textbooks and money for food or rent, and she also pointed out that some students are waiting on financial aid money that might not arrive until a few weeks into the semester; if you go with OER, all your students can have access to the content right from the first day of class, so they don't start out behind. You also get a lot of student trust and enthusiasm when you can tell them about OER right on the first day of class.


(That has been my experience also: students recognize the time and effort we put into developing our own content, and they are really grateful.)


Your OWN content. Mollye emphasized the power of making the content your own by choosing your own OER materials (or writing your own materials that you share with a CC license, contributing to the world of OER). By being more familiar with the material, you become a better teacher to your students.


(That's why I personally never felt comfortable with textbooks; I started curating my own  content back in 1999 even when I was teaching in the classroom. Curating your own content is a powerful aspect of pedagogy in my opinion... especially when student feedback can help you in that curation process; Mollye had lots to say about student feedback!)


Quiz banks. In particular, Mollye emphasized the power of creating your own quiz banks as opposed to using those supplied by the publisher. When you are the author of the questions to begin with, you are going to do a better job of helping students who have questions about your quizzes because they really are your quizzes (not the publisher's). She urged people to develop test items side by side with choosing the OER. Developing questions is hard work, but having your own questions can be more valuable for your students that prepackaged textbook contents.


(I don't use quizzes myself, but this all sounded like very good advice.)


Searching for OER. There was a great slide with suggestions about looking for OER materials; in particular, she had good things to say about George Mason's OER Metafinder.


(Every discipline has its own tools: for me, Hathi Trust's digital library of fully  books is my #1 resource.)


Course mapping. Instead of assembling your OER materials like you would a textbook (and thinking about it like a book), Mollye urged us to do course mapping, looking at our course objectives unit by unit, the unit learning activities, and the assessments, and then figuring out what OER would support those objectives, activities, and assessments. That's a powerful thing to do for course content in general, no matter what mix you are using of OER and copyrighted material! The idea is to take each learning outcome, and pull it apart as much as you can, finding the OER resources that will support what students need to learn (and that can be OER for reading, for watching in the form of videos, or OER-based activities and even OER assessments). She mentioned specifically getting familiar with Canvas module options and learning outcomes to help with the mapping process, especially if you do not already have a mapping process that you use.


(My course has a more student-driven approach so this kind of mapping does not exactly work for me, but it looks like an excellent approach, in addition to the way it helps with OER selection and development.)


Timelines. Since the subject was how much time it does take to do this, Mollye had some great advice for different kinds of timelines, including what would be realistic for Fall 2018 if you want to get started now.
One step at a time: Focus on replacing a single chapter of your textbook with OER, or zoom in on a single learning outcome to support with OER. Do that step by step, semester by semester, and eventually you will have a fully OER course.
Departmental collaboration: In some departments, you might be able to divide up a course and work on it together, where each person in the department does the OER research and development for a single unit (or learning outcome) and then you pool your work together, building as a team. That has the benefit of everyone being able to teach one another what you are learning about OER resources as you do the work.
Total OER overhaul. Although there is not time to go all-out and replace a course textbook completely with OER in time for Fall 2018, she does recommend this all-out approach when the calendar will support it. If you are developing an  class, that is a good opportunity to think about OER right from the start. Mollye did this: she piloted a class using OER, and then took it to other faculty in her department, persuading them to adopt the class based on the positive results of the pilot (she gathers data from students about how well the OER is working for them).


(What I like about using OER is that you can keep making advances every single semester; I use Diigo to bookmark materials I think I want to use, and one of the most fun parts of every semester is going through my heap of Diigo stuff to see what I actually want to bring directly into my courses.)


Video. Mollye uses her face-to-face class as a kind of lecture warm-up. After doing any required lecturing in class, she goes right back to her office immediately after class and records the lecture, using feedback from classroom students to help her adjust the lecture that she videotapes in her office, usually being able to shorten it after the experience of doing the lecture in class. This allowed her to spread out the effort of creating video while also having a strong, fresh focus each time she recorded herself, resulting in shorter videos.


(I don't do video and I don't teach in a classroom, but for people who teach in a classroom and want to develop their own videos, this sounds like such a great strategy!)


Lessons learned. Mollye urged everybody to keep an OER journal so they could keep track of their progress and lessons learned day by day. You can use a Google Doc as your journal, noting after each work session what went well, what didn't go well, and also using that journal to record what goes well (or not) as your students then use the materials you have developed. That way, you will know how to make the best use of your time and set your priorities for the next semester!


(This was my favorite part of the whole talk: keeping a reflective/planning journal like this will improve teaching in all kinds of ways, not just for content development.)


Be patient. This is a process, and it might be messy at first. This can be confusing for the students, but you can get feedback from them so that you know when they are confused and use that to improve your approach. Canvas tools (like modules, the link checker, having a sandbox course to do your initial development) can actually help you stay organized and reduce the confusion, plus you can have good links in Canvas, connecting things in ways that will make things more clear to the students than in a paper textbook without links. In some cases, your Canvas organization is going to be more organized than a publisher's textbook and ancillaries, especially if there has not been a good fit between the textbook and your course to begin with.


(I always emphasize to students that learning itself is messy: they will fix mistakes and problems with my course content, and I am grateful for their feedback, and that is also a way to model the whole feedback process; they need my feedback for their learning, and I need their feedback too. We are making messes and mistakes together, and learning as we go.)


Q & A. There was a lively question and answer session afterwards.


The audience was definitely interested in getting access to the slides, so I chimed in about sharing slides at the Canvas Community.


I also chimed in about the power of organizing videos in playlists to give students more context and better flow from one video to the next, and Mollye is also a fan of playlists.


There was a lot of audience interest in the best ways to build question banks; Mollye said that there are OER question banks and a great thing about them compared to publisher materials is that the revise/remix options with many forms of OER allow you to customize the questions to your own class.


In the discussion Mollye also emphasized how working with OER allows you to update what urgently needs updating for your class, as opposed to a textbook which the publisher might or might not keep up to date, and probably not in as timely a fashion as you can do with your own OER.


Someone in the audience pointed out that Canvas Commons is not always reliable; a lot of people share materials there, putting a CC license on items that are actually copyrighted, so caution is required.


Mollye returned again in the discussion to the topic of gathering student feedback in all kinds of ways, directly (like in surveys) and indirectly (you can learn a lot from watching the discussion boards to get a sense of what materials students cite, how well the materials are helping them learn, etc.).


I enjoyed this session so much... and then WHOOSH... time to rush off to the next session!

Laura Gibbs

8. The Wifi Gremlin

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 6, 2018

Yes, those are gremlins in the banner image, and today for my #InstCon30 post I am writing about the wifi gremlin. As you might know, I was planning to do live notetaking from the sessions on Wednesday and Thursday; that was the whole drone idea: I was eyes and ears on the ground for remote participants. But that was... a total fail. A wifi gremlin kept me from getting my laptop on the conference wifi.


My laptop was happy with the wifi in the RDU airport.
And in the Denver airport.
And in the shuttle from Denver to Keystone (wifi in the shuttle: how cool is that!).
And in my Keystone condo.


But my laptop was NOT happy with the conference wifi. There was at least one other person having the same problem as me, and one of the tech support people from Instructure (thank you, Ben!) valiantly tried to help us both, but he could not get either of us on the network. Renee Carney offered to lend me a laptop (thank you, Renee!), but I decided that instead I would just take notes and post them in the evening, which I did; you can see all my session notes (very rough) at the Event Pad, and I'll be using those notes to write up future posts here.


It would have been fun to be live-posting, but to be honest, I found myself so overwhelmed by the conference that trying to be fully present while also being in virtual mode was just too much for me. I know other people are able to do that... but it's just not a skill I have practiced, and it is definitely a real SKILL, one that it would take time to acquire. I can be in real space in real time, and I can be in virtual space in virtual time. But both at once? Ouch: that is hard.


Which means I was actually not a good drone! Despite the hat. Drones are supposed to be real-time, but I ended up being asynchronous after all.


I often call myself the Queen of Asynchrony because I've been teaching fully asynchronous  classes since 2002, nothing in the classroom and nothing synchronous about my classes. In fact, my whole professional life is completely digital and completely asynchronous. And you know... I'm good with that. I actually prefer it. I'm a socially awkward person; I talk too fast; I go off on tangents. SO MANY TANGENTS. Does anybody watch The Good Wife? Remember Elsbeth Tascioni? That's me.


Elsbeth Tascioni


Here's what the actress Carrie Preston says about playing that character:

I decided that she has this real fear that she is abnormal, and that makes her feel very vulnerable and scared. For example, when she asks Alicia, “Do I talk too much?,” that was a real, true moment for her of feeling like, “Oh god, once again I’m not sure how I present in the world.” We all feel insecure about how we’re being perceived by others, and I think someone as brilliant as Elsbeth, that gets magnified by a million and then you sit her down with a shrink? Oh my god, she’s gonna crack!


So, I am very lucky I think to have found the chance to be a teacher (what I always wanted to be) while also having the chance to do that asynchronously, where I can have more/different ways to be "present" without being trapped in the very limited present of same-time-same-place in the classroom.


Conferences, luckily, are totally chaotic compared to the classroom, more spontaneous and free-form, so it's okay if things get a little weird, not turning out as expected. Over and over again, people told me that in going to conferences, the best parts were the random encounters, the chance conversations in hallways, nothing that anybody planned but that just happened in the rushing to-and-fro and/or the standing-in-line or who-you-sit-next-to encounters. That was definitely the case for me!


So, anyway, the wifi gremlin kept from doing the live note-posting in Google Docs that I had planned... but no worries: the rough notes did go up in the Google Docs (just with a time delay!), and I'll be using those notes to prompt future posts about some of the fantastic sessions that I did attend. Just imagine: 10 sessions! I learned so much. It's going to be fun to go back and revisit some of the highlights coming up in future posts; for tomorrow, I'll write about the fantastic OER session that was the first one I attended! :-)

Hi! My name is Ken and this is the story of my InstructureCarn adventure. 


Things started out normal enough... canvasbaby brought me and Barbie along for the annual Jones family road trip to InstructureCon (Kona "Community" Jones), and I figured I was in for the typical paddle boating and stroller rides. 

Kennedy and Ken

Tuesday as we were wheeling around Keystone CanvasBaby got distracted by all the carnival fun and didn't realize that I got left behind. And this is where my true adventure began!


Tuesday night was game night and let me tell you, Panda is a pretty crazy bear! I partied a little too hard and unfortunately I lost a few bets... and my shorts. 


Ken wearing a diaperKen wearing a diaper

I honestly don't remember all that happened Tuesday night (PS - message me if you do!), but apparently I was the life of the party and fun enough that some people not only Tweeted about me, but also posted about me on Facebook. [Is this like my 5 minutes of fame?]


Ken collage


Thankfully Canvas users are a friendly and fun group, and didn't take offense to my lack of clothing and crazy ways!


On Wednesday and Thursday I got to go on a hike and everyone who passed by my hangout spot (on the post by the conference center stairs) smiled and some people even took selfies with me!

 Ken and fan clubKen


InstructureCon really is an amazing conference and the carnival like environment made it even better! I was having the time of my life and even had a chance to do a bit of yoga and reconnect with nature!

Ken yoga

Yet, by Thursday night I was getting a little worn down and was starting to wonder how Canvas Baby and Barbie were doing. Unfortunately, I found out later on that Canvas Baby had been sick Wednesday and part of Thursday, which is why I wasn't missed. Thankfully as the Jones family was packing up Thursday night they realized I was missing. It was then that Canvas Baby's Mom (Kona) realized that she knew exactly where to find me. She'd seen the crazy pictures on her Twitter feed, but had never connected the dots to realize it was ME, Ken! I was retrieved from my hangout spot on the post and Canvas Baby welcomed me home with open arms... and my shorts!

Ken and Canvas Baby

It felt strange, but good to be back with my family! Friday morning I drank my coffee with Barbie and looked out over Keystone lake and recounted my amazing InstructureCarn adventures and all the friends I made over the week. 

Morning coffee with Ken

Once coffee was done it was time for the next adventure... the trip home! We started by dropping off Canvas Grandma at the Denver Airport and then headed north to Mount Rushmore!


After Rushmore we stopped at Wall Drug for the free water and to feed the dinosaur! I'd also strongly recommend the donuts and $0.05 coffee, but save your money on the panning for gems experience.

Ken at Wall Drug

I took a little time in the Badlands to chat up a prairie dog. He was curious if Instructure could use a new mascot. I told him Panda was pretty awesome and that I didn't think so, but hey Panda, consider this your heads up to watch your back! 

Ken badlands

During InstructureCarn I noticed a lot of clown themed stuff and even some face painting, so when the opportunity presented itself at the Omaha Children's Museum I decided to try my hand at clown make-up. Honestly Canvas Kid ended up looking pretty creepy, so I'll probably keep my day job and stay away from clowns! 

We were almost home when we decided to swing by and visit Canvas Grandma. I hadn't heard of Hog Days or the Hog Capital of the World, but luckily a local pig was hanging around and filled me in on the big event. It sounded pretty cool and even includes a carnival (oh yeah!) and mud volleyball! 


After almost two weeks we finally made it home! It was good to be home, but after hearing about next year's InstructureCon in Long Beach, CA I'm wondering if they could use a good lifeguard??

Ken at home

Special thank you to everyone who partied with me at InstCon and shared their pictures! My memory is a little hazy about everything that took place, so if you have a story about me at InstructureCarn feel free to share it below! 

Laura Gibbs

7. Meeting Devlin Daley

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 5, 2018

Before moving on to Wednesday, I realized there is one more InstructureCon encounter from Tuesday that I forgot to mention: I met Devlin Daley, one of the original founders (along with Brian Whitmer) of Instructure, and also the first person to introduce me to Canvas years ago, long before my school went with Canvas. It was so cool to get to meet him in person at last (and I have to thank Phil Hill for making that happen). Here's a picture that someone snagged of Devlin at #InstCon:


devlin daley at instcon


He was at InstructureCon to share his current project: Derivita (you can see that on his T-shirt there). As you might expect, it's full of "love and awesomeness" -- details here:


Derivita screenshot


Getting to meet Devlin in person was coming full circle for me, since Devlin was the first person to tell me about Canvas, back in 2010. The way it happened was that I was a loud complainer in social media about how terrible LMSes were, but of course I had not used Canvas. When they wrote out of the blue to ask me to give it a try to see what I think, I wrote back to say, "Thanks, but no thanks: I have no interest in LMSes that keep all the content locked up."


So Devlin quickly corrected me and explained that Canvas IS different; if you want, you can make all your course content public.


Which is exactly what I wanted!


So I happily agreed to the demo, and was delighted: Devlin did a fantastic job of showing me just how different Canvas was from the other LMSes. Here's a quote from the email I wrote them back at the time: "THANKS FOR THE GREAT DEMO!!!!!!!!!!!" (Yes, all those exclamation marks are from the original email I wrote back to him.)


I then started lobbying for Canvas at my school back in 2010, but that went nowhere... until, glory hallelujah, we finally switched in Fall 2016. In all the years we had D2L, I was never able to share with others using the LMS. Now, with Canvas, I can! It's made a huge difference for me in more ways than I can even list here.


But here's the thing: in our rollout and Canvas training there has not been any emphasis on this outstanding feature of Canvas -- i.e., that you can make your class content open and put whatever kind of copyright license on that you want, ranging from private copyright to a CC license to public domain. The options are right there in the course settings:


screenshot of Canvas course licenses


We were never able to do that with D2L, so it seems to me that we should be emphasizing that in all our communication with faculty about Canvas. Given that it was not a feature of D2L, they would not even know to go look for it there in Canvas. We even have a great OER (open-educational-resource) initiative at my school, but it is coordinated through the Library (OU Libraries: OpenEd OER), and the Library staff have not been involved in the Canvas rollout.


So, alas, I don't think faculty at my school are making good use of that open option in Canvas, and I wish we were. To my way of thinking, being able to publish open content is one of the most powerful things about Canvas as an LMS. When you open up your class content, you become PART of the Internet, with real URLs that you can share, and real content that Google can search, index, and link. I make all my Canvas courses open, hoping they might be of use to others:
Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics, my two "real" courses
Growth Mindset (with all my feedback resources)
Canvas Widget Warehouse and Twitter4Canvas (i.e. Twitter widgets!)
... and so on.


And you never know just who will benefit when you make your content open. Just last night, I got a Twitter message out of the blue: I followed someone at Twitter who was sharing fabulous Latin things, but he was using a funky Twitter handle, tutubuslatinus, so I did not recognize who it was... but it turns out we knew each other, thanks to all the Latin teaching materials I've shared  over the years. Here's the message he sent me when he saw I had followed him:


screenshot of Twitter message


Wow: that is the kind of message every blogger dreams of reading. Anthony is talking about content there that is from years and years ago, but still available for anyone who wants to use it, mostly centered around my Latin blog, Bestiaria Latina. With all the family stuff I've had going on, I have been neglecting that blog this summer, but this message inspires me to start posting there again. Year after year, my school refused to let me teach Latin (the Classics department was not fond of my irreverent and not-very-Roman approach to Latin, ha ha), but I kept putting Latin materials , hoping it would make a difference... and it did! Whatever is happening (or not happening) at your school, the Internet gives you the ability to connect with teachers and learners everywhere, and you never know what good things might happen as a result. If I am indirectly responsible for the great things that Anthony is doing with Latin and with Legos, ohhhhh, that is such a great feeling. Here is his Sunday tweet todayHodie est dies Solis. Apollo est deus solis et musicae et valetudinis. Today is Sunday. Apollo is the god of the sun and music and health.


Apollo in Legos with Latin


So, everybody, think about OPENING your Canvas courses this year: by sharing your content with others, great new things become possible... and I am so grateful to Devlin and all the people who built Canvas to make it part of the open Internet right from the very beginning. Go, Canvas! GO OPEN!


cat peeking through door

Stay creative; be open.


If you have never been to an Unconference, change that! Don't miss this great opportunity to keep the #instcon conversation going.


Session Notes

I must confess that I intended to take notes throughout the Unconference, but as things unfolded I found myself too engaged to take notes. I will do my best to recap my experience.



I started this morning early, thinking that how nice it would be to walk the path from River Run over to Lakeside Village. It was a pleasant walk and great time to enjoy the morning stillness. As I reached the Mountain House area and had just thought how I was making good progress since I knew this was about the half way point,  I walked up to a bus that had stopped. I waved them off saying I was enjoying my morning walk. Then I thought it would be a good opportunity to make sure I was on the right path and casually asked, "This is the way to Lakeside Village, right?" To my surprise, the bus driver said, "No, you are heading toward River Run if you keep going that way." This was all I needed to hear and I decided quickly to take the offer to ride the shuttle the rest of the way.


Once I got to Keystone Lodge & Spa where the Unconference was being held, I grabbed breakfast and more importantly coffee. As I was enjoying socializing and finishing up my coffee, Kona Jones was handing out post-it notes for each of us to write down anything that we wanted to get out of the days activities. Fortunately, I had read What is an Unconference? and Why should YOU attend the InstructureCon 2018 Unconference?, so I came with a plan of the things I wanted to learn more about.


As the post-its were being organized, we had a Keynote presentation given by Ted Boren on "The UX Research Smörgåsbord". This was a fascinating dive into understand what UX Research is and how Instructure uses this to try and determine the most efficient ways for them to design products.


After the Keynote was wrapped up, we were presented with the session breakdown.


Here is where I went:


Session 1 - Quizzes.Next

I started my session diving into Quizzes.Next which was facilitates by the wonderful David Lyons. While it was intended to be an open forum, it seemed to quickly turn into a Q&A about when certain features would reach parity with Quizzes Classic or when & how Quizzes Classic would be deprecated. David handled the tension extremely well and was very open and honest about the process.


Session 2 - Ask James

I was really hoping to use this session to just sit back and listen to the other things that people were asking James Jones, Master of Canvancements. This session was very loose and I actually found myself sharing some of the cool things my school has done with the open source version of Kennethware 2.0 and a few other helpful snippets of code with Joshua McKinney


Session 3 - Canvas Features (Wish List)

This session was really cool, and I really tried not to take over the session but there are several features that we have been wanting for a while. Ted, graciously took down all of the suggestions that the group made. I get an F on retaining the features suggested by other .


However many of the ones I pushed forward have feature requests already. Here are the ones I mentioned during the session.


Make "Preview the document" the default action for linked documents 

Account level calendar (and sub-account level calendar) 

Multiple Due Dates (checkpoints) for Discussions 


The other thing I brought up was that in the Canvas for Teacher App, teachers are not able to view & grade Graded Group Discussion posts. 


Hopefully, someone else from the session could comment on some of the other ideas that were mentioned.


After the session ended, I grabbed my boxed lunch, said my goodbyes and headed out to meet my family for a trip to the stables for a horseback riding activity.


I would like to thank Kona, Kenneth Rogers, Roxanne Conroy and everyone else who helped put the Unconfernece together. 



*All of the content here is from my live session notes or straight from my memory. This means that I may miss something or be mistaken in my content. Please feel free to add to, put in context, or correct any mistakes by using the comments below. 

Laura Gibbs

6. Give Me Bananas!

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 4, 2018

After the keynote (notes here) about the past and future of Canvas on Tuesday, there was a reception, and then . . . Game Night! Thanks SO MUCH to Carrie Saarinen for organizing this event; you can read more about it here:

Game Night 2018


I ended up losing track of time at the reception and so I showed up late, but Carrie had things so well organized that even latecomers could find a table and get a game started; I was lucky to arrive with Linda J. Lee, who is a serious gameplayer, and she was able to get us started on a game of Carcassonne South Seas: thank you, Linda! Carcassonne is one of Linda's favorite games, and she knew the rules for the South Seas version too, so she got us started while helping us learn the rules at the same time. I honestly never understood very clearly how the fishing worked, but I definitely understood how to build islands with bananas, and then how to trade my bananas in for ships (the ship cards were the best; they were decorated with their own little flags based on the worth of each ship). I think I even completed one market too, but I don't remember for sure: my all-purpose strategy was just to get more bananas. I lost, but I got lots of bananas! Here is a picture of the "big" version of the game which makes it easier to see the pieces:


carcassonne south seas


It was a really fun way to wind down after a long day, and it was also so much fun to overhear the conversations going on at the other game tables where very different sorts of things were happening based on the imaginary worlds in which people were having their game adventures. We mostly play card games at my house, or dominoes, so it was such a nice chance to get to learn a new board game and to share all the board game energy with people.


I have to chime in with something I always share with the students in my Indian Epics class: India has made great contributions to board games. There are two in particular that stand out which I'll mention here; after all, you never know when random knowledge about the history of board games. :-)


PARCHEESI. The word "parcheesi" is a mispronunciation by the British of the Hindi word "pachisi," which means 25, the largest number you can throw with the cowrie shells used in the game. (The same word also shows up in the name of a Sanskrit classic, the Vetala Panchavimshati, called Baital Pachisi in Hindi, the 25 tales of the vetala/baital, or vampire.) This was one of my favorite games when I was little, but I had no idea what the name meant! I only learned it much later when I started studying Indian epics in college.


You can see the goddess Parvati and the god Shiva playing the game here:

Shiva and Parvati playing


Here is the Parcheesi board for the game I played as a child, not suspecting it was a game of the gods, ha ha.


parcheesi board

SNAKES AND LADDERS. The game of Snakes and Ladders (Chutes and Ladders) also comes from India! Here's a picture of the game from India (this board is from around the year 1800) along with the modern American version; more pictures here:


chutes and ladders


snakes and ladders


Okay, I'll stop there, but I could go on... the history of games is a great part of cultural history; in addition to playing more games in school, I also vote for letting children learn about the mechanics of game play (they could invent their own versions of Carcasonne, for example, just as someone adapted the medieval French version to a South Seas fantasy) and also about the history of games. People have always played games, and always will I am sure.


Did other people go to Game Night??? What did you play?

Here are resources, video, and PowerPoint file (attached) for my InstructureCon 2018 session - "Energize your class with Student-Centered Course Design." If you have any questions please let me know!


Session Description

Want to create the greatest student-centered course on earth? Come experience how to energize a course through increased teacher presence, better utilization of Canvas features, and creative uses of the different assignment types. Leave with the information needed to make students feel more connected and motivated to succeed. 



Below are some of the resources and guides discussed during the presentation. To see all Instructor guides see the following page - Canvas Instructor Guide - Table of Contents 


Before Class Starts












Additional Resources


After Class Starts



Canvancements are enhancements to Canvas that allow Canvas to do things it doesn't current do, but a lot of people wish it would. For the full list of Canvancements see the following page - Canvancements - Canvas Enhancements  


Student Guides

These are guides that I provide to my students at the beginning of the semester to make sure students know how to access and view the feedback I provide for them. To see all Student Guides see the following page - Canvas Student Guide - Table of Contents 


Viewing grades and feedback



If you missed it above, here is the link to the video of this presentation - Energize Your Class with Student-Centered Course Design


I really enjoyed putting on my "teacher" hat on for this presentation and I hope you find the resources and information useful! Until next year!!


Laura Gibbs

5. The Canvas Past

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 3, 2018

You can see the embedded video here: Josh Coates


The first keynote came on Tuesday evening, before all the sessions got started on Wednesday; it was Josh Coates talking about the history of Instructure, with an introduction to the new president, Dan Goldsmith. It was also our first introduction to the carnival barker who provided entertainment at all the keynotes! The carnival theme throughout the conference was really fun; I've never been to another InstructureCon so I can't compare, but I thought everything about the carnival theme was really charming; even the artwork you could see around was delightful -- here's a sample from a building column they had decorated in the registration area (see also banner image above):


lion tamer graphic


The carnival theme was very nostalgic and backward-looking in a good way, and so was the first part about Josh's keynote. I already knew some things about the history of Instructure before, but I learned new things here; the picture of Brian Whitmer with their first-ever check was wonderful to see. It was also wild to think about them shipping the software without documentation because they were so convinced that it was just that intuition (but hey, as teachers we all know that nothing... literally nothing... is going to be equally obvious to every learner). Josh showed the flamethrower video, Change is Good (that video had endeared me to Canvas back in the day!), plus a hilarious K-12 roll-out video that I'm still thinking must have been a gag and not a real video but, hey, with Instructure back in the day, anything is possible ha ha. Here's the Change is Good video, which you can see at YouTube:



In another session, I also learned about the panda from early days: the reason the Instructure mascot is a panda is that they couldn't afford a receptionist at first, and so they put a stuffed panda toy animal in the receptionist's chair until they could afford an actual person. What a great story ( Sean Nufer who shared that with us, told us that Instructure is sticking by this story, although he could not get it independently verified, ha ha).


Canvas definitely has a storied past, with some great people and personalities involved. In particular, I have been a big admirer of both Devlin Daley and Brian Whitmer from early days, and I got to meet Devlin at InstructureCon this time; they are both involved in wonderful new work of their own now, having left Instructure.


As for the future, I have to confess that I was very disappointed by the second half of the keynote where Josh was talking with Dan Goldsmith. What a lost opportunity. That was a really valuable moment for an important group of people from the Canvas world to meet the new president and learn about him, but we learned very little, and what we did learn was off-putting (at least for me), especially when they started talking about driving for Uber and delivering packages for Amazon, and what great employment opportunities the new gig economy is making available now.


In a word: OUCH.


One of the biggest problems in higher education is the Uberization (i.e. adjunctification) of teaching, with most college teaching now being done by adjuncts who are poorly paid and have zero job security (I know; I am one of them). Likewise, in K-12, teachers are poorly paid; Oklahoma was one of the states this year that saw a massive teacher walkout to protest poor salaries and working conditions. A lot of the hostility towards  education comes from instructors who, rightfully, fear that bureaucrats would like to replace actual human teachers with automated processes: auto-grading, auto-feedback, auto-everything. So, to hear Dan Goldsmith and Josh Coates talking about how great it is to be a casual employee for Uber and Amazon was really depressing (and disingenuous, coming from men who do have real jobs of their own). Uber and Amazon are both companies that, to my mind, provide terrible models of employment at a moment when teachers at all levels are having to fight for their most basic rights as employees.


Luckily, though, we had fantastic keynotes from the invited speakers Adora Svitak and Michael Bonner to provide a strong counterpoint to that strange first-night conversation; I'll have more to say about their inspiring work in future posts!


Who else has quotes and pictures to share from that first night keynote? Although I was disappointed by the second half, the first half was a blast! Even Scott gave a death-defying as a "volunteer" from the audience! I need to find a picture of that fun carnival moment to add to this post. :-)


I was traveling yesterday, so I'm one blog post behind but I'll get caught up this weekend! Here are 

here are my #InstCon30 posts so far:


  1. Hats Are Good
  2. All the Feels
  3. I am TPACK
  4. Inspired by Earl


There are the destinations we plan for, and then there are those we happen upon by accident. On June 27, 2018, a special cohort of the Canvas Community started a [virtual] journey to a destination they knew was beyond their reach, but they did it for the unexpected peaks, valleys, and vistas along the way.



The Canvas Community’s very own Community Panda prompted a call to action [Panda #stepsforbeth], and 27 community members immediately responded. As word spread, more and more steppers heeded Panda's call and by journey’s end a diverse mix of 83 Canvas users, Instructure employees, friends, and family members had stepped up for the challenge.



StepsForBeth trek map


The virtual journey was a 457-mile trek, from Instructure headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah to InstructureCon 2018 at the Keystone Resort in Keystone, Colorado where Beth would make her first triumphant appearance since her stroke in 2017. To accomplish such a trek in the 31 day challenge, an individual would have to walk almost 30,000 steps, or about 15 miles, a day. But, as stated before, this wasn’t about the final destination, it was about the journey.



The journey is the real heart and soul of this story. There were tangible goals (days, miles, steps, rewards), but the greatest outcomes came not from individual success, but from the unified front and forever friendships that formed among the band of acquaintances.


In a world of snark, silliness, and propaganda in our digital lives, participating in #stepsforbeth helped restore and maintain my faith in humanity and gave me an island of tranquility and positivity to visit every day. ~Adam Williams


It was nice to be part of something bigger than me. And it was awesome to see all the support and love for #stepsforbeth ~Alli Foote


I liked how all of a sudden I was connecting with Canvas colleagues about "life" instead of work.
~Kristin Lundstrum


The challenge made me go to the gym and walk every work day. When walking/jogging at the gym I'd remember why I was there, and I'd push through, no matter how grueling it was. ~Kenneth Rogers


[I’m} Amazed and proud of the way the Canvas Community came together to support and help one of our own. Most people didn’t know Beth that well, but it didn’t matter. She was one of “us” and we banded together for the bigger cause. Really showed that we are a family. A big crazy extended family, but a family nonetheless.

~Kona Jones


[I felt] A part of a larger Community, and one that cares! I may have actually helped someone, even if it was just to make her personal journey more comfortable. ~Kelley Meeusen


I like that the community is greater than what we see  everyday and that we are real people that care about each other. ~Ryan Seilhammer's because of you all and THIS that I pushed myself and walked over a mile yesterday! So when I say every step counts, it's you all inspiring ME to get out of this wheelchair. ~Beth Crook



Community can be uncomfortable and scary, for it requires a level of humility, vulnerability, and intimacy that many shy away from. Community requires us to put our selfish tendencies aside and care for the needs and aspirations of others. Community requires us to build relationships. Communities vary in size, physical space, and even modality (#stepsforbeth, and the Canvas Community thrive virtually). Communities allow us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves!



Because #stepsforbeth taught us so much about the importance of the journey and about the joys of community, we'd like to issue a second call to action. This call to action has no metrics or deadline; it is a plea for you to get involved in a community, or dive deeper into one where you’re already involved. Get connected to your fellow humans, and when you do, be sure to return and share the unexpected peaks, valleys, and vistas you found along your journey!



Beth Crook and Panda

I cannot believe it’s been nearly a week since our InstructureCon session and a week since we were out at Keystone. It was an amazing experience!


I’ve created a little video recap of our time out there and thought I would also add our presentation to the community. Hope you enjoy it!


Laura Gibbs

4. Inspired by Earl

Posted by Laura Gibbs Aug 1, 2018

I'm working through my #InstCon experience more or less chronologically in these posts, and today I am still on Tuesday: after hanging out with Mathieu in the morning by the registration desk, I then ran into Kelley L. Meeusen (whom I had met at Project Khaki, yay!), who then introduced me to Earl Sallade, a name I knew from the Community here, but whom I had not met before... and who has a fascinating life story, as I learned over lunch. Earl recommended we go to Extreme Pizza and - yummmm! - I am glad we did. It's on the little lake. Yes, with the panda (as in banner image above).


Extreme Pizza


And that's something definitely different about interacting in person at Instructure and, even better, at leisure before all the frenzy of the scheduled sessions begin: you get a chance to hear about people's lives beyond work. Earl has had quite a life beyond work: he is a sailor! And when he retires (soon!) he has all kinds of sailing and travel adventures planned. When I think about retiring, I think about hunkering down and writing all the books I want to write, while Earl is planning to burst out into the world, visiting all kinds of places. Although he might write a book too... and he should! He has done all kinds of things and been to all kinds of places; you can even get a sense of that just form the blurb in his Community profile. And hey, he even has a hat as you can see:


Earl Sallade's profile


Hats are Good. And Earl told me the story of that hat: it's from some kind of steampunk convention... but I can't remember the exact name. If Earl sees this post, he can remind me. Maybe it's the Seattle Steamposium...? Anyway: VERY COOL HAT.

So, keep an eye out for Earl here at the Community (he has literally decades of LMS experience to share!) ... and if you ever get a chance to hear his life story over lunch, DO IT! I am so glad InstCon gave us a chance to get to meet in person.


Did you get surprised by someone's life story at Instcon...?

Laura Gibbs

3. I am TPACK

Posted by Laura Gibbs Jul 31, 2018

In yesterday's post I mentioned meeting up with Mathieu Plourde  on the very first day of the conference (Tuesday, before the actual sessions started) and we had a great conversation about all the work he's been doing, including a fantastic course that provides an introduction to  teaching that is grounded in empathy and presence:

EME 6613: Development of Technology-Based Instruction

Based on how Mathieu described the class and then looking at the syllabus, I know I would enjoy that class so much as a student!


Another great takeaway from our conversation was TPACK, which I made the title of this post. Mathieu introduced me to (new to me), which stands for Technology-Pedagogy-and-Content-Knowlege. I am happily at the center of their Venn diagram:


TPACK Venn diagram

They have a lot of resources there at the website and, hey, it's a hashtag on Twitter: #TPACK. I am going to have to start using #TPACK when I write about my approach to  teaching, since it is very much grounded in building my skills in all three of those areas and figuring out how to coordinate those skills in ways that will benefit my students. Just speaking for myself, I like the idea of pushing myself in all three dimensions: it means I may not have the depth across all three areas that an expert would have, but it allows me to look at my strengths and weaknesses across those three dimensions to see what I need to focus on as I move forward (like this year, where my focus is pedagogical, thinking about feedback processes in my classes).


And here's a blast from the past: If any of you were swept up in the MOOC-pocalypse of some years ago, Mathieu got his 15 minutes of Internet fame thanks to this graphic that went viral: xMOOC, cMOOC, or just MOOC... all the letters are negotiable. :-)


MOOC poster: every letter is negotiable


You can see it proudly situated here in the Wikipedia article on MOOCs:



screenshot of Wikipedia article


Given a choice of acronyms, I'll take TPACK over MOOC any day. Thanks for turning me on to TPACK, Mathieu!