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Jonathan Yoder

Consistency is Key

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Champion Sep 30, 2018
One thing my school as Tech newbies will have to consider as we move forward with Canvas, or really any LMS, is consistency. Consistency for our students and parents within our course design to easily find important information quickly. That is one of the main reasons behind adding the digital nature to what we do. The Tech doesn't define our class; it is there to help as another avenue to engage today's students, parents, and community members with your content area expertise. Schools should not be a 'member's only' club, especially not in public education. This new tech allows us to deliver the same message to all stakeholders. There is no more playing telephone between what you said in class versus what version parents received when they returned home, tired from work. And for us as teachers, this is awesome to have the ability to control your classroom virtually and remotely! We teachers in today's world need to be mindful of what we can all do despite our comfort level with technology so that we can engage more students. Meet them halfway between old school and new school. Draw the lines in the digital sand. Have a dialogue with your classes, let them help you decide how to dip your toes into the water.

I think the easiest first steps are the creation of "Assignments" followed by the use of "Modules". They are going to be key players where we can agree on a uniformed front for all of our students. When you create assignments in Canvas and you keep the "Assignment" button active on your course menu (left side of screen), students get a nice view of what is "overdue", what is "upcoming" and then at the bottom any "past assignments". They can also view by assignment group/type (See bellow image).




The Assignment area allows students and their guardians a quick and easy screen view within your course to stay organized. They can also see upcoming items in three other locations. First, it is displayed on the right side of their dashboard every time they login on a computer or Chromebook. Second, they can see it on their course calendar. Third, if you have a "Syllabus" page it also creates a running list of assignments at the bottom. So you just create the assignment one time and Canvas intuitively send it to all the aforementioned locations. Pretty nice!

Are you entering "Assignments" from the calendar? The Pro is that it is quick and easy if you are not allowing  submissions. You just click on the date you want it to be due/completed. Then you start at the top by clicking on the "Assignment" tab then enter the "Title" of the assignment, then choose a time if you wish otherwise it defaults to 11:59 pm. You can really leave the time alone or maybe just put it in for 7:30 am as a reminder that it should be done before school starts that day. Then you need to make sure you are on the "Calendar" for the particular class you wish to assign and finally you need to hit "Publish" and "Save".

The Cons are as follows. First, if you're not paying attention you could put it on the wrong class calendar. Second, you can inadvertently put it as an "Event" and not an "Assignment" and it will not appear as described in the last paragraph. Third is the kids will only see the title with no instructional information nor how many points it is worth nor how you want them to turn it in. Which ultimately means that students who are absent will still have to come to you or another classmate for directions instead of being able to follow along remotely if their absence is one that allows them to keep afloat remotely. One nice feature about "Assignments" is that you also have the ability in Canvas to attach files and embed videos in the instructions area that might have been part of that HW assignment/Unit. If you hit the "More Options" button from the calendar view you can go to that area and add in details to keep parents informed as well, which might help you not have to answer as many emails or make as many phone calls home. That alone is worth the time it takes to enter in the details and if you use this assignment in future years you will only need to tweak the date and reassign for future years.



Once you are comfortable with Assignments the next step is to build Modules that are orderly and chronological. This will be key if you want to help with transfer students or late additions. It can also help with students who are absent for an extended periods of time for illness etc. When you have all of you material on Canvas in your "Pages", "Files", and "Assignments" going to Modules will allow you to build your course quickly by placing in any pages, discussions, assignments and links you may want them to access in the order you want them to access those materials! Then students can just go to modules and pick up where they left off! You can even put in settings so they get check marks showing where they left off!

Once you build a system then the concept of Emergency Sub Plans and Digital Snow Days can be a possibility with little to no confusion. If you have a chance consider taking an  course, there are lots of free options with Google. It might help you better understand good and bad examples of how  material can be disseminated. This is something to really strive for by next school year, but thinking of it now will help as you learn the system and how best to build your courses! It will take time and some trial and error! Don't be discouraged, it is not an easy journey! But it is worth your time and effort!

Isobel Williams

Showcase Student Work

Posted by Isobel Williams Sep 27, 2018

I have been thinking about ways to showcase student work in a Gallery Walk type of experience in Canvas.  I have had several teachers ask about solutions for this.

Sway via Office365 - you can upload images or videos and add text if required.  The sway can be embedded in a course and students could move through it at their own pace.

Photos in Windows - you can create short videos using photos.  This can be uploaded to your course as media. It seems to be a much simpler version of photostory and is quite quick and easy to use if you have the images ready to go. Text can be added.  The pictures will play through so give each image enough time to be seen.

Photostory3  - this can be downloaded and is the great app it always was.  Use photos you have on your computer to create  videos. Zoom in on important aspects of an image and add text and transitions.  This is a bit more complex to master but is worth the effort.

Add to your Canvas by uploading through the media link.

Happy sharing.

Isobel Williams

Printing Rubrics

Posted by Isobel Williams Sep 24, 2018

We found a roundabout way to print out rubrics - In the mark-book select a student then select marks from their Activity card.   This brings up a list of all their assignments.  There are icons next to the assignment and these will expand score, feedback and rubric.     If you expand these you can then print out the whole list of assignments - I limit it to the page or pages with the relevant rubric.    Its is a bit of a fiddle to have to do it for every student but it is a solution if you need/ want a paper copy.    

   Change is hard. Time is limited, but I truly believe we are on a good trajectory toward real change in our school. I have been telling the students in my demos that all this new tech is like the Cheesecake Factory Menu...Its massive and awesome with a few undesirables on the menu pending one's tastes. And just how one might want to order 5 different things the reality is your wallet and your stomach couldn't handle it all! Same with teachers and all this new technology, we need time and return visits to be able to try all that they have to offer. Or maybe we need to just team up with colleagues and share meals at first!



   We public school teachers have a fine line to walk between compliance/standardization and true progressive education through Project Based and Inquiry Based Learning. It will take time, but one thing we can all do is continue to make small adjustments in how we interact with out students. We must realize that they have spent their entire careers K-8 using a lot of technology and not seated quietly in rows for extended periods of time. This is something I had not even considered until recently when I attended an elementary back to school night presentation. So just like the students need to be patient with us and our comfort level or lack of  in regards to technology, we also need to be patient as we teach them "how to learn" which may be even more important than the actual content we teach.

   If you fear that students aren't paying attention and are using their Chromebooks to tune you out, then instead of looking for the Fort Knox software that condemns their Chromebooks to being paperweights...maybe we should look at modifying and redefining lessons! Now this doesn't mean we have to up heave all that you do and that your career has been a fraud, it just means that times change and the students' attention may not be about how they need to learn to just pay attention, maybe its an indication that we need to pay attention to what they are telling us through their actions. 


   I am currently reading a new book called Timeless Learning written by 3 Public School teachers (Ira Socol, Pam Moran, Chad Ratliff) and this quote really struck a chord with me.

"The 21st century world rapidly changes around our schools and swirls around our children...sustaining schooling as it has existed will not prepare children for the world they will enter as adults. We educators all must focus on helping children become creative and empathetic problem-solvers. We must help them be ready for a world none of us can define, but we all know will look nothing like the recent past" (Socol 54-55)

 Ira Socol later goes on to say that when he observes other teachers in their classrooms he never watches the teacher. He watches the students (even their feet if seated) to see if they are engaged.

"So much talent exists in children that doesn't get seen or heard because the potential of young people often gets lost in our traditions of worksheets, repetitive motion tasks, and teachers standing at the dominant teaching wall. When kids tune out, passively or agressively, because work has no context, little meaning, and makes no sense, we never see the strengths and assets of full range of the learners who are in our schools." (Socol 51) 

   Change is hard, but it starts with simple choices in even our language. So think about a lesson you have coming up in November. Let's see if we can't change it up a little and see how we can still preserve your style, but see if we can't engage your students in a new way that reignites some of the disengaged and maybe even reigniting you along the way! Let's do something great! Let's have fun! Let's change the world one day at a time.


Don't forget you are human, you are not perfect! 

(But as a teacher you're pretty darn close!)


Socol, Ira, et al. Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools. Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Brand, 2018.

Jonathan Yoder

Mind Full or Mindful

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Champion Sep 16, 2018

When I think about my routine during the school year, I feel like my brain is always full of "stuff". Whether it be all of the students I have or how a certain lesson went that day. Then onto family: am I picking up my daughter from the bus stop? What am I making for dinner? And what ultimately happens is I get too full! I used to sit in department or faculty meetings at the end of the day on Wednesdays and just feel like there was no more room for whatever was on the agenda that day. Maybe I was just "hangry", but usually I would describe it like a teapot full of water, having been left on the burner on high without a spout or way to release that building pressure. And in the frenzy of thoughts that occupied my brain I would get overwhelmed and even a bit depressed at times...maybe even a little bit of fear. Was I up for the challenge of all of my my students, my colleagues, my family, my community? Would the kids like the lesson I prepped for tomorrow? Did I forget to make any copies? And what I started to notice is that it was not in the amount of things I'm doing that necessarily  needed to change, but in my perception. I needed to be less mind full and more mindful. In whatever role I was in at any given moment in my day, I just needed to be there. 


Now that seems so easy, doesn't it? How could something so simple like staying in the moment become such a chore. Where do I go wrong time after time, when I inevitably go from the "Let's do this!" pumped up charge of promising to be more in the moment to then somehow finding myself on a completely different road full of congested thought traffic. How did I go from a nice rural drive in the country to bumper to bumper traffic on a 6 lane mind-way! My conclusion is that we love the road when it is serene and smooth, but at some point we hit a rocky road of potholes or undeveloped streets. Thoughts of negative energy hit us; perhaps when you get a call that a family member is unexpectedly ill or a bad report comes from your child's school and now you have to take off work to go elsewhere. It disrupts your mojo, your flow. So when those moments of happiness leave us, we tend to want to find some sort of alternate we take a mental road to somewhere other than where we should be in that moment. Life is not all unicorns and rainbows, this much we all know. Sometimes I find myself chasing the feeling of eternal happiness, when some times I just need to feel whatever the present situation calls for even if it is disappointment, anger or fear. Those are natural human emotions that are responses to your current environment...stay on that road! Be in that moment then move on. Our students, our family, our colleagues deserve their moment with us. We shouldn't immediately hit an emotional eject button to avoid feeling what our bodies need to feel. Otherwise we might lose sight of our bigger goals in life and all the little steps needed to get there day in and day out. We become so mind full that we miss the "exit" we intended to take and instead of focusing on course correcting sometimes we just dig in and go on cruise control. Or perhaps we turn our attention to the GPS and look for others to guide us or tell us what to do next. Mostly we just need to trust ourselves, slow down and feel. Know your value and be present in every moment so others can enjoy you in all your glory! You are enough!


We need to keep ourselves emotionally grounded so that we can be a leader in the classroom, in our home and in the community. Take a moment and think about what goals you had for this school year back in July or even early August. As the first month of school is coming to a close...Are you where you intended? Did life seem to get in the way? Were you too mind full and now are so far off track that you feel like you've hit a point of no return? Put all the negative energy away, take 30 seconds to close your eyes, focus on your breathing and nothing else. Clear your mind, remember your summer self in all its hopefulness and optimism for the upcoming year and try something new, be present the next time you step into your classroom, your home, your community. Really see your students, your children, your family as they are in that moment and appreciate all your blessings even when your emotional forecast seems to be cloudy! Bring an umbrella! You got this! You are enough. 


These reports from Common Sense Media always make for an interesting read.   -  This is worth a look at and thinking about how it might apply to the young people we work with. 

I am surprised that social media makes teens feel less lonely and less depressed.  Maybe not the ones I work with!  But we really need to take into account the differences between students with high and low social and emotional well being.


Jonathan Yoder

What about Lisa?

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Champion Sep 8, 2018

As I reflect on the mixed reactions of my colleagues to the influx of technology in our schools, I realize there is a running trend that causes me concern. We as educators seem to care so much about safeguarding our classes, lessons and quizzes from the Bart Simpsons of the world that we forget to nurture Lisa. What about Lisa? Doesn't she deserve the ability to learn at her own pace? Isn't she able to multitask? Doesn't she always turn things in on time? Why are we being so rigid on how we manage the students in our classroom and our expectations of them. Why do we immediately dismiss new innovative lessons based on the fear of cheating or other nefarious acts.


One reason I believe is the chasm between the learners of yesteryear and the learners of today is so substantial now that there is a lack of understanding of how life occurs to the students of today. Teachers often teach based on their own learning experiences in school and we are now at such a divide with the ubiquity of technology and social media that even the process of thinking is different for our students than for most of us educators. Now I am not suggesting that we let students do whatever suits their fancy, moderation of things like screen time is a must! But maybe we should spend less time trying to lock up every loophole and avoiding technology instead we should be breaking the glass ceilings we have created by using templates from the 20th Century to dictate the 21st Century classroom. Just because we fear the world of Wall-E doesn't mean we should condemn our students to a life of the Flintstones. Bart will always be Bart...finding ways to get under your skin, cheat or even Snapchat during your lessons. Why should Lisa suffer for his negligence? Karma will get him, but in the meantime have we spent too much time setting restrictions and ignoring innovation that we have inadvertently killed Lisa's creativity? 


So the next time you find yourself worrying about locking the proverbial vault on a quiz or project remember that there will always be a Bart, a Danny Ocean or even a Horshack...but let's not forget that our purpose as educators isn't to exploit the negative behaviors, but the research shows that success in classroom lies in the positive reinforcement that we give to the Lisa like behavior, letting all others know that the culture in our classroom nurtures the ability that we all possess to be life long learners. And perhaps by the end of the semester, year, or much much later Bart will reorient his wayward compass ultimately finding that his happiness isn't in the antics he gets away with, but in finding his purpose through demonstrations of effort and integrity.

As I've mentioned the quiz feature on Canvas to my colleagues there have been some mixed reactions...the one that struck me to most is when a colleague immediately recoils saying..."BUT THEY WILL CHEAT!" First of all, some kids will always cheat...always have and always will. What I want to focus on is not giving some major assessment on Canvas that will be safeguarded like Fort Knox, but instead the ability to use Quizzes as a quick and easy feedback tool.


It is a great vehicle for previewing an upcoming topic or summarizing one that you have already been studying. And if you make it T/F MC or Fill in the Blank etc. you give the students the ability to get immediate feedback as to how they are retaining the information in your course! Sometimes I wonder if we as teachers give enough timely feedback! I know I was guilty of that, which can really cause students to disengage and shut down. And with a digital universe at their fingertips its so easy to fall to the temptation of Snapchat or texting. But some of you may already be saying...When will I have time to make all these quizzes! A lot of us already have resources such as textbooks etc that have pre-made questions so now its really about the data entry. This is where our Student Assistants aka Community Service kiddos can come into play!


   Create a fake course and enroll them as TAs or Designers heck even Teachers! That way they can access the course and enter all of your bell-ringer quizzes for you! Then you can easily import them in a variety of ways into a live course once they are ready. That is when you can choose your Quiz details such as time limits, multiple attempt, dates etc.

   Imagine how nice the start of each class could be if you set a routine where the kids come in, fire up their Chromebooks and start focusing on the course content while you have a minute to breathe from last period, maybe hand out any passes, follow up with a kid who has been absent etc. Everyone is a winner!


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