I want to preface this by saying that, on paper (or ‘in the cloud’ as paper becomes more and more obsolete’) that my thoughts and feelings on using a learning environment like Canvas are well into the positive side of the spectrum. The potential for good is so high that I can’t help but feel that something amazing is brewing and a potential revolution is brewing in my classroom.
However, as I just had to write twice in my previous sentence, the big problem is that right now it’s a potential.
I like to consider myself as someone who can take risks with how I teach. I am blessed at my school to be working with a Director of eLearning who has empowered us staff to go ahead and try things. Then, once things have been tried, he is incredibly supportive in troubleshooting any issues and guiding me towards a better outcome. Thanks to this environment, I’ve found many things that have made me legitimately excited about what I can in the classroom with Canvas and 3rd party add-ins, to the point where I was kept up last night by my brain trying to think through some of the issues and consequences with some things I wanted to try.
However, for every single thing I want to try, there seems to be some small barrier that needs to be overcome:
- Good thing: At parents’ evening, I showed parents the Canvas calendar and how powerful it can be. They were happy and on board with Canvas just through this, with it being a big improvement over our previous system.
- Barrier: It turns out that there are issues with displaying calendar events on iPads in Safari (we have a 1-1 programme).
- Good thing: OneNote classroom seems to be amazing at making student portfolios of work, sharing of resources, giving feedback and wonderfully, linking to the Canvas gradebook.
- Barrier: I couldn’t connect my OneNote to my Canvas course - despite Canvas being the example on the Office Mix website - in school and the response I got from Canvas was “try asking Microsoft, we can’t help”.
- Good thing: Canvas has a system where if I have an idea for an improvement, I can raise this issue within the Canvas Community and ask for the feature to be added.
- Barrier: Unless ‘x’ amount of my peers vote for my idea, Canvas won’t add it as a feature, even if it’s been brought up again and again. Also, the system automatically ordered the ideas for votes, so issues that already had lots of votes were prominently displayed to other users.
- Good thing: There seems to be a work around for everything.
- Barrier: To make most things work, you have to find a work around.
- Good thing: Your voice is listened to and ideas are taken up by the developers
- Barrier: There's often a 6 month development window for anything to be added. A school year might end before you can actually implement something with the students you wanted to use it with.
There’s more small things that come up on a daily basis, but these are the things that seem to be bothering me right now.
I am a Head of Department and I see part of my job as leading on things like eLearning within my department and sharing good ideas and best practice. There’s been a lot of times where I’ve said to my department “here’s something awesome, you should go and try it” but when they come to use it, something gets in the way. I’m incredibly interested in eLearning now and I have the patience to sit and troubleshoot and fix things. I don’t expect my team to feel the same way. Of course, I’ll try and foster the same feelings in my team but it’s not going to happen unless things work a lot more smoothly.
Right now, I’m going through a cycle of
- Get really excited about something,
- Find out it doesn’t work in the way advertised / as expected,
- Find a work around / troubleshoot for hours,
- Get something working
- Find out that there’s something else that could improve on the experience
- Go to 1.
I don’t always get past 4.
It’s a lot of effort.
I think if the barriers were a lot easier to get past, there’d be more teacher buy in. If there’s more teacher buy in, then the outcomes for the students would be far, far better. After all, they’re the ones we’re here to support.
As a Head of Department, if the barriers were easier to get past, the teacher workload could be cut right down, leading to happier and more productive teachers… surely leading to better student outcomes.
So, if there was one thing that would keep my excitement up, keep me taking risks and keep me exploring eLearning it’d be for Instructure to have more focus on the day to day K-12 teacher experience. If there was more willingness to fix bugs and add features (without a 6 month consultation window) then I’m sure that Canvas would be something that could drive the student outcomes beyond the excellent standard they already are without eLearning.