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Now that the opening act of the 2015-2016 school year is past and parent-teacher-(student) conferences are among us, I thought I’d share some thoughts stemming from August and September. I, like many guys out there, think in compartmentalized boxes; so here are (almost) five boxes of reflection - vocations if you will.

 

Professional Box - As a tech coordinator and coach, I don’t have to do parent-teacher conferences anymore (woot); that being said, now might not be the best time to lay out a new tech initiative or schedule a slew of training days for my faculty. This is a hectic and exhausting time as the first round of major assessments are finishing, substantive comments are due, and teachers are knee deep in departmental and home communication. Recognizing this and putting my own goals aside for a week isn’t going to move the needle of tech integration at our school in any meaningful way; we aren’t going to lose ground on competing schools. In fact, this is a great time to reflect and set focuses and goals for October and November!



Family Box - I am a Father of two boys - a three year old and a one year old. The Summer is great because hours a little more relaxed and I get to see them every morning. When school is in session, I need to be out of the house by 6:45 if I’m going to make it on time (dang traffic) and may not see my wife and my boys before I leave. Insert parent night or another evening commitment and I may not see my boys at all. This is a reality of working in a school as you all know.

 

This isn’t the norm however, and every other night family needs to come before work. When I get home, I put the phone in the other room so I can’t see my inbox filling up in real time. If it’s vitally important and time sensitive, they would call. Make a point to sit down together at supper time, and keep the TV off. Grading and feedback communication is a necessary part of a teacher’s home life; save it for after the kids are in bed, and work with your spouse in the same room if possible (especially if your better half is also a teacher!).



Outwardly Focused Box - By “outward focus” I mean “How am I nurturing relationships and helping others in my work place beyond our normal professional interactions.” The beginning of the school year is a great time to improve workplace camaraderie. It drives me nuts when all people want to talk about at lunch is business. Isn’t lunch supposed to be a break? Make a point to learn more about your co-workers at lunch. What important life events are they going through? What did they do this past weekend? Just like our students, every adult comes to school with their own backstories. Knowing them helps make the workplace better.

 

Our German teacher organizes “professional development sessions” at local pubs periodically throughout the school year. I love this. It offers a chance to create bonds and friendships with people you don’t always see outside of the office. While I’m a pretty extreme introvert, It’s hard for me to resist a little liquid conversation starter. Prost!



Inwardly Focused Box - How am I improving? Am I actively learning something new? What book am I reading? My Dad used to say that a person should always be reading one nonfiction book, one fiction book, and learning one new piece of music. Time constraints on the day make this difficult to do of course, but I’ve found it to be a good philosophy of personal improvement. It can be adjusted to one’s personality and hobbies of course. Instead of a nonfiction book, you could enroll in a MOOC; instead of a fiction book, you could write and lead a tabletop gaming adventure with a group of friends (Pathfinder anyone?); instead of a piece of music, you could draw or paint.

 

Exercise is another important piece of your inwardly focused box. I find running to be an escape like none other. Some like to listen to music or podcasts when they exercise; I am not one of those people. I “run to seek the void” (Haruki Murakami and The Oatmeal) and need this brain-off time to fully function in my other boxes. I encourage you to find your own brain-off physical activity; it can truly change how you approach your week. Make an exercise goal for the Fall semester and stick to it!



There you go. Nothing profound or that hasn’t been said before. I hope you all have a great rest of the school year!

 

Today, I'm co-leading a short presentation on Canvas updates at my institution. During that presentation, I will highlight some Canvas Settings (that may not be 100% intuitive to faculty members). Based part of the discussion from Saving a partial test, I thought I'd share some of these [Hidden] Canvas Settings so other K-12'ers could benefit.

 

 

Assignment Options in Canvas

  • Display Grade As… has several options. After entering the amount of points a student can earn, be aware of the options for gradebook display.
    • Percentage
    • Complete/Incomplete
    • Points (default)
      • The default is what Canvas programmed. Click View Grading Schemes to see other options.
      • If your institution has their own grading schemes, you need to select the appropriate grading scheme from the list. Just like with rubrics, this needs to be done with each assignment.
    • Letter Grade
    • GPA
      • As an institution for grades 9-12, we've found this confuses our students. We do not recommend our teachers to use this options. Your institution may have their own preferences.
    • Not Graded
  • Available From/Until is a great tool for teachers. It does have some limitations at this point.
    • Teachers can publish a page, assignment or quiz and set the Available From date. Until this time, students will not be able to access any information on that item. The Available Until date will relock the assignment.
    • Once the Available Until date has passed, students can access the item’s information and feedback from the browser version of Canvas only. If students access locked/closed items from the iOS app, they will only see a padlock. (Note: Canvas is working on this functionality in Mobile. See the discussion in What is the difference between assignment due dates and availability dates?)


Notes in Gradebook

  • In Gradebook settings, teachers can Show Notes Column. This will create an entire column for a teacher to use for private memos about students right next to their name/user information and grades.
  • One idea would be to place their graduation year in the column. Another would be to write short-hand codes for important information like “A” for accommodation plan or learning plans (not the plan itself!), etc. to jolt your memory in an inconspicuous manner.

 

TurnItIn

  • In Course Settings (directly under the file storage box), there is a place for TurnItIn Comments. Whatever you type in the box will appear with each assignment for which a teacher activates TurnItIn submissions. Of course this box will not appear if TurnItIn is not activated for your institution/course. I like this feature because you can kindly remind students that their submissions will be scanned through TurnItIn, but Canvas helps you by "canning" a message to add to those assignments.
  • When creating an assignment, and you select Enable TurnItIn Submissions, you have many options. Teachers can also select when students see the originality report: immediately, after grading, after the due date, or never. While there are pro's and con's to both, hopefully teachers can find that one of those fits well with their classroom.

 

Discussion Options

  • These settings are not in the same location as the discussions themselves. There are some important settings linked to the main course’s settings.
  • From your course’s home page, click Course Settings. Then More Options at the end of the page.
    • Let students attach files to discussions
    • Let students create discussion topics
    • Let students edit or delete their own discussion posts


Saving a Quiz Mid Test

  • Canvas quizzes automatically save when a student completes a question. There is not a formal “save button.” As long as there is not a time restriction on the quiz, students are able to complete the quiz at a later time.
  • Sometimes it is important for a faculty member to administer/monitor the quiz. To restrict a student from continuing a quiz on their own, it is possible to update the password for a quiz even if there are active attempts.

 

If anybody has other settings that they highlight with their staff, feel free to reply to this post!

My biggest health issue once school starts is always how much time I actually spend working during the average week! Lots of research shows that, after 50 hours of work, one's productivity pretty much plateaus. However, I often find myself needing to work more than that, especially if I'm creating a new course. Here are some things I do to keep it fresh!

 

1. Some sort of exercise right after school gets out. Even if it ends up being walking around the hallways of the school for 10-15 minutes, taking a bit of time to stretch my legs after the school day (not that I sit down much anyway, but still, there's some difference between sustained walking around and the stop-and-start walking I do in the classroom) helps get my energy back up for the afternoon and creates a solid break for my brain as well. If I can help it, I try NOT to think about school things during that time!

 

2. Go home early when I find I'm not being productive. On those days when it's taken me 2 hours to do 30 minutes worth of work, I just leave. The papers will be graded much faster tomorrow after school once I've had some actual time away from them than they would be that day and the kids can usually wait one more day to get their stuff back.

 

3. Keep healthy food at school. Especially since I'm often at school late, I'll find myself either snacking incessantly or needing to eat dinner while I'm here. Keeping healthy things in the fridge or my office goes a long way to make sure I'm not getting my nutritional intake from the vending machines.

 

4. Share something with your students that doesn't have to do with what you teach. Sometimes the extra hours put me into a mental space where I'm basically no longer a human being, and instead my whole identity is that of teacher. The students generally love it when they get to find out that I'm an actual human being, and it helps remind me of that as well! It can also be a good way to get them talking about themselves and building relationships.

 

5. Keep your desk clean. Never go home with a messy desk. There's often a mental switch between being in a cluttered space and a clean one. Something as simple as making sure piles are picked up or organized can be the difference in my sanity for the day. (Thankfully, this is becoming more and more possible as we put more and more of our stuff on Canvas and I don't have nearly as many papers trying to drown my classroom!)

 

Hope these tips help to keep you sane!

I'm writing this from the point of view of the person who gets all the emails and work orders about things in Canvas. I'm also the one that does Canvas training for employees.

 

  1. The "Groundhog Day" effect - There will be times in which you will swear that you have received the same question from the same person for the billionth time. Take a deep breath. Now let it out. My email responses in these cases can tend to be a little snarky. Since I need a job to feed my family, I like to have a pre-fabricated email (patent-pending) for each of the issues for which I receive multiple inquiries. Most of them contain simple platitudes and links to the relevant how-to articles in the Guides. It makes people think I'm nice.

  2. It's ok to be wrong - I'm wrong all the time. I may seem like an omniscient wizard to the end user, but I don't know everything. In my experience, people tend to respond positively when you admit fault and try to come up with another answer for them. I find that better than the "obfuscate the problem and confuse them into thinking they are the one who is wrong" approach.

  3. Sometimes, the Canvas Guides can do your job better than you can - There are certain people at our institution that will email me about everything that is even tangentially associated with Canvas. I use my patented approach (mentioned above) of sending them relevant guides from the Guides. Lo and behold, they eventually start searching the guides BEFORE they email me! I don't even have to be mean about it, they just kind of get the hint!

  4. People appreciate even just the attempt at humor - I don't like to take things too seriously, so I try to guide people in my trainings in (passingly) humorous ways. For instance, my fake course I use for training is "Advanced Conversational Klingon III" or sometimes I use "Principles of Unicorn Grooming". People appreciate the effort, even though I'm not actually very funny. It's the thought that counts. Plus, it amuses me to think up things that only other nerds would find funny. So that's more engagement for me too! When someone (usually only one) laughs at the Dr. Who reference I just made, our eyes lock, and we become Nerd Bros. It's a beautiful thing.

  5. Get yourself on friendly terms with a nerd programmer - Seriously, these guys can come up with amazing ways to use the API to make things easier for you. In my experience, they are easily bribed with Cheetos and Mountain Dew. I used to have to manually make a bunch of settings changes to some quizzes that we use at the District level. A very tedious task to do with 180 quizzes. Now I can just run a little script and make all the changes at once.
Chris Long

5 x 5 = 25 Ways to Thrive

Posted by Chris Long Sep 3, 2015

One of the best things about my job is I get to connect with lots of teachers! At HBUHSD I am so fortunate to work with some of the finest teachers around. Not only that, I've been able to connect with even more teachers on Twitter and when I am teaching the Advanced Instructional Strategies for Virtual Teachers MOOC on Coursera. Through these experiences, I've learned a lot about learning and have seen some amazing things. So here's my five tips to kickstart a healthy, thriving school year.

 

Be a Self-Developer

This is something I have been discussing with Bryan Davis  Nicholas Schwab recently and I'm actually stealing this from the former CEO of Kroger, David Dillion. David says “The advice I give to individuals in our company is not to expect the company to hand you a development plan. You need to take responsibility for developing yourself.” My takeaway from this is, if this is what is expected at Kroger, how much more should professional educators be expected to develop themselves? So at the beginning of the school year let's ask ourselves and our colleagues this question, take no longer than a week to formulate our answers then share our development plans! How awesomepanda would that be? Here's my self-development plan.

  1. Get on Twitter each week, I will follow 3 people or one hashtag that I want to learn with closely and interact with them. I will Tweet what I am learning or a question I am thinking about at least once a week.
  2. Read a non-EDU Book -- slowly This is a way to purposefully break out of the education bubble and bring in fresh perspectives and ideas to my work. I'm a really slow reader though. Really!! Some of this is due to dyslexic letter reversals, but I'd like to think that it is because I'm savoring and digesting the text. Currently I'm reading  A More Beautiful Question and The Pause Principle
  3. Sharpen my Search Skills - try A Google a day or get in the self-paced Inside Search course from Google.
  4. Share & Learn in the Canvas Community- the community here is amazing because the environment is very well designed and most of all, because we have a lot of wonderful people assembled here. Make time to join in! (Side Tip: if you are a K12 teacher venture over to the Higher Education and Instructional Designers groups and interact!)
  5. Vizify- improve my visual imagery skills.  I'm going to be checking in with my daughter who is taking a visual imagery class this year and I hope to learn along with her and do some projects together!

 

Go the Extra-Mile

I'm sure you are familiar with the the old adage of going the extra mile. I believe this comes from Matthew 5:41 so I'm stealing this one from Jesus .  Here are some ways I plan to "go the extra mile this year":

  1. Please let me know how I can be of further assistance- I have a lot of emails and help tickets that I need to respond to qucikly. Usually I just want to get them out of my inbox so I can move to the next one thinking that if I can magically clear my inbox, I'm going to be on top of the world. It took me a while, but what I've had to remind myself of, is that there are people behind these emails and I need to treat them like VIPs and take advantage of an opportunity to form a relationship. So I am now writing the end of my responses first and trying to let them know how much I value the opportunity to work with them.
  2. Open Doors- Literally and figuratively look and take any opportunity to open a door for someone, even if it's awkward and inconvenient.
  3. Workout- Allison Taylor reminded me not to sacrifice healthy habits like exercising. So this is a reminder to me to workout and when I workout I always like to find creative and challenging ways to "go the extra mile" because this is one of the things that energizes me and helps me clear my mind.
  4. Slide Guides- I love Google Slides and Snagit.  Adding these two items together I have been experimenting with making on-demand tutorials & tips I'm calling slide guides. I don't really like making YouTube videos (and I hate watching the ones I've made), but I know it can be helpful for others, so I'm going to make YouTube videos as well and post any applicable ones here in the community. My latest slide guide is Setting Up Your Student Teacher in Canvas, not perfect, but so far so good.
  5. Wait- I know this one may sound funny given that it's under going the extra-mile, but sometimes my mind is racing in so many different directions that I have to remind myself to slow-down and wait while I am talking and interacting with others.

 

Think Different

 

 

 

Without a doubt my favorite marketing campaign ever! It is sheer genius. So good that I once sold a Think Different Poster for over $100 on eBay! If people will pay over a hundred dollars for your advertising materials, I think you are on to something. So how do I apply this concept to the start of school? And would a student pay a hundred dollars to be in my class? Think about this further here are some ideas:

 

  1. Be Different on the first day of school- When I was teaching high school physics, my BHAG most was to inspire my students to think and talk about physics OUTSIDE of room 216 and I wanted them to do that on day one! One tactic that I used to do this was to make sure my class was the one that stood out from all the rest on the first day of school. Sometimes I went overboard, but I think it all worked out. On the first day, I always stood outside of my classroom and personally greeted each and every student and shook their hand. Some students found this a little awkward because nobody else was doing it. The second thing I did was more about what I did not do. I never talked about rules. There's plenty of time to do this later and really the student's know the rules and can read my expectations. Lastly I knew I wanted to get my students thinking, asking questions, moving and collaborating together on day one. I liked doing a Marshmallow Challenge the first day, but I'd do something different now because it's likely that someone else is doing this and I want to be different and ensure my students experience something different.
  2. Have a Different first week of school- go heavy on community and capacity building and light on curricular content. When you have a good community, learning accelerates! Therefore, your students won't be behind they will be ahead. Focus on building a collaborative environment of respect and inquiry. Develop technology proficiency and think of ways you can empower students to 'run' the class using tech. Jon Corippo (@jcorippo) has some fantastic ideas on how to Build your School Culture with Smart Start so chek those out.
  3. Make Your Canvas Different- what am I doing in Canvas that nobody else is doing at my school? What should I do and why? I'm going to try using canvabadges this year. If you're not sure where to start, Hone Your Home Page and make Home Sweet Homepages without Tables.
  4. Showcase & Celebrate Student Work that is different!
  5. Have a Different Mindset - Amy Burvall illustrated Picasso's mindset beautifully this summer at the Building Learning Communities Conference (#BLC15). Picasso said: "Others have seen what is and asked WHY. I have seen what could be and asked WHY NOT?"

    CKDFZ4rWgAAyISn.png

 

Grow Questions

I'm convinced that as we move into the future, questions will become more valuable than answers and the students who know how to ask the right questions will be the ones who will change the world. Maybe this is the case already and we don't realize it or maybe this has been the case all along? Because of the Internet, we are flooded with information and the secret to accessing it lies in the questions. When we find a question that we don't know the answer to, it can be like miracle-grow for learning. So how do we grow questions in school?

 

  1. Raise Your hand to Question NOT Answer- Dylan William was asked what is one thing that teachers are doing that they should stop doing. He quickly replied, stop having students raise their hand to answer a question. Why? You tend to get the same students and as soon as the correct answer is given (the one the teacher is looking for) the learning stops. Better to have students raise their hands to ask than to answer. One idea I have around this is to assign a student to count the number of questions asked in class and put them on a spreadsheet. Maybe even make a question meter. What would happen to the learning if the amount of questions asked in your class (per day or week) (physical and online) grew as the school year went on?
  2. Have a Question Board - this could be a wall or white board in your classroom as well as a space online. You could even set up an ungraded Canvas Discussion post that allows liking just for big questions. I've also seen some teachers who run a question of the week on Twitter using a class hashtag. Usually the teacher starts with the first couple of questions and models how to facilitate and interact online, then students grow into that role and take turns at it leading it.
  3. Don't say "Are there any questions?" -  Students hear this and it translates into "the teacher wants to be done now and my classmates want to too" so it usually is not a good way to generate very deep questions and most of the time I've done this there were none. Think of what else we can say. Expect the question! Give them a minute or two to think about a question or brainstorm one with a partner. Reminder to self... this is really hard to unlearn maybe as hard as riding a backwards bike?
  4. Try the QFT - David Theriault and Allison Juby both talked about this in their back to school blog posts [ here's links David | Allison ] so I'll just say this is one tool that every educator should have in their tool belt. It's easy to do, adaptable and powerful. Visit the Right Question Institute website for more info on this.
  5. Be OK with not having the Answer - if you are uncomfortable with students asking questions that you can't answer that is perfectly understandable but I would argue that a healthy environment for asking questions starts with the teacher being OK with not knowing or having all the answers. Once we can get past this expectation then we can begin to work on "big" questions and empower our students to find the answers themselves.

 

Smile

I'm very mindful of smiles. If a student is in my class and they have not smiled at least once, it triggers a conversation. A simple "Hey, how are you doing?" can lead to wonders. Here's some healthy smile tips!

  1. Start each class by smiling at your students
  2. Watch for smiles and lack of them. Learning is fun. If you're having fun you smile. If students aren't smiling in your class, maybe they aren't learning?
  3. Teach your students to be mindful of smiles. Make a rotating role in your class called the smile monitor.
  4. If you're teaching online... use emojis and checkout the ideas at the end of the Canvas Studio: Speedgrader 2.0 discussion. Also see: This is Your Brain on Emojis
  5. Lastly, learn how smiling can be a superpower and make it yours.


So this may be contrary to what many educators will be writing about in response to this question. I won't be filling up the space with curriculum ideas, work flow design, Canvas tips or even notes for collaborating with colleagues. My 5 Things will focus on Health: mental, physical and emotional. The beginning of the year for me has traditionally been when my family suddenly begins to live with the crazy lady who speaks rather vacantly while she looks at them because she is so distracted by all the "things" she's worried she needs to get done in order to start the year off strong. What I now know, is that stress rolls off on my students and creates an environment of unease and fear, so now I have new approach to ensuring a Healthy School Year.

 

1) Obviously, I take care of myself first: sleep, exercise and nutrition. I don't tell myself the lie that I can't get it in from Sept-Nov because the 1st quarter is so important. I meditate regularly and breathe--consciously and deeply. I use the great app, Insight Timer  that has guided mediations ranging from 1 minute to an hour. In my classroom, I use Aromatherapy Benefits - Mind, Body, Spirit so that the first thing kids notice when they walk in is a pleasant atmosphere--most don't even realize it's because my room smells delicious. I also use soft lighting rather than the bright glare of florescent lights. Ok, so maybe I am talking about design theory a bit, but I create this atmosphere because it keeps me relaxed and open which keeps the kids relaxed and open.

 

2) I talk a great deal about Mindfulness, Applying Mindfulness to Mundane Classroom Tasks | Edutopia , with my students, and we spend time practicing meta-observation (we observe our thinking). I share with the kids how our brains are like untrained puppies and the problem is the leash is also in the brain. We even do some visualizations of using a leash to grab that wandering brain and bring it back to focus, and then we ask questions, maybe using the Question Formulation Technique, see Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions, of ourselves in an attempt to understand when or why our brain wanders when it does. My students brainstorm their own ideas for bringing their brains back to the task. We also generate a discussion about the importance of internal motivation and curiosity, and we explore how we can trigger these feelings for our courses of study. If our students are interested in the course, they'll engage with the material and teach themselves about the topic; if they are completing work because that's what they have to do according to the some external factor, it's highly doubtful learning is occurring.

 

3) My first weeks of school are all about relationship-building. It's awful, I know, but I am terrible with names. I mean, I am the absolute worst. I am very upfront with the kids about this grave defect of mind; in fact, I often share quite vulnerably with my students. I have 1-minute introductions that we do everyday for long time: sometimes months. The tasks might be: Walk around the room until the music stops/Find a partner/ In 2 minutes you each must share the thing you like most about yourself and it can't be your hair or eyes (nothing physical) or that you are good at sports (no sports/athletic/hobby talk allowed). The kids are always alarmed at having to say something nice about themselves to their partner--it's a very intimate activity that works at building relationship while fostering positive self-concepts. When the time is up, the partner introduces his friend and talks about their favorite characteristic and what it reflects about them. Then the class gives snaps (rather than clapping). As the year progresses and my class becomes more connected, the statements may ask students to identify the scariest moment in their lives/ the worst feeling they've ever had/ their most joyous moment. These personal stories build relationships in my room among the students and me: nothing has benefitted my practice more than having good relationships with my students, New Teacher Academy: Building Relationships | Edutopia . If a student respects and likes you, they will try anything for you; it's a big responsibility.

 

4) Within the first week of school, I find out which of my students have digital devices at home or smart phones and which do not. I will notify my student's other teachers if they do not have access to a computer/internet/smart phone. I absolutely have the conversation about the computer access in the school library and the local library before and after school, but I am well-aware that it is often these very kids that are getting their younger siblings off to school in the morning and picking them up in the evenings. These kids may be fulfilling a large role at home that precludes them from having the time to run to the library to use their computers. I do what I can to provide the student with a loaner for the year, and barring that, I always let the student know my room is always available for computer use. For my students with smart phones, I verify they have downloaded the Canvas app and the school email in their phone, and they have their Google Calendar set up to keep track of assignments. I directly teach my students how to use the technology to stay ahead of their due dates and remain on track in their classes.

 

5) And of course, I have my curriculum plan in place. I'm not one to teach the same thing year after year, so my plan, as an English teacher, revolves around the text I choose and the standards I'm focusing on. Having the plan is also a great stress-reducer. I always know where I'm headed, which isn't to say I don't take side trips, or change direction entirely. One of the healthiest teaching practices I've developed is learning to trust my instincts in the classroom, and being willing to follow that instinct and nudge wherever it may go.

 

Apples, peaches, pumpkin pie, who's not ready holler I. Even though we are never really "ready" starting the school year, in a healthy way, is easier than multiplying by five. Speaking of five here are five ways you can make your school more fun than a childhood game of hide and seek.

 

Jump Your Bike:

 

Do you remember jumping your bike off of the curb? Do you remember building a jump with a board and some bricks. Taking risks is a key component of a healthy childhood and a healthy classroom. It is important to remember that when you stop being scared of what is happening at the beginning of the year, you are playing it too safe. This year I fully embraced my fear and used it to create an opening activity for my students to learn how to face their own fears. Even if you are delivering professional development, you must embrace your fear. My good friend Chris Long says that "if you are sure of how everything will go, you didn't stack those bricks high enough."

 

I Spy:

 

The fun part of playing I Spy was that the participant got to ask all the questions. Instead of teachers giving lists or study guides full of questions, turn the table. Use a question focus as that "I spy with my eyes" object and have the students use a strategy like the Question Formulation Technique to create their own essential questions to the topic that you are sharing with the class.

 

When students are in charge of asking their own questions, engagement and a feeling of connection with the topic go way up.

 

Let's Play House:

 

Every house, every class, should have places to play. Notice I said a place to play, not a certain item to play with. Stop worrying if you have the right chairs, tables, markers, whiteboards, tablets etc... creativity doesn't require freedom, it craves constraint. In my childhood home in Huntington Beach we had two drawers filled with old clothes and hats. We never complained about what clothes were in the drawers, we just mixed and matched and finally dressed my brother in my mother's old dress. We had so much fun we almost choked on our laughter. Create spaces to play, but don't worry about the items in those spaces.

 

Let Your Students Build A Cootie Catcher (Paper Fortune Teller)

 

Remember these?

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My students couldn't wait to show this to me after class.

 

I love videos. I love videos that show students being alone can be a good thing. I love videos that share how life itself is inspiring. But my favorite video is the one I haven't seen yet. What made cootie catchers so fun is that everyone made them differently and you couldn't wait to see what they had written underneath the final flaps. There should be a space in your Canvas classroom where students can share videos and websites that inspire them, that made them think differently, that made them laugh, that put them in a mood. Use this space to "catch" new learning material that students can enjoy for years to come.

 

Hide And Seek:

 

Ah yes, the most classic of games, whether you played Hide and Seek or Kick The Can, the magic always lay in finding a great hiding spot, where no one could find out and then popping out at just the right time. Where are there spaces in your Canvas classroom where it seems like you have disappeared. I love leaving the chat option active and then rarely visiting it. Students think they have found a secret hiding spot and share some pretty fun stuff. But this important concept is best seen in your approach to teaching and learning. How can you remove yourself from the the traditional role of direct instruction and give your students agency in their own learning and creation. You should be considering that every summer as you get ready to PLAY with your learners.

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Canvas Community, thanks for encouraging me to think about the beginning of the school year. Here is my list of things I did in the last few weeks to ensure a positive start to the academic year. -KL

 

1. Take the time to reflect/daydream about curriculum. The end of the school year is always busy. Each year I tell myself that I will take the time to journal about my curriculum, I don’t. When I come back to school in August, the first thing I do is look back at my curriculum maps and Canvas courses and evaluate the successes and the areas that need improvement. I also take the time to identify what I want my curriculum to be and what I want my students to experience.

 

2. Make realistic goals and map out curriculum. After completing my thinking phase, I enter active planning. I’m very visual, and I love seeing progress. Honestly - a map of the curriculum color coded by main learning objectives and activity options makes me giddy. I truly enjoy seeing the potential for student growth outlined on paper and then in modules for my students to explore. When beginning the school year, the possibilities are endless. Sometimes goal-setting can be scary, but most of the time I find it invigorating.

 

3. Attend (or Lead!) Professional Development. While teacher workshop week can quickly become teacher meeting week, I try to go into it with an open mind. Even when I think I’ve heard it all, somebody can share something and explain it in a slightly new way. That’s when lightbulb moments happen. When leading technology-focused professional development, I actually enjoy the Q&A sections best. They’re hard to plan for, but I like being a part of others’ lightbulb moments. ...and while I’m thinking about professional development, it always is fun to remember that Twitter counts as professional development -- at least I think it does! Every time I log-in, I seem to learn something about #edtech or #studentcenteredlearning.

 

4. Collaborate - Interdepartmentally. I intentionally make time to visit with colleagues in different departments. I like talking about grading and late policies, best practices, etc. in order to gain some new perspectives. It’s always fun to find a “missing link”...or two...or three...just because I had casual conversations with colleagues and asked them about their classrooms! These conversations may lead to natural collaboration between courses as well. I like starting these genuine conversations early in the school year!

 

5. Create a stash of snacks that make you happy. While Teddy Grahams, frosted animal crackers, and Goldfish aren’t the healthiest options, how can you frown when you eat them? Happiness leads to healthier mindsets, and in my office, that increases productivity!

#1 Remember Murphy’s Law

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Well, Murphy’s Law was confirmed at Mendez Fundamental today. Bottom line, the network was down. When teachers see that the trusted network is down, they venture out into the unknown. We landed on a guest network, which meant teachers could not access their own Canvas accounts. It was awesome, and by awesome, I mean miserable. We just adopted Canvas as a district, and we are not off to the best of starts. In a situation such as mine, remind those early adopters, it’s not a Canvas issue, it’s just a network issue. Most likely, we will be up and running tomorrow.

 

#2 Most teachers use gasoline on fires, but you need to use water.

If your district is new to Canvas, inevitably you will deal with frustrated teachers. It’s very important that you empower others to use water, rather than gasoline when frustrated teachers express their frustrations. You do have the power to calm the storm. Rather than joining them in their frustration, choose to seek a solution for them. If you believe in Canvas and are passionate about it, you can find a way to fight fires.

 

#3 Absolutely do not let teachers import students manually!

More often than not, Canvas has an easier solution that you do. Don’t waste hours importing students manually. Trust me, there is a more efficient way to add students to your courses. If you are willing to invest those hours, you would be better served by using that time to find those easier solutions. Your district set-up and Canvas have that five minute solution; be determined to find it, so you can help other teachers see the simplicity of Canvas. Also, let the Canvas community be your guide! This community is extremely helpful in finding those easier solutions.

 

#4 Don’t force the issue

Let’s be honest, Canvas does not do everything. Most teachers ask me, “How is this different than Google Classroom?” I say, it’s very different, but Google Classroom is extremely valuable, you should use both. Canvas is not the solution; it’s just a really good one. Continue to use whatever works best in your classroom. Bill Murray took “baby steps,” and everything turned out okay. Likewise, encourage teachers to take baby steps with Canvas, and all will be just fine.

 

#5 “Be excellent to each other, and party on dudes.”

Okay, I just wanted a fifth point, but I’ll try to make it work. These words from Bill and Ted have revolutionized my life. To me, this just reminds me to relax and to encourage others to do the same. Our colleagues need to struggle; let them know this is okay. They need experience with tech; don’t compromise by giving step-by-step directions (which will be outdated in a little under two months). Rather, empower them to be determined enough to solve issues (tell them to consider Murphy’s Law and roll with it). I’m convinced tech issues can be resolved by persistence in the application of potentially logical solutions. Encourage this! Then, be willing to help with open arms after they have not succeeded. Reward them in their efforts by mentoring them. If you mentor someone through an issue, empower them by letting them know that they are now equipped to help someone else.

 

5 Things To Consider for a Healthy Start with Canvas - Forever Focus http://bit.ly/1Pw90Vp

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