Recently I attended Instructurecon 2019. Over the years I have used many different LMS...from Moodle and Fusion pages to D2L and Blackboard. What has made Canvas stand out is that it is exactly as its name would suggest; a blank slate for me to showcase my creativity. It should be no surprise then that the company is structured the same way. In just a year of using Canvas I have been able to engage and connect with so many other Canvas users around the globe. And as I served my district as a teacher on assignment to help integrate a 1:1 and brand new LMS I most definitely needed the lifeline that the Canvas Community has always been able to provide; from the amazing tutorials to the user groups and blog posts.
Now as I return from my second Instructurecon I am buzzing with all sorts of ideas, but the biggest takeaway for me came not in the latest feature idea, but in the message of all of the speakers of the week; whether it be members of the Instructure company or the keynotes I found an amazing narrative that truly spoke to me as an educator much in the way I found Canvas’ system spoke to me on how one can create a virtual classroom space without being forced into a cookie cutter shell.
My takeaway was that as we strive to integrate more technology in our schools, we also need to bring more humanity into our classrooms. We as teachers need to be free from the stress of the minutia so that we can really deliver lessons on empathy. We need to be responsive to our students and show them that they are valued. And as Dan Heath put it, “ we need to create more academic peaks” and we must always remember that “moments matter”. That last statement struck me significantly because it reminded me of a simple moment in kindergarten where my teacher held up a picture of a poorly colored rabbit and the letter R and exclaimed in a disdainful tone “whose is this?” I was surely not going to fess up and as a result the ABC booklet I made does not have an R in it to this day. That moment mattered to me. And now I find that I still shy away from arts and crafts in my classes and even with my own children. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on Carol Dweck’s research of mindset and those types of situations are all too common. We look to our teachers to help give us a sense of how we are all evolving. Technology can help us with the workload and giving timely feedback, but it is up to our humanity to dictate the quality of that feedback and the manner in which it is received and perceived.
Technology also needs to help us provide authentic learning opportunities for our students. They need to have choice, ownership, and voice within those authentic learning opportunities. Something my current Master’s degree is helping me better understand as the COVA approach along with CSLE (Creating Significant Learning Environments). This is not a new concept. John Dewey espoused these same concepts in his writing of ‘My Pedagogic Creed’ back in 1897, but somewhere along the factory worker boom we lost education’s true purpose. Now it's a time of rebirth...a renaissance of education. Technology can help us get there. But we cannot forsake our humanity in the process. We need synergy of the two systems to help propel us into the future. We need to prepare our students for a future we can’t yet imagine. Are you ready to join the education revolution? Let’s tear down the teacher dominant wall and the theory of the sage or Wizard of Oz and step out from behind the curtain...let’s make our classrooms prep kitchens where teachers and students come together to make an amazing meal and then all sit down together to enjoy it. Who’s hungry?