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What does COMMUNITY mean to you?

For me; Community means moving from a transactional state of mind to a relational state.  By this I mean moving beyond a world view where all motivation essentially falls into two categories, which are Self Interest and Caring for Others (Self vs Others).  Instead, motivation becomes 'other-ish' meaning that you realize that you can best help yourself by helping others.


Are you a part of a community (Canvas, work, or neighborhood)? What brought you there, or how did you initially get connected?

To a certain extent, my current occupation rose from my membership in a community of people who support teachers and learners use of technology.  What seems like a very long time ago now I was a workstudy student and then grant funded technology worker on a college campus.  My job was to help the instructors and occasionally the students be successful using classroom technology.  As part of a Title III grant we purchased and implemented a learning management system.  At first nobody on campus much knew what to do with this software platform.  I threw myself into trying to learn everything I could about it.  I scoured technical manuals, sent off emails to my contacts at the company and eventually joined a group of people who were trying to help each other via a listserv.  I'll never forget going to the first users conference and seeing three men literally kneel down in the entrance to the mens room to fire up a laptop based version of the software to test something that one had asked the others about.  They really wanted to help each other (and they helped me tremendously).  As time went on, I learned that if I took each question that went out to the listserv as a personal challenge, I usually learned more than I'm sure I helped the people asking the questions.  Eventually I was at another conference and talking with a small group of people in a breakout session.  I wasn't wearing a name tag and hadn't identified myself to this group of strangers.  A woman said to me, "Excuse me, are you Scott Dennis? ... I thought so.  I recognized your voice.  Your YouTube videos have saved my life.  Thank you."  I was flabbergasted.  I had no idea that anyone beside a narrow group of my friends had even seen them.


A few years ago I wrote a blog post about Openness and Community as values.  My involvement in this community began in 2010 when I discovered Canvas, Free for Teachers and the first rudimentary message boards.  I was about a week in and trying to learn everything I could when the landline in my house rang.  The man on the other end was a Canvas Admin in Plano, Texas who had read my questions in the message boards, google stalked me to find my number and called to answer all my questions.  Again, I was flabbergasted that this stranger, at no benefit to himself, would invest 90 minutes of his time helping me simply because we were using the same software.  I was hooked immediately and couldn't wait to have more such interactions.


Is there someone part of your community who you admire? How does their involvement or their overall participation influence you?

There are too many people in this community that I admire to mention.  Some of them I have never met and never will while some of them are dear friends I have known irl for many years.  They all have my tremendous respect.  Michael Zimmerman, JB (you know who you are), all of the Coaches, Peter Love, Alan Kinsey, Jayde Colquhoun, Hildi Pardo, Laura Gibbs, Bobby Pedersen, Rob Ditto, Sara Frizelle, Amanda Warren Marshall, Gregory Beyrer and Dallas Hulsey are just a handful of the people I am proud to be associated with in some way.



Over the past few years you may have received "Canvas Community Newsletter" emails from time to time, containing links to top trending community content such as feature ideas and blog posts.  These newsletter emails were automatically generated by our community platform software, Jive.  Some people liked these updates but there were a few problems with them as well.  For one, we didn't have any control over what the algorithm deemed to be trending and sometimes the reasons why something was identified as such were not at all clear.  Also there was no way to opt out of them.  Ultimately we decided to have the update emails disabled in Jive.


If you are interested in receiving digest style updates via email, please check out the options available in your Preferences.  You might also want to keep track of the people, places and content that you follow via the news feed:   For more information on following and news feeds please check out the documentation in Community Getting Started area here in Meta.

On the third day of Canvasmas, the Canvas Community gave to me: Seven Featured Places...


Back in 2011 I was searching for a new LMS when a friend told me about Canvas.  I pretty quickly found the Canvas Guides that Chris wrote about on Day Three and the Canvas Community, which back then was not much more than a few message boards.  Pretty quickly I created a Free for Teachers account and got to work learning everything I could by experimenting, reading guide articles and asking questions in the message boards.  A few days into this, I was sitting at home alone when my phone rang.  The gentleman on the other end of the line explained that he was a Canvas admin at a community college in Texas and that he thought it would be easier to find my phone number online and call me rather than typing out answers to a list of questions I had asked.  It completely floored me that this man, who didn't know and didn't expect anything in return would spend over an hour helping me, for no other reason than that we both were using the same software.  Since then the community has grown to over 250,000 users and over 500 spaces and groups but I still see that same basic spirit of altruism and cooperation alive today.


With that in mind, l'd like to list out a few of my favorite places in the community - not the seven most active or viewed spaces (although we have that too) but rather just seven of my favorite little corners in the community.

  1. Canvas Studio - I love that anyone in the world can go see what our engineers and product people are working on, or will be working on soon.  Many tech companies jealously guard this information but we believe that by being transparent and welcoming commentary we will learn more and accomplish better things that outweigh any potential loss to thievery or imitation.  I love reading through lively discussions, like this one where people with very different perspectives on how Canvas should operate come together to discuss their views in respectful and helpful ways.
  2. Almost everyone who visits the Canvas Community for the first time comes because they have a question.  Sometimes they don't even know they have a question and "I think Canvas should do this" is really a question in disguise - "how can I do this in Canvas?"  Either way, I love that people can ask questions in the Find Answers   space.  Over 90% of questions receive and answer within 24 hours.  The best part, in my opinion, is that these answers usually don't come from a support technician or employee but rather from other canvas users all around the world.
  3. Some companies update their software in a few big updates per year that involve big changes and sometimes a lot of confusion for their users.  Similar to the model employed by Google, Canvas changes every three weeks.  For people responsible for communicating that change to their users and people who simply care a lot about Canvas, the Release Notes space can be hugely popular.  One of my favorite aspects of this space is that when beta release notes are released (new features sit in a beta instance of Canvas for three weeks before they go live in production) people immediately start testing them and giving feedback and helping each other understand the new changes.  There is even a self forming group that gets together live to compose an organized and complete response back to Instructure about any concerns or questions they have, which is hugely helpful and easier to consume that many many comments left on the release notes document.
  4. The Canvas Mobile Users Group is without a doubt one of my favorite places in the community. Two Canvas Coaches, Kristin Lundstrum and Ryan Seilhamer have really taken ownership of the group, redesigning it and engaging with other Canvas users.  Product Manager Peyton Craighill is active in the space and many users contribute by creating discussions and blog posts that are often as entertaining as they are helpful.
  5. Although it isn't maybe as consequential as some other places in the community, I really enjoy seeing what people post in I Heart Pandas which is a place for anyone to post about pretty much anything they want to.  Usually it is Canvas related but not always.
  6. Did you know there is a community news feed?  I guess this isn't a place, per say, but you can create custom feeds for the people and places that interest you.
  7. Last but not least although often overlooked is the Getting Started space.  This space is accessible from the community homepage (just about smack dab in the middle of the page) and is designed for people new to Canvas and/or new to the community.  I often refer people to it and I hope you will go there, if you haven't already, and give us feedback if you can think of ways to improve the experience.


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