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Many teachers have now moved to teaching entirely online with the current COVID-19 situation. We've already discussed the idea of "Maintaining a Connection of the Classroom". What about our teachers who are on a rapid learning curve in the use of technology for distance learning. This article aims to cover ideas on maintaining and promoting a collaborative connection between teachers when working remotely.


The Staff Room

Many organisations are already using Web Conferencing tools for social events as well as formal meetings. If you don't already have a shared online area, one of the features that can be useful for sharing information and ideas is the Account-level Groups feature within Canvas. These can be created for specific faculties or departments within an organisation and can be used for staff briefings and notices. 



Account-level groups include functionality for announcements, discussions, file sharing and conferences. Account-level groups can be set up by your Canvas Admin. 



The Etiquette of Sharing

If we consider the amount of content that will have been created over the past few weeks, I can't help but wonder how many times the wheel has been reinvented?


Canvas includes some great features to help you share content with your colleagues or even across the whole community of Canvas teachers.


Let's consider sharing within your organisation, to begin with. Direct share enables you to send a resource directly to another course or teacher in your organisation.



The resources sent between teachers can be accessed easily from your account in the global navigation.



You can directly share item banks with other teachers in your organisation as well. One method of doing this is by creating a new item bank and sharing this with other teachers so you can collaborate together and build a pool of questions. 


Canvas Commons is a way of sharing content within your organisation as well as outside. It's a place where you can search for resources to add to your own course from other teachers.


We should consider some form of etiquette or best practice here. When sharing publically on Commons, we should be aware that it is accessed by teachers from many levels and also may different systems across the world. Although it may take a little more time, it is good practice to fill in all details to make searching easier. We all know it's easy to cook in your own kitchen when you know where everything is. Try cooking in someone else's kitchen.



  • Is the title a clear indication of the content? Let's consider "Chemistry Quiz" vs "Quiz - Balancing Chemical Equations". 
  • Does the description describe the content clearly? What does the resource include and how is it designed?
  • Have suitable tags been applied? Different countries use different terminology, it's good to use this to help people find resources for specific qualifications. Content will overlap countries though so we should aim to include standard transferable tags. Age range is a simple example but we can't rely solely on that label. Let's include;
    • Subject
    • Topic
    • Year Group / Grade
    • Age Range
  • Does the image represent the content appropriately? When multiple resources appear in a search let's make sure we don't lose a valuable resource by adding an image that doesn't truly represent what you are offering.


Another way to organised content in Commons is to use groups. Admins can create these and assign staff as the group manager.


I've seen over the past few weeks, under very difficult circumstances, amazing collaborations between educators all over the world. It reminded me of being asked to present at Instructurecon with a topic of "How to get the most out of Instructurecon?"

My response was simple, "Be Like Robin Hood, share the wealth"






Ok this is a really short post but might be helpful for some of you who have multiple adults and/or kids all doing Zoom meetings in the house and you keep hearing and being distracted by all of the other conversations. 


Turn on some White Noise


White noise is basically any sort of non-specific sound.  The idea is that you don't notice it much, but it helps drown out other noises coming from your housemates who are also in meetings (or playing FortNite with friends).  If you don't have a White Noise device there are a ton of apps for iOS and Android, and if you have a smart speaker try just yelling out "Alexa, play some white noise", or "Hey Google, play some white noise".  If you accidentally say "Play some white snake, well that might be a little more distracting.  Amazon has a whole selection of devices you can order and bathroom fans also can do the trick. 


I didn't do this, but in my house both of our Echo Dots are currently playing White Noise as well as fans running in both bathrooms. 


I guess I must be too loud?  



The Rickster


You may have read my previous blog around maintaining the connection with your classroom. This was written as teachers moved from a classroom situation to teaching online.


Link to Blog - Maintaining the Connection of the Class RoomMaintaining the Connection of the Classroom


I wanted to write this post as the current circumstances means more and more educators are providing resources online to students who are working under a very different environment. Things have changed very rapidly in the last few weeks. In my role, I'm so lucky, I spend my time with fantastic educators around the world, looking at ways of using Canvas to change and enhance educational delivery. The situation we are presented with today means we need to step back and focus on new users, under pressure and with little time. By this, I mean our students and parents as well as teachers. They are juggling many priorities of a personal nature as well as professional. 


After thinking about your level of capability with the tools make a decision on what is really important now

Then let's ask ourselves 3 questions.


1 - Can we actually find time to be online together?


  1. Use Virtual Classrooms as open Q+A sessions.
  2. Don't forget the "Chat" tool.
  3. Use a single-threaded discussion tool to gather questions.


When everybody is at home, it may be putting a strain on the people as they spend more time together. We also need to consider it could be putting pressure on the internet and access to devices as well. Will your whole class still be available at the normal time?


We can think of what can be delivered in your virtual classroom on a continuous scale.



If you are not used to delivering online video classes, maybe a simple approach in the time online together will be more beneficial. Consider setting your work in assignments and discussions that can be completed asynchronously. Use shorter webinar times. Do they really need to be run at the same time as the usual school schedule? These sessions can be an opportunity to answer your students' questions or cover a crucial point they've not grasped in the assignments and quizzes. Do not undervalue you explaining a concept verbally.

If circumstances mean that web calls are inappropriate or inaccessible, you can use the chat tool to answer questions and support students synchronously.


Discussions can also help maintain the connection of the classroom and could be more accessible to students if they are unable to attend a scheduled virtual class. These to allow students to share ideas but simply keeping one discussion board pinned and open to gather questions can help students ask for help and gain support.



2 - Will they find their way around my course?


  1. Use the first module in your list as a box for this week's resources and tasks.
  2. Set due dates or add to the student to-do list.


There's no point in setting work that they can't find behind a large number of clicks. The modules page in Canvas is a fantastic way of presenting your resources in a structured manner to your students. Think about your students (consider parents) and their ability to navigate the course. One idea is to put a module at the top of the page with the current work. You can drag and drop, or move the module if need be.



Canvas automatically creates a to-do list for students. If you add dates and times to your tasks, it increases the visibility for students and helps organise their time.


3 - How do they get feedback when I'm not available?


  1. Use short self-marking quizzes where feedback is given based on a response.


When you can't be online at the same time as your students, there's no need for them to wait to get feedback on simple concepts. You can add mini-quizzes and if you use the feedback tools in the quiz students can see straight away if they've grasped a concept or idea.

I hope this discussion blog has been useful and feel free to comment. We see the work and effort you put in during these challenging times. Remember, you can only do what you can do. 


Stay Safe!



Summary of Ideas

  • Use a single-threaded discussion tool to gather questions.
  • Don't forget the "Chat" tool.
  • Use Virtual Classrooms as open Q+A sessions.
  • Use the first module in your list as a box for this week's resources and tasks.
  • Set due dates or add to the student to-do list.
  • Use short self-marking quizzes where feedback is given based on a response.



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