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2017

This semester, I challenged myself to only use Teacher when grading and providing feedback. The release of Canvas Teacher got me like:

 

tl;dr Overwhelmingly positive.

 

Context

The course I am (was, by the time some of you may be reading this) teaching is Foundations of Online Learning. It needed a redesign, so my focus was on mobile-friendly Universal Design for Learning concepts and OER content. One discussion per week and assignments that made use of design choice including Adobe Spark, Canva, FlipGrid and other non-traditional assignment submission types.

 

As an eight-week course, and with a full-time job during the week and little spare time outside of work (tbh, I'd rather hang out with my family than grade all the time), it was important to me to find balance.

 

Being up earlier than the rest of my family, that meant that I could grade assignments that came in on Monday on Tuesday morning, and be caught up and ready to go for Tuesday submissions on Wednesday. The variety offered to me for providing on-the-go comments with my iOS camera and microphone, or annotating with DocViewer, were really stellar. I could do all of that while laying down on the couch in my jammies, rather than trying to prop a MacBook Pro on my lap with cats running around.

 

Highlights

  • Grading anytime, anywhere. I graded assignments in the early morning with a cup of tea, in between takes at band practice and before bed. All on different devices, as the situation warranted.
  • Editing announcements and assignments on the fly: Based on feedback from the students, I was able to flex Teacher's muscles by adapting course content to meet their needs.
  • Ran into an issue with drag and drop on iOS 11. Support was incredibly responsive and the issue was resolved.

 

Sticking points

  • Notifications for Teacher did not seem to work. I relied on notifications from Student.
    • If I did not have the Student app, notifications would not have pushed to me. It could have been a potential problem, but was resolved using a workaround.
  • No support for adding images to assignment submissions as a teacher. Had to go to mobile Canvas via Chrome for iOS. Bummer.

 

Many, many thanks to the team at Instructure for getting Teacher out to the community. Every opportunity I get to evangelize it, I do. I encourage everyone in this community that also teaches to try a similar experiment. Not only is it worth it, I now have a better sense of how to be more responsive to faculty concerns about the mobile Canvas experience.

I am greatly enjoying the easy use of the Canvas Teacher app. One thing I wish it had was a search or sort option for the home page. I have many open, active courses and just being able to search or sort A-Z would make things easier.

Family Checking Canvas Parent

 

In May of 2017, a small group of families from DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota was invited to provide feedback and to talk about the Canvas Parent App. During these meetings, Canvas administrators were able to gather great user-stories and adjust the way in which Canvas Parent was supported. Additionally, a list of "best practices" was compiled and shared with teaching faculty.

 

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At the time of this interview, Billy just completed his freshman year at DeLaSalle High School. He’s a goal-oriented student who is intrinsically motivated to make authentic connections between different content areas. Notably, his outgoing personality landed him a lead role in two recent theater productions.

 

His mom, Patty, shared that, “being involved with Billy’s academics really helps me gauge 'how’s he doing in school?’ and ‘how is he doing overall?’ If I can see a slip, I know that there’s something going on. Either it’s that he’s disengaged or he’s overwhelmed.” Patty thinks that parent involvement is important, not just because of the value she places on education, but because she wants to make sure that Billy maximizes his potential.

 

“The mobile app allows me to, anytime I want, check in on Billy’s progress. It’s easy to access information.”

 

Canvas has encouraged her to start conversations with teachers, outside of scheduled conferences and semester checkpoints. “I’ve used Canvas to reach out to teachers. The app makes it easy to start the conversation since I have so much more detail about the coursework.” Patty likes being able to have up-to-date information on her phone. The information about late and missing work helps provide context to her inquiries with Billy’s teachers.

 

The transparency of Canvas is so valuable. Patty likes how grades, assignment details, etc are all available to her. It helps her piece together what Billy experiences on a day-to-day basis and provides her with key talking points when checking in with her son at the end of the day. She also pointed out the convenience of the app as, “most of us have a phone with us all the time. I can see when he’s going to have a test or he’s going to get a grade."

 

"I can check...not that I don’t trust him...there have been great conversations about how he did on an assignment.”

 

She is appreciative of the easy interface and the consistency of the app. However, there are a few improvements that she’d like to see made. “If I can see that something has been resubmitted or changed, I have to log-in to the desktop to really see the comments. It would be so nice to be able to see it on my phone. I still get the email notifications, but I’d like to have it one place.” She’d also like to be able to set granular notifications.

 

Currently, with customized alerts in Canvas Parent, Patty thinks that it’s great to be able to receive the information she finds the most valuable, like when her son receives a zero on an assignment. However, Billy shared, “In certain situations, I think it’s helpful because [my mom] is able to check in. But there are some situations when I completely forget about an assignment.” Patty responded, “With the notifications, I usually send a message of some sort back, asking ‘what happened?’ ...and, at times, I admit, that it can cause unneeded concern due to the immediacy of the initial notifications.”

 

The best part of Canvas Parent “is really the convenience. I did not use Canvas [as an Observer] before the app as much as I do now.” It was so easy to lose track of time and forget to check-in from the browser. Being able to check on Billy’s grades whenever encourages Patty to actually do so. Looking over at her son, she took the opportunity to point out, “now, sorry Billy, I get to check your grades a couple times a day...if I want!”

 

Billy shared, “For as much as I say I don’t like [that my mom is connected], the Parent app helps. I think it makes things better. It encourages me to stay on top of things. With this, I can’t get away with anything.”

 

He openly admitted that being held accountable by multiple adults is actually a good thing.

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