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:
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.com.
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:
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:
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 today: Hodie 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.
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!