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This is more for schools in NSW, but may help those delivering data analysis. 

Tell Them From Me survey results are in - have to do the data analysis for the staff. After a while, there are usually some serious head nodders, and heavy eyelids. Who can blame people - big day at work followed by a PD session after school. 

So this time I flipped it. Instead of me going through the 88 page PowerPoint (I kid you not) for staff, I embedded the PowerPoint on Canvas, split the staff into groups with allocated pages to look at, attached multiple pages of trend data on SharePoint and linked it in, gave them a 20 minute limit and asked them to reply with their findings to questions in a discussion. 

Staff were also emailed the instructions the day before so they could get an idea of what they were doing and the PD session was set up just like a lesson - learning intentions, success criteria and resources. It was 'speed data'. 

The conversations and results that came back in the discussions were amazing. Not to mention the sneaky 'modelling' for staff using pages, links, embedded files and discussions. A total win today, building capacity with data analysis and utilisation, collaboration across all staff and of course - no snoring! 




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Our system has not opened the Parent app yet, so I have been looking for a way to show student work to parents, while staying in the Canvas environment.

I have been investigating the idea of using a discussion - set up using groups, so that there is only one student and the teacher in each group.  Students then have a private communication line with their teacher.  They can add images, text, audio etc using it as a reflective journal space.  If the discussion is set to be marked and it then becomes available to add as a submission to the ePortfolio.  Teachers can then ask the students to share the link to the eportfolio with their parents.

The class teacher can monitor the discussion, provide feedback and make suggestions.  The eportfolio is updated as new posts are made, so it is always up to date.   Parents can see what their child is doing at school. 

I still have to check that it will work in a real class but it has potential to solve our issues until the Parent app is released.

Jonathan Yoder

State of the Union

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Champion Oct 28, 2018

The State of the Union is strong! We have had a great 1st quarter with Canvas and Chromebooks. I thought I would take this week to highlight some of the great features teachers have been using and absolutely love! Although we have a long way to go our level of buy-in at all levels is rather impressive and speaks to the level of professionalism of our HS faculty!


Rubrics are the newest in our arsenal. Teachers are loving the variety. Our English department is loving the option to use ranges since that is what the state standards require. Social Studies teachers are loving the free form rubrics where they can create custom comments for each assignment. We will be running a rubrics session at our November PD to allow them to share their rubric love as well as dive deeper as we continue to explore the enormous quiver that Canvas provides us. 


SIS integration has been the number one item that all instructors love. Our Learning Support and Phys Ed departments will really love this feature since they tend to have multiple sections in the grade book. This will allow them to post one time and have it spray out into their 20+ sections in Skyward, saving them enormous amounts of time. On that note, we do have two known issues with our Skyward Sync. We have seen an unchecking of our Student and Parent Access. Once we reset our Skyward assignment display defaults to "always post" then the issue seemed to subside. The other issue is that for a small number the assignments seem to sync successfully, but somehow the assignment end up in the deleted area of Skyward requiring the teacher to 'restore' the assignment. So far though, we LOVE the sync to SIS option! It really has saved our instructors' time with grading.



Quizzes/Quizzes.Next has been another great find for our instructors. The ability to give warm ups and exit tickets has allowed teachers and students to get valuable feedback in a timely manner. I really believe the timely manner of it is what is extremely valuable for all involved. We need to use assessments for learning, so that we know what in fact students are learning. Some teachers, such an our online and hybrid teachers, have been using the quizzes as actual summative assessments. Our Chemistry teachers are even working on giving their final through Quizzes in Canvas! Our online Ecology teacher loves the ability to use Question groups so that no two tests are the same, allowing her to create equal but different questions. We are eager to have Quizzes.Next offer more functionality like partial grading for Categorization, Ranking, and Multiple answers. Also the ability to offer access codes has been helpful in preserving integrity for 504 and I.E.P. students who get extended time. 


Kami has been another great tool teachers are using to make use less papers and waste less time photocopying. We are able annotate PDFs digitally. This will have benefits for note taking as well as worksheets and even professional documents. The functionality of the free version is limited, but effective. We need to spend time helping the students understand how to organize their Google Drive and how to make sure they save their annotations before their final submission, but Canvas + Kami integration is in the works so hopefully as more teachers use it we can think about asking for subscriptions to help alleviate the need for paper unnecessarily. 


Our students were recently surveyed and they are so appreciative of their teachers really diving head first into make more interactive lessons with less paper. While not always doing things digitally is the answer; it is nice that we decrease paper when it makes sense. Technology is good in moderation and it will take us a bit to understand where it makes sense and where it is necessary to have paper. But for now it really has been amazing to see how our staff and students are really moving into the 21st century with all of this new technology. Eventually we will begin to look at models like ISTE and SAMR to help us augment learning in our classes!

I am backward mapping this blog post - starting with the end in mind! 

This photo (and banner) is of some of the happy faces of students at Callaghan College and De La Salle Lipa - Philippines (on the Promethean) after the final judging of their Sustainability Project which was organised by Instructure's Troy Martin and team. 

Let's back track now - last term, students at De La Salle Lipa, Callaghan College Wallsend Campus and Waratah Campus were set a challenge by Instructure and Red Agency - look at Sustainability and single use plastics, come up with solutions and alternatives. Students were grouped on Canvas with representatives from each Campus on teams. They had to research and deliver a PowerPoint based on problem solving these issues. They had to communicate and collaborate with people they didn't know, develop relationships, navigate time zones and solve a massive environmental issue. 

Did I mention they are 15 years old?

All groups were judged (via speedgrader) from both the Philippines and Australia and the top ten groups completed their final presentations across video link today - presenting together in front of staff, students and parents from both countries. (Not to mention the media presence as well). We are not sure who won yet as there were so many quality presentations, however in our eyes, it doesn't matter. They all won! And so did we - the future is safe with kids like these in both countries.

As teachers - what did we do? Only provided support and set up the Canvas course. They had no time out of class. All students had to do this project above and beyond their normal studies, and they volunteered for this! It was a complete first for our College and quite frankly a fantastic start. There were times when we checked the groups and could see conferences were happening, collaborative documents were being shared and discussions were flying back and forth between countries. When we saw some of the friendships that have been developed  today, and watched them present together as a team - well let's just say our hearts were full of pride. I can only imagine the joy if they all ever met in person. 

Today we witnessed a technological tool support many solutions to global problems, but that didn't matter in the end - what we saw was global friendship. You just cannot buy that!


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Jonathan Yoder

Unique Uniformity

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Champion Oct 14, 2018

After almost a quarter of the school year under way, we are starting to see trends. The ability in Canvas to really do whatever you heart desires with your course is a blessing and a curse. With so much autonomy how do we develop best practices so that the students aren't confused and know what to expect while surfing our virtual classrooms. Well, one thing we teachers have in common is a syllabus; a course outline.


My suggestion has been to think about using the 'Syllabus' page as the course landing page rather than 'Modules'. It allows the teacher the ability to better control the environment by providing space to explain how he or she is using Canvas. One can provide links to important modules, pages, discussions or assignments. You can even embed videos for enrichment as well as to show off your personality just like how you might decorate you physical classroom with engaging photos and posters. You can also provide your contact info, a photo and even attach a file of your class expectations. Then along the bottom of the page will be running list of all assignments and events for the course that Canvas will auto-populate as the year goes on.


Pro Tip: If you have certain class expectations you can list them as well, but I think a useful alternative might be to divide up your class expectations into pages in a module and then make a syllabus quiz to end the module requiring that the students score 100% before they can move on to other course modules/content. 


There are so many options and each teacher should have the autonomy to do with their Canvas pages as they please, but we do need to have a little bit of order and uniformity so that our students know what to expect just like they know each classroom will have desks, chairs and whiteboard. They should be able to count on each virtual class having a syllabus page, modules and assignments. And although it is true that we don't teach the parents it might go a long way toward transparency if the parents,learning support teachers and guidance counselors, when they sign on to observe, also had a sense of how each teacher is using their page so they could better support their students.


So take a second to think about your Canvas courses and if a casual observer or new student were to sign onto your course, would they feel confident on how to navigate the course? It might save you time from having to write clarifying emails or have 1 on 1 discussions with confused students and parents. And the beauty of Canvas is that once you have a good template set; then it will be ready for each new year with the ability for any necessary tweaks you may need to make from year to year!

Last term my faculty and I embarked on the first Project Based Learning ( the real PBL to be talked about here) task for Year 7 Japanese learners. Year 7 are 12-13 years old and in their first year of high school. We have always done PBL tasks with smaller elective classes, however with ten Yr 7 classes; this was going to be a challenge (about 290 students). Whilst using many fabulous resources from the Buck Institute, Canvas also has its own benefits for making this work.

Canvas has made PBL tasks what they should be. I call the other PBL – previously beetroot laden tasks as in the past when tasks were handed out on paper, the sheet was lost in the student’s backpack somewhere (not unlike Dr Who’s Tardis) and usually came out weeks later with beetroot stains on it.


The Project (a film in Japanese approximately 2-3 mins long) was able to be completely scaffolded for all learners over several pages and then groups could have their own ‘Canvas site’ to control which made their lives easier for messaging, document control, versioning and collaboration – in particular out of school hours work.


Group contracts and project management logs could be saved as collaborative documents or just as a separate page, the students were also marked on keeping learning blogs, which the discussion tool was used for. The discussion was used as an individual blog (each child named the discussion their own name) - they replied to themselves after each lesson, which meant there was a time and date stamp, as well as a record of their own progress.

The calendar was used to organise their project management logs for the group as well as filming times, messages to each other about what everyone needed to bring each lesson.


The student contracts, project management logs, and teacher ‘check-ins’ were marked on to the assessment rubric as we progressed through the term. Marks were allocated on the rubric to the work in class as the students advanced through their tasks. By the time the project was due to be filmed, it was the last major part of the marking left for the teachers.


There was also another separate rubric that students had to fill in at the end of the filming by themselves. It was a self-evaluation to assess their own future learning skills. This was achieved by setting up a few laptops with the teacher logged in and the students found their name in Speedgrader and ‘marked themselves’. This was based on:

  • Focus on the Task / Participation
  • Shared Responsibility
  • Listening, Questioning and Discussing
  • Research and Information Sharing
  • Problem Solving


The Speedgrader rubric was a great process for the students to evaluate themselves without having to complete surveys or long answers (poor little things were tired). They were also allocated marks for completing the self-evaluation rubric, not the score they gave themselves to encourage them to answer more honestly about their work. From my own classes (3 classes = 90 students) the data showed that 20% rated themselves highly in all five sections, 55% of students thought they were average and 25% felt they were poor at demonstrating these skills. The wrap up was a very interesting discussion as to how they feel these skills will help them later in life. When asked about how they felt Canvas helped them in their projects, the responses were equally mixed as some found it easy, others difficult, and many responded with the feeling that it was difficult to hide from the workload – their friends were checking, their teachers were checking and their parents/caregivers could observe too.


Overall a great experience, PBL is highly differentiated, but also needs a level of organisation and kindness to achieve. One class did have to complete some ‘teamwork remediation’ as changing groups every lesson because ‘they all hate each other today’ was not an option. It is a big ask sometimes for 12 and 13 year olds, however with a few tweaks, it will get another run. Did they do everything perfectly? No - of course not. But not everything was their problem either, there are things I need to change too in the lesson delivery and student groupings. But that is the fun part - learning from the medals and the missions. The journey with PBL is just as important as the product – and this product thankfully now has no beetroot covered paper!



This project is shared in Commons – Japanese Project Based Learning Unit Year 7. Hopefully this helps someone else.

As we continue to work with all this new technology, the number one priority will be to make sure our students come to class prepared. We obviously cannot pack their bags for them, but by having expectations with accountability we can avoid the phrases of "I left it at home" or "I forgot to charge it". We should not accept these types of responses. We cannot enable these students any longer. We need to demand better of them.


I think it's important that if we plan on using Chromebooks in our classes regularly then we should think about have a system for participation points in place that may even require daily tracking. Maybe its something as simple as 2 points a day for having a Chromebook-1 point for having it and 1 point for not needing to plug it in or borrow a charger. Then you add a weekly 10 point assignment in the grade book that shows them and their parents of whether there is an issue that needs to be addressed.


So this week when a kid tells you that they left it in their car or at home, maybe it's time to think about making a change to your class expectations and enacting a system that makes sense for you and your style, but we need to set the expectation and hold them accountable each and every day. It is not a lot to ask of them. They need to do better and we need to support them through this change. Otherwise they will do to us what they do to their parents...wear them down with excuses like their dog at their Chromebook until you just throw your hands up in the air exhausted from the verbal weapons of mass confusion. Students love to spread these excuses when they are avoiding doing something that they don't consider to be fun or perhaps because these phrases have worked for them in the past. Be firm, be resilient and model for them the steadfast nature that their future bosses will demand of them one day.

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