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Beth Crook

Sign School in Canvas

Posted by Beth Crook Champion Nov 15, 2016

We are a 9-12 Boarding School in the Mid-Atlantic and we currently have a member of our facilities staff who is hearing impaired.   From his first month, he immersed himself right into our community, not only with his job responsibilities, but becoming a volunteer coach for football and always saying a friendly "Hello" as he walks around campus.   Unbeknownst to him, we have just signed on with SignSchool and integrated their lessons right into a Canvas course. SignSchool LTI makes it very easy to add lessons to Modules and uses your webcam to show you practicing side-by-side with the recorded instructor!  Over the Thanksgiving holiday, members of our student body and employees are planning to learn some ASL and then return with a surprise.   We are thankful to have him as a member of our community and plan to show our thanks with the gift of conversation!

Starting Canvas in our school, it was agreed that all homework should be put on the calendar for the course you teach to encourage students to get on to and explore the platform.


Staff could make entries either as:

  • An event - For tasks not related to Canvas eg complete a worksheet, drawing images or reading task
  • A Canvas feature - If you wished students scores to be stored on the gradebook eg a quiz, discussion, on/offline assignment etc


In addition, we asked all teachers to create a syllabus page on each course with information to parents and student about the course  and our expectations of Canvas in supporting the learning that would take place. The syllabus page is very handy for showing the course calendar and a list of every item (homework) added to the course.


Now for the tricky bit....!


As a school with a UK curriculum, we have upwards of 15 different courses that students (and some staff) are enrolled in. The global calendar is currently limited to 10 which means that students either have to:

  • Unselect one course then select another course to view the homework on the global calendar (not easy with younger ones and too easy to get lost in different shades of colour!)
  • Go to the main course then look at the syllabus page and list of events (the syllabus calender is quite small and often the homeworks get lost in the list below)


The challenge for staff is even greater because:

  • When adding a homework via the global calendar, it is too easy to forget to select your course when writing the event (leading to homework being given to different groups!)
  • If your course is not on the global calendar then you cannot add an event to it without re-selecting it (annoyingly upsetting work flow)
  • If you decide to add an event via your course you cannot do it because the calendar on the syllabus page only links to the events below it (I didn't tell staff that one - I was too scared :O)


I posted an idea to the Community in hope rather than expectation. This was to add a link to the course calendar in every course that could bring up the course calendar for students to view and staff to add to. You can see the post here - Add link to Course Calendar on Course Menu bar


I also asked Michael Kop, our outstanding technical support person in school who has done some amazing things with our Canvas such as integration with our MIS (SIMS), CSS styling and links with H5P for resizing their quizzes (amongst many others) if this was something he could have a think about..


15 minutes later he had done it.


Michael has written (in his words) some 'quick and dirty' javascript which places a link called Check Homework at the bottom of every course.


Here is what it looks like on a course:

When you click on the link it takes you to your course calendar eg


So to the code. Here it is below, kindly used and to be shared with permission of Michael:


You can edit the link text on the first line, and more importantly it will automatically pick up on the current tenant (url)...


var LinkText = "Check Homework"; //Edit between quotes to change the link text


var cururl = location.href;

if (cururl.indexOf("/courses/") >= 0)


var CanvasTenant ='.')[0]

                var courseid = cururl.split('/')[4];

                var newsechtml = "<li class='section'><a href='https://" + CanvasTenant + "" + courseid + "' class='settings' style='font-weight:bold;' tabindex='0'>" + LinkText + "</a></li>";




I hope it makes sense. Let me know if it works for you :O)


Thanks Michael, you are a superstar! We wouldn't have achieved half as much without your support, expertise and answering the phone long after you should have left the office.


nline journaling is a tool I’ve just begun to use that brings together the best of instructional methods and technology into one easy-to-implement classroom practice. The emphasis here is on the word easy.  In this activity, I've incorporated Google Docs, Canvas Assignments, Rubrics, and Speedgrader for maximum efficiency, rapid feedback, and an ongoing influence on my decisions as a teacher.

Both students and teachers gain multiple benefits from online journaling. For one, journaling provides an excellent activity for student self-reflection. It compels learners to stop and look around — to see the forest rather than just the next few trees in front of them — such an important habit to encourage in their busy lives.

Second, online journaling is a great way for teachers to keep a finger on the pulse of their students. Reading student journals can reveal what learners understand — or don’t — what they’re feeling, and their thinking about a particular topic or aspect of their work. The practice of consistent journaling yields significant understanding and consistent connections between teacher and student with relatively little effort. And the benefits are enormous.

This year, for example, I asked my high school seniors to keep a weekly course journal in “Sustainable Futures” an interdisciplinary natural science-social science elective. The specific content requirements vary from week to week, depending on our work, but I often ask them to discuss what they learned, what went well, what could have gone better, and what they’re interested in doing next. These questions provoke thoughtfulness; and the scoring criteria (evaluated with a Canvas rubric!), encourages clear, thoughtful writing.

In a recent week, students reflected upon a peer-reviewed presentation activity. I was curious if they found it stressful to be evaluated, and/or to evaluate others. (And by the way, Canvas's Peer Review function is a great tool for this purpose!) For the student, journaling about this experience allowed them to reflect —and thus think — about their own strengths and weaknesses as presenters. This resulted in students discussing what they would work on next to improve their own presentations. That, in turn, gave me the opportunity to commend students’ for their insights in my comments underscoring their thinking and resolve to do better.

“So glad the peer review process worked for YOU as well as the group you reviewed,” I commented to one student. “That evaluating others helped you realize how to improve your presentation is a benefit I didn’t anticipate; wonderful that you made that connection!”

Aside from the pleasure of receiving a compliment, feedback like this reveals to students my thinking about my work, just as their writing reveals theirs. There's no wizard behind the curtain; it's our collective efforts that make the magic happen! It has been heart warming to see this mutual sharing of thoughts and feelings chip away at the wall between learner and teacher, and makes each of us more human as a result. Student journaling combined with personalized teacher feedback builds relationships, the oft-neglected key to learning for so many of our struggling students.

In this instance of journaling about the peer review process, students also gained more familiarity with the presentation scoring rubric, and the expectations it represents. Those jumbles of text cells make sense only when we apply them, or see them applied to our own work. In fact, several students commented that they planned to revise their own work after noting the same deficiencies or strengths in others’ work.

Other students shared thoughts and feelings about which I might have never known. One student noted that practicing in front of others “was a challenge … this week, since I get very nervous about public speaking, and because of that tend to speak too fast, fidget, stumble over my words.”  He went on to say, however, that because the rehearsal went well, he “felt much more confident going into the official presentation next week.”  That feedback convinced me that the extra class day dedicated to rehearsal is a practice well worth continuing in the future.

Of course, one difficulty with journals is, well, reading them! Fortunately, there are some simple tech tools that make it easier for students to write and submit, and teachers to “collect” and score — without a physical back and forth exchange of notebooks. Google Docs provides one part of the solution. My students share one “Journal” Google doc with me at the start of the course. Once shared, that Google Doc can be reexamined each week for new entries.

I direct students to type each week’s entry at the top of the Google document. That way I don’t have to scroll down to find the most recent entry. A clear and accurate date heading is key too.

There are several Canvas tools that make it easier to locate, assess, score, and comment on these journals. I have students submit their work as a file upload to a Canvas Assignment. No more searching through "shared" Google Docs. It's right there in my course. To make assessment easier, I post this weekly 10-point "journal entry" Assignment with a scoring rubric that assesses content breadth and depth; thoughtfulness; and writing quality. I click through each student’s work, reading, scoring it using the Canvas rubric, and typing a comment or two. In no time, I’ve read, commented, and scored every student’s entry. Done!

There are many other benefits to this system:

  1. All work is typed (no handwriting to decipher!)
  2. No need to collect, carry home, or return bulky notebooks.
  3. Score and record grades using a Canvas rubric.
  4. Comment directly on students’ work using the Crocodoc comment feature, or on the rubric, or easiest of all: on the assignment submission.

Most importantly, I get an insight into each student’s thinking, feedback on our course, and ideas about next steps, every week.  The ongoing nature of online journaling provides a rich, ongoing feedback loop between teacher and learner. The informal nature of journal-style writing makes it seem a "low-stakes" and "easy" task for students, while the technology provides rapid, ongoing, two-way feedback: an essential key to improved student learning.

Have you assigned student journals in Canvas? Please share your thoughts, tips, and ideas!

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