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3 Posts authored by: Todd Nasife

After returning from winter break in January, I decided to introduce my students to discussion posts on Canvas. One of my goals for this year has been to move away from the traditional weekly reading log and give students more alternatives to document their individual reading. My students have been using Canvas all year, but this feature was one I had yet to use with them. However, the idea of interacting with each other online was not entirely new to my class. I have used the Peer Editing feature on Canvas and even posted a blog about it earlier - Peer Editing Post.


I created two posts for them. One post was for a book of their choice that they read during the 3rd quarter. The other was a post about a novel study they did with their class book club. I set up the discussions in January at the start of the 3rd quarter and after about a month I started receiving notifications that things were being posted. Along with posting about their book, they also had to reply to at least two of their classmates regarding their posts. This is where the flaws in my plan and my lack of lessons and modeling caught up with me. 


Our school district has put a lot of effort into educating students about digital citizenship and being safe, responsible, and respectful online. The district has created courses for K-12 students to go through during the year and have also provided several opportunities for students and teachers to continue this discussion once the courses are completed. I went through these courses at the beginning of the year and would consistently address various digital citizenship issues afterwards. When January came, I assumed the students would be able to handle posting and replying in an online setting. 


The initial posts were fine with the exception of a few students who chose to just copy and paste a summary from a site such as Scholastic or Goodreads and pass it off as their own. This was a small problem and addressed on an individual basis.


What became a big problem was with the replies students were posting to each other. I did give them some guidelines as to what they should include in their response and also reminded them of how to act in an online setting. What I forgot to address was what they should not do, or include in their replies. Some students took it upon themselves to become the teacher and pick out every spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistake in posts by others, as well as, harshly critique the content of the post. This then lead to retaliation by the other student who in turn did the same and others also joined the replies to defend their classmates.


I was amazed at how quickly this spread and got out of hand. A year or two ago, I would have probably closed the discussion and stopped doing it entirely for the remainder of the year. I chose to go the other way and make it a learning experience for all of us. We quickly had a class meeting to discuss what had happened and how it made everybody feel. This was a great learning experience for all of us. The students realized how important it is to be aware of the differences between an online response and talking face to face. They have done peer editing with each other, but it was done as a spoken activity and not online. They were able to use facial expressions and tone of voice to get their meaning across without sounding too critical. This is something they can't do online and they realized that even though they did not mean to sound so critical in their replies this is how it was perceived. I also learned their perspective on social media and how they think you should react to others online. I was surprised at how they felt they needed to fight back and retaliate if someone attacked their posts. The idea of ignoring the post, unfollowing, or blocking the person was not even considered. 


Following our discussion, I taught and modeled how to reply in a respectful manner to other people's posts and also used some images that colleagues created to teach this concept. I wanted to post this to share how Canvas is a great tool for allowing students the platform to practice this kind of online communication and collaboration. We all make mistakes as we learn something new. For my students, taking part in online scholarly discussions was something new and something that will require some time and a lot of opportunities for them to get it right. Canvas gives them the platform and the safe atmosphere to make these mistakes, learn, and improve.

I recently started using the Peer Review feature with assignments and found it to be a great way for students to edit or asses each other's work and offer feedback and suggestions. I have used it primarily in math class when I do daily review at the start of the lesson.


I post an image or a PDF of a daily review sheet from the teacher resources and set the Submission Type for Online. I tend to have them do the work in their notebook and usually set the Online type to Text. This way they just type their answers into the assignment. This cuts down on slow typing and trying to type out their work for the problem. 


After clicking the "Require Peer Review" option, you will have to decide if you want to manually or automatically assign the peer review. I have been doing this manually and assigning peers based on students that I know work well together and would feel comfortable having that person review their work. The idea of peer review with any subject is new for some students, so I want them to feel comfortable with the process and who is working with them.

When the rest of the settings for the assignment are done, you will be able to click on the Peer Review section of the menu. You can assign several peer reviews to each student, but I have only been doing one per student.



When the students are finished with their assignment, they will be able to click on the name of the peer they are assigned to and see what they have submitted. They must leave at least one comment in order to save their review and have it posted. I work with elementary students and we are still practicing netiquette and good digital citizenship. I stress to them the importance of being positive with their reviews and keeping it on-topic. For example, if all the problems are correct they simply write "All correct" in the comment section. If one answer is wrong, they write "Check #7 and submit again". 


The Peer Review feature gives students the opportunity to collaborate, review work, and explain math concepts to others in ways that might be different from mine. I hope that this feature will make students feel safe and confident with sharing their work with others. I feel that this feature is a great way to not only review and assess math concepts, but to also establish a sense of security and respect online and in the classroom.

Todd Nasife

Conferencing in Canvas

Posted by Todd Nasife Jul 11, 2017

The Conference feature in Canvas is something I recently discovered, but something I plan on using more in the future. As we started our review in April and May for the end of grade tests, I realized students were sending me a lot of messages to my Inbox with questions about review material after they got home from school. It was hard for me to answer their questions or explain a certain concept in an email, especially with math. I knew I could answer their questions the next day in school, but I decided to set up a conference in the evening once a week for students wanting extra review. I wanted to work with them while they were doing the review work at home and not waiting until the next day when the question they had might not be as fresh in their mind.

The setup is fairly simple and can be found by accessing this link.  I also want to mention that there is a record feature in the setup and would recommend selecting this. The recording are available for 14 days after the conference for students who cannot make the live session. 


What I want to highlight in this blog are some of the features on the main conferencing page and how they can be used to create a meaningful conference with your students.  There are a variety of layouts you can choose from, but I like the default layout with users and webcams on the left, the presentation screen in the middle, and a chat section to the right (see image below).


The first feature I like and find useful with student presentations is the User list on the left side of the screen. Here you can control the users access to the microphones, screen share, and  use the smiley face to get a variety of responses from students. I also like how  you can change who the presenter is by clicking on the little projector next to the name and move it to others. I really liked this feature because it allowed me to give control of the presentation board to the students for them to explain their work.



The presentation section in the middle of the screen has a variety of controls, including taking surveys from the users and uploading files that are either Office documents or a PDF. This is where problems can be displayed and students can show their work.



As I stated in the beginning, I discovered this feature towards the end of the year and did not have much time to work with it. I used it only three times, but found it very beneficial. I also only used it with math, so I am looking forward to trying it with other subjects.  

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