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2018

Recently Eric Sheninger posted the following graphic as part of a blog post about taking a critical lens to instructional design:

I've been thinking about the above concepts on a regular basis as our teachers are going through the process of creating units in our learning management system, Canvas. I believe there are certain times that just lend themselves to reflection, revamping and reorganization such as:

  • When a lesson plan flops
  • When curriculum mapping is being updated
  • When a learning management system (LMS) is an option
  • When you have a vision for a lesson plan that could use a little ummph
  • When you start wondering if there is a better way to....(fill in the blank)
So what do the above high agency options look like?
  1. "Facilitate" learning - you were probably both taught from a "sage on the stage" model of learning and if you are my age you also were probably taught to teach that way as well. While there are definitely times that lectures work, high agency education moves the teacher from the giver of all knowledge to the facilitator of the learning happening in the classroom. In the age of digital learning, the teacher can have options for students to learn more on a topic- for instance: access to primary source documents or video conferencing with subject matter experts.
  2. Student-centered - Does the learning happen based on the teacher's actions, steps, words, timing? Or does the student have access and the ability to be in charge of parts or all of their learning? Do students have voice and choice in the things they are learning or sharing? Student-centered activities lead to engagement. 
  3. Learning anytime/anywhere - Most teachers balk at this concept. "I don't teach an online course!" but do your students have to be sitting in front of you for learning to happen? Are you utilizing tools like a learning management system that allows students to use their time well? If seat time was not an issue, could your students access you when they needed more details or direction but basically could move forward with learning even if a sub was there for weeks? What if they are sitting in your classroom? Are there ways you could utilize an LMS that would allow you to have more one-on-one planning, mapping, and teaching happening with EACH student (or small groups of students)?
  4. Personalized, differentiated - Are you meeting the needs of ALL your students? For hundreds of years, educators have taught to the norm. Those that caught on quicker were bored out of their minds and those that caught on slower felt like a failure. Technology can allow students to have different outcome paths. In Canvas, our LMS at CCS, we have a math classroom that uses mastery paths. Students cannot move on until they are "ready" but they can move ahead at a faster rate as well. Personalization and differentiation are tricky in a traditional school structure but it can be possible and is definitely beneficial to ALL students. One of my favorite, easy to implement option for this is software that adapts to the student learning in the process. For instance, if a student doesn't do well on a math problem then an easier problem is given to allow for scaffolding that student back to the level of understanding needed. Also, algorithm-based software that assigns the next "to do" objectives to students meet those students where they are and take them to their potential.
  5. Do to learn - Parents often question the time it takes for homework and have a hard time seeing the validity and purpose, and so do I. What is the purpose of "doing?" Or your students doing to learn or just going through the motions of doing? It is our job to spark learning and a desire to learn. Are your students good at following instructions and jumping through hoops (for example: do the odd problems 1-17) or are your students doing it to learn- are grades associated with the learning process? In other words, are your formative assessments given to formulate feedback in order to know what students know or is it another grade in the grade book because you need more grades? If students have the freedom to fail and learn from the process with feedback then they don't fear the process. Think about the freedom you have while playing a video game. Students don't get upset when they "lose a life" or have to start over, then click play and go again because they realize the way to learn how to do it is to keep doing it. Unlike the culture of a school, there are no repercussions to getting it wrong. Can we as educators learn from this concept?
  6. Application focused - Look for ways to teach your curriculum authentically. Project-based learning lends itself to giving students the concept of WHY.  Apply the learning to real life. For instance, in our lower school STEAM program when our fifth graders are learning about structure and function, I plan to connect the concept of their drinking straw made projects to a video of a local architect explaining who he is, what he does, and how what they are learning relates to his job. Application focus gives meaning and while it might be quite obvious to us what the application is, it might not be to a student. Share the why and make the learning applied when you can.
  7. Develop Thinking - Make learning more about the process than the end result. We tend to focus on summative tests as our end result but the process of learning and learning how to learn is a beautiful thing. Be intentional in helping students get to the end result, not just being able to answer multiple choice questions correctly because they are a good memorizer. We are currently going through a whole school design thinking process in our lower school. To teach students how to critically look at challenges through the eyes of empathy, to then ideate those concepts, storyboard your process, and come to a conclusion or prototype can be a skill that has the ability to be applied to all learning processes. Teach your students how to think. 
  8. Integrating curriculum - Segmented curriculum often feels intimidating. By integrating the curriculum into a project or problem to solve changes biases. Students that use to walk into math class saying "I'm not good at math" may feel less angst when it is integrated with a subject they do like. Integration focuses on relevance for students and directly correlates to the application focused discussion above. Integrating curriculum isn't always easy, especially in the middle and high school grades but when done well, there is an embedded connection that naturally happens that spurs the learner forward. Think about it, all day long a student goes from Subject A to Subject B, etc that have a high level of learning taking place but no connection whatsoever...between each class they have 3-10 minutes to decompress and get ready for the next stand-alone idea. What if their day was more fluid? Connected learning seems more manageable from the student perspective. 
  9. Active learning opportunities - "Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime." - Chinese Proverb. Take a look at Edgar Dale's Cone of Experience: 
    Look at your mode of instruction, how often is active learning happening with your students? How often could it happen with some adjustments? Active and interactive opportunities support all the above high agency learning concepts. It can get loud and messy but often the level of engagement in the learning process becomes organic and freeing for the learners.
Nothing mentioned above is meant to say "you're doing this wrong." It's more just a challenge to us all to look deeper at the way we teach and consider alternatives to the process. How can you get all your students involved in the learning? Not just the same 5 that always raise their hands. We default to what feels easiest, it's human nature. But what if we took a moment to be a learner in this school year and challenge ourselves with learning based on the above? What if we changed our perspective towards what works best for our learners instead of what works best for us? We might find that some of these ideas fail miserably for us, but even when we fail, we learn...remember the video game idea? 

My thoughts on the benefits of digital objective testing:

  • Automated grading- My number one reason for loving digital assessments is the ability to automate grading. 
    • Using digital testing gives teachers the opportunity to quickly perform pre-assessments that can guide teachers forward in a curriculum. 
    • Using digital testing gives teachers time. Teachers often spend hours a week grading papers, projects, homework, and tests. Digital testing frees up some of that time for them to be able to spend in planning. 
    • Using digital testing allows for an increase in feedback for both the teacher and the student. Exit tickets give teachers immediate feedback on how the lesson was received and understood for the next day (or even the next period). Automated grading gives the teacher the opportunity for students to have a better sense of their knowledge along the way. I would even go as far to say that there are definite times assessments should not be in the grade book. Use this option as a tool to help students learn what they need to learn. In many digital platforms (like below in the LMS Canvas) when setting up quizzes you can actually give students multiple attempts so that it is not only an assessment tool for the teacher but it allows the student the opportunity to master the concept by going back and practicing/studying and taking the assessment again. 
      CHALLENGE THE EDUCATOR question: Are you assessing in order to have grades in a grade book or are you assessing to know what your students know to get them to the ultimate goal of mastery of your curriculum concepts?
  • Paperless- There are definite pros and cons to being paperless but I'm going to share the pros in this. No longer are there stacks of paper on your dining room table, desk, and crumpled in the bottom of your computer bag. Digital testing leads to classroom management. Tests can't be "lost" and because it is paperless there is no waiting on a teacher to give back the grade. Feedback can be immediate.  CHALLENGE THE EDUCATOR question: Do feel led to embrace pathways of sustainability for our world? Do you feel you have a responsibility for teaching your students how to steward our natural resources (such as trees/paper)? Creating paperless opportunities in your classroom supports that line of thinking. 
  • Individualization- Digital testing lends itself to being able to differentiate learning in a more streamlined, less labeled manner. No one knows that one student is getting a different "level" of a test than another. For instance, when setting up a quiz in Canvas (see below),
    you can assign quizzes to certain people. Instant differentiation or personalization. With the use of digital instruction and testing, teachers can actually spend more time meeting individual student needs than ever before. "This isn't just about algorithms and technology, it's about increased face time with teachers" when your class becomes more of a blended learning environment by utilizing tech for what it does best and utilizing your skills as a teacher for what you do best. https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=416 This aspect allows you to also hit on the next two ideas of "remediation" and "acceleration." CHALLENGE THE EDUCATOR question: If you aligned the questions you entered into a quiz with an outcome (i.e.- standard, essential understanding) and you then knew what individual concept your students were not understanding, would you use that information for each student?
  • Remediation - Let's assume you said yes to the last challenge question. Because your desire is for all students to succeed, you could then create paths of learning that would allow those struggling students to master the curriculum set before them. In Canvas, there are options called Mastery Paths (see below)
    that would allow you to differentiate instruction/ resources/ testing based on the level of understanding achieved on their digital testing. CHALLENGE THE EDUCATOR question: If you had data that showed you where your students had gaps, would you use that data for their good? Would it be worth the effort? 
  • Acceleration - In many classrooms across the world, it is the common, accepted practice to teach to the average student. But just like those kids that are below that norm have issues that can be addressed with digital testing, we also have the ability to push those higher achievers further in their learning with the mastery paths as well. They can either go farther faster or deeper into the concept for understanding. You're the teacher, the path is for you to decide but you've seen those bored faces waiting for the next chapter. CHALLENGE THE EDUCATOR question: How are you, your school, and your district helping students progress that could accelerate through the curriculum? How do you support those students that could move on? 
  • Data for student progress -  Any teacher worth their salt can grade a stack of tests and see patterns of lack of comprehension, it's part of being a teacher. But with digital testing, you have the ability to look at that data in a whole new way. To drive instruction forward for your entire class, select groups, or individuals. Not only that, what if you could see the mastery from year to year? What if last year's math teacher could tell you the fundamental struggles the students you are about to teach have? Data is a four letter word but it doesn't have to be a bad word. We as educators tend to think of data as something being done to us, but: CHALLENGE THE EDUCATOR question: What if data helped you drive your day to day instructional strategies? Would that immediate feedback be useful to you? Could you adapt your standard mode of operation to include rethinking the next day's curriculum instead of grading papers for 1-2 hours every day? ###
In 2013 I wrote my first blog post on managing technology usage in the classroom. The fear of off-task behavior still seems to be one of the main reasons teachers are hesitant to use technology five years later. While the devices may vary, the concepts on how to teach students good internal management of appropriate use have not changed. It starts with intentional boundaries being placed on students anytime technology is in their hands from pre-K forward.

 

I believe wholeheartedly that classroom management of students on devices is a digital citizenship issue. We are teaching students how to manage their impulses by setting expectations of appropriate usage. I also believe that if we are requiring students to use technology in our classrooms, we also need to be teaching students how to use it wisely and timely. Expectations are important for appropriate usage.

 

As our high school is moving forward to prepare for exams using Canvas for objective assessments my mind has been thinking on various ways to prepare the testing environment and test itself for integrity purposes. Below are my thoughts on this subject:

 

    • Classroom seating setup- make cheating hard but make monitoring easy for you. Exams don't take forever, move your desks or your students to help you monitor better. I work with a teacher in the elementary school that has her students sit on one side of their desk when she is giving instructions and then when it's time for them to work on the computers she has them move their chairs to the other side of their desks so she can quickly see their screens when she is working with small groups in the back of the classroom. Another option might be setting up your room for the task at hand by setting up desks in the following ways that allow you to quickly move around your room as you proctor an exam:
  • Question banks/groups -By creating Question Banks in your learning management system you can very easily differentiate a quiz to students by allowing the system to choose questions out of a question bank. Basically, you are telling the Question Group how many questions you want on the quiz and it will randomly select questions from your pre-created banks. When creating question banks for randomization purposes it is important to create banks that have the same level of critical thinking within the groupings so that the quizzes will be equitable in rigor. Use Canvas LMS? Check out these links to help you:
  • 1. Access Codes- Codes serve as a safeguard that students cannot access exams when you are not ready for them to access it. Giving students the code right at exam time and then changing the code once everyone is in is a way to make sure different sections you teach are not accessing the exam when they are not in your presence. This can be set on the detail page of any quiz/exam you make in Canvas. 
  • 2. Filter IP Addresses- Many learning management systems have the ability to only allow a quiz/exam to be taken on campus. By choosing to filter the IP address you can prevent students from possibly accessing or finishing an exam at home without a proctor. This can also be set on the detail page in Canvas. Be aware that sometimes if a device is being managed by a VPN, students will not be able to take the exam due to this setting. 
  • 3. Change feedback setting - One of the beautiful things about accessing digitally is that exams are graded immediately and teachers can spend more time on other things. In Canvas there is a setting for students to see question feedback right after taking an exam (in fact, it defaults to this setting). For testing integrity purposes, I would suggest changing this setting to a time after all of your students have taken the test so that you can be more assured that students aren't sharing their results with each other. 
  • 4. Shuffle answers - In most robust LMS options there is an option to shuffle the answers inside a quiz/exam with one click. When this is utilized to automatically it is important not to have answer choices like "both a & c" because it will randomize the answers and this answer will not be correct. 
  • 5. One question at a time - By choosing the option for students to see one question on a page it keeps wandering eyes from looking over and seeing another student's page of answers. The downside to this is that many students find it cumbersome when taking a test. Think of it like a hand covering the last question as the quiz taker moves along the test. Easy access is eliminated.
  • Lockdown Browser.  Using a lockdown browser so students cannot take screenshots or navigate off the tab they have open is another option. This is not a built-in option for most LMS options. Any time add-ons are used there is sometimes an added level of opportunity for things to go wrong. Keep in mind that you may have to troubleshoot this in your classroom as well. This document gives our teachers an overview on how to use Canvas with the Respondus lockdown browser as well as showing them how students will use the software depending on which device they are using. 
The above list gives teachers various ways to create quizzes/exams that ensure testing integrity. Teachers can pick and choose things that seem most beneficial to them but the value of test proctor movement is invaluable in both digital and non-digital assessment. It is also the easiest management tool. 

The last thing I want to share are ways to overcome students getting kicked out of a Canvas exam and not being able to continue taking it after accessing it again. This could happen due to a connectivity anomaly or due to a student just needing extended time for testing purposes. The easiest way to handle this is to not assign an "available until" time when creating a quiz/exam. This allows the test to remain open until the student submits the exam. To monitor this well we suggest these steps:
  • Use an access code (as soon as all students have accessed the test change the code).
  • At the end of the class, period have any students who have not completed the exam come to you and physically watch them exit the exam. This way they cannot continue the exam except when you give them the new code. This prevents students from finishing up a quiz/exam in study hall with access to information to help them.


As our upper school has started to robustly use the learning management system Canvas, I have a few tricks and tips that might be helpful on the educator side of things:


    • Options for shuffling answers. If you create multiple choice or true/false questions in a Canvas quiz, the correct answer will always default to the top answer (a) unless you do one of the following:
      • When creating a question you can manually pull the arrow that points to the correct answer down in the question so that you are randomizing the answers yourself. OR...
      • When setting up the quiz, choose the "shuffle answers" box so that the quiz itself with automatically shuffle the answers for you. The downside of this is that you can't use answers like "all the above" or "both B and C" because it may look different for your students. 
    • Allowing for extended time on tests. If you are a teacher that sets an amount of time for a quiz or a time availability (a close time) when you assign a quiz that quiz will automatically be submitted when that time is up. If you want to allow students extended time for tests, don't use the availability but require an access code. This way once the class is over, the students can access the quiz afterwards as well. For this option, I would suggest changing the access code after each class for integrity purposes.
  • Using Calendar Events for non-graded assignments for students (here is a video explanation of information below). There is one way to add things to the students' calendars that does not impact grade book. (You can also create an assignment that is labeled "no submission" and it will allow you to put a grade in for it and will show up on your grade book. This might be a good choice for dressing out in P.E. or journal checks):
    • Create an event. Choose to click on the calendar link on your blue vertical navigation toolbar. 
      • In the top right corner of the calendar view click on the + to add an event.
      • Title your event that lets your students know what the expectation will be. You can add more details by clicking on "more options."
      • The event will default to being added to your personal calendar, so make sure you use the drop down box to choose the class you want to share the event to.
      • Click submit. (The event will now show up on the students' calendar and "upcoming" list). 
  • Deleting the MISSING label after something is turned it late (here is a video explanation of the information below). I feel like this is something Canvas should fix automatically but if a student turns in an assignment late and you put the grade in, you will need to:
      • Click on the across arrow inside the assignment box for the student in question.
      • When the sidebar pops up change the assignment to either "None" or "Late (blue)" based on your needs. This will remove the missing label in your grade book, the students view and the parent view. 
      • It is helpful to look over your grade book occasionally to see if there are any pink boxes and whether they need to be fixed. 
  • Moderating a quiz. There are times when students might need an additional attempt at a quiz (here is a video explanation of the information below). As a teacher, you can click on a quiz a student needs to access and then in the upper right corner clicking on "Moderate this quiz," then click on the pencil next to the student you want to moderate the quiz for. This allows you to:
      • Give individual students multiple attempts at a quiz
      • Give immediate access to individual students take a quiz without having to go through the process of reassigning the quiz to the student.
  • Communicating with students inside of Canvas. Students are getting used to receiving information about their courses through Canvas. If you are in a situation where you need to communicate important information to your students quickly you have two options (here is a video explanation of the information below):
      • You can create Announcements for your course that you can assign to all your classes or to individual classes. It could be useful if you were absent one day because you could actually delay when it is posted after creating it and allow your students to see it as they enter the classroom. You can also allow them to reply to an announcement if you need feedback before the next class meeting or ask them to "like" it to show that it has been read. To use announcements:
        • Go to Settings in your class and move Announcements up for students to view.
        • Click on Announcements
        • Create the announcement and assign it to the class based on your needs.
      • Using the inbox inside of Canvas allows you to send messages to whole classes, individuals or groups. This is a very quick way to get students to go to one location to receive information from you instead of going outside of Canvas to check their emails. To send messages to your students:
        • Click on the INBOX on your blue vertical navigational toolbar.
        • In the middle top of the next page, click on the paper with the pencil icon.
        • Create the message you want to send (you can even attach files or videos that you might want your students to be able to access) 
        • Make sure you choose the correct course or people you desire to communicate with via Canvas email.
        • Press send. 

As our upper school teachers start the process of using Canvas at our school, the tech department has started meeting with them to help them create their courses. Our CTO found a really great Canvas "how to" course in the Commons area of Canvas and we are having our teachers go through these modules and submit assignments throughout the process. The wonderful thing about this is that the process actually leads to the creation of their own courses at the same time. Learning that leads to usable end results!

This past week we started the overview of what Canvas looks like and some teachers chose to jump right in and start the Canvas Camp modules. As I have been reflecting on this week I am excited about the support for our teachers that is embedded in their school day. I am also thankful for the excitement many see in using this new platform.

Some of the questions that keep popping up in my mind in regards to our sessions include:

  • What does good digital design look like?
  • How does one accomplish the task at hand in a timely manner?
  • What should the interface look like from the student view?
  • How do we create patterns of efficiency for our teachers, students, and parents that don't  undermine the teacher's autonomy of making the class "their own."
As teachers move forward with creating their Canvas courses, this is a great time to reflect on what you are currently doing and adjust the lessons you might feel need more "uumph." I also think starting this process with some goals and processing steps in mind will be helpful as well. These things came to mind as I assessed teacher interaction this week:
  • Collect your resources FIRST. You know what you need to teach your units, put those resources all in one place so that you aren't spending all your time going back and forth looking for the next file. 
  • Be mindful of copyright laws. Using PDFs and third-party curriculum can be tricky for online course content. As a rule, if you are unsure a link that takes you to the curriculum outside of your module tends to be the safe bet. Some of our teachers have actually contacted third-party vendors to make sure they are using things the correct way. You might want to look into that. Lastly, as long as it is contained for your students and you haven't made your work public (allowed access to it through the Canvas commons, for example) you tend to be safe.
  • What's your timeframe? For our teachers, a timeframe has been placed upon them but if you are like me, it might be a good idea to break that down for yourself so that:
    • You aren't overwhelmed in May when that imposed timeframe is checked.
    • You can storyboard your goals to help you prioritize the things most important to you.
    • You've created the opportunities needed and have the ability to look deeper at the robustness of the LMS and how you might tap into it more
  • Check out your course mapping. This is a timely opportunity to make sure the objectives you have tagged in your mapping of your course are actually being taught and met. It's very easy to change part of your classroom goals over time based on new initiatives and feedback and forget to update the mapping. 
  • Create your learning objectives and outline a course level module. Make it clear what the expectations are for your students. As you start aligning the objectives with tasks, take a look at Bloom's taxonomy or a Depth of Knowledge (DOK) chart to make sure your objectives are measurable. Each module should probably have 3-5 objectives. Now is your chance to think out your process for teaching your curriculum and have lessons plans made that would allow a sub to step in with embedded direction while you are out with the flu or whatever! It's even possible that if you start the new year out explaining your Canvas class structure to your students, sub days will still be highly interactive learning days. 
  • Plan for interaction. Map your modules. You've checked your objective goals for the unit, now how will you get to them? You have a vocabulary to share, overarching ideas to get across, key concepts to tap into, and the ability to use formative and summative assessment. Which parts of what I am trying to accomplish would benefit from this platform? Which parts are expectations of use placed upon me? In Canvas, check out the Commons area on your toolbar. This can allow you to see how other people are using Canvas to create everything from an entire course to the pieces of a module. The Commons allows you to borrow ideas and pull them into your modules and make them your own as well. It's a wealth of help if for nothing more than to kickstart your brain when you are stuck or to see how others are teaching ideas.    The Canvas toolbar for your class gives you some immediate ideas! Do you want to tap into:
    • Discussions
    • Collaborations
    • Assignments
    • Quizzes
    • Conferences
    • Share files, pages, or Google Drive options?                  
  •  Get ready to assess. Push your boundaries on what best assessment might look like for the module at hand- perhaps it isn't true/false, multiple choice but maybe it is. Also, take this opportunity to decide what the purpose of your assessments are. Is it to see what the students learned, or is it to see what you and the student need to go over to make sure they know the information forward? Is this formative assessment or summative assessment? Is it for a grade, benchmark or both?  Would a rubric and a speed grader help you give better feedback to your students in a timely manner? Would voice comments help your student? When looking at assessment, look at opportunities for you as an educator to create efficiencies that would allow you more insight into the student learning and time to spend in relational interactions.                                
While you are not currently creating an "online course" you do have the ability to streamline the processes of education that can lead to benefits for both you and your students. Technology will not replace you but looking for ways to replace the tedious might help you to use your time both in and out of the classroom more effectively. 

During the last school year, our school announced that our upper school teachers would be required to use the learning management system (LMS) named Canvas in 3 significant ways forward:

  1. All objective assessments would be delivered through the Canvas LMS
  2. All students have the option to turn in papers digitally
  3. All grades would be done through the Canvas grade book
With any change comes push back and fear. For us, all stakeholders have had to learn a new system- teachers, administrators, students, and parents. Below are the benefits each group of our stakeholders can experience from using Canvas:
Benefits to Administrators: 

  • Analytics- By creating expectations for students to take assessments using Canvas, we also have the ability to start to see patterns of each student's learning and possible gaps in the mastery of concepts. While we are not a full-fledged competency-based school in the way we teach, we now have a place where administrators can quickly have access to class averages on assignments and even dig deeper to see individual student results. 
  • Compliance- In some ways using Canvas diminishes the silo effect that education can sometimes cause. When administrators can only get into a classroom for a few observations a year, Canvas allows admin to take a quick glance at assignments and quizzes to make sure all teachers are compliant to the goals and expectations put upon them for their curriculum.
  • Scalability- We are in a school system where we have multiple educators teaching the same course to grade levels. By having those educators work together to create their Canvas-based curriculum it takes workload levels off everyone and allows systems to be in place regardless of the size of classes. Blended learning works well with Canvas. In our middle school math program, we have been able to effectively increase class size by using this platform for students to navigate their daily needs. 
  • Accountability- The real-time aspect of Canvas allows administrators to immediately see if lesson plans are both accurate and up to date for students with just a click of the mouse. 

Benefits to Teachers:

 

  • Mobility and Accessibility- Students now have the ability to access their assignments easily as long as they have access to the internet. Being a 1:1 school with 100% at home connectivity (one of the upsides to living in Chattanooga, TN- home of the fastest internet in the country), this means our students now can access things without the excuses of "the dog ate my homework, I lost it, or I didn't know I had homework." 
  • Deliver Content Instantly- Teachers now have the ability to deliver information to students instantly. Perhaps a classroom discussion spurs a teacher to remember an article they want to share. Utilizing an LMS allows the teacher to quickly upload it to the course for immediate and future reference. 
  • Personalization- Canvas allows educators to assign things to individual students, give individual students multiple attempts to take a quiz, share different resources with different student groups, all without other students knowing that differentiation is taking place. This allows some students with IEPs to feel less self-aware of their learning issues because others aren't aware that any accommodations are taking place. Have a student that can breeze through the curriculum? With mastery paths being utilized within Canvas, teachers can meet those needs by creating deeper learning or allowing those students to go further with their learning.   
  • Multimedia Learning- The use of Canvas allows teachers to share videos, audio recordings, as well as continue robust face to face engagement with students that might be graded outside of a computer-based assessment. Sometimes students may not grasp a concept during a lecture but a teacher can upload a video of themselves or someone else teaching the concept and students can stop and start the video to make sure they have the concepts before moving on. 

Benefits to Parents:

 

  • Transparent view- Parents have the ability to see exactly what their students are seeing by pairing with them. They can view the courses, the calendar due dates, and grades all from one location. In a world of constant connectivity, parents have the ability to know 100% what the expectations are for their child's classes because it is all listed in their Canvas courses. Nothing can be placed in a grade book without first being added as an assignment in Canvas.
  • Click thru to assignments- Parents have the ability to see a grade or a "missing" label and then click directly through to the assignment to see the details. They can see everything their student can see, they just can't complete the assignment with their parent account. 
  • Parent portal for accountability- Parents can set up to receive notifications regarding their child's account. If they choose to use the Canvas Parent App, they can have the app push them information straight to their phone about course grade levels, missing assignments, when a grade is above or below a threshold they deem important to know, and any announcements about a course. If they use the web browser access, they can set themselves up to receive emails for the same types of information in order to hold their children accountable in their learning process.
Benefits to Students:
  • Single sign-on- One of the things we wanted to streamline for our students is giving the ability to go to one place and have fewer log-ins and passwords to remember for their educational process. Canvas allows our students to use their Google accounts for single sign-on capabilities. There are no longer multiple platforms and passwords to remember because all information and access goes through Canvas for our students. 
  • Consistency- Students now know they can go to Canvas and click on "calendar" to see all the things due on any upcoming date that has already been assigned for any class they are taking. Students know that their "Upcoming" section represents a week glance. Students know that their "to do" list means things that they need to get done. Students now have one platform to go to see information shared by their teachers. While each class may look differently, based on how the teacher set their own courses up, the student experience remains significantly the same for access and turning in assignments. Now students aren't sharing a document via Google Drive in one class but uploading to an LMS in another. Their experience and the expectations feel more the same from class to class. 
  • Collaboration- Canvas allows for discussion boards and it connects with the school Google suites account for all students. This allows students to work together on a Google doc or slideshow, for instance by adding information or comments. Students also have the ability to participate in "peer grading" through the Canvas LMS platform. 
  • Communication- Knowing that a teacher is communicating through one platform helps students to realize the importance of checking for communication more often. Canvas allows the students to expect all communication in one localized place- the place where they also see their assignments, turn in their assignments, and take assignments. 
  • Immediate Content-  Canvas allows students to place their virtual hands-on content quickly and efficiently based on teacher sharing. Students no longer have to go back to their locker to get a handout or call a friend because they lost the details of the homework assignment. Students can immediately access the content of their courses as long as they have access to the internet. 
With any digital plan, there are sometimes bandwidth issues, accessibility of device issues, quirks, and a learning curve for all users. It's not all benefits but as we are now a month into the school year, the benefits of this endeavor seem to quickly outweigh the detriments for our students. 
Jonathan Yoder

Dinner Time!

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Dec 2, 2018

I recently saw on Twitter a superintendent from Virginia who paraphrased a high school student’s perspective on teacher-centered classrooms versus student-centered ones. They described it in a food analogy, so I was immediately hooked! The student said that teacher-centered classrooms were like having a meal where the students sit in high chairs and are spoon-fed their meals, whereas student-centered learning is where students and teacher work together to prepare the meal and then all sit down together to enjoy it.

 

It made me think a lot about my own classroom. And even though I wholeheartedly agree with that perspective and would say that I aim for my classroom to be in that style every day. The reality is that if I look back at my practices on a daily basis I would have seen more high chairs than tables. Why is that? Well, it's most likely based on my lens of education. Historically, classrooms that I experienced as a student were more often than not teacher-centered. So as a result I tend to default to that style of classroom. It's easy to control and plan for. When I think of student-centered learning, it becomes more of an amorphous being that is harder to visualize; something akin to herding cats or how watching the movie is easier than reading the book. Thus when I am in a time crunch in terms of planning (as we teachers always are) it is a lot faster and easier to go with what I know.

 

So how can I break the cycle? I need to make conscious choices on a daily basis. Before I roll out a lesson I need to spend time reflecting on if the way I have planned a lesson is truly student-centered. I also need to embrace the uncomfortableness of the unknown. Often times I convince myself that I need to spoon feed them the info because it is new and we all need to be on the same page in terms of defining terms. However, the reality is I can still have the kids lead that portion of the lesson. Doing jigsaw activities where student-led groups define new terms or topics and become masters in that area (of course with teacher guidance!) and then they split up and help disseminate the important information and terms to their classmates. The lesson then ends with us coming together as a whole group to sit down and enjoy the meal together by debriefing. The use of exit tickets in which each kid must respond to the day’s essential question can be my daily proof that the material is working. Then with a well calculated warm up for the following day I can ensure that the material is gaining traction in their minds. Now I can begin to dive deeper by giving projects or problems to solve that will require them to take those new terms and ideas to the next level of application and synthesis. Ending with a project that will allow each student to show me in their own way that they truly grasp and can answer our standards based essential questions.

Models like SAMR can help us to take what we have always done and give it a digital makeover. It will help us to engage more students, which will in turn help with classroom management as well as the enduring battle of digital daydreaming where students stop listening to a lecture and go down the digital rabbit hole that starts with checking their bff’s snaps and ends in the digital trolling of every major social media feed. This is what blogger Tim Urban called the “Dark Playground” in his 2016 TED talk “Inside the Mind of a Procrastinator”.

 

Ultimately we need to make more engaging lessons so that students have a healthy work ethic that allows them the ability to be career ready so that they can balance life both the mundane and mind blowing opportunities that lie ahead. The longer they stay in the high chair, the harder it will be to produce valuable members of society who will make a difference well after we are gone and no longer able to spoon feed ourselves never mind the generation child-minded adults we have enabled. But just like the New Year’s resolutions we are all prepping for in the days ahead; it will require us to reach down and set new routines. So accept the challenge and find a colleague and get yourself some homegrown accountability. Our kids deserve it!

 

Resources:

 

pammoran. (2018 November 30). high school student to paraphrase “in a teacher-centered class, students get “fed” learning like in a high chair - in a learner-centered environment, students help make the meal and sit down to eat together” [Twitter post]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/pammoran/status/1068548381625237504

 

Urban, T. (2016, March 5). Inside the Mind of a Procrastinator [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_urban_inside_the_mind_of_a_master_procrastinator

 

 

 

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