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3 Posts authored by: Kristin Lundstrum Champion
Kristin Lundstrum

Email Pumpkin

Posted by Kristin Lundstrum Champion May 25, 2016

In a studio art classroom, it is difficult to be 100% paperless. Projects and sketches aside, I have been operating my classes digitally for three years. I initially started with another LMS, and after my school adopted Canvas in 2014, I’ve happily been creating materials for my students there. Canvas has made my life as a teacher much easier. While I cannot say that it has turned extra paperwork into pumpkins for me - since I did away with paper a while ago - it has made communication with students much simpler. So my anecdote is really about a “email pumpkin” rather than a “paper pumpkin.”


Before Canvas, I relied on shared web-based image albums for students to share their artwork with their classmates throughout summer break. I also used comment threads within these albums for critiques and threaded emails to conduct discussions. (Yikes! I know.) The communication with my students and between the students was a mess. It was inconsistent, rather unorganized, and students struggled to find continuity.


For the first time this past summer, my AP Studio students were enrolled in their Canvas course for Fall 2015 as soon as their Spring 2015 term ended. While this isn’t a setting that we use institution-wide, I wanted to see how I could use Canvas to build community and creative thinking throughout the summer rather than starting from square one on the first day of school. Summer is a long time to be disengaged from the studio and creative processes.


I use a great combination of features in Canvas to make my course work.

  • Discussions - Each student was assigned their own “blog”, and they could share an image of their project and ask for feedback from me or from their classmates. There were other open discussions so students and I could share “Cool Art Finds” and “Art Around Minneapolis” to inform everyone about neat things that could be inspirational to their projects.
  • SpeedGrader - For every sketch assignment or project, students needed to submit a .jpg image of their artwork. That way, I was able to provide feedback using SpeedGrader. I could drop pins on their artwork and give very specific feedback, utilize a rubric, write in the submission comments, and/or record an audio comment.

There were some very positive things that were a result of this movement to Canvas.

  • First, my work email was only used for correspondence with colleagues. I didn’t lose track of threaded conversations that I filtered into a folder, and while I was willing to collaborate with my students over the summer, I didn’t always want to check my work email. I was able to separate my different teacher “hats” - so to speak - because I could log-in to Canvas if I wanted to check on student progress.
  • Second, students had a one-stop-shop for their course. They didn’t need to remember which email thread to respond to or which link(s) worked for commenting on their group members’ web-based portfolios because modules did that for them. Modules in combination with the active linking of assignments or discussions into content made navigation transparent.
  • Third, students had and continue to have access to everything that occurred during the summer. They don't need to search through emails or links to the albums. They can go back to the appropriate assignment, discussion, etc and review feedback and critiques. That’s a great resource for them to have as I push revision and growth within their portfolio. Depending on the discussion or group activity, students may gain some peer support as well since settings allow for class/group participation much easier than group emails do.

My biggest challenge was the inconsistency in student participation. I had a few students who were online frequently, but since I could not have formal due-dates for projects until school officially was in session, I had a good number of students who appeared online long enough to gather the requirements, and that’s it. While it wasn’t perfect, it was a significant improvement from years prior (like I explained above). I think this can only get better too! I'm optimistic.

Next summer, here is what I'd like to add:

  • Implement Due Dates - While this is a discussion that I would like to have with my administration, I think check-in points would be really helpful. I can then use the “Not Available Until” features to pre-program some material that I will need students to do in sequence. It would also help me monitor and increase the level of participation of all students in the class.
  • Promote Participation - Canvabadges may be a help with increasing student involvement, but I can also do my best to talk with my group a few times face-to-face before jumping into summer work.
  • Establish Peer Reviews - Over the summer, students can revise their work and resubmit as many times as they would like, and I think Peer Reviews could increase the quality of the comments that students make on their classmates’ work.Yes, discussions are helpful, but I like that students can grade their peers using the same rubric that I do.

Today, I'm co-leading a short presentation on Canvas updates at my institution. During that presentation, I will highlight some Canvas Settings (that may not be 100% intuitive to faculty members). Based part of the discussion from Saving a partial test, I thought I'd share some of these [Hidden] Canvas Settings so other K-12'ers could benefit.



Assignment Options in Canvas

  • Display Grade As… has several options. After entering the amount of points a student can earn, be aware of the options for gradebook display.
    • Percentage
    • Complete/Incomplete
    • Points (default)
      • The default is what Canvas programmed. Click View Grading Schemes to see other options.
      • If your institution has their own grading schemes, you need to select the appropriate grading scheme from the list. Just like with rubrics, this needs to be done with each assignment.
    • Letter Grade
    • GPA
      • As an institution for grades 9-12, we've found this confuses our students. We do not recommend our teachers to use this options. Your institution may have their own preferences.
    • Not Graded
  • Available From/Until is a great tool for teachers. It does have some limitations at this point.
    • Teachers can publish a page, assignment or quiz and set the Available From date. Until this time, students will not be able to access any information on that item. The Available Until date will relock the assignment.
    • Once the Available Until date has passed, students can access the item’s information and feedback from the browser version of Canvas only. If students access locked/closed items from the iOS app, they will only see a padlock. (Note: Canvas is working on this functionality in Mobile. See the discussion in What is the difference between assignment due dates and availability dates?)

Notes in Gradebook

  • In Gradebook settings, teachers can Show Notes Column. This will create an entire column for a teacher to use for private memos about students right next to their name/user information and grades.
  • One idea would be to place their graduation year in the column. Another would be to write short-hand codes for important information like “A” for accommodation plan or learning plans (not the plan itself!), etc. to jolt your memory in an inconspicuous manner.



  • In Course Settings (directly under the file storage box), there is a place for TurnItIn Comments. Whatever you type in the box will appear with each assignment for which a teacher activates TurnItIn submissions. Of course this box will not appear if TurnItIn is not activated for your institution/course. I like this feature because you can kindly remind students that their submissions will be scanned through TurnItIn, but Canvas helps you by "canning" a message to add to those assignments.
  • When creating an assignment, and you select Enable TurnItIn Submissions, you have many options. Teachers can also select when students see the originality report: immediately, after grading, after the due date, or never. While there are pro's and con's to both, hopefully teachers can find that one of those fits well with their classroom.


Discussion Options

  • These settings are not in the same location as the discussions themselves. There are some important settings linked to the main course’s settings.
  • From your course’s home page, click Course Settings. Then More Options at the end of the page.
    • Let students attach files to discussions
    • Let students create discussion topics
    • Let students edit or delete their own discussion posts

Saving a Quiz Mid Test

  • Canvas quizzes automatically save when a student completes a question. There is not a formal “save button.” As long as there is not a time restriction on the quiz, students are able to complete the quiz at a later time.
  • Sometimes it is important for a faculty member to administer/monitor the quiz. To restrict a student from continuing a quiz on their own, it is possible to update the password for a quiz even if there are active attempts.


If anybody has other settings that they highlight with their staff, feel free to reply to this post!


Canvas Community, thanks for encouraging me to think about the beginning of the school year. Here is my list of things I did in the last few weeks to ensure a positive start to the academic year. -KL


1. Take the time to reflect/daydream about curriculum. The end of the school year is always busy. Each year I tell myself that I will take the time to journal about my curriculum, I don’t. When I come back to school in August, the first thing I do is look back at my curriculum maps and Canvas courses and evaluate the successes and the areas that need improvement. I also take the time to identify what I want my curriculum to be and what I want my students to experience.


2. Make realistic goals and map out curriculum. After completing my thinking phase, I enter active planning. I’m very visual, and I love seeing progress. Honestly - a map of the curriculum color coded by main learning objectives and activity options makes me giddy. I truly enjoy seeing the potential for student growth outlined on paper and then in modules for my students to explore. When beginning the school year, the possibilities are endless. Sometimes goal-setting can be scary, but most of the time I find it invigorating.


3. Attend (or Lead!) Professional Development. While teacher workshop week can quickly become teacher meeting week, I try to go into it with an open mind. Even when I think I’ve heard it all, somebody can share something and explain it in a slightly new way. That’s when lightbulb moments happen. When leading technology-focused professional development, I actually enjoy the Q&A sections best. They’re hard to plan for, but I like being a part of others’ lightbulb moments. ...and while I’m thinking about professional development, it always is fun to remember that Twitter counts as professional development -- at least I think it does! Every time I log-in, I seem to learn something about #edtech or #studentcenteredlearning.


4. Collaborate - Interdepartmentally. I intentionally make time to visit with colleagues in different departments. I like talking about grading and late policies, best practices, etc. in order to gain some new perspectives. It’s always fun to find a “missing link”...or two...or three...just because I had casual conversations with colleagues and asked them about their classrooms! These conversations may lead to natural collaboration between courses as well. I like starting these genuine conversations early in the school year!


5. Create a stash of snacks that make you happy. While Teddy Grahams, frosted animal crackers, and Goldfish aren’t the healthiest options, how can you frown when you eat them? Happiness leads to healthier mindsets, and in my office, that increases productivity!

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