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I just started using Canvas 4 weeks ago. My experience so far has been to build a very traditional set of classroom assignments (reading homework -> quiz -> chapter test -> unit test) and now I'm ready to start pushing into more project based learning using the tools that I am learning about in the Canvas training videos. The biggest inspirations have been seeing how to leverage smartphones into learning devices. 


My school is fighting an unwinnable war with students and their mobile devices. As an Instructional Technology Facilitator, I have been trying to get teachers to see the powerful tool that their students have at their fingertips. The biggest disconnect though, is that you can't just throw a smartphone at a traditional assignment and expect the same learning outcomes. Many of the teachers at my school are unwilling to rethink what it is they are actually trying to accomplish in student learning. The fundamental question is: am I teaching to give a grade OR am I teaching to measure learning? 


So, rather than ask people to do something I haven't done myself, I'm taking the opportunity to experiment with the 1 class I teach this semester - Honors Anatomy and Physiology. I'm ready to implement the tools and examples I have seen and ready to reshape how we quantify learning with my one small class as the start. 


My plan is to build modules around the next 4 body systems that we will be studying. They will be self-paced, allowing students to have freedom of choice in demonstrating clearly defined learning objectives that they will demonstrate through a variety of digital media assignment submissions. I'm also planning to put in performance requirements that set a minimum score threshold before the student unlocks the next module. All while sharing and demonstrating with my colleagues.



iOS beta users will be happy to hear that we released Canvas Teacher 1.2 to TestFlight this morning! If you're on our list of TestFlight users, you'll have received an email from TestFlight. Here's what we need you to break:


  1. Student context cards. From anywhere in the app (including from the new People list!), you can tap a student's avatar to view their context card. It's cool! Let us know what load times you're experiencing when launching a card. It shouldn't take more than a couple of seconds. You can also tap on an assignment from the context card to launch of submission preview in SpeedGrader. The context cards look like this:

  2. Audio/video comments in SpeedGrader. You can now add audio or video comments to a submission in SpeedGrader by tapping the "+" button from the Comments tab. There's a known issue where the sent video doesn't display properly in the comment stream until you navigate away from and then back to the comments tab, but recording, previewing and posting should all be working properly. The option to add audio or video looks like this:

  3. Attendance. If you've enabled the Roll Call LTI attendance tool in Canvas, you'll see an "Attendance" component added to your course components list in the teacher app. Once launched, you can tap on a student name to mark that student as present, absent, or late. We want to hear your feedback on load times and user experience with this component. Attendance in the teacher app looks like this:


You can also add attachments to announcements, discussions and inbox messages now. 


So that's version 1.2!


What about 1.1, you say? iOS will be pushing a 1.1 version to stores which is everything mentioned above minus attendance. We need some more feedback on attendance before we make that available everywhere.


We have dreams for the attendance tool that haven't come to fruition yet. We want teachers to be able to set a phone or tablet at the front of the classroom that records attendance as students enter the room. We feel like it's technically possible today, and would be better than paper attendance, and shouldn't require schools to purchase any special hardware or adopt lengthy setup procedures. But the technology is still new, and not all smartphones have the right hardware, and not all kids have smartphones, so it'll be a minute before our dreams come true.


As usual with teacher app betas for iOS, you can send us feedback by taking a screenshot from anywhere within the app.


Android teachers - stay tuned, 1.1/1.2 will be out soon!


Eliminating the Zero!

Posted by Stacy LAMBERT Sep 3, 2017

At Callaghan College Wallsend Campus, we have a good BYOD program (bring your own device) with over 500 students with a registered BYOD (not including phones). However, students do not always bring them everyday for whatever reason. BUT - they all have a phone permanently attached to their hands/ears etc. There is a school rule that if the phone is being used for educational purposes, they can have it out in class, but if they are just sending Snapchats to each other, then no dice! We have been encouraging the use of the mobile app with them and although only in it's infancy, there are some surprising results. (Apart from their typing speed with two thumbs).

Activity on Canvas has increased incredibly overall – looking at our analytics. Submission rates for tasks have also increased. The good thing we have noticed is some of the students that generally hand in nothing or do not attempt any tasks (that minority of kids that we all have at some stage that are really hard to reach) are actually having a go - all be it a small one. Our 'non-awards' have decreased, some students are actually getting an E or D grade, which sounds like our expectations are really low (this is not the case), but for some of these children, it's the best mark they have achieved in a while. We are actually thinking that maybe with some increased confidence for these students, they might eventually improve across a range of subjects and maybe begin to enjoy learning. We can only hope. The use of the mobile phone and an app may just be the beginning of the end for the ZERO. David SUMMERVILLE callaghancollegewallsendcampus


Hello my CMUG friends,


I hope everyone is enjoying the Teacher App so far. As you begin using it in the fall semester, please continue to share your experience, good or bad! If the app is missing a vital feature, create an idea! If you are lost, ask a question! Kristin Lundstrum and myself are looking over these everyday! 


Teacher App - Part Deux


In case you missed it, the Teacher isn't done and the mobile team needs your help to get over the finish line! If you are interested in the next round of Canvas Teacher beta testing, well here's your chance! 


Canvas Teacher Beta sign-up 


Once again, good luck on the semester and feel free to use this group to share and grow you knowledge with all things mobile! 


UPDATE: Canvas Teacher 1.2 released to TestFlight!



Now that Canvas Teacher is released (with over 100,000 downloads in its first two weeks of life!) and the focus group that helped us build it has wrapped up, we're looking for volunteers from CMUG to help us test pre-production versions of the app, usually a few days or a week before we release them to everybody else in stores.


There are two things we might need from you:


  1. Most importantly, we need you to tell us if you experience catastrophic failures. Here are some examples of catastrophic failures:
    • "Wooooah, I can't log in anymore on the beta version."
    • "Wooooah, the app is crashing every time I do [x] on the beta version."
    • "Wooooah, this new beta feature is garbage."
    • "Wooooah, I left my coffee on the counter and now I've gone too far to turn back."
  2. Sometimes we'll want to test a feature to see if it's working or not. In these cases, I'll post something in CMUG about what we're testing.


iOS users will get beta access through Apple's TestFlight app. Android users will get beta access directly from Google Play. TestFlight restricts the number of external testers we can have, so -- no hard feelings -- we may boot you from testing if you never look at beta versions.


We'll import new beta registrants on Fridays, and we'll leave this sign-up sheet available for the next few weeks, depending on how many responses we get. You'll receive an email from TestFlight or Google Play -- depending on your response -- when we get you added to our testers list.


Canvas Teacher Beta Access Sign-up 

A few years ago in my face-to-face history class I started flipping my instruction. Each time the class meets there is a group activity. Students are grouped based on their interest in a course theme, as there is a theme-related capstone assignment for the class. I like to use the LMS for all assignment submissions, and doing that during class allows me to take roll concurrently. Having a mobile-friendly system like Canvas makes things a lot easier for my students. It also means I can use a broad definition of "mobile" to include any networked device a student can bring to a classroom, from laptops to smart phones. 


I am concerned about the digital divide and whether a particular group will have a mobile device in hand, so the "get to know you" form that students complete on the first day of the semester asks whether they have a device they can bring to class. I then make sure each group has at least two students who can do so. 


It would be great if I did not have to think about device availability. Last fall I applied for and won a mini-grant from my college foundation to purchase some cloud books. I would have them ready for my students to use, and so I was excited about the next semester. 


Can you guess where this is going? Last spring I again divided the class into groups based on their interest in a course theme. Even though I did not have to worry about device access because of my mini-grant, I still asked my students if they could bring a device to class. All of them said yes. 


Each class of course is different and drawing conclusions based on two classes does not make for a change in practice, even if the change was progressive over time. This is especially true for a community college, where so much diversity in every way exists. But it is always good to challenge assumptions, especially those that encourage us to treat people less empowered than they actually might be. 


*This blog entry composed on a mobile device, natch.* 

I have compiled a list of difference between the iOS and Android Teacher app. I discussed with the mobile team at InstructureCon about most of these but thought I'd share for everyone. If you notice a mistake or something I'm missing, let me know and I'll add it to the list. 



There are few subtle differences in the Android and iOS version, which are mostly focused on attaching media to announcement text and the announcement itself.


Attaching Media

The Android version allows teachers to attach an image directly to an announcement. This can be through the camera, local gallery, or directly from the device. In testing, I noticed a few things:


  • You can’t take video and use it as an attachment. The camera would only allow for photos.
  • I could attach a video, but it wasn’t intuitive, which makes me think the app doesn’t want to allow this.
  • You can only attach ONE The app won’t allow you to add a second.
  • Not sure if it’s a bug, but I couldn’t edit an assignment and attach an image.


Mark all as Read

The iOS version gives teachers the ability to “Mark All as Read” for announcements, but it doesn’t work. This might be a holdover from the discussion in the app.


Rich Content Editor (RCE)

The teacher app brings rich context editing for the first time to a Canvas mobile app. This gives instructors the ability to add simple styles to text. This includes the bold, italics, underline (Android only), numbered lists, ordered lists, and links.


The Android version includes the ability to insert an image. To insert an image, you need to know the link to the image. The app doesn’t support uploading any media directly through the the RCE.



On the surface there isn’t much difference between iOS and Android, but the biggest differences come when accessing quiz settings on Android.


The Android and iOS app share the following settings in common:

  • Quiz Type
  • Published (On/Off)
  • Require Access Code (On/Off)


The iOS app allows for even more settings that aren’t available on Android:


  • Assignment Group
  • Shuffle Answers (On/Off)
  • Time Limit (On/Off)
  • Length in minutes
  • Allow Multiple Attempts (On/Off)
  • Let Students See Their Quiz Responses (On/Off)
  • Only Once After Each Attempt (On/Off)
  • Let Students See the Correct Answer (On/Off)
  • Show Correct Answers At
  • Hide Correct Answers At
  • Show One Question at a Time (On/Off)


Quiz Summary Information

The quiz summary shows slightly different information in Android and iOS

  • Android shows points in quiz summary, iOS doesn’t, but does at the top of the quiz details screen.
  • Android shows multiple attempts (Yes/No), while iOS shows number of allowed attempts
  • Android has show correct answers as “Immediately” while iOS is “Always”
  • iOS shows score to keep, but Android doesn’t



The Assignments section in iOS and Android include many of the same RCE features mentioned above, and there is only one difference:

  • Under the submission list, Android can’t filter by Graded.



As mentioned above in Announcements, the RCE on Android and iOS share subtle differences. As for the discussions tool itself, here are a few small differences:

  • iOS allows teachers to subscribe to a discussion, but android doesn’t have this option. 
  • Android can attach photos (no video) the discussions and replies. The iOS version can’t attach photos or videos.
  • Android allows a teacher to like a discussion reply (if enabled on the web)



SpeedGrader is really the heart of this app. It gives teachers the ability to do so much on the go, and with the addition of an iPhone version, it’s even more convenient than before.


The parity between Android and iOS is very good with only a few subtle differences:


  • When annotating, the Android app doesn’t have a button for undo
  • On Android and iOS, a teacher can see the submitting grade under the list of comments. The Android app adds the text “Submitted Files” with the submission.
  • The Android version hides “Add Comments” or “View Long Description” in a Rubric if this hasn't been set on the web. iOS hides "Add Comments" if not set on the web, but shows "View Long Description" regardless. 
  • Teachers can’t add media comments in iOS or Android
  • Rubrics display from smallest to largest, left to right - This is opposite on the web version (8/10 Victoria Maloy)



The Inbox is really a nice upgrade over the existing Canvas App version. It’s quick, easy on the eye and had intuitive features. The only difference I noticed in the inbox is the Android can attach photos to a message.



The profile for iOS has no features to update your profile, while Android has limited features. 



Android and iOS are fundamentally different, so it’s not reasonable to expect perfect parity with how features work on both platforms. For instance, Android generally leans towards drop downs, when iOS uses floating menus. Even with this I noticed a few subtle differences


  • Android can switch users.
  • The Android version has a cool loading animation.


I found the CanvasLIVE session on the Mobile Series: Discussions in the Palm of Your Hand to be very helpful as an Instructor. There seems to be better interaction with Discussion Board in the new Canvas Teacher App as well. Although we are limited with the design aspect of our courses (online instructors teach from a template) I will definitely spread the word on this tool to other Instructors in my office. I can see Instructors finding the mobile app for replying and interacting with students beneficial as it is more convenient than pulling up their laptop or waiting to get to a computer.

If you joined us at InstructureCon 2017 for Canvas Mobile, An App for Everyone, thanks for joining me. If not, I wanted to make this available for everyone. The presentation is attached. 


This session covers the parent, student, and teacher roles when using the Canvas Mobile apps. This includes a short overview of 23 interviews by myself, Kristin Lundstrum, and Ashley Salter. We plan to share more of these interviews over the next few months in this space. 


As part of the presentation, we showed using an iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil to do annotations in SpeedGrader, which is available below:


SpeedGrader in Teacher App with iPad Pro - YouTube 

A development I am working on is the use of the Mobile App to record evidence and track performance criteria. In the UK we have, as part of our vocational qualifications a portfolio of work based evidence with goes towards their final qualification. Yes there are tools on the market but to provide a holistic approach which includes the knowledge evidence as well as the work based evidence I feel will really make a difference.

the tools in canvas can provide a really good at form for the recording of work based evidence but the issue is mapping the evidence against the criteria for the course. 

I hope to have a solution to this in the near future, but I am also wondering if anyone else has been working along these lines. 

Recently, I was given a new toy to play with: Canvas LMS. To be honest, it's not Christmas unless something tech is involved. My institution is currently piloting Canvas (currently using Bb) and I'm in the first batch of classes to go live. After reviewing the online instructor on-demand course and video tours, I dug into the platform to play around. Yea! Fun times...


(Canvas) Getting to Know You

My initial goal was to set up the course as an instructor with basic technology skills. It was bare bones but had the structure and support materials it needed to be functional. Another goal of the minimal design was to easily break apart materials from a condensed Summer course and expand it into a full-term Fall/Spring build.


[Design 1] Module Structure Outline

  • Module/Chapter Overview [Page]
    • Introduction
    • Learning Objectives
    • Tasks/To-Do List
  • PowerPoint slides in PDF (3 per page with notes) [File]
  • Optional Resources [URL Links]
  • Discussion/Assignment/Quiz [Add Item to Module]


Jeff Ferner asked Who stares at a phone all day... Who me? I stare at a desktop most of the day. Except when I am not at work and am then tethered to my iPhone SE (I have small hands). On an auditing whim, I decided to check out my newly designed course via the Canvas iOS mobile app. I soon thereafter redesigned the "basic" course.


I used both my iPhone SE and decently sized iPad to test out Design 1 of my course. One of the biggest issues that I had is when you add URL links to a Module, if you look at it on mobile- it looks good because of the inline reader (whether I use "Open in New Tab" or not).  However, in desktop with our previous best practice of opening links in new windows- at the very top of the screen it has a basic link telling the user to open in a new window. Meh.


Example of Module URL Open in New Tab
If I add a URL to a Module and do not put "open in a new tab" users may receive an error about secure/insecure data and web browsers. While I (and most tech savvy folks) know what that's about, for those that are not- it may create apprehension towards clicking on these links. Not a good user experience.


While in general one might say designing for mobile is the way to go- we have a lot of students who use their laptops for viewing course materials (which could be related to historical sub-par mobile access/user experience). Therefore, the current focus is to try and design for both at the same time.


[Design 2] Module Structure Outline

  • Module/Chapter Overview [Page]
    • Introduction
    • Learning Objectives
    • Tasks/To-Do List
      • Optional Resources [URL Links]
  • PowerPoint slides in PDF (3 per page with notes) [File]
  • Discussion/Assignment/Quiz [Add Item to Module]


Did a real quick redesign so that the URL links for the module were included within the "Module Overview" page. For desktop and mobile, they both open in a new tab. No error messages. While this is a simple way to address this concern, my next step is to do some mobile testing using requirements and prerequisites. What have been your experiences and tricks/fixes for designing for mobile/desktop at the same time?

Canvas has a great mobile app. It can't do everything, but it can be used to create great mobile learning experiences.



The mobile app makes it possible to communicate with students on the go.

  1. Open a course and go to people to find and send messages to people in your course, or go directly to your Inbox.
  2. Create discussion topics and let students reply.


The mobile app makes it possible to measure students progress.

  1. Create assignments. You can use rubrics for easy online grading, and ask the students to write a few lines, take a picture or record a video with their phone.
  2. Create quizzes. For the best mobile experience you shouldn't use certain settings and quiz types.
    1. Let your students do quizzes when they have a minute to spare. Add a mobile friendly quiz to every module in your course.
    2. Let students do quizzes at the beginning or at the end of your lesson. You can check the results immediately and check your students understanding.
    3. Let students do quizzes during your lesson. Quizzes can be used as a polling tool. Prepare some quizzes in advance, or make them when you need them. Ask one or more questions and publish the quiz when you need it.

Learning experiences

Create mobile friendly learning modules.

  1. Create at least one learning module that's 100% mobile friendly. It could be a course introduction, or a course summary (everything you need to get a C). This module can be used by students when they have a minute to spare.

Mobile friendly course

Make your courses mobile friendly.

  1. Reduce the width of your browser window when your creating content. By doing this you will get an idea of how your course looks on a mobile device. Try to avoid the horizontal scrollbar in your content.
  2. Don't add to much content to a page.
  3. Add your pages to modules. It's incredibly easy to navigate through modules on a mobile device.
  4. And last but not least: Did you know that you can use pdfCreator to create a mobile friendly pdf version of your course text.
    1. Open your course text and choose print
    2. Choose pdfCreator as your printer
    3. Go to printer properties and to advanced settings
    4. Change the page size from A4 to A5 or A6

Your course text will be converted in a pdf that looks beautiful on a smartphone screen. You can make it even better if you decrease the page margins and increase the font size a bit.

Dip Your Toe In The Water

Sometimes it’s overwhelming with all of the amazing online tools out there. So many to experiment with, and time needed to get to understand all of their different quirks. 

If you are feeling inundated by the plethora of apps and tools then perhaps an easier way to go is to choose just ONE and get to know it. Discover your own purpose for using it. These can often morph into other uses. Then before you realise it they can become your go-to tool of choice.

I started with one little idea. Padlet seemed like a safe tool to begin with. I only used it as a brainstorming tool for ages. Then I started to use it as a discussion device, then as a student feedback tool, then as a display board on our LMS. Now my padlets house gifs the students have made of their sketches, book reviews they have made using Explain Everything, student writing recorded and uploaded to youtube, original songs composed on garageband uploaded for Mother’s Day and linked by a QR code on student cards, you name it then it’s on a padlet. I’ve even started using it to archive our ICT team minutes and resources.

Teachers who have been nervous about using any ICT tool have now begun to use padlet in their teaching and learning programs. With their brave first steps they are becoming better at problem solving with other ICT issues and more creative with their teaching.  

Now that I’ve dipped my toe into the water I feel so much more confident to try other tools, discover their quirks, problem solve and create new purposes for using them. Not only am I in the water but I’m swimming with others.

Dip your toe in the water - with just one idea.

I am not new to coding HTML and CSS and have written JavaScript and jQuery when necessary. I have worked with Bootstrap and used the Chrome and Firefox inspector tools to test presentations on different sized screens. So when I downloaded the Canvas app to my Motorola phone, I didn’t expect too many challenges.

The first thing I did in the Dashboard was choose one course to view in the “Course & Group Selection”. I selected my sandbox course. The software put a star in the icon to indicate selection. Looking around the course pages, I found a video that was not showing. I went to the PC, logged in to my Canvas account to get a look at the code, and … only the sandbox course remained in the dashboard! What? Back on the mobile app, I selected all the other courses in the “Course & Group Selection” menu. A refresh on the PC showed all the courses were back. Whew!

I have only just started, but already I see that my Canvas icons are not rendering and the Canvas-styled buttons are not styling. On the other hand, my custom drop cap and block quote styling is working nicely and my Twitter iframe looks great!

I would like to hear what surprises you’ve had.

Josh Frielich

Students on iphones:

Posted by Josh Frielich Jun 28, 2017

I have loved using Canvas, the switch has basically guaranteed student success. Students can turn in work from phones, use cameras to document project based learning assessments. When students are sick they return with all work and lessons complete. My students walk into the classroom, look at pop-up notifications and know exactly what to do, and what we will be doing in class that day. I love this!