Laura Gibbs

Bringing Social Media in Canvas to a Face-to-Face Class

Blog Post created by Laura Gibbs on Aug 26, 2017

I wrote a post earlier in the summer about a new adventure this fall: I am helping to teach a course on Aesop's Fables at Creighton University, and because they also use Canvas there, I am able to take what I've learned this past year in order to really be useful to the students, even at a distance. The two Creighton professors who are co-teaching the class have done set up the syllabus and modules in Canvas, and that is probably all they would be using Canvas for since this is a small class (just 19 students) which meets in person, and which has a very hand-on project they are working on together: as a class, they will be curating an exhibit of Father Greg Carlson's ASTOUNDING collection of Aesop fable materials (he is one of the professors teaching the class); you can read more about that here: Carlson Fable Collection. While the students will be curating an exhibit at Creighton's Lied Gallery, there is also going to be an exhibit at the Jocelyn Museum in Omaha, and the students will be collaborating with the museum curators on that project also. It's a wonderful opportunity for the students to do work which will reach real audiences! Doesn't that sound fabulous? And it's very hands-on, very real: they will actually be working with the books and other objects in Father Greg's collection. 


I'll be going to visit the class in October (and meeting Father Greg for the first time, although we have known each other via email for many years), and as a way to participate in the class beforehand and make myself available to the students, I'm using the Pages area of their Canvas space plus the Discussion Board (that is something new for me). And it looks like my social-media approach to Canvas can be a really good supplement to the in-person class! Also, since images are a key feature of the course topic, I am really glad to be bringing images (LOTS of images) into the Canvas space which would otherwise be without images. The course is not public so I cannot link to the actual pages, but below are screenshots of the things I've added, using the same tools and strategies that I use in my own courses:


Random Fable. This is a widget available to anyone via my Canvas Widget Warehouse. I made sure to put a link from this page to the other pages too so that students could either keep looking at random fables OR explore another fable source here in the course.


random aesop's fable screenshot


Random Illustration. As with the random fable, this random illustration widget is also available to anyone who wants to use it via the Warehouse.


random fable illustration screenshot


Twitter: AesopsBooks. Yep, I created a new Twitter account — AesopsBooks — for this class on the off chance that it might come in handy. I'll make sure to tweet at least something every day, and that way it will be available if/when we want to do something Twitter-driven for the class. Also, if there is a Twitter hashtag for either of the museum exhibits (of course I hope there will be!), I can use this account to curate and retweet that hashtag.


twitter screenshot


Blog Stream. Currently this is a blog stream that shows the latest posts from my Aesop's Books blog. I worked on that blog intensively over the summer (over 2000 posts at last count), and this is a good incentive for me to post at least one new fable every day. I will also be able to use this as a space to write up essays and share resources with the students in response to the topics they bring up at the Discussion Board! Even better: I can easily add any student blogs to this stream (it's a folder in Inoreader; I just add new blogs to the folder and, presto, the posts show up in the stream). Now, I don't know if any students are going to take me up on that offer... but if they do, it will be easy to do, and the blog stream will be all the more fun as a result.


blog stream screenshot


Course Card Image. The professors had not uploaded a course card image for the class, so I did that, and I wrote up a note about the image I chose here on this page. Then, if I change the course card image later (for example, I was thinking it would be fun to feature favorite images mentioned by the students in their discussions), I can use this page to accumulate a record of the past course card images as we move from one to another. You know, kind of like having Google Doodles, but changing every week or so, not every day. Anyway, we'll see how that goes. I really like this one, so it's also fine by me if it just stays the same all semester. It's from the fable of the frogs who asked for a king (a fable very apt for our times I might add).


course card image page


Padlet: Class Fable Favorites. I created a Padlet where students can post their favorite fables as they do the reading for class. Again, I'm not sure how much use this tool will get, but I posted a favorite fable of mine there to get it started, and i'll urge students to use it as I interact with them at the Discussion Board. It would be so cool to have a "collection" like this which reflects the favorites of different students in the class. And Padlet is a very handy because it is so easy to include links and images. The difficulty of working with images at the Canvas Discussion Board really is a problem for this class in which images are so central to the learning.


padlet screenshot


So, that's what I've built, and now I'll just see what happens. For me, it's a motivation to blog and tweet every day, and I'm also excited to have the chance to share this social media dimension of Canvas with people on a different campus! Since I am an "instructor" for the course, I have been able to go in and add Pages, etc. without any problem. Although I did have a funny/awkward encounter with a system administrator about my (failed) attempt to use my usual fox avatar for my profile picture; I'll save that story for a separate post.


Meanwhile, if you are interested in any of these tools/strategies for your own classes, I've written up instructions and shared them here at my blog; let me know what you are interested in, and I can put the specific links here and/or write up additional info.


Happy New Semester, everybody!