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Laura Gibbs

Google Sheets for Cats Too

Posted by Laura Gibbs Apr 30, 2017

Since I am nerding out about spreadsheets (see previous post: Google Sheets for Content Management ), I thought I would write up something quickly about how I use a spreadsheet to do the Growth Mindset Cats also. Over the years, I've been keeping track of cheezburger cats that I like, along with public domain and CC-licensed images of cats online (I have over a thousand of these now, accumulating them slowly but surely over the past five years or so). When I find something I like, I put the URL in a spreadsheet, plus a brief text description. The spreadsheet also has columns for my different cat meme projects (Growth Mindset Cats, LatinLOLCats, Shakespearean Cats, GrammarCatz), and as I use an image for a project, I mark "done" in that column.


sheet screenshot


So, this morning I picked out a student quote from the Padlet to use for a cat, and I put "cat" in that spreadsheet (see previous post for details).


Then, I found the image to go with that quote, made the meme, and put "done" in the Growth Mindset column of the cat spreadsheet (see screenshot above).


Yes, I am a nerd. But a happy nerd! 


And now that my digital tasks are done here, I am going to go enjoy this sunny Sunday. Happy weekend, everybody!


~ ~ ~


Here is the student quote and the cat I made:

Growth Mindset Resources: I will write without fear. 


I want to continue to grow in the regions of creativity

and the process of getting ideas on paper.

I want to be fearless about my writing and improve.


I will write without fear

Since I'm presenting on javsacripts this week (Laura's Widget Warehouse: Canvas-Friendly Javascripts ) I thought I would write a blog post today about the process I follow for updating a javascript widget using a spreadsheet. When I have a project that is ongoing, so that I am adding new content regularly, keeping that content in a spreadsheet is the way I know what is new and when I need to update the widget. Since I feel comfortable writing my own HTML, I actually use the spreadsheet to generate the HTML table to create the widget.


That all sounds more complicated than it is, and the process just take a few minutes. Here's how it works for the Growth Mindset Quotes from my students. You can see those quotes at this Padlet: Growth MindsetI've embedded it in my Growth Mindset Canvas course here:

Padlet: Exploring Growth Mindset 


padlet screenshot


My goal is to add about 10 quotes each week from my students' blogs, and then I update the widget periodically; the widget is what randomly displays these quotes in the sidebar of my class blogs. More about how/why I made the widget here:

Randomization for Content Re-Use 


This is the spreadsheet part of the story:


1. I have a spreadsheet with two content columns, one column contains the all-caps label for the quote, and the other contains the quote itself. When I paste the quotes from my students' blogs into the Padlet, I also paste them into a new row in the spreadsheet.


2. The spreadsheet has three columns for tracking: padlet, widget, and cat. I put "padlet" in the column as I create each new row after having pasted the quote into the Padlet. Then, later on, when I update the widget, I will fill "widget" in that column. Eventually, if I make a Growth Mindset Cat using one of the quotes, I put a "cat" in that column. I'm having fun making cats with these quotes!


3. Finally the spreadsheet has three columns with HTML snippets. These are what turn the quotes into HTML content in the actual table.


spreadsheet screenshot


So, when I go to update the script, I just copy-and-paste the five columns (two with content, three with HTML snippets) into the HTML file that I have in my webspace; I can just paste that in without any formatting; the extra tabs that come from the spreadsheet don't make any difference. Here's what the table looks like; it's not pretty, but that doesn't matter; no one ever sees this table — I just use it to get the content into the script: 


So, I then download that file, convert it with Rotate Content to a javascript, and upload the javascript (replacing the old version). 


Rotate Content screenshot


All done! The widget is updated, and my spreadsheet lets me know that all the quotes are now in the widget.


Using the spreadsheet is very convenient because it allows me to keep track of my workflow (Padlet, Widget, Cats) while also automatically generating the HTML table that I need to re-create the widget periodically, updating it with new quotes. :-)


You can see the quote randomizing widget in this Canvas course page:

Random Quotes: Exploring Growth Mindset 


If you have a minute, take a look at some random quotes. I find them really inspiring, and I am excited to have this widget in place at the beginning of the Fall semester so that I can start gathering student quotes to add to it right from the very beginning of the semester.


padlet quotes screenshot


I gave an overview of my grading system in yesterday's post: Points-Based Grading: Cumulative, Not Punitive]. Today I want to explain the specific way that I take myself out of the grading loop: Gradebook Declarations. These are "quizzes" that consist of a single true-false question where students declare their completed work. They declare all their work for the class this way; I do no grading of any kind.


How Declarations work. The Declarations vary from assignment to assignment, and they usually contain some kind of checklist, short or long depending on how elaborate the assignment is. Here's a typical Declaration (text). The items on the checklist are basically housekeeping items, helping the students make sure the assignment is complete, and also helping to make sure the post will show up in the class blog stream where it needs to show up (both the post title and labels help shape the stream): 

reading declaration

This is the "question" (the only question) that appears in the quiz, and when students answer "true" (which is the "correct" answer to the question), the points for the assignment then appear in the Gradebook. It's between the students and Canvas; it's not about me, except insofar as I design the classes to begin with (for more about the classes, visit: Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics, which are my open Canvas classes).


Some history. I've used a points-based grading system since I first started teaching  (back in 2002), I would record the points for the students in the LMS Gradebook, but this was not a good approach. The students didn't like having to wait, I found the process incredibly tedious, and it was not a good use of my time; instead of recording points, what I really wanted and needed to do was to give students useful, substantial feedback on their work that they could use to improve future performance. Plus, my email inbox was a nightmare, filled with notes from the students about the work they had completed. After about a year, it hit me: I could let the students record their own work. That made the students happy, and it made me happy too! So, I've been using this Declaration system now for over 10 years and in three different LMSes. It works anywhere you have true-false quizzes!


Advantages. Here are just some of the advantages of the Declaration system:


Students get their points immediately. Students don't have to wait, and they can see their points accumulating assignment by assignment. For some students, this is highly motivating. I provide a Progress Chart for students who want to make sure they are on track for the grade they want to receive in the class.


Students can see exactly what is required. I am guilty of writing lengthy instructions for assignments (for example, here are the instructions for the reading assignment cited above). The Declarations, however, are very concise. For students who might have missed something important in the assignment, reading the Declaration gives them a final chance to check their work for completeness.


Students take responsibility for their work. It is not up to me to check that each assignment is complete; that is 100% up to the students. Being able to take responsibility for your own work is a crucial life skill, something every student will need to be able to do in their future professional lives.


The Declaration checklists are objective. The items in each Declaration checklist are easy for students to evaluate; there is nothing subjective about them. I far prefer these objective checklists to subjective rubrics (with rating scales like "effective-reasonable-adequate-limited-inadequate," etc.). This Declaration system could be adapted for rubrics where students would rate their work and receive partial credit, but I prefer simple, objective checklists with full credit for completed assignments.


The Declaration system establishes trust. I believe that mutual trust is essential for teaching and learning. This system shows the students that I trust them to keep track of their own work. In addition, I hope that students will develop greater trust in themselves by taking on this responsibility. As one student said in a course evaluation: "The self-grading was definitely a nice feature. This class afforded me freedoms that I was not granted in any other class. I felt like I was being treated like an adult for once." You can see more student comments on the grading system here: What Students Say.


And for now, here's a growth mindset cat on the subject of trust. This holds true for both students and instructors: we all need to be able to trust and to be trusted, and to trust ourselves as we grow and learn. :-)


cat falling: trust yourself!


Laura Gibbs

The Power of Creation

Posted by Laura Gibbs Apr 28, 2017

Kristin Lundstrum had a great post earlier this week about what it means to have favorites: Favorites. The way that theme of favorites plays out for me is that every semester I have favorites among my students' projects. Without fail, semester after semester, there are a few projects that just totally grab me, and it's always fun at the beginning of each semester to see those projects take shape, week by week.


And yes, since I am teaching online and never meet my students f2f, the main way I get to know the students each semester is by commenting each week on their projects in great detail. Most students have never received sentence-level feedback on their writing, so that is what I provide, and I spend usually about 20-30 hours per week doing that, sometimes more in a really busy week. As a result, I get to know their projects very well, and that is how I remember the students: through their projects and through our back-and-forth interactions about them. You can see this semester's projects in my classes here:

Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics


Having taught this way for over 10 years, I am a total believer in the power of creativity and the ability that every student has to create beautiful stories that would never have come into existence otherwise. So in my classes the goal is for students to feel motivated and confident to create those stories and then to share them with others in the class. There are no quizzes, there are no exams... there are just stories. And lots of them! Fabulous creativity unleashed semester after semester after semester.


That means the end of the semester is an exciting time because some of the Storybook projects build up to a really dramatic conclusion, and this morning I got to read the conclusion of one of my favorite projects this semester... and it was such a WOW moment! I had fallen in love with this imagined world and its characters from the very start, feeling the same depth of connection that I feel when reading a really good novel. Now, this student is a professional writing major, so in all kinds of ways she was better prepared than other students not just to come up with a fantastic idea but also to have the skills needed to really develop her idea fully. So, just technically speaking, this is an exceptional project... but totally aside from its technical virtuosity, I fell in love with it because there are so many elements that I personally connect with. It's the kind of fiction I read when I am choosing books for myself, and it is now my great hope that she might return to this project at some point in the future and turn it into a novel. It is exactly the kind of novel I would read!


So, I wanted to share this project here: if you are a time-travel or fantasy or magic fan, you might enjoy reading it, and even if that is not your style, you can still get a sense of the power of student creation by looking at what this student has done. So, here's a link... Of Monsters and Myths


And here's a screenshot of the final chapter; the project follows a seasonal theme and winter is the last one... and like I said: WOW. The whole thing is about 5000 words (each story/chapter has a max limit of 1000 words), and I am so impressed at what she was able to do within those limits. :-)


project screenshot


And now I will get back to work; there are still lots more stories for me to read today! :-)

Last week I did my CanvasLIVE about the growth mindset cats, and since this is an ongoing project for me, I thought I would use this blog to do weekly updates about how that is going. I really want to have a new-and-much-improved growth mindset experience to offer my students next fall, and documenting that along the way will keep me motivated. So, except for when I'm on vacation this summer (I'm going to Texas a couple of times, and to Oklahoma also), I'll try to post something here each week. And now... here is an update:


I'm really happy with the routine I have right now that has three main activities:
transcribing infographics

creating new cats

collecting quotes from my students


During the summer I will be able to take on some more ambitious projects, but these are quick, simple activities that allow me to do a couple of infographics and a couple of new cats every week.


And... it is all showing up automatically in my Canvas Growth Mindset space! There is a page with the latest infographic displayed automatically...


infographic screenshot


and the latest cat...


cat screenshot


and the newest student comments show up at the top of the Padlet page.


padlet screenshot


I am very happy with all of that, and setting up the Canvas space has really helped me get organized and stay organized so that I will start off the summer in a less-chaotic-than-usual mode!


And below you will find my favorite new cat and favorite new infographic of this past week. :-)


Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
(this is a favorite because I also get stuck in my comfort zone and have to nudge myself to do new things)


getting out of your comfort zone



Being different can give you power.
(and, yeah, I think it is pretty clear why this is a favorite... I've always been different, even painfully so: now, grown up, I can embrace that instead of trying, and failing, to be like everybody else, ha ha)


being different can give you power

As we get into the end of the semester, I like to make a little countdown widget that I can embed in my class announcements and assignment pages to help remind the students about what they need to do to finish up the class. For today's post, I thought I would write up something about that process since my next CanvasLIVE is about javascripts:

Laura's Widget Warehouse: Canvas-Friendly Javascripts 


GOAL: I want to provide my students with a day-to-day reminder of what they need to do in the class as we get near the end. This needs to happen automatically so that it is not up to me to remember to update the announcement! I know they'll be visiting the class assignment pages (Week 13 - Week 14 - Week 15), and I hope they will be working ahead, so I want the reminder who up automatically on those weekly pages in addition to the class announcements. The javascript will also work in Canvas also, like on a Canvas Syllabus page (although my students are checking in at my class wiki rather than at Canvas for their assignments).


TOOL: is the tool I use to make both randomized and date-based javascripts. It's free ... and no programming is required! (This tool was built over 10 years ago by a genius student of mine; hiring him to build this tool is the best technology investment I have ever made.)


REQUIREMENTS: As I mentioned, no programming is required, but you need to feel comfortable using an HTML editor, and you also need webspace of your own where you can publish the script. For the script to run in Canvas, you need to have enabled https in your webpace. I'm able to do that thanks to the fabulous Domain of One's Own project at my school, hosted by the great people at Reclaim Hosting. I cannot say enough good things about the service they provide! It's also very affordable for individual hosting if you don't want to wait for your school to catch up to the 21st century; an individual hosting account is just $30 per year.


CREATING THE WIDGET. There are basically five steps to creating and deploying a widget with The first time you do it may take a while, but when you get used to the process, it goes very quickly; I can make a new widget like this and get it published in about 30 minutes.


1. Create your content in an HTML table. You can generate your own table or use one generated for you by I personally prefer to generate my own table by doing the work in a spreadsheet; if you don't mind writing some HTML by hand, a spreadsheet is powerful for this type of content array! Here is the HTML table I wrote for my countdown widget, which I really wrote in this spreadsheet. (The content is very repetitive which means I was able to use spreadsheet formulas to generate most of it.)


2. Convert the HTML to a javascript. RotateContent does this for you, and it takes literally just a second. You then download the resulting javascript (.js) file from RotateContent.


3. Publish the javascript file in your own webspace. I do this using the File Manager in my Reclaim Hosting space.


4. Write the HTML snippet to call the script. This is the snippet I am able to use in my class wiki and class announcements blog:

<script type="text/javascript"> var display = " " </script><script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>

For Canvas, the process is more tedious because you have to create a separate HTML page to hold the javascript (you can do that in the Files area of Canvas if you wish, but since I am using this script for multiple classes, I did the HTML page in my own webspace), and then you have to put that HTML page inside an iframe. So, I put that exact same javascript call about into a vanilla HTML page, and then put that page into an iframe:

<iframe src="" width="100%" height="100"></iframe>


Having to define the height for the iframe is a pain because the content height is variable... unfortunately, though, iframe is the only way to get a javascript to work in Canvas; I don't have that problem at my wiki or blog. The CSS is also messed up, so there's a font mismatch in the Canvas iframe display, but that's the price we pay for Canvas security; details about that thanks to James Jones here:

Embedding Remind Widget into Course Page 


5. Paste the HTML snippet wherever you want the script to run. For my blogs and wikis, that it just the script call snippet; for Canvas, it is the iframe snippet. I have the script running in various wiki pages as mentioned above, and in the sidebar of my class announcements, plus on a Canvas syllabus page.


JAVASCRIPT MAGIC. Javascript still feels like magic to me! The widget never sleeps: at midnight each night, it will begin displaying the message for today, alerting students to the ever-fast approaching end of the semester. :-)


Here are some screenshots showing the power of distributed content. I publish the script in one place, and it runs everywhere, as you can see (if you're reading this and it's not Sunday, you'll see the current day if you click the live view... although if you're reading this after the semester is over, the live view won't show the script; I run this script only in the last days of he semester). Plus, if I discover a mistake or want to change the text of the script, I just update the script, and it is fixed everywhere. I don't have to do any other editing, just change the script text.


Blog sidebar: view it live.


blog screenshot


Wiki page: view it live.


wiki screenshot


Canvas Syllabus: Indian Epics page: view it live.


syllabus screenshot


Canvas Syllabus: Myth-Folklore page: view it live.


myth class syllabus

Since Stefanie mentioned the power of Inoreader for bringing RSS into Canvas courses in her CanvasLIVE Blogging for Apples yesterday, I thought I would write up a quick note about how I am using that for my Growth Mindset Canvas resource course.  Here's a link to Inoreader. I am a huge fan of Inoreader and glad to help anyone with that. You can do what I am going to show here with the free version, although I use the paid version of Inoreader so that I can have unlimited rules, subscribe to Twitter and Facebook with Inoreader, and other great features. If you ever want to brainstorm about ways to use Inoreader, let me know. Since my classes are blog-based, it is the most important tool that I use every day, and I am always glad to introduce others to the power of Inoreader!


So, here's one example of how you can use Inoreader to bring blog content into a Canvas course page:


I've got a blog where I have several different kinds of posts, and I'm using Inoreader to separate it out so that you can see the newest cat post and the newest infographic post here in my Canvas course space:
New Cats

New Infographics


Screenshot. I've also included links above the incoming feed so that if the embedding does not work for some reason, people can still access the content:


Canvas course screenshot



The way that works is that I am subscribed to my Growth Mindset blog in Inoreader.  When I post a new cat, for example, that post shows up instantly in Inoreader, and I manually add the label "new cat" to that item in Inoreader (Inoreader has a good prompt system for labels so that you can just start typing and it will guess the rest). It's also possible to set up automatic rules to apply labels to posts, but for this purpose, it's easier for me to just quickly add the "new cat" label manually.


Then, any post labeled "new cat" gets added to the special RSS feed that Inoreader is creating for me. This is a link to the RSS feed itself:


But the best part is that Inoreader has an HTML view that renders the RSS as HTML that you can display anywhere that iframe is accepted... like in Canvas. I've configured the HTML view to do the "expanded view" (although I use "magazine view" for other feeds in other contexts), and to display only 1 item per page. This is what the interface for configuring the feed looks like; you set the export on, and then you click on HTML clip to configure the HTML view.


The magazine view is also very useful; you can see what that looks like here: New Cats - Magazine View.


inoreader html screenshot


So, based on my choices, Inoreader generates this iframe code for me:


<iframe src="" width="670" height="2000">


That's what I paste into the Canvas page as you can see here. ESSENTIAL TRICK: Inoreader does not default to https, so you need to make sure you change the http in the Inoreader code to https so that it will work in Canvas! Here is the resulting New Cats page which updates automatically; I don't have to log on to Canvas or do anything. The new posts are delivered by Inoreader automatically as soon as I add that "new cat" label:
New Cats


new cat screenshot


Notice also that there is a link at the bottom of the current cat that goes to "next item" (and if I had more items on this page, it would go to "next X items" based on how many items I am displaying per page).


That all sounds kind of complicated, but it's really not... it take about 10 minutes to set up the Inoreader feed and put it in a Canvas page... and then the power of automation is working for you, automatically sending the new cat or new infographic into the Canvas page whenever anybody looks at it. Magic.


So, for a nice, clean view of the blog post contents, without all the other blog stuff, this is a super-powerful tool, feeding live content into Canvas automatically.


inoreader logo

This weekend I had fun creating a Padlet where I can collect comments from my students' blog posts this semester about growth mindset. Details in yesterday's blog post:

A Padlet of Student Voices 


padlet screenshot


The thing I like best about Padlet is that is insanely easy to add new content, which is great, and in this grid option the newest content is also on the top row, which is also great.


But what about all the old content...???


I realized that there was so much great content there that I wanted to re-use and re-surface that content. After all, how many people are going to scroll to the bottom of the Padlet? Nobody, seriously nobody, is going to scroll down to the bottom. Which means that all the old content is not going to get the re-use it deserves.


This is clearly a case for a... RANDOMIZER


So, I used the same spreadsheet where I was collecting the comments to build a little randomizer using  Building a text-only randomizer like this is super-quick; it took less than 10 minutes, and it will be easy to update periodically as I add new comments.


Then, I was able to deploy the randomizer in some useful places:


ONE. I added it below the picture of the random growth mindset cat in sidebar of the daily announcements blog, where I called it "Student to Student Advice" as you can see here:


blog sidebar screenshot


TWO. I added it to the sidebar of the growth mindset blog where I called it "Advice from My Students" as you can see here:


blog sidebar screenshot

THREE. And I also created a simple Canvas page in my Growth Mindset Canvas Resource Course as you can see here:


Canvas course screenshot

I'll probably figure out some other good places to deploy this randomizer next semester (I know I want to weave these into the growth mindset challenges, for example), and I am so excited that I have a way to reuse my students' contributions from this semester, sharing them with future students.


In today's class announcements, I thanked the students for that, and I'll be thanking them again as I update this widget each week, adding new comments from the blogs. Then, in the summer, I'll add comments from students writing about growth mindset in past semesters (I have those blog posts archived).


I don't know about you, but I get such a boost when I read my students' comments about their learning process and what they have figured out along the way. Learning to learn: to me, that's the most important thing any students can accomplish because then they are ready to keep on learning, not just in school. Growth mindset is a framework that really helps students to reflect on their learning and to generalize about it while looking forward. I'll be talking more about that in the CanvasLIVE on growth mindset this week... and just getting ready for that presentation has been prompting me to reflect and grow too, as you can see! 

5 Ways to Weave Growth Mindset into Your Courses 


I'll finish up with this fabulous quote from the famous Roman philosopher Seneca, Non scholae sed vitae discimus. We are learning not for school, but for life. (Photo is from a school in Poland.)


This life-long learning thing is not a new fad. It's been around for thousands of years. :-)


school sign


I'm pinging Gerol Petruzella and Lane Worrall for the Latin. :-)

Laura Gibbs

A Padlet of Student Voices

Posted by Laura Gibbs Apr 15, 2017

While following the Twitter traffic for CanvasCon at Southern Methodist University in March, I saw an example of someone using Padlet in Canvas. That seemed like a really good idea, and I knew I wanted to give it a try. Padlet is especially good for collaborative editing, and I might use it for that next year in my classes... but for now, what I wanted was a way to collect and share quotes from the growth mindset posts in my students' blogs.


So, I created a free Padlet and chose the grid option, which means that the newest items will automatically go in the top row, which is just what I want, since it is my plan to keep adding new quotes every few days just to keep it fresh! It's easy to snag the quotes from the Inoreader stream of my students' growth mindset posts.


padlet screenshot


Then, I decided to embed the Padlet in my Growth Mindset blog, and I liked the Padlet wallpaper so much I grabbed that to use as my blog wallpaper too. It's a green theme: green for growth! (I used to mirror the wallpaper image to it works well even when tiling.) I am really excited about having my students' thoughts and observations on every blog page! I've never embedded something across columns at a blog before, but I really like the idea of putting the students' voices there up at the top. I might attempt a more ambitious blog redesign this summer using one of those new responsive Blogger templates, but for now, I think this is a good change, and it is a great reminder / incentive for me to keep an eye on the blog posts, looking for more good quotes to use:


blog screenshot



Then, I created a Padlet page in my Canvas Growth Mindset space too:


canvas screenshot


It's easy to embed because Padlet gives you the iframe. The Padlet has a share icon in the top right, and you just choose "embed" to get the code you need to copy-and-paste into Canvas. Easy-peasy!


padlet embed screenshot


This is the kind of dynamic content that I really like: you add a new item to the Padlet and — presto! — it shows up everywhere the Padlet is embedded. MAGIC.


I'll be presenting about Growth Mindset for CanvasLIVE this week, so this will be fun to share then! :-)

5 Ways to Weave Growth Mindset into Your Courses 


And be sure to check out Kristin Lundstrum's CanvasLIVE presentation on Padlet from back in February:

Collaborate with Padlet  ... with the video here:

Collaborate with Padlet 

After a pretty crazy week last week ... and yes, I have to write up notes about Project Khaki! ... but this morning I just wanted to get back into my routine, posting a new growth mindset infographic and a new growth mindset cat. Here's the cat:


Don't let your fear paralyze you.


Don't let your fear paralyze you.

And what I wanted to share is a very nifty thing about Pinterest: although Pinterest does not get a lot of respect as an educational tool, it really does have some powerful search and discovery features. For example, I just uploaded today's cat to my Pinterest Board, so here is its pin page:


pin page


Underneath Pinterest gives "related pins" which are all kinds of LOLCats. It's one of those endless scroll pages; I don't know how many hundreds or thousands of LOLCats Pinterest might want to show me.


But here's a cool trick I want to demonstrate in this blog post: you can click on the magnifying glass on the image itself, and go to a visual search page keyed to exactly that pin. Here's the URL so you can see how it works, searching on a specifically defined area of the image, and you can control that by using handles that let you drag to define the area:


So, when I zoom out to do the whole image here, I get all the pins at Pinterest that people have made using this cat image. It is ASTONISHING. So many languages!!! The top six show me Italian, Russian, and Spanish in addition to English. Scroll down for German, Turkish, Portuguese and more.


visual search screenshot


And so much creativity! As someone who loves proverbs and aphorisms, I really enjoy the creative spirit that you can see at work here. I really like this one:


monster shield



So, I am a big believer in having students create and share memes, and this Pinterest feature is a beautiful way to explore the "meme-ness" of memes, how they are created and recreated and spread around the world. This is just one little picture of a kitten under a blanket; it's not even a famous meme. But Pinterest has so many pins from so many people that even just for this not-famous image, there is a wealth of human creativity on display, with the power of image recognition software being harnessed to gather and share the memes in a search result. 


And if you are wondering about Google reverse image search, it really does not deliver here, at least not for this kitten. When I do a "Search Google for Image" starting with my meme today, Google really comes up short, as you can see. It only returns three images, compared to the dozens that Pinterest finds:


google reverse image search

I don't know the ins-and-outs of how the algorithms work, but Pinterest is clearly ignoring, at least to some degree, the text on the image while Google, in contrast, seems very hung up on the text (even though the text here does not match the text on my meme). So, while I love Google as a tool for discovery, Pinterest wins here hands down.


My advice: if you have not explored Pinterest, give it a try. It really is fun to use, and because of its enormous worldwide popularity, it gives you access to a gigantic body of image-driven content that is a real pleasure to explore. Not just for LOLCats. :-)


Some notes here on Pinterest and Canvas:

Pinterest in Canvas 

Laura Gibbs

Notes on YouTube Playlists

Posted by Laura Gibbs Apr 13, 2017

This is crossposted from my Teaching with Canvas blog, and I'm republishing it here in my Canvas Community blog to be able to share it in response to a question someone had asked at the Community.

May 22 2017: I updated the post to add a quick note about start/stop times.

And on June 1, I'll be doing a CanvasLIVE about YouTube Playlists!

Amplify YouTube with Playlists 


~ ~ ~


I wanted to write up some notes for a possible CanvasLIVE demo on working with YouTube Playlists, so I checked the Community to see who might have posted about this already, and I found a very useful post from Laura Joseph  : Video killed my Canvas page. She discusses the power of playlists and also the very useful "start at" hack.

In this post, I'll share my tips and tricks for working with YouTube playlists, starting with some examples of the kinds of playlists I use in my classes, and then some nitty-gritty how-to information about creating and maintaining playlists, and also about embedding videos and playlists in Canvas.

Why playlists? When you share videos in a playlist, it gives your students some learning context for what you are sharing, and it also gives them other videos to watch if/when they reach the end of the video that you are sharing. I try to only share videos in playlists; it doesn't take any more time to share videos-in-playlists, and it really adds to the value!


Spring 2017 Announcements playlist: I include a video in the announcements each day, and that builds up to a big playlist by the end of the semester. It also means that each day's video in the announcements is connected to all the other videos of the semester. I embed this playlist in the sidebar of the announcements blog.

Growth Mindset playlist and HEART playlist: These are student success / motivational videos that are connected to the growth mindset and Learning by H.E.A.R.T. activities in my classes. I embed these videos in the sidebars of the blogs for these activities: Growth Mindset blog and H.E.A.R.T. blog.

Indian Music playlist: I really like sharing music from India with my Indian Epics class, so I keep a big Indian Music playlist, and I also have dedicated playlists for some of my favorite artists like Maati Baani and Manish Vyas. The same videos can appear in multiple playlists so it's easy to have big playlists and also more specialized lists too. You can see the Indian Music playlist in the sidebar of my Indian Epics Comics blog.

Epified Videobooks: An amazing resource for my Indian Epics class is the Epified Channel's videobooks based on Devdutt Pattanaik's "Seven Secrets" series for Hindu Calendar ArtVishnu, and the Goddess. I embed these videos in blog posts at the Reading Guides blog for that class, as here: Calendar Art (that is an example of embedded videos from a playlist, rather than an embedded playlist.)


Creating a playlist is a tip I wrote up for my students. It covers how to create a playlist and add videos, and then how to share the playlist list and/or to embed the playlist in a blog. You can find lots more info at the YouTube Help page for Creating and Managing Playlists. You can even do collaborative playlists, although this is a feature I have not used myself. You can also build playlists that add new videos automatically, although again this is a feature I have not used myself.

Keeping playlists fresh. Some playlists you might want to keep fresh; that's the case for my Indian Music playlist, for example. Other playlists might have static content that doesn't change, like the Pattanaik videobooks. When you have a playlist that needs fresh content, you can add new videos... but you can also just recycle videos from the bottom of the playlist up to the top. To do that, hover over the time display for the video listing in the playlist, and then make it the thumbnail (if you want) and move it to the top of the playlist. When you do that, it refreshes the content of the playlist wherever it is embedded.


And now, last but not least, embedding YouTube playlists and playlist videos in Canvas! First, you need to ask yourself if you want to embed a video-in-a-playlist or if you want to embed a playlist.

When you embed a video-in-a-playlist, the video will display, along with controls that allow students to move backwards or forwards in the playlist. By default, when the current video finishes, the display will move on to the next video in the playlist.

When you embed a playlist, the top video in the playlist will be the video that plays. This means the content is dynamic; when you change the top video in the playlist, that will change the playlist display wherever you have the playlist embedded.

To embed a VIDEO, just click on the Share button you see underneath the video, and select Embed. You will see that you have some options to configure, including the size! See the iframe code in the box? That is what you will copy-and-paste into Canvas.


To embed a PLAYLIST, go to the Playlist page, click on the Share button there, and then Embed, and you will see the same type of dialogue box as for a video share. Just like with the videos, you can configure the playlist width and other options.

So, once you have got the iframe code, you can paste that into the HTML Editor view of a Canvas page. If you want to center the video, just type VIDEO or something like that, center it, and then you will know exactly where to paste the iframe code when you are looking at the HTML Editor view:

Beware the Canvas-Bot. Be warned: Canvas will offer to convert a YouTube link into an embedded video for you, but the results are pretty poor, as you can see from this comparison page: YouTube Playlists in Canvas. It's easy to learn how to configure your own YouTube embedding and do that yourself instead of letting the Canvas-Bot do that for you. :-)

START/STOP TIMES. Google, sadly, does not allow you to record a specific start/stop time when you include a video in a playlist (more about that here; they used to allow it), but you can add the start/stop time parameter to an individual video coming from a playlist, just as you would to any individual video embed. Here's how that works for starting the video:

1. Calculate where you want the video to start by the number of seconds.
2. Then add this little bit of code BEFORE the list parameter in the embedding code you generated with YouTube:
(fill in the blank there with the number of seconds, and don't forget the ampersand to then link this start parameter to the list parameter that comes next)

<iframe width="400" height="225" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

In that example, the 40 seconds allows the viewer to skip over to the introductory music to this online lecture series, going straight to the Carol Dweck lecture itself. 

~ ~ ~

So, that's an overview of how I am using the amazing power of YouTube playlists in my classes. What about you? Share your stories, questions, and suggestions in the comments! :-)

Laura Gibbs

Open... for Connections!

Posted by Laura Gibbs Apr 9, 2017

As promised yesterday, I'm spending my weekend coffee time on follow-ups to the two open items I had shared last week: Jennifer Gonzalez's open door and, today, Maha Bali's remarks on open pedagogy, which you will find here:

April Open Perspective: What is Open Pedagogy?


There are two contributions there, one from Robert Schuwer in the Netherlands and one from Maha Bali in Egypt... which is a great reminder that this is an international question. To me a big part of OPEN anything (open resources, open access research, open pedagogy) is that it increases the opportunities for conversation, including international conversations!


ROBERT SCHUWER's remarks focus on open pedagogy and OER, while mentioning active learning and digital literacy along the way.


Just speaking for myself, I really see open pedagogy as being something rather different from OER; they can coincide, but they are not coextensive. OER often does not involve what I would call open pedagogy (especially when OER sometimes just means "free textbook" but with very traditional teaching), and you can definitely have open pedagogy without OER. In fact, there's nothing that says you cannot practice open pedagogy while using traditional textbooks, especially if that is what your school supplies/requires.


MAHA BALI's remarks start with OERs and also open scholarship, and she then discusses the ways in which open pedagogy can be more than / different from just the open content. These are comments that really resonate with me. Here are the specific subtopics:


content: In addition to OER/OA, Maha discusses what she calls content-independent teaching and Dave Cormier's rhizomatic learning work which "aims to empower students to construct their own knowledge."


teaching: This would include the open syllabus movement, along with sharing not just content but also assessments and assignments, including assessments and assignments created by the students.


public student work: Here you have open blogging, along with students doing work in other public spaces like editing Wikipedia.


public student networking: This can happen at social media sites like Twitter, where students are networking with other students in the course, or with people outside the course.


Maha then invokes two aspects of what she calls the ethos of open pedagogy:

A belief in the potential of openness and sharing to improve learning
A social justice orientation — caring about equity, with openness as one way to achieve this


She also discusses the limitations, constraints, and risks of open pedagogy, risks that are greater for some than for others, both among students and also among faculty.


The whole article is full of links, with lots to explore, especially if this is not a movement you have been following previously.


~ ~ ~


I'll add some of my own thoughts here about open pedagogy and why it is important to me.


I've been teaching in the open from the very start because it has been my hope to share with my students the experience I had in my last year of graduate school in the Fall of 1998 when, by accident really, I learned how to make webpages using Netscape Composer and the tiny allotment of space I received as a graduate student at UC Berkeley. From the very first moment that I "published" online, I realized that this would change the way people learn. You wouldn't have to be in an elite school with access to that school's library. Your colleagues wouldn't have to be limited to the people who happened to be physically near you. You wouldn't have to pay big bucks to go to conferences and stay in expensive hotels in order to connect with others. You could get access to BOOKS (and all kinds of other content) and to PEOPLE online. The "books" part of the equation was the OER part, and the "people" part of the equation was the open pedagogy part. I would actually prefer to call it "open learning" myself (since we are all learning, regardless of whether we are "pedagogues" of not)... but if "open pedagogy" is the banner we are waving, I will wave that banner.


So, from the first course I taught at the university in the classroom, I was all about introducing my students to the online resources which, even back in 1999, struck me as mind-boggling in their quality. As a teacher of Latin and Greek, for example, I had access to the Perseus Project with hyperlinked dictionaries, the best dictionaries in fact, for both Latin and Greek texts. And art! So. Much. Art.


And I wanted my students not just to be consumers of this digital paradise... I wanted the students to create and share, just as I was doing. So I was thrilled to find out that at the University of Oklahoma a visionary guy in IT had set up a student web hosting service where each student could automatically activate their 3MB of space. So, in my first semester, I encouraged the students to create websites for their class projects instead of doing traditional papers. The class went about half and half in terms of who chose digital and who chose paper... but the students who chose paper were so obviously jealous of what the digital students were able to accomplish that, starting with the second semester, I asked everyone to create a website, and they did. Because it's not hard: people just needed some encouragement and basic instructions.


And I've never looked back, yet here we are in 2017, and it is still the case that the majority of my students (college seniors mostly) have never shared their schoolwork with others beyond the classroom ... and often there is not very much sharing going on in the classroom either; open pedagogy is not just about online after all!


I see that as a huge problem... but it's a problem that is not hard to solve! We just have to want to solve it, both for ourselves and for our students. As teachers we can share our work, our skills, our knowledge, our experience online, connecting to others, enhancing our own learning while we also help others with their learning. Just as we are doing here at the Canvas Community... and it is my great hope that CanvasLMS will learn from the success of this Community to create more opportunities for connected learning inside the LMS for our students.


Sure, there are practical problems and philosophical problems that we have to ponder here (and which Maha does such a good job of enumerating in her comments). There are practical and philosophical problems we face in every aspect of life; any classroom, physical or virtual, presents us with practical and philosophical problems. But I know we can find good solutions to those problems, and we are even more likely to find good solutions if we are working in the open, sharing what we learn with others.


Being OPEN is what allows us to CONNECT, and I know my classes will improve if I can keep finding ways to make them even more "connected" than they are now. So I'll include this great Connected Learning graphic to end this post, and at this link you'll find the transcription of the text (because I'm trying to be good about transcribing infographics):


Happy connecting, everybody!



Connected Learning


Credit: Connected Learning Research Network and Digital Media & Learning Research Hub
This Connected Learning Infographic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. You may Share and Adapt it, but you must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.

This is my Pineapple Welcome cat. (You can make your own pineapple cat at cheezburger.)


pineapple cat


This week was super-busy (well, honestly, what week is not super-busy... but: 4 more weeks until SUMMER, which will be blissful), so I posted two items about open education without comments of my own, and this weekend I am going to linger over the morning coffee in order to write up my thoughts about both pieces, one today, and one tomorrow.


So, the first item was a revived post from Jennifer Gonzalez at Cult of Pedagogy: Open Your Door: Why We Need to See Each Other Teach. She talks about the Pineapple Welcome in there. :-)


Jennifer's post was written very much from the point of view of classroom teaching and literally opening doors and sharing the classroom experience with colleagues. Jennifer emphasizes three reasons to do this:
Reason 1: Seeing Each Other Succeed
Reason 2: Seeing Each Other Fail
Reason 3: The Intangibles


As someone who teaches online, I also believe in the "open door" but the dynamics of the open door are different online. Some things you can share easily online that are harder to share in the classroom, and vice versa. The same-place same-time classroom space is good for seeing teacher-student interaction in the moment, which is great... but online teaching is very different; the centers of energy online are not in that shared time/space of the classroom, at least in terms of how my courses are designed.


One way to think about it is that I have many classrooms, and the doors to all of them are open, 24/7; the only thing that is not open online is the writing feedback which I give to my students privately (I use good old-fashioned email for that). So, that means there are MANY doors you can walk through in order to take a look. Why look? For the same reasons that Jennifer points out in her article: to broaden our understanding of success and failure and the fascinating complexity of human learning in all its forms, both my own learning and my students' learning too. :-)


Now, with many doors as opposed to one door, it is hard to choose which door to go through, so what I've done here is to list ten possible doorways you could use to visit my class:


1. Canvas Courses. I teach two courses, and I’ve set them both up as open courses, so you can click and go right there: and In addition to the class announcements, you'll see the blog stream from the student blog network, plus I've created a Growth Mindset "Bulletin Board" (using Padlet) with thoughts from the students.


Beyond this point, there's no more content that is in Canvas; just the announcements (plus the Gradebook where the students record their own grades). I've never put content in an LMS because we never had an open LMS before. Now, with Canvas, it's possible to go open (yay!), but I've got so much content accumulated now that I can't see really moving it into a Canvas space. And for me, that's okay. I like developing content online in open spaces with real tools, and I teach my students to do the same. :-)


2. Class Calendar. In the upper-right box of the announcements blog there’s a link to the Class Calendar; the calendar is the same for both classes, and each week then has its own page. The weekly assignments pages are the way students navigate the course; all the weeks are listed on the calendar (and I encourage students to work ahead as much as they want, although only a handful usually do that):

Online Course Wiki / Calendar 


3. Weekly Activities. Each week has the same structure. The week starts off with reading (the students blog about what they read), followed by a story post (either writing an actual story, or planning a story that they will write the next week), and then they work on their own project while also commenting on each other's blogs and projects. All the student blogs and projects are open (see below). Here's a typical week:

Online Course Wiki / Week 12 


4. Reading. The students choose what to read in Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics from a wide range of choices, and you can see what they are choosing in their reading posts. Here are the Myth-Folklore reading posts:

MLLL-3043 Mythology and Folklore Reading Notes 


5. Storytelling. You can see a stream of the story posts and story planning posts from the Myth-Folklore class here, and from Indian Epics here. Here are the story / story planning posts from Myth-Folklore:

MLLL-3043 Mythology and Folklore Story Posts


6. Projects. You can see this semester’s projects for both classes here; students choose either a blog-based portfolio or a website with a specific project topic called a Storybook:

Online Course Wiki / Myth-Folklore Projects

Online Course Wiki / Indian Epic Projects 


7. Project Archive. Equally important to the ongoing projects are the students' past projects; I feature this student-created content throughout the course since it is here that students can see the creative experiments of their fellow students from past semesters:

Online Course Lady: E-Storybook Central 


8. Comments and Feedback. The students interact with each other by leaving comments at their blogs; it's a mix of randomly assigned groups and free choice. Helping the students learn how to provide good feedback is a challenge, and of course I am always trying to think about how I can provide better feedback to them, so that is a skill we are learning about together.

MLLL-3043 + MLLL-4993 Comments 


9. More Activities. Extra credit since is a key element in the class, both for students who want to learn and do more, and also for students who, for whatever reasons, miss regular assignments during the week and need to make that up somehow. The extra credit options are also the same each week, and they appear on the same weekly assignments list as the regular assignments:

Online Course Wiki /  Extra Credit 


10. Orientation. And now that you've seen what the class is like when everything is running along week by week, you can go back to the beginning and see how I get started with the Orientation. Because of some logistical changes at my school having to do with my course load and enrollment, I'll be switching from a one-week Orientation to a two-week approach next year. It's a "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade" kind of thing, and I really am excited about redesigning the Orientation; so, next year I'll be going with a one-week Tech Orientation and then a one-week Writing Orientation. Here's the current one-week version:

Online Course Wiki / Orientation 


And now... pick a door! Any door! And come visit. There is always fun and cool stuff going on, and if you have questions about anything, you know where to find me.


Virtually speaking. :-)

I am super-busy today as it turns out without time to write a real post here... but I have something to share from the marvelous Maha Bali that also make a perfect follow-up to the Open Your Door post earlier this week: there are so many great ideas and themes here, and lots of links to follow! So, I'm posting this here for anyone who has some time to read today... and also as a promise to myself to follow up on this with some thoughts and links of my own. And... HAPPY FRIDAY, everybody!


What is Open Pedagogy Anyway?

(click this link and then scroll down for Maha's contribution)


Maha Bali screenshot

Laura Gibbs

Points of View

Posted by Laura Gibbs Apr 6, 2017

I just got my daily course announcements email (I subscribe so I can see what the students are receiving if they also choose to subscribe), and since I am doing a CanvasLIVE event about announcements today, I thought I would put a screenshot in the blog post... and it's also an excuse to share the graphic from Jack Kornfield since it is such a good one. It's the one that shows up at the top of the email.


Here's the CanvasLIVE event page:

Practical Tips for Using a Blog as a Course Home Page 



Whatever point of view you have, there's another.

Whatever point of view you have, there's another.



Screenshot from my email: I like the way Blogger blog posts format for email delivery:


email screenshot

(and the email goes on; this is just what shows up without scrolling)

I think we may have finally gotten the requisite 20 up-votes for a group, so I've now got fingers crossed for a Connected Learning group here at Canvas. I think that could be such a great place to share and discuss articles and resources for connected learning!


And on that note, I wanted to share this April 4 announcement about UCI's Connected Learning Lab:


The University of California, Irvine, has launched the Connected Learning Lab, a new interdisciplinary hub dedicated to researching and putting into practice equitable learner-centered innovation in educational technology. Now sponsored by two schools at the university, the lab’s creation is a result of more than a decade of MacArthur support in the Digital Media and Learning Hub, and the research of the Connected Learning Research Network and the Youth and Participatory Politics Research Network. As part of the transition, the Learning Lab will host the annual Digital Media Learning Conference.

Connected Learning

Laura Gibbs

Open Your Door

Posted by Laura Gibbs Apr 5, 2017

Thanks to a great share at Twitter, I read this beautiful article by Jennifer Gonzalez that I wanted to share here too: 


Open Your Door: Why We Need to See Each Other Teach


This is very Canvas relevant as I said in my retweet of the article: BEST THING about @CanvasLMS is we can OPEN our online doors! my doors are always open: & :-)


twitter screenshot



The article discusses three reasons to open up, and the focus is on classroom teaching. Opening up online is easier but also different; if I have time tomorrow I'll try to write up some notes about that too. But anyway, this is such a super article not just about teaching but about success, failure, and growth in general. I'm sharing it with my students as a growth mindset article that they can read and respond to; it's not just about teachers and open doors — it's really about social learning in any context. :-)


I'll just quickly include here some quotes from the article, hoping to lure people to take a look. And I will also put in another plug for my Connected Learning group proposal (I'm still trying to get those 20 votes so we can have a group)... Connected Learning is good for teachers and for students! If you've never pondered that, then Jennifer's article would be a fabulous place to start. Let's open our Canvas doors!!! :-)




Reason 1: Seeing Each Other Succeed


"By watching the way our colleagues teach, we pick up tricks and techniques that we can take into our own rooms."


"every time I’ve observed a colleague, my admiration for them has grown, and each time, I felt a little closer to them. This is something we could use more of in every workplace — educational or not."


Reason 2: Seeing Each Other Fail


"achieving something close to perfection is pretty damaging in a lot of ways. Conversely, letting people see some of your flaws creates greater intimacy. It makes them realize that their own flaws are not so weird. When I go over to someone’s house and it’s spotlessly clean, I feel kind of jealous and insecure. But crumbs on the counter and shoes in the hallway? On a gut level, I’m more comfortable. In this place, my psyche tells me, I won’t be judged."


"Apart from the bonding aspect, failure can lead to constructive criticism, which will help you grow."


Reason 3: The Intangibles


"So much of what we gain from watching each other teach falls into this “intangible” category: attitudes, pacing, small calibrations that make things work a little better."



And of course I have a cat for open:


Stay creative: be open.


stay creative: be open



I love a good infographic, and my students do too. Infographics are eye-catching, and they provide a good writing prompt for students. There are a LOT of fun and useful infographics for growth mindset. But here's the thing that people don't talk about so much: just like with videos, infographics have some seriously accessibility barriers because they usually don't come with transcriptions, and even if they are published with a transcription, as image files they break free of that and go rogue. Even nifty apps like Project Naphtha don't always do a good job with OCR, especially for infographics that are playing with text and layout in creative ways, as the best infographics do.


So, as part of my spring cleaning and reorganizing of my growth mindset materials for this new Canvas: Growth Mindset project, I'm going to systematically work through my collection of growth mindset infographics (mostly at Pinterest right now), re-publishing the infographic with a transcription at my Growth Mindset blog.


To show how that workflow then automatically feeds content into my Canvas: Growth Mindset course, I've written out the steps here. This is going to look kind of weird, but it's a variation on a process I have used for other projects, and it goes really quickly for me. It's probably going to take me longer here to write out the steps than it does to actually do them! That's why documentation is so hard... it often takes longer than the task itself. My actual work here transcribing the infographic and making the cat took under half an hour... writing the blog post is what has ended up using some real time this morning. But now I have it written down step by step.


So, here is the process I am using for this new "transcribe" project, and how that all pops out as new content automatically inside the Canvas course space:


Pinterest. I start with my Pinterest Infographics Board, looking for an item that does NOT have the word "TRANSCRIBED" in the pin descriptor (I just do Control-F to highlight the word "transcribed" on the screen).


My blog. I pick one, transcribe it, see if I can track down the source (not always easy), and then I publish the infographic image and the transcription in a blog post. You can see the one I did today here:

Growth Mindset Cats: 21 Components of Effective Feedback 


Back to Pinterest. I then go back to Pinterest and edit the pin (yes, you can edit pins!): I add TRANSCRIBED to the description, and I change the URL (yes, you can change the URLs) to now be the URL of the blog post where I published the transcription.


Diigo. Then I either bookmark my blog post in Diigo OR if I have found the original article where the infographic first appeared (like today!), then I bookmark the original article. That leads to the first content activity in the Canvas course; the Diigo page updates:

Mindset Articles: Exploring Growth Mindset 


diigo in canvas


In addition, if I used one of the tags that associates the article with one of the five mindset areas, that page also updates; in this case, the "Improve" page (since this is an infographic about feedback):

4. Improve!: Exploring Growth Mindset 


improve area screenshot


Inoreader. Next, I go to my Inoreader, and add a "newinfographic" tag to the blog post as it shows up in Inoreader. Presto: now the New Infographics page in the Canvas course contains today's blog post (this is the full thing, not the Diigo image snippet):

New Infographics: Exploring Growth Mindset 


infographic screenshot


Twitter. Finally, I tweet the item at my OUMindsetPlay Twitter account (an account I just use for growth mindset, which I have now revived for this project, yay!), and that tweet then shows up in the Canvas course also:

Twitter: Exploring Growth Mindset 


twitter screenshot


To me, that's the power of curation: I didn't create this infographic (someone else spent hours doing that, and thank goodness they did: I don't even know how to make an infographic like this), but I've added value to the infographic with the transcription, and I've left a digital footprint in multiple places that connects the infographic to the transcription, and which also emphasizes the value to educators of this item (it was originally written for a business audience). And I four, count' em four, pages in my Canvas course updated automatically, without me having to press the Edit button even once.


I am very excited about this transcription project. It's easy and powerful... and my students are really going to enjoy having this nifty infographics library for growth mindset when Fall rolls around. I will then enlist their aid in finding more infographics and doing transcriptions also if they want (I hope they will!). Meanwhile, my Canvas course will keep updating automatically as I move along. :-)


And, of course, I made a cat... and I included the infographic (plus links) in that post:

Growth Mindset Cats: I need feedback to help me grow. 


growth mindset cat


That cat in turn updated the new cats page at the Canvas course. So make that five pages updated automatically :-)

New Cats: Exploring Growth Mindset 


new cats at Canvas


And I added the cat to Pinterest, so that is now six pages updated in the Canvas course:

Pinterest Cats: Exploring Growth Mindset 


pinterest in canvas screenshot


And I added the cat to Flickr, so there we have it: LUCKY NUMBER SEVEN. That's how many Canvas course pages updated automatically for me this morning. Whoo-hoo! :-)

Flickr Cats: Exploring Growth Mindset 


flickr screenshot

I don't have a lot of time to write this morning, but there's so much I want to say about this totally fun new project that I created this weekend... so, there will be more posts to come with nitty-gritty details. For now, I just wanted to say that I have a new public Canvas resource "course" space for growth mindset:


I'm building this for my students, but it's the first time I've created a Canvas space with lots of other potential learners in mind, and I am really hoping this can be useful to others!


It's also a proof-of-concept for a Canvas site with all dynamic content. There's really no content "in" these pages; instead, all the content is being delivered in real time (or near-real-time) from the things I do online already: when I add new blog posts to my Growth Mindset blog, as I tag new Growth Mindset articles in Diigo, as I pin new things to my Pinterest Boards, add new cats to the Flickr album, etc. There's also random content, like the random cats and also the random YouTube videos. The idea is that once I get this set up, it will "run itself" with no need for me to do any editing; instead, just the natural process of the content creation and curation I already have in place will feed new content to the site.


There is one BIG item I have not included here, which the "Growth Mindset Challenges" that I set for my students to help them learn more and explore growth mindset. That's something I need to take slowly because I want to develop the challenges in a deeper, more systematic way than I have done so far. I've learned a lot from the two years that my students have been doing Growth Mindset Challenges in my classes, and I am ready to do a good job on that, but it's going to take some real thinking, so I'll need to wait until summer when I have some real thinking time available.


Also, since I am really am trying to build this with other users in mind, not so much my students (who are doing their work for class on laptops), I used CSS instead of tables for the column layouts. It seems to be working pretty well! I don't have a smartphone myself, though, so I need to snag my husband's phone and see what it looks like there. Thanks to Sharmaine Regisford and others designers here at the Community for encouraging me to up my CSS game. I'm learning!


Anyway, I am super-excited about what I got done this weekend. I needed to build this site this weekend so that next weekend I can prepare the slidedeck ready for my Growth Mindset CanvasLIVE coming up later this month.


Yep, I am having way too much fun with all of this...!!! :-)


GM site screenshot

It's a beautiful Sunday and I was getting some materials ready for the Growth Mindset CanvasLIVE I have coming up in a couple of weeks on April 20, when this wonderful blog post popped up from one of my students. It was so encouraging to see that weaving growth mindset into my classes really does make a difference to the students (this is an optional blog post they can write each week as they ponder and reflect; you can see the actual blog post here).


blog post from student

Last December, I had the misfortune to create a feature request literally the day of the discontinuation of the old feature request process, and it was consigned to Cold Storage. I haven't revived the request because I am just waiting now to see what the new Gradebook will bring (I am assuming we will have that for Fall, although I'm not sure about that). I wanted to get this out of Cold Storage now, though, to have available for linking in discussions about Grading in general, since we just had a lively discussion about that this week:

grading schemes: issue with no rounding 


My approach to grading will never work as a percentage-based scheme (my students always have 100%), but a points-based scheme would work for me, or... even better... a flexible, instructor-driven option to create our own Gradebook columns as described below.


Below is the exact request copied-and-pasted out of Cold Storage (which you can only access if you request membership in that group):


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It would be very useful if instructors could create TEXT FIELDS in the Canvas Gradebook. Even though I've just missed the window for the old Feature Request submission procedure, I'm posting this here now in hopes of having it considered under the new system when it will be ready in Q1 2017 as announced.


Text fields v. current "Notes" field. Right now, there is a Notes field, but its usefulness is limited because there is no toggle to make it visible to students. There is also only one Notes field, when what we really need is to create multiple text fields, defining a specific purpose for each one, and making each one visible to students or not based on that purpose. Finally, the Notes field is not part of the CSV import/export of the Gradebook, which makes it useless for those who want to experiment with alternative grading systems.




1. Multiple Fields. Instructors should be able to create multiple text fields, based on their specific needs. The fields can be short in length; the Notes field is available for longer entries.


2. Visibility. We should be able to make each Gradebook text field visible to students or not.


3. Export/Import. The Gradebook text fields should be part of the CSV import/export of the Gradebook as other columns are.


4. Sortability. The Gradebook text fields should be sortable in the Gradebook as the other columns are.


5. Messaging. The Gradebook text fields should be available for use in messaging students as other columns are. A simple "not empty" criterion would work, equivalent to the "haven't submitted" option for assignment columns.


6. Searching/Filtering. If/when the Gradebook finally becomes more fully searchable and filterable on multiple columns (as I hope it will), the Gradebook text fields should be integrated with those advanced searching and filtering options.




1. Letters without numbers. Instructors could use a text field to record a letter grade or other text-based mark manually in the Gradebook without a grading scheme.

    * In D2L, this was not a problem; I just created a column and recorded a letter grade manually; I expected to do the same in Canvas and was surprised to find out this is simply not possible. I cannot use a Canvas grading scheme because my course is based on choices, not zeroes, and students always have a score of 100%, which throws off the Canvas percentage-based grading schemes. Having an option to do a true letter-grade or text-based mark without an associated number is important for anyone exploring alternative forms of assessment.


2. Complex grading/analytics. Instructors could use a text field to support a complex assessment system in an external spreadsheet, importing the resulting text-based mark from the spreadsheet back into the Canvas Gradebook.

    * This would work for final grade calculation, and also for other kinds of highly customized data analysis. For example, you could set up a formula in an external spreadsheet to alert students to having missed "more than x" number of assignments in "the past x weeks," and display a resulting text message to the student in the Gradebook via a custom text field for that purpose.


3. Student alerts. Instructors could use a text field to manually enter important information with students.

    * For example, in D2L I used a text-based field in the Gradebook to alert students what stage their project had reached so that they would know what they had due in any given week, updating the field each week based on their progress (my students' project assignments vary based on their individual project schedule).


4. Fields-as-flags. Instructors could use a text field for flagging purposes.

    * D2L offered a single on-off flag toggle that I used for different purposes at different times during the semester; a simple text field can serve the same function as a flag toggle, so the text field option would give us the equivalent of flagging. For example, I found it useful to flag students at risk of failing the class so I could send them extra encouragement and reminders.


For background, I wrote a post at my "Teaching with Canvas" blog about the previous Canvas Feature Requests I found related to this feature request.


And to get this new conversation rolling, I am pasting in here a comment I received from David Vishanoff when I posted this in the Canvas Community Group space for my school (University of Oklahoma):

I don't know what the best solution is--text fields could do a lot, as could formula or points-based grading options as in D2L--but I do know this is a serious problem in Canvas that needs to get some attention. There's nothing worse than a gradebook that gets students confused and worried, which is exactly what's happening to my students right now. I have important reasons for using a 4-point GPS-style scale instead of the 100/90/80 scale, but Canvas insists on showing percentages, which my students automatically interpret according to the 100/90/80 scale.