2017

Laura Gibbs' Blog

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The Tyranny of the Percentage: Part 3

Posted by Laura Gibbs Mar 30, 2017

This is one of those blog posts I put in the University of Oklahoma space back before I understood that it was a totally private space, so I am going to use the nifty trick which allows me to re-publish this in a more public way, since it relates to this other discussion about Canvas grading:
grading schemes: issue with no rounding

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I learned a lot when I explored the Canvas feature requests related to the inflexible Canvas Gradebook which offers numeric grading only (see yesterday's post). Tomorrow I'll strategize about how I might be able to re-open one of those feature requests; in this post, though, I want to share some of my thoughts about the evils of grading on a 0-100 scale. I am opposed to any kind of grading (I vote for feedback, not grading), but the percentage scale strikes me as especially harmful. Here's why:

It promotes a false sense of accuracy. When you see a numeric grade like "87" (or, even worse, "87.3" ... decimals!), the number gives the impression of scientific accuracy, but that is only a faux accuracy. Unlike real measurements that are based on a scientific standard (temperature, time, etc.), there is no standard for numeric grades beyond the assessment instrument itself. An "87" on Mrs. Cathcart's French quiz last Tuesday has nothing at all to do with an "87" on Mr. Diggory's spelling test last Friday.

It promotes a false sense of precision. Just as numeric grades pretend to be accurate, they also pretend to be precise, when they are not precise at all. Sometimes that imprecision is because the grading process itself is subjective, but even for "objective" assessments, we all know student performance can be highly variable from one iteration to another; just ask the student who had a migraine on the day of a test, etc.

It makes trivial differences seem real. Grouping students as "A" or "B" or "C" students is bad enough (my school has no pluses and minuses, thank goodness; so at least we are keeping the absurd herding to a minimum), but pretending that a student with a grade of 87 is "better" than a student with a grade of 86 is just silly. Students know this, which is why they are so quick to complain (understandably) about receiving a B for an 89 as opposed to an A for a 90.

It promotes the illusion of perfection. In my opinion, perfectionism is one of the biggest pitfalls in academic life, and there is nothing like a 100-point scale to promote that dangerous illusion of a "perfect score" (and I say that as a recovering perfectionist). For more on growth mindset versus perfectionism, check out Carol Dweck's great talk on this topic: On Being Perfect.

Numbers are poor quality feedback. As I mentioned above, I believe in feedback, not grading. A number scale might make a student feel good or bad (even very good or very bad), but the number itself is useless as feedback, positive or negative; it does not communicate to the student what to do next to improve and extend their learning.

The curse of "100" has been with us for a long time (see A History of Grading by Mark Durm and The Case Against Percentage Grades by Thomas R. Guskey), and I have no doubt that it will be with us a long time to come.

But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Sharing the PAINT Canvas event at my school

Posted by Laura Gibbs Mar 29, 2017

Today was the day of the PAINT Canvas event at my school, and I am really glad that I got to participate remotely (and that is very much thanks to Stefanie Sanders who has given me such a boost and made me feel more confident about this kind of thing). All the materials are here for anyone who is interested: PAINT.LauraGibbs.net.

I'm going to repurpose this (mutatis mutandis) as a CanvasLIVE presentation eventually... and I even used the CanvasLIVE slide template in anticipation of that future event. I really enjoyed putting this together, and it's very exciting to see this kind of event at my school. We never had this much fun with D2L! :-)

CanvasLive for April-May-June

Posted by Laura Gibbs Mar 27, 2017

After settling some travel plans for May, I was able to set up some more CanvasLIVE presentations. This whole process is really helping me to get organized, too; it's like inviting someone to your house for dinner knowing that will make you do some housecleaning... CanvasLIVE is the digital equivalent.

You can find all the details at this blog post and you can also use the #CLCats (Connected Learning with Cats) tag here at the Community.

Connected Learning with Cats: An Index – Teaching with Canvas

I'll also put in another shameless plug for my Group proposal for a Connected Learning group; I figure if there is a group, that will be like doing CanvasLIVE: I will be more organized and proactive in sharing stuff!

Group Request: Connected Learning

Here's a screenshot from the blog post that gives an overview of what's coming up. As you'll see, there are links to slidedecks; my goal is to post the slidedecks a week before the event (so I can ponder and tinker in advance), and I hope those can be useful too, expanding the audience since I know the Thursday afternoon time might not be convenient. I'm going to have fun doing these CanvasLIVE presentations (Stefanie Sanders and Biray Seitz make that so easy to do!), but I still see this more as an asynchronous opportunity for learning and sharing, with the synchronous event just a fun extra. :-)

Having fun with jQuery tabs

Posted by Laura Gibbs Mar 26, 2017

So, I've been eagerly awaiting some free time (hard to come by in the past couple of weeks) when I could play with the jQuery tabs/accordions that I've read about here at the Community and which come highly recommended by Kona Jones among others... big thanks to Jeremy Perkins for the write-up here:

Using jQuery without Custom Javascript

I'm pinging Keegan Long-Wheeler on this one; I don't know if people at OU already know about this very nifty design feature. I learned about it here at the Community, and I really like it! I don't do a lot of content development inside Canvas, but if I did, I would be making use of this a lot!

I was starting a new project today (a resource course for growth mindset materials), and so I played with the tabs for the first page I made... and it worked perfectly! Instead of having three separate pages for the three different kinds of cats (random, Flickr, Pinterest), I was able to put them on one page.

And because that was so easy, I decided to throw in one more tab (random cat blog post) just because it was not going to take up any page real estate, and might perhaps be useful to somebody.

For people who are curious about what's up with all these growth mindset cats, this is all in preparation for a CanvasLIVE next month, on Thursday, April 20.

5 Ways to Weave Growth Mindset into Your Courses

Here's the page... what I hope will be the first of many pages to take shape in this new space over the next month.

Browse the Cats: Exploring Growth Mindset

And a screenshot:

Campus Event: Possible CanvasLIVE

Posted by Laura Gibbs Mar 25, 2017

I just finished printing up a simple one-page handout for a remote presentation I am doing for the PAINT Canvas event at my school on Wednesday of this coming week, March 29:

My event is scheduled for 11AM Oklahoma time (that's noon my time)... and I just had a kind of wild idea: we really hadn't figured out just how this remote participation was going to work, but I am wondering if we could make that a CanvasLIVE. Would that work for you Stefanie Sanders and/or Biray Seitz? Or is this too late notice? I checked the CanvasLIVE calendar, and there is nothing scheduled for 12:00-12:45PM Eastern on Wednesday, March 29 (which is 11AM-11:45AM Oklahoma time, my scheduled slot).

I don't know why I didn't think about this sooner, but when I listened in on something that Ryan shared via CanvasLIVE that was a presentation in person at his school, I realized how cool it could be to have CanvasLIVE "happening" in conjunction with PAINTCanvas at OU. Instead of doing a slideshow for this one, I would instead do a page-by-page walk-through of the Canvas course, much like the presentation I saw Sean do last week which was based in a Canvas course space like this.

What do you think Keegan Long-Wheeler ? The way that would work on your end would be that you would just have a station with the live YouTube going. It would not be "interactive" as Hong wanted, but to be honest, I'm not sure we will get a lot of interactivity with me being remote (it's just not what people would expect at a typical OU workshop).

But people could watch the YouTube if they want (even for just a few minutes), plus they would have this handout to take away, and then they could watch the video later at their convenience ... and, best of all, they would learn what CanvasLIVE is! Since there will be a fellow there physically present, that person could explain that this is a CanvasLIVE, how there are CanvasLIVEs every day, plus all the good Community stuff, etc. etc. etc. So it would really be a presentation ABOUT the Community as much as anything else.

So, let me know what you all think. For me, I think we would get "more bang for our (virtual) buck" by having this be a CanvasLIVE, especially if it can get more OU people involved here and using the great resource that CanvasLIVE can be for everybody.

Meanwhile, Keegan, here's the file I'm sending you (PDF, not png as here) ... I'll do that in the email. :-)

Flickr Albums in Canvas Pages

Posted by Laura Gibbs Mar 25, 2017

Okay, this blog post is kind of an experiment! I originally posted this in the University of Oklahoma Group (and crossposted at my external Teaching with Canvas blog), back before I realized that basically nobody would ever or could ever see the content. I didn't realize that a private group meant no access to the content at all, not even via search, and even when I pinged people in the Community, they could not access the post (that's what happened today, Chris Hofer , with that item that ended up in the private group).

Thankfully, Michelle Meazell and Stefanie Sanders helped me figure out "I was doing it wrong" (SO WRONG), and then I started posting in other places in the Community. I finally started connecting!

And now, with the revamp of the Community space a while back, I have a personal blog space of my own here (so glad about that!), so I am trying this experiment thanks to a suggestion from Biray Seitz to see if I can safely relocate content out of the not-very-useful private group into the much more useful public blog. Fingers crossed! I am changing the "location" of the post using the box below. Now we'll see if it works! I'm not sure what it will do to the date or the RSS, so I am curious what switching locations really means. Mostly, I will just be happy if it lets me recirculate some of those old blog posts. :-)

Update: SUCCESS. When I do a search now without even being logged in, this post shows up now that it is in a public area! For long-term access and re-use, being part of the Search is essential Now it is!

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Today's post is about Flickr Albums! Canvas already has good integration with Flickr image search which makes it easy to include individual Flickr images in a Canvas Page, and you can even browser Flickr to find images to use as course cards.

Thanks to the great File-in-Page trick I learned at the Community last week (thanks again to James Jones and Sharmaine Regisford !) , I'm now able to embed Flickr Albums in Canvas pages too. Here are step by step instructions: Step by Step Flickr Album in Canvas.

Here's a screenshot of an album in a Page:

So, in addition to being able to embed Flickr albums in other spaces (blog sidebars, webpages, etc.), now you can embed them in a Canvas page or in a Canvas discussion board. The iframe solution works in both spaces; here's a screenshot of the same album in the Discussion Board. You can use an album to provide a range of visual prompts for the discussion, and the album approach allows students to respond to the one that most interests them — and they can easily access the Flickr photo page to grab the URL to include in their reply:

For people who have followed Flickr for a while, this embedded album option is really great to see! Years ago, Flickr had an excellent embedded slideshow option, but it was Flash-based. They discontinued that, with no other good option in place, but now this new embedded album has come along, and I think it is a very nice solution. I wish they would offer an embedded album option for displaying live search results (that would be really cool!), but this is certainly as good as the old slideshow, and in some ways it is better; I find it more visually appealing than the old slideshow. :-)

Course Access Tips: Custom URLs and Public Courses

Posted by Laura Gibbs Mar 23, 2017

I've now learned that when I leave a long comment on an "Ideas" post here at the Community, I should copy-and-paste that here into my blog because it will be consigned sooner or later to Cold Storage. So, here is a comment I wrote on an idea post just now. Here is the Idea post as stated, and my comment is below:

I think it's important that a student be able to access a Canvas course site after they've finished with a course… and even when they've graduated. I spend a lot of time putting resource information on the Pages of my sites. And I tell my students that I prefer that they take as few notes as possible during the class — I'd rather have them be paying attention to what I'm saying and not just transcribing it. I tell them the information is all on Canvas. This allows them to really concentrate, to consider and absorb theories and concepts—not mere facts and data.
But then they finish the class and will still want to access these resources. (We do hope that these classes are useful to our students later in life, right?) Previous to this year's Canvas adoption by my university, I made Google sites for all of my classes because of their simple ability to include rich media content in well-layed out pages. Using Canvas has really caught up but the benefit of a Google site is that it has a permanent URL. Which really makes me tempted to go back. Former students continue to write me and say what an invaluable resource these Google sites are.
So I would make these very important feature requests:
• Either a course site for a specific semester remains an accessible URL for former class participants. Or…
• Canvas has the ability to be export its Pages as a PDF with live hyperlinks.
I think this is a critical tool and service to be able to offer our students, and helps fulfill the promise of the digital classroom, where students can pay attention to their professors and not have to be simply scribes.

I totally agree about creating content that students will want to use after the class is over: that's real lifelong-learning. I do all my course content outside of Canvas using wikis and blogs, and I will continue to do so; given that I ask my students to blog and create websites (they use Google Sites too!), it makes sense for us to be doing our content creating and sharing together on the same platforms.

That being said, I LOVE CANVAS PUBLIC COURSES. I have made all my Canvas courses public, and I am really enjoying the way I can share my Canvas strategies by creating public courses, like in these three spaces. You can just click and go. (The LMS we had for 10+ years was D2L, and it offered no public access of any kind):

I do have a trick I can suggest about the permanent URL, although you might need to request some help from your school to make this work. I teach two classes: Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics. Because Canvas doesn't realize that the courses I teach really ARE the "same" from semester to semester, it gives me a new webspace every time, with a new URL. That is very frustrating for me too, just practically speaking. I want to be able to use the same link every semester for my classes. So, what I did was to create two subdomain URLs in my webspace:

Myth.MythFolklore.net

India.MythFolklore.net

(Mythfolklore.net is my webspace; I don't really publish content there, but I make a lot of custom URLs to point to my blogs, wikis, etc.)

Each of those URLs redirects to a different address; this semester, as you can see, they are redirecting to course number 31878 and 31889 in our Canvas system. I will have different course numbers next semester, so I will just change the redirect on those URLs to go to the current version of the course. So, whenever I link to my courses, I use those URLs, never the Canvas address, and that way I know that whoever clicks on that link in the future will go to the latest version of the class, which does indeed change from semester to semester because that's just how LMSes work.

Maybe a nice person in your school's IT would set up something like that for you, either a subdomain or some other URL that you control.

I can also HIGHLY RECOMMEND Reclaim Hosting if you would like to get your own webspace; they specialize in working with teachers, and their support is outstanding. My school has a contract with them to provide webspace at a very low cost for all our faculty and students, and their regular hosting rates are totally affordable: \$30/year!

Re-Design to Reduce Plagiarism

Posted by Laura Gibbs Mar 22, 2017

This is a kind of temporary blog post... kind of a promise to myself to write something in more detail and round up more resources later! I'm creating this post now in order to rescue some great materials and ideas that got shared in an Ideas item which has since been consigned to Cold Storage. If you are in the "Cold Storage" group, you can access the actual discussion here:

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The point of Cold Storage, though, is to keep the contents from showing up in Search results, etc., so thanks to a great suggestions from Stefanie Sanders, I'm copying-and-pasting (oh the irony!) from that Community discussion here into this blog post in order to save it, make it available to search, and ... eventually ... to come back and examine later in more detail.

The information below doesn't reflect the flow of the conversation, but you can see that in the Cold Storage. Thanks to Linda J. Lee Dallas E Hulsey Kelley L. Meeusen Kori Schneider Hannah Vance and Jeffrey Brady whose contributions are reflected in the copy-and-paste below.

Here is the idea that started the discussion: I have had many instances where students instead of wording their own discussion will simply copy and paste information from the Internet into the discussion. I would like to see Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V and all other copy/paste commands disabled in Student Discussions. I have found when I taught High School that it is always better to prevent student from doing what you don't want them to do rather than punishing them for doing it.

And here are some of the very useful responses that emerged:

Valid reasons for copying and pasting.

Having taught Prep Writing for four years at my institution, I can understand your frustration with students not producing original work when completing their assignments. However, the greatest issue I would have with a blanket removal of the ability to copy/paste into a discussion board comes from my own experience as a college student and as someone who has participated in several MOOCs. I have found over the years that no matter the platform that a course is hosted in, failures will occur from time to time, such as forced log-offs and pages reloading, and sometimes student errors such as clicking submit before proofreading thoroughly . For those various reasons, I learned, as a student, to copy the instructors discussion questions into a Word document and write my discussion answers in Word before copying/pasting into the discussion (On a side note, this also allowed me to keep a copy of the instructors questions and my posts to refer back to later after the course had completed and I could no longer access the content.). So, I was constantly copying/pasting answers into discussion posts, and I don't think it would be fair to penalize those students who may employ similar methods by having them type the answer twice in an attempt to stop those who cheat.

The problem that I see with this idea is that I, as a student, always prefer to write my discussion posts in Microsoft word and then paste them. This allows me to see the post as a whole better, and also to assure that my post is saved on the computer, rather than in the text box online, that has more potential for crashing and losing your work. Another solution could be something similar to the system that currently checks for plagiarism on some assignments and papers turned in.

Here are my use cases - I copy and paste within the same assignment as part of my editing process. (Oh that sentence goes better in this paragraph or in this section.) Or copying the instructions to build my answers to make sure that I don't miss a portion of the assignment. Or when citing something, I copy and paste my citation. I think a better option would be able to track edits, logging, or static screenshots every x secs in high stakes instances (like quizzes).

Create assignments that are copy-resistant

In the long-term, encouraging Instructure to provide access to originality checking for student submissions beyond external tool assignments is one course of action. When consulting with faculty and when developing discussion board questions/topics for my own courses, I try to craft topics that cannot be answered easily or well through simple cut and paste from internet sources.

The more creative the better! I like to find assignments where students can connect up with things they really care about, their own personal passions so that they can bring their own expertise into play.  For example, "Write a plot line for your favorite TV show that would illustrate the problem of ___" (whatever the topic under discussion is). That can really work for any topic... and then because the students have different favorite TV shows, they would get different treatments by different students... but some students would also have the same favorite shows, so they could connect and see how they took different approaches even when using the same show, etc. etc. Instead of copy-and-paste, it's the power of the mash-up!

I am a big user of Canvas Discussions, and in most of my courses they count for 20 - 25% of a students grade. In order for online Discussions to really serve their purpose (replace f2f discussions in a traditional classroom) they need to be engaging, and that can be challenging - especially in the K12 environment where many topics might not meet the political correctness threshold for younger students. I teach HigherEd, and medical courses, so almost anything is fair game.I often ask students to give an opinion on a topic, then back up their opinion with research. They must cite their sources, and they are allowed brief quotes (copy/paste snippets), but they must be quoted and cited appropriately

I understand the frustration, but this is a bad idea, and it is easy to get around anyway because there are software utilities that can paste by mimicking typing. I will add that sometimes, I copy and paste the entire discussion into Turnitin to scan for plagiarism. It is a bit messy, but it works.

Other Resources Online

I am with the majority here - not a fan of punishing everybody, for the misdeeds of the few. There are many other tools/techniques. Here are seven great tips, that I hope you find helpful. Seven Strategies for Plagiarism-proofing Discussion Threads in Online Courses

Brown University actually has a wonderful resource for faculty on Designing Online Discussions. And the Online Learning Consortium (formerly Sloan C) offers A Real Conversation - Making Online Discussion Awesome! The Online Learning Consortium is an awesome group, with considerable resources for online teachers, including some incredible certification courses. I've had the pleasure of knowing many of their instructors over the years.

Debbie Morrison (she blogs at "online learning sights") has done some good work on this too; this post has a useful chart and additional links to other posts she wrote on discussion board engagement:
Ten Reasons Students Don’t Participate in Online Discussions & How to Remedy Each | Online Learning Insights

This graphic by the ever-fabulous Sylvia Duckworth based on some ideas from George Couros is a good one for helping to think about school v. learning, and I think the contrasts here can be helpful in improving assignments to make them more learning-oriented. I've transcribed the graphic here:

Growth Mindset Cats: To learn, start by asking a question.

Pinterest as a Motivator... for me!

Posted by Laura Gibbs Mar 20, 2017

I've got a whole big stack of new student stories to read this week, and as I read each new story and send back comments to the student, I get to "pin" the new story to the Pinterest Board for the student projects... and seriously, that is a real motivator for me. It's fun to choose the image (some students use more than one image per story), and then to see the magic of the image showing up in the Pinterest Board for the class. Making accomplishments visible is not important just for the students... it gives me a boost too, so that at the end of the day I can look at the Boards and remember the stories I've been reading.

You can see the Boards for both my classes in this page about integrating Pinterest in Canvas. Pinterest is a tool I really like using for all kinds of purposes, and especially for creating this "snapshot" as it were of my students' projects as they evolve week by week. :-)

NPR: An Example of Embedding

Posted by Laura Gibbs Mar 19, 2017

I'm in the process of documenting different embedding options for Canvas, and today I wrote up an NPR example. Please share your favorite embedding strategies here: Favorite Tools/Sites for EMBEDDING in Canvas Pages

You can see the results of the NPR embedding here in my PAINT Canvas Workshop: NPR. Why embed rather than link? Embedding allows you to put the audio in the context that makes sense for your class. With regard to this particular item, I teach a course in Indian Epics, and I also like to share information about contemporary Indian authors with my students, and I am especially excited to share their Twitter accounts so that students can see the authors using Twitter to connect and share with their readers. As soon as I heard this interview on NPR, I knew I wanted to share that interview with my students (it's a really great interview about storytelling in general, along with some specifically Indian material), and I also wanted to share Kanishk Tharoor's Twitter account too, because he is a wonderful author to follow (I also follow his father, Shashi Tharoor, who is a personal hero of mine). Here's a screenshot of how that turned out:

NPR is a perfect example of an embedded service (in this case, audio) which uses iframes. That makes it a great candidate for use in Canvas. Here's how I embedded the NPR item in that Canvas page:

1. I went to the NPR webpage for the item, and you'll see I also included that link in the supplementary material that I included also because the webpage has a very useful transcript of the audio also.

2. I clicked on the embed link in the upper right and copied the iframe embedding code that NPR provides:

3. I then pasted in the embed code using the HTML Editor view in Canvas. Then, using the Rich Content Editor view, I added some supplementary information to provide context for the audio. As you can see, I also added the Twitter feed for the author; you can find out more about that here: Twitter4Canvas. (The Twitter embedding requires one more step because, unlike the NPR embed, Twitter uses javascript rather than a simple iframe.)

The power of real blogs and RSS

Posted by Laura Gibbs Mar 13, 2017

Wow, just a follow-up to that previous post: now that I have a real blog here with real RSS (yes, these Jive Community blogs are real blogs with real RSS), I was able to add an RSS widget to my existing "Teaching with Canvas" blog that will display the blog posts I make here automatically, and that means... no more crossposting!

And that in turns means that Canvas has become fully civilized, at least for me. I can post here or in my other Canvas blogging spaces (I have a WordPress blog and two Blogger blogs that are Canvas-related), and now ALL the posts from ALL the blogs will appear as links in the sidebar of my main blog. I've been dutifully crossposting and feeling like a doofus every time because of course with RSS we shouldn't have to crosspost.

So, I will come back from my trip next week to a smoothly running, nicely integrated set of blog spaces.

And that makes me happy!!! :-)

Thanks again so much to Biray Seitz for making this work!

Hundreds of Growth Mindset Cats :-)

Posted by Laura Gibbs Mar 13, 2017

This is my first blog post in this new space! I clicked on my icon in the upper right and then the profile page, and then I clicked on content. That gives me a link to my blog. I clicked on write a blog post... which is what I am doing right now! Whoo-hoo! Thanks to Biray Seitz for fixing the glitch that was holding my blog hostage at first.

And what I wanted to write about was something really fun that I did today (first day of our Spring Break, so I was just messing around)... which is that I updated the Growth Mindset Cats Widget in my Canvas Widget Warehouse. I added about 100 new cats to the collection, so there are now 260 (yep, count 'em: 260) growth mindset cat memes randomizing there in the widget, each one linked to its own blog post at the Growth Mindset Cats blog.

The Growth Mindset Cat collection is one of the most fun projects I have ever worked on, so I am really glad to have all the new cats popping up at random in the sidebar of my class announcements blog, which is what the students see very time they come to our Canvas class (click; it's public):

With the power of distributed content, it was so easy to do this update; even though it was almost 100 images to add, it took less than hour. I just had to name the images in a way that matches them up to their blog posts (I keep a big spreadsheet for that, which had the 160 cats from before already in there), and then I uploaded the image files to my https webspace. I then pasted in the html code into the spreadsheet columns to create the table, which I then published in my webspace. So, with the files uploaded and the table, I then converted the table to a javascript, using that javascript to replace the old one (well, two of them: I have a 400-pixel-wide version and a 200-pixel-wide version). That's all I have to do: everything else just stays the same. I change the contents of the javascript, and the new content displays automatically everywhere. It's the magic of distributed content!

If you would like to grab the javascript-iframe for Canvas, grab it; you'll find all the information you need in the Widget Warehouse, along with lots of other widgets too. The iframe works in Canvas, while the javascript works anywhere javascript is accepted (blogs, wikis, webpages).

Since this is my favorite widget, it was fun to add all the new cats that I've accumulated since the last update. I'll be out of town and not sure really how much Internet access I will have... but if anybody has questions, please ask, and I'll reply when I get back online!

And yes, there's a Growth Mindset CanvasLIVE scheduled in April... now with more Cats. :-)

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