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2017

I wanted to say a big THANK YOU to all the folks here at the Community who have made this such a great place for learning: I have really enjoyed this past year of connecting and sharing, and I appreciate you all so much!

 

In the spirit of the "thanks" in Thanksgiving, there are some great videos in my Thanksgiving class announcements:

 

Online Course Announcements: Thanksgiving Break Edition  

... that's what greets my students in Canvas during our holiday break, and the videos really are lovely (if you have not watched Gratitude, a film by Louie Schwartzberg, featuring the words of Brother David Steindl-Rast, today is a perfect day for that; it's embedded in the announcements).

 

Canvas announcements screenshot

 

And there are GRATIA-CATS at my Latin blog for the holiday. Gratias agamus, let us give thanks on this Dies Gratiarum, Day of Thanks. :-)

 

Bestiaria Latina: Special Thanksgiving Edition  ... here are a few cats; more at the blog!

 

Gratia gratiam parit.
GRATIA creates GRATIA.

 

Non gladio, sed gratia.
Not by means of the sword, but by means of GRATIA.

 

In omnibus gratias agite.
In all things, do GRATIAS.
Laura Gibbs

#TTOG and Going Gradeless

Posted by Laura Gibbs Nov 14, 2017

Apologies for the flurry of blog activity this morning: I went back and re-shared some old blog posts from the old University of Oklahoma Canvas group (now dormant), republishing them in my own blog space here, and also adding the hashtag #ttog (teachers throwing out grades), which is a Twitter hashtag that teachers use to share ideas about ungrading and going gradeless. I've written about this a lot here in my Canvas blog previously, but I was inspired to do some #ttog organizing here after reading a GREAT piece by Susan Blum in Inside Higher Ed today; I would urge everybody to take a look:

 

Ungrading, by Susan Blum

 

ungrading article screenshot

 

Ironically, there is also an (appalling) article in the same issue of Inside Higher Ed today about automatic grading; yes, it's about Blackboard, but I wouldn't be surprised if, with its push for data analytics, Canvas did not try something like this............... but I hope they will not! Do Professors Need Automated Help Grading Online Comments? Blackboard is getting ready to add a tool to its learning management system that would provide grading guidance based on algorithms, but some faculty members question need. By Lindsay McKenzie

 

I'm in a rush today (why? because I have a lot of student work on which I need to give FEEDBACK... not grades... and there's nothing automated about it), so I will just leave this here, along with a link to a compendium I created of great articles and resources on going gradeless; you will find that here:
Grading.MythFolklore.net

 

Especially as we near the end of the semester, when the grading ritual plays itself out in its greatest absurdity, this is good stuff to think about... and if anybody is interested in ungrading even just part of your class work next semester, let me know. I am always glad to brainstorm about these things. I gave up putting grades on student work years and years and YEARS ago, and I would never go back to it. I agree wholeheartedly with Susan Blum's assessment of the problems with grading and the great benefits of giving up grades. If you have just a few minutes today to jiggle your brain on this important topic, read her article. And if you find yourself frustrated by any of the problems she identifies, believe me, there are solutions! 

 

Excerpt from the article on problems with grading:

 

screenshot of excerpt from Susan Blum article

This is an old blog post from the (closed) University of Oklahoma group which I am reposting to my public Canvas blog, adding the hashtag ttog

~ ~ ~

Last week, I wrote about how pleased I was that Canvas allowed me to have true blanks in the Canvas Gradebook so that my students do not see zeroes. They only see the assignments they have completed, and their total points accumulate assignment by assignment. Because there are no zeroes, the percentage is always 100%. And that's just how I want things to be.

So... imagine my surprise this morning when I tried to display my students' final grade in the Canvas Gradebook. The class is over this Friday at noon, and many students have the points they need to be done with the class. So, I'd like to have their final grade display in Canvas, in addition to their total points.

But as it turns out, this is impossible.

Why?

Because Canvas only supports percentage-based grading schemes. You know, the arbitrary absurdity that declares 90% and above to be an A. Or maybe 93% and above is an A, if you're being "rigorous." Or maybe 94% is an A. If you're being really "rigorous" (yes, those are snark quotes).  Here is what I see when I try to add my grading scheme to the system:

grading-standards


That's it: percentages. Only percentages.

I was thinking maybe I was just missing some obvious points-based menu, but when I asked the Canvas support team at my school, they could not think of any way for me to use my points-based grade scheme in Canvas. What they told me to do was to convert my points to percentages based on total points, but I cannot do that: my students choose what assignments to complete (or not), and their percentage is always 100% ... which is why I liked having all those blanks in the Gradebook to begin with. I repeat: choices, not zeroes.

I'm still hoping I'm wrong (Canvas gurus, please enlighten me!), and I'll take some more time tomorrow to research this (hence the "Part 1" in the title of this post). But this archived feature request seems to confirm the worst: Currently, you can only setup a Grading Scheme by setting the Ranges as percentages.

screenshot-2016-12-06-at-10-11-09-pm


So, I hope that somehow I am wrong... but if I am not wrong, you can believe I will have a lot to say about this in Part 2! :-)

Growth mindset cats break through the barriers.

20283780362_a5d7f10d37_o

This is an old blog post from the (closed) University of Oklahoma group which I am reposting to my public Canvas blog, adding the hashtag ttog

~ ~ ~

So, I'm still kind of in shock at this nothing-but-numbers approach to grading in Canvas (see yesterday's post). To make sure I understand things correctly I re-read this archived/failed feature request: Allow Grading Schemes where Range is based on points not percentage. The commenters note that this problem is part of a more general failure in Canvas: the lack of variability in setting grading schemes. That conversation led me to another archived/failed request: Can't a letter grade just be a letter grade? And as I follow this White Rabbit through the various twists and turns, I see that this is a long-standing — very long-standing — problem with Canvas.

The conversation at Can't a letter grade just be a letter grade? expresses many of my same concerns about the tyranny of percentages and number-grading only: even if you set up a scheme that assigns letters, "you cannot hide the number grade" as one commenter points out, and this concern was echoed by others.

As for it being a long-standing problem, consider this comment: "Consistently since 2011, our faculty have been seeking a way to decouple letter grades from Grading Schemes and to import certain grades via .CSV only as letter grades." That commenter provides links to a half-dozen previous attempts to request that Canvas do something about this; they go back to a previous community forum that Canvas ran in the past, so unfortunately those conversations have been lost, but you can get a sense of what they were like from the titles:


In the current Canvas Jive forum, the idea comes back again here: Allow final grade to be letter grade only and here Grades without points. And who knows: perhaps there are other instances. That is one disadvantage of the free-for-all approach to feature requests; apparently there's not a good system for helping people explore past requests before making a new one.

Meanwhile, again and again the commenters point out the bureaucratic problems the numbers-only grading creates for them and also the way it confuses and even upsets their students. The specific details depend on the different approaches people are taking, if they curve, if they use rubrics, etc. The main takeaway is that for many different kinds of grading approaches, this Canvas limitation is a serious problem.

This general statement by one commenter sums it up pretty nicely: "Instructors simply want a "decoupled" alphanumeric column in their gradebooks that they can type just type letters into for purposes of final grades, and import of those grades into the SIS."

One person facing exactly the same problem that I face uses the same (ridiculous) workaround is apparently my only choice: "The only way I can report this information in the gradebook is to create a new assignment. Then Canvas reports the letter grade that I enter along with a numeric score that it makes up. (I've attached two screenshots--one in which the letter grade "assignment" was worth 1 point, one in which it was worth 0 points.) The numeric score is meaningless. It would be a lot less confusing if the gradebook just showed the letter grade without any numbers attached."

Entering meaningless numbers simply in order to generate the display of a letter grade is exactly what I refuse to do.

I have a lot to say about this myself, which I will save for a separate post later today. For now, I will let this post stand for now as documentation of the discussion trail at Canvas.

And as soon as I finish my follow-up post, I will begin the process of resubmitting this request, and I will contact every interested person I can find in order to see if we can (finally) manage to do something about it.

Maybe I will fail, like those before me, but I have to at least try:

I can accept failure; I can't accept NOT trying.

This is an old blog post from the (closed) University of Oklahoma group which I am reposting to my public Canvas blog, adding the hashtag ttog

~ ~ ~ 

This morning I went to check to see if a student had completed some assignments from earlier in the semester (so many students have been out sick with flu!), and when I clicked, I saw a new panel pop up; here's what it looks like for the Test Student:

Canvas has invested what is clearly a lot of effort and resources in order to give us this dynamic Grade Profile of students, with up-to-date information that shows me their latest graded items, ranking them compared to the rest of the class.

And I find this to be incredibly depressing.

By making the dynamic Gradebook a priority, Canvas shows us (the instructors, the students) that it really is all about the grades. Not about the learning.

As I've documented elsewhere, I find the Canvas Gradebook to be especially useless because I cannot include my own data fields ("Feature Request: Text Fields in the Gradebook"). In D2L, I could create little text fields to record important information about a student that I needed to remember (out with flu Weeks 3-4... needs Tuesday reminders... waiting on 2nd Portfolio story revisions... etc. etc.). Because the Canvas Gradebook refuses to let me enter information I consider important, I run my own spreadsheet outside the system. I definitely believe in analytics, but the data I need are not the grades: I need data about the whole student and about their learning process.

And that leads to my bigger concern here: by making it all about the grades, we are doing our students a huge disservice. We tell them to care about the grades as if the grades were a true representation of the learning. But we all know... if we are honest about it... that grades are a poor proxy for learning at best. And at worst, they are a huge hindrance to learning, a reward-and-punishment system that has negative consequences for many students. (Don't believe me? Read Carol Dweck.)

To learn more and to learn better, students need FEEDBACK. Lots of it. And grades are a terrible form of feedback.

I have written about this often; here are all the posts at this blog labeled Grading, and I've also collected materials at Grading.MythFolklore.net, where you will find links and resources about the un-grading movement; see also the hashtag #TTOG (Teachers Throwing Out Grades) at Twitter.

Short version: I'm ALL-feedback and NO-grades. That has been my approach since I first started teaching online in 2002, and it works. How do I know it works? Because the students tell me it does: What Students Say About Un-Grading.

For information about what good feedback can and should be, check out my Feedback Resources at Diigo. Yep, that's an RSS feed inside a Canvas page... and RSS is just one technology we could be using to bring real evidence of student learning from their own webspaces into the Canvas space.

So, instead of a dynamic whiz-bang Gradebook view of students, we instead need a dynamic whiz-bang LEARNING view that helps students and instructors see what their learning looks like and that also allows them to connect with others based on what we are all learning together. To get a sense of the dynamics of connected, visible learning in my classes, take a look at the blog hubs for Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics. Take a look at the student projects, past and present at eStorybook Central.

To help students learn more and learn better, I need to see what they are learning. To help them in their work, I need to see their work. Not quizzes, not tests. Their work.

The work, not the grades, is what matters, and I show the students that their work matters by giving them detailed feedback about it, by creating opportunities for them to share their work with others, and by saving their work in the class archives to sustain my classes in the future.

Grades penalize mistakes... feedback helps you learn from them. That's what we need: feedback, not grades.

Because I feel safe, I can learn from my mistakes.

A meme inspired by this infographic:

I just finished doing some updates to my Indian Epics reading options, and that inspired me to write a blog post here about reading choice. Encouraging students to cultivate a love of reading is a big goal for me; I teach Gen. Ed. Humanities, and helping students to become enthusiastic, confident readers is one of the most important purposes of Gen. Ed. Humanities.

 

And that is why, in my opinion, reading CHOICE is essential. How can we help students become enthusiastic, confident readers if they do not learn how to make their own reading choices? Sadly, in much of school, we do not let students choose what they want to read ... and as a result, students will freely tell me that they "hate to read." I cannot think of a bigger way that schools can fail students than to convince them that they hate to read.

 

By way of contrast, I've never heard a student tell me that they "hate to listen to music," and that's because when students are listening to music, it's the music that they choose. I think it needs to be the same way with reading: not everybody is going to like to read the same kinds of things, which is why students should be making their own reading choices, learning about what kinds of books they like by exploring and trying different things, just as they do with music. Instead of telling students what they should read, I see my role as providing them with a good range of reading choices, helping them to explore those materials to find what they will like... while sharing with them my love of reading ... and I really do love to read!

 

Here's a little bit about how I try to promote student choice and the love of reading in my classes, and I would be curious to know what strategies for reading work for you in your classes.

 

TOOLS: Blogs, Diigo, Randomizers. The tools I use to make this work in my Indian Epics class consist of a blog of reading guides, along with a separate blog that is a catalog of my school's Amar Chitra Katha comic book collection (imported from Mumbai to Norman, Oklahoma, thanks to a grant from my Library: yay!), and an extensive Diigo Library to help the students as they search the reading materials, and also to help me in managing and updating those materials. I use the RotateContent.com tool to create randomizers to help students browsing the online books and the comic book collection. In case they can be useful to others, I've shared my free book randomizers here in my Canvas Widget Warehouse:

 

screenshot of Canvas Widget Warehouse


FREE MATERIALS. The flexibility of the system comes from relying on free online materials (see my Freebookapalooza for example), plus free materials in my school's Library. I use both the Reserve option and also books for checkout; students can see what's available and what's checked out by clicking on the call number links. With flexible, free options, students can browse online, read, change their minds, etc. No advance bookstore purchases are required. To really let students explore and make spontaneous choices, I need the flexibility that these free options provide. Yes, it might be 3 in the morning and the Library might indeed be closed... but I always (ALWAYS) have a bunch of free online options ready to choose anytime 24/7. And, yes, these are mobile-friendly options too. :-)

 

CHEAP KINDLES. I also try to keep an eye out for cheap Kindles, especially Kindles that are under $5, and also Kindles that are under $10 which can serve for several weeks of reading (so that the cost per week is just a few dollars). I am personally a huge fan of Kindles, and I try to make sure students understand that Kindles are available to read on any device, including in their browser, along with very useful notetaking features: About Kindles. So, while Kindles are not free, they are very affordable and very convenient. I get a boost in my Indian Epics class that there are a lot of Indian authors who self-publish, or who publish with Indian publishers that set their book prices below $5. There are drinks at Starbucks that cost $5 after all (try a venti caramel frappuccino). A lot of the Kindle books that I can recommend to students cost just $3 dollars... including some really great books. (Note to self: I thank all the authors that I know already at Twitter, but I need to track down the other authors I rely on for Kindles and send them thank-you emails!)

 

STRUCTURED CHOICES. When students start the Indian Epics class, they are usually entering into a totally new world that they know nothing about (unless they have Indian heritage, in which case they are reading to make good reading choices from Day 1, based on the names and stories they already feel connected with). So, the way it works in my Indian Epics class is that we start out with TWO possible reading choices for the Ramayana, one free online option (an anthology that I created, with audio recorded by yours truly), or a very affordable Kindle book which is also available as a print book in the campus Bookstore. Then, we have a week of free reading based on that same epic (video, more online books, comic books in the Library, Kindles, etc.). After that, we move on to the other epic, the Mahabharata, with another free online or Kindle/print choice for two weeks, then another week of free reading based on that epic. Then, we have two weeks of free reading choices: Krishna legends or Buddhist jatakas. For both, there are public domain online books, comic books in the Library, and Kindles. Then, for the final four weeks of the semester, it is all-out free reading: epics, Krishna, Jatakas, other legends, public domain, comic books, Kindles... and by then, I hope students know their own likes well enough to make good reading choices from the HUGE range of options (literally hundreds of choices) that are available to them in those final weeks of the semester. Those final four weeks of all-out free reading begin this coming week, which is why I was updating things this weekend: double-checking Kindle prices, looking for new books to recommend, etc.

 

STUDENT READING NOTES. One of the things that happens when students are choosing from hundreds of things to read (which is the case in both of my classes), you cannot be controlling their reading with quizzes... well, I guess you could, but how wants to create hundreds of quizzes? Not me! So, instead of quizzing them on content, I ask the students to write blog posts with their reading notes, emphasizing the idea of "reading like a writer," because one of the forward-looking purposes of their reading each week is to find a story that they will rewrite/retell in their own words. For some students, it's clear that this idea of reading-to-write as opposed to reading-for-a-quiz is a new concept, and that is a really fun thing to work on. It's something I want to focus on more next year, where I am going to introduce more reading strategies (parallel to the way that I introduce students to storytelling strategies), since I can tell from their notes posts that some students are a bit lost when it comes to selecting their own notetaking strategies that are not just information-retrieval for taking a quiz. I would really like to get them used to the idea that notetaking is a very creative form of expression, open-ended and driven by their individual choices, their preferences, their curiosity as readers.

 

Anyway, as usual this blog post has gotten too long: there is more I could say here about social reading, what the students learn from reading the blogs of other students, and what I learn from that also... but I'll stop here just to say that I love reading, I love the public domain, and I love digital books... it's allowed me to do things with reading in my classes that I never would have dreamed possible when I first started teaching. And I wonder what kind of delights are yet to come...!

 

Things I do in my spare time: read books!

(Things I do in my spare time.)

Laura Gibbs

Twitter4Canvas Slides

Posted by Laura Gibbs Nov 1, 2017

I am really excited about today's Group CanvasLIVE: Fall 2017 Showcase... but I know anything synchronous is going to exclude a lot of people based on scheduling, so I've also posted my slides here, along with links. Have fun, explore... and ask questions: I am glad to try to help people in using Twitter in Canvas! :-)

 

Here are the slides:

 

 

 

 

Class Twitter account at Online Myth India

about Twitter Lists

about Twitter Widgets

Twitter4Canvas

 

 

 

Step by step blog post

 

 

 

Visit ALL the widgets and see one at random in the Widget Gallery

 

 

And....... I just added a new randomizer to that page so that new widgets pop up at random! Click the link and see what you get at random. :-)

 

Screenshot: It's my school's Library Twitter feed that popped up at random this time.

 

screenshot of twitter in canvas