At Instructure we care a lot about our users and it is so great to see in our Community how much our users care for one another. In our day to day interactions, we grow to know one another as people, but because of our busy lives, we can't always delve as deeply as we might like. Conferences like InstructureCon are great, but can be even busier than our daily lives somehow!
The Community Voice is a new idea where we pick someone in the Community and interview them so you can get to know them better in the hopes of forming meaningful and lasting connections.
For our first installment, we selected Deborah Bogard. She is an Educational Technology Coach for a K-12 district in Ohio, and she is a Community Rockstar. I enjoyed learning more about Deb and I hope you all will too.
Without further ado, I bring you, Deb Bogard!
"...facing the prospect of spending my career at a soul-sucking government desk job, I resolved to quit that life and get my elementary teaching degree."
Where are you from and how did you get where you are?
I’m a native New Yorker whose family moved to small-town Ohio when I was 9. Talk about culture shock: it seemed to me that I’d been dropped onto an alien planet - could this be why I got fascinated with science fiction? I’d rush home after school to watch Star Trek (TOS of course) and obsessively began reading the likes of Heinlein, Asimov, and Bradbury. These visionaries opened my eyes to the potentials of computer technology.
But although I loved science and tech, it was very much a man’s world in those days, and I just wasn’t self-assured enough to buck the system. So I went the Humanities route in high school and college. Years later, though, facing the prospect of spending my career at a soul-sucking government desk job, I resolved to quit that life and get my elementary teaching degree. I’ve (almost) never regretted that decision.
Since then, I’ve taught every grade from K-8 and have worked as a specialist in both Special Ed and Gifted Ed. Still tech-fascinated, I would volunteer for every tech-related pilot and committee that I could. Eventually, my reputation as a teacher with a tech vision opened the door to a position with our tech coaching team. That was four years ago; also the first year our district fully adopted Canvas as our LMS.
"I sense the Canvas organization clings to a higher purpose than just being a business going about providing a service. I see a collaborative, open, and optimistic spirit in the way Instructure operates. In my mind, teaching is very much a higher calling and a mission, and I sense that the Canvas organization believes that, too, and wants to do what they can to help teachers fulfill that calling."
What sort of organization do you work for?
Delaware County is just north of Columbus and has been in top 2 fastest growing counties in Ohio for several years, with no end in sight. Our public school district has 5 elementary schools, 1 middle and 1 high school. Slowly steadily growing; currently about 6,000 students. Our demographics are very similar to a large city’s vast diversity, just at a much smaller scale. We're pretty far ahead of the curve tech-wise for districts of similar size and demographics, and even ahead of more affluent bordering districts. Our administration has been very forward thinking for a few decades now about the importance of making good quality Ed tech available to our students and staff
What is your role with Canvas for your organization?
Our small department shares Canvas admin duties but I think I’ve become kind of the chief cook and bottle washer for our Canvas instance because I’m such a devotee. I am not ashamed to advocate my viewpoint that I think Canvas is a transformative tool for the public school classroom. The main focus of my job isn’t being an admin, though; it’s coaching our teachers in ways they can leverage Canvas and other Ed tech in their classrooms to evolve their teaching and learning environment toward personalized learning.
"We chose to go with Canvas back in 2013 because we saw its potential to meet and support teachers and students at every point along the SAMR continuum."
Do you have any comments about how Canvas impacts the goals of Achievement, Innovation, Scaling What Works, or The Student Experience?
We use the SAMR model to frame the vision of the modern classroom. We’ve found that SAMR helps teachers see how they can start dipping a toe into classroom tech by first moving a low-tech task such as a pencil-paper activity, into just substituting computer technology for the pencil and paper...and then gradually moving toward Augmenting these tasks with tech tools that take the tasks to new levels. Next they start tinkering with Modification - figuring out ways that tech tools can be used for in order to fundamentally change and enhance the original task. Finally, after acclimating themselves and developing a level of comfort with all that tech, they’re ready to swim in the deep end of the SAMR pool by working in the realm of Redefinition - coming up with completely novel activities that would be impossible without higher-level tech tools.
We chose to go with Canvas back in 2013 because we saw its potential to meet and support teachers and students at every point along the SAMR continuum. Teachers are able to start using it in very simple ways, and then as their comfort and skills evolve, their Canvas courses are able to grow with them and provide teaching and learning opportunities that otherwise would not be possible. Gardner’s 2-sigma problem can be addressed in large part by the ability of a high quality LMS like Canvas to set up a teaching and learning structure that provides a high degree of personalization for our students.
"I love the Canvas Studio. I’ve never seen anything similar in any organization."
What are you passionate about with educational technology (edtech)?
I would say I’m passionate about customizing and personalizing the learning environment as much as we can, and that edtech is what makes this possible. We’re never going to see class sizes of 10-12 students that would make it humanly possible for a teacher to personalize with her or his own two hands; but edtech effectively reduces a larger class size by simplifying and increasing the efficiency of the classroom workflow - both for teachers and for students.
If you had 1 wish you could use on edtech, what would it be?
Tough question! Can I make my wish that I have another 1000 wishes? If that doesn’t work, I guess I’d wish that, when a teacher would have a vision or idea of the way edtech would work best for his/her particular classroom, that it would instantly be able to adapt to that vision. Once they’ve immersed themselves in edtech, Teachers can get very specific about what they’d like to have, and they are naturally impatient when change comes more slowly.
What do you want people to know about Canvas?
I sense the Canvas organization clings to a higher purpose than just being a business going about providing a service. I see a collaborative, open, and optimistic spirit in the way Instructure operates. In my mind, teaching is very much a higher calling and a mission, and I sense that the Canvas organization believes that, too, and wants to do what they can to help teachers fulfill that calling.
Do you have any Canvas related projects you want to mention or plug?
We’re currently involved with a collaborative of school districts in Ohio that are working together to build exceptional LMS-based course resources from 5th through 10th grade, across all core subject areas, that we can then share and continue to refine. We’re the first Canvas district to join the project - and because of this we are spearheading the effort to make these course resources as LMS-agnostic as possible. It’s been really interesting to figure out all the moving parts that are involved with building courses that play nicely with other LMS’s.
What keeps you coming back to the Community?
As 4 tech coaches serving 350 teachers, there’s no way we can figure everything out for ourselves. The first place I run to when I have a question I can’t quickly figure out myself is the Community. I also love the sharing spirit of its members - and when someone has a thorny issue, it’s amazing to see how a group of people who may have never met each other try to find a variety of ways to resolve the problem or at least develop a work-around.
And finally, I love the Canvas Studio. I’ve never seen anything similar in any organization. Users come up with ideas, and they are taken seriously, discussed, debated, and in many cases, implemented. The whole idea/suggestion process has really improved over the past few years and it’s apparent that Instructure listens to its users.
What do you want people to know about the Community?
It’s a fascinating mix of people of all skill ranges and expertise levels, and yet, no one is made to feel stupid for even the simplest questions that are posed. Yes, you can ask a question in the Community - any question - and people will try to answer.
What has been your biggest surprise in the Community?
Aside from what I said above, it's extensiveness is mind boggling. I keep finding places and ongoing discussions I didn't know existed. I also am impressed at the patience and kindness shown by members when someone comes out on an issue or problem in a troll-like way. It's refreshing to see those types of interactions end with calmness. Wish I would see more of that on the outside!
If you had 1 wish you could use on the Community, what would it be?
I would wish for a more sophisticated search function and a granular ability to set up parameters that would push items of interest my way.
How does the Community impact what you do with Canvas?
At least half of the new tricks and strategies I learn come straight from the Community. I also am able to find answers to my teachers’ questions there which then makes me look like a wizard in their eyes, lol. The Community is the guy behind the curtain.
Would you like to raise awareness around anything?
My coaching focus next year is moving to the K-5 level so I am kind of desperate to join a group of others in that domain. It doesn't exist yet. I've suggested it in the Community but nothing has happened yet. I think it's a subgroup that is definitely underrepresented and faces unique challenges - and opportunities.
Thanks for reading everyone and special thanks to Deborah Bogard for sharing.
Who in the Community would you like to know about and what would you like to know? Let us know in the comments below.
If you haven't done so already, the 2018 Canvas Community Check-In is open as of the time of this posting so please tell us what you think about the Community.