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2018

 

My colleague Ashley Salter and I conducted a number of face-to-face interviews with students about their experience using mobile technology to support their learning, with a particular focus on the Canvas Student App. These interviews helped us better understand the impact of this app and direct our communication to Instructure and Canvas Community. In the second of a series of blog posts from UCF, here is the story of Maddie.

 

Maddie is all about UCF and bleeds black and gold. Both her parents graduated from UCF, and she is very active on campus as a social media coordinator and the Director of Black & Gold Studios. In addition to her many activities, Maddie is also a junior studying Communication & Conflict with a Legal Studies Minor.

 

“The mobile app provides me ease of access when communicating with my instructors and peers on the spur of the moment.”

 

Maddie is a very involved student with a full-time course load, on-campus employment, and extracurricular activities. She is part of an academic program that is offered entirely online, although that was not her deciding factor in choosing her major. Maddie is highly involved with social media presence and would feel helpless without her smartphone. She states she can go more than a week without her laptop computer but couldn’t imagine life without her phone.

 

“I use the calendar feature on the Canvas Mobile app to organize my life week by week. I know what is due and when it’s due in one place."

 

Like most UCF students, the most frequent feature Maddie uses within the Canvas Student app is grades. She checks her grades often and benefits from the notifications that occur when assignments are graded. Another frequently used feature is the calendar as she utilizes each week to keep track of what assignments and important dates are coming up. Being able to track this from a centralized location while on-the-go rather than searching individual lists or checking the syllabus is vital to keeping her on task.

 

“The more reminders and notifications Canvas can give me the better I can stay on top of my school work.”

 

Maddie considers the notifications she receives as quite helpful. However, she doesn't activate the discussion posts or comments as those can be overwhelming. She prefers to receive grades, assignment feedback, and message notifications as they are necessary to maintain her academic success. Maddie feels that the communication taking place from on-the-go instances are important for students like her to stay on top of their work. Being able to communicate almost instantly with her professors or other classmates helps her feel engaged and informed.

 

“I finished my discussion post while waiting to board my flight!”

 

Without a smartphone or mobile device in general, Maddie feels her life would be more complicated. She uses a smartphone for more than just communication. She’s used her phone for recording interviews, taking photos, and being able to research with ease. Maddie feels that the Canvas Student app helps with distance learning. She has used it in several situations, such as submitting a video for a Spanish class or submitting discussions posts, where she believes it's almost faster to complete on the mobile device rather than on a laptop. She even used the discussion feature while waiting to board a flight when she realized she needed to respond to a post.

I am an Instructional Technology Specialist/TOSA 1:1 Project Manager for the Yorkville Unified School District in Yorkville, Illinois. In my position, I am responsible for training teachers and students to use various technologies that have to do with our 1:1 Chromebook initiative. I am happy to say that one of these technologies is Canvas. Our 1:1 initiative was rolled out this year to all 4th Grade students and 7th-12th Grade students. Students from 7th Grade through 12th Grade use Canvas to access their courses. Getting our teachers to fully embrace Canvas has been a bit of a struggle, but they are definitely moving in the right direction.
Over the past few months I have been showing our high school and middle school music departments how to use Canvas Media submissions to turn in video recordings of their students performing scales or music pieces. The departments loved the idea! The only problem was that the Chromebooks onboard microphone was horrible. The mic picked up all sorts of ambient sounds and made the student performance sound horrible. Teachers and students were frustrated with the poor quality of the recordings. I had many calls and complaints. Teachers were requesting microphones to be purchased for the students or maybe next year we have USB microphones added to the school supply list for band and orchestra. As I started thinking about the best way to do this, I saw a student walk down the hallway talking about how he used his iPhone to make a video of himself while he was playing his guitar. It hit me! Most of our students have smart phones or tablets. What if they shot the videos on their smart phones or tablets and then loaded them through the Canvas Mobile app? The HD quality and microphone quality on these types of devices are way better than those of a Chromebook.
I went home and recorded my own 7th grader playing her flute both on a Chromebook and on my iPhone. The sound quality of the iPhone was infinitely better than that of the Chromebook. I then downloaded the Canvas Mobile app from the App Store. As I walked through the set up process, I took screenshots of each step and turned them into a Google Slides presentation. I went back to the music department at the middle school and presented to the band and orchestra teachers. At first they were concerned as to all of the steps involved in having students take the videos and get them to their Chromebooks so they can be loaded to Canvas. I then explained to them that students did not have to go through the Chromebooks, they could move the videos from their phones and tablets directly into Canvas by using the mobile app. They were intrigued. I showed the teachers the Google Slides presentation and had them load the app to their phones to see how simple it would be. They were hooked! The following week we scheduled time during band and orchestra classes to go through the presentation and have students load the app and use it that night to record themselves playing. It worked! The following week I did the same thing at the high school and since then the mobile app has moved through our school choirs as well.
I’ll be honest, if it had not been for the poor mics on the Chromebooks, I never would have looked into the Canvas mobile app. Now that it is on my radar I am suggesting it to all of my teachers and students and it will become part of training for incoming students.  

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