Our school rolled out Canvas with training last school year and expectations for usage this school year. We have learned a lot as we have moved forward. There has been some frustration and also some excitement with this new learning management system. I received an interesting message from a Canvas salesperson this weekend who thanked me for my post "New to an LMS? Take the time to revamp for high agency learning". He said his background was in sales when he joined the Instructure/Canvas team and he wished he had access to this post when he started because he felt it would have helped him understand what Canvas can do for educators better. I do believe we are in a world where new technology-based platforms enter the market exponentially. With this, people are trying to decide how best to embrace these platforms for what they do. It isn't just educators in this struggle. I hear business owners, marketing directors, and whole industries trying to figure out what is next in the circles I am in regarding the increased saturation of voice speakers such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. I heard a leading CEO for a media company say "our industry has to stop trying to force what we do into these new platforms. It's time for us to rethink what we do to adapt to these new platforms." Bazinga! The same holds true with education and access to learning management systems. Some of the frustration I hear teachers have with our LMS has to do with the fact that much of what they do is non-digitized and being fit into Canvas to fill the requirements. There is no shame in that game because often we don't know how to change something until we get to know the platform well. I think many of our teachers are beginning to be in the space of looking for other options. Below are a few options that teachers can try to change their curriculum in a way that fits the platform...not because this is the correct thing to do but because of frustrations from trying to do things the way they have in the past. The purpose of this post is to help educators see built-in ways inside Canvas to enhance learning in the classroom with the tools at teacher disposal.
- Discussions. Discussion boards are a great way to get ideas flowing. If you create discussions in Canvas you can have students discuss documents, links, YouTube videos, or just about any discussion starter you can think of. When setting up a discussion, you have multiple ways to create it to best meet your classroom needs. For instance, you can allow threaded discussions so people can respond to each other. You can also set it up where students can't read other comments until they post their own first. You can even put students in assigned groups for discussions (a great way to differentiate). Discussion boards are a great way to give the quietest student a voice.
- Collaborations. Perhaps your students have been collaborating in Google docs for a long time, but did you know you can set up collaboration opportunities right in Canvas? You can assign groups to work on a Google doc, presentation or spreadsheet by clicking on the "Collaborations" tab inside your course. You can set up your collaboration groups on the fly or set up groups first and then assign the collaboration to that group.
- Group Assignments. When creating an assignment in Canvas under the Assignment tab for your course, you can actually choose the option to make it a "Group Assignment." This then allows you to click to choose to give each member of the group their own grade or you can give every group member the same grade automatically when you grade the assignment.
- Media Recordings. Did you know that your students can create media recordings (both video and vocal) for assignments? Teach a foreign language and want to check for fluency? Have students upload themselves speaking. Teach dance, pottery, band or chorus? Have students upload a video to show their processes. Are your students going to present in class? Have them practice at home so you can give improvement feedback before the actual event. Did you know you, as a teacher, you can also leave media recording comments inside Speedgrader? That's right. Instead of typing out your comments, use your voice and inflection to share your thoughts in the writing process with your students.
- Outcomes. What are Outcomes? Outcomes allow the administration and faculty to track mastery in a course. Users can import Account, State, and Common Core Standards into an account and course. Another useful thing about using outcomes is that you can set assignments/quiz access based on the finishing of prior assignment/quizzes. This can allow students to move at their own pace for some units or assignments. It can also allow you to see if they are truly meeting the standards without leaving gaps in their learning before moving on to the next part of the curriculum.
- "Use Outcomes to:
Align Quizzes and Assignments to different kinds of mastery
Run reports at the account-level about student artifacts of learning mastery
Assess student progress through calculation methods
Track student progress on a learning outcome or overall in the Learning Mastery Gradebook
Align accreditation or other core standards to programs of study, courses, or student assessments
Focus students' attention on the most important skills and activities in your course (find existing outcomes or create new ones)" (pulled from Canvas website)