NoahBoswell
Community Coach
Community Coach

All educators, including myself, can agree that we want all of our students to succeed and do their best, no matter what they decide to do. Whether its a sport, after-school club, or even academics.

I always strive to be the kind of teacher that will support my students and help them achieve any goals they have, either academically or personally.

It's essential to keep students on track. Teachers can do this by monitoring their student's progress, grades and submissions, as well as providing help and support when they need it!

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MrVitale
Community Member

Does Google apps exhist?

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KevinMeredith
Instructure
Instructure

Frequently Asked Questions from our Canvas Free-for-Teacher users

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KevinMeredith
Instructure
Instructure

We at Instructure have updated our Acceptable Use Policy. We are also actively working on improving the Canvas Free-for-Teacher User Experience.

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scottdennis
Instructure
Instructure

Three months ago I posted Free for Teacher Feature Options, where I described how feature options, or flags, are used in Canvas to allow institutions when to release certain changes to their own instances of Canvas. Free for Teacher, although used by many many people around the world, is effectively just a "normal" production instance of Canvas. Periodically we make decisions about which changes to enable in Canvas. Depending on how a feature is released, admins may choose to have a new change be ON, OFF, or set to ALLOW.  With the last option, individual teachers can choose whether or not to turn on the given change in their course settings.

 

Yesterday we did another periodic review.

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scottdennis
Instructure
Instructure

For those of you who are not LMS administrators, you may not be familiar with the concept of feature options in cloud software.  One of the advantages of cloud software is that it is easier to keep it up to date than when software is installed on many localized servers or computers.  Rather than having big updates that go out several times a year, it allows a project like Canvas to have many smaller updates pushed out much more frequently, hopefully being less disruptive to users.  However, some changes may be more or less disruptive to users than others and may be more or less disruptive at certain times.  When it appears that this may be the case, software companies will sometimes employ feature flags or options that let an institution or individual administrator decide when to throw the switch and turn on a given new option.

Yesterday, a small group of people at Instructure went comprehensively through all the available options for Free for Teacher and enabled about ten new things.  So, if you use FFT you may now see a few new tools or options in menus.  Hopefully this will improve your experience.  If not, or if you have questions, please let us know.

Image courtesey of wikimedia commons

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Kelvin_Dean
Community Contributor

One of the things I am wondering: Is there a K-12 edition of Free For Teachers? There is! Go online to https://k12.canvaslms.com and try it out!

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scottdennis
Instructure
Instructure

Tl;dr Some people are abusing public courses and we need to stop that.

One of my favorite things about Canvas, when I discovered it back in 2011, was and is Free-for-Teacher (FFT went live back in 2010).  For anyone not familiar, FFT is a fully-featured production instance of Canvas where anyone in the world may request to have a teacher role user account, create as many courses as they choose to that will remain open as long as the teacher chooses, and invite as many students and fellow educators to sign up and participate.  FFT lets anyone try Canvas for free and brings an egalitarian element to Canvas that we think is an important element of Instructure’s DNA.

One quality of FFT is that teachers can choose to have their courses only accessible by participants, accessible to anyone who is logged into Canvas, or publicly viewable by anyone with access to the Internet (documented here).  Many educators like the option to open their courses up to anyone who might want to follow along, for any reason.  Other people use Public courses as a way to showcase their instructional design skills or as a kind of eportfolio. Unfortunately, some people also use public courses for more nefarious purposes including sharing pirated intellectual property, SEO/spamming content and also other content that goes against what Instructure and the Canvas Community stand for.  The Instructure Security team spends a saddening amount of time cleaning up these abuses which unfortunately seem to be affecting a growing number of people reporting the abuse.

So, the question before us is how to maintain the best aspects of FFT while also making it impossible or at least much more difficult for some people to abuse what we have.  Could the community play an oversight role? Are there technology solutions that could be brought to bear? What do you think?

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siouxgeonz
Community Contributor

My attempt to make a little "you grew up and never learned your math facts?"  course ... 

I dream of being able to have a practice deck -- two from this group, three from that group, two from the other... now let's scramble them!    Do it again Smiley Happy       Looking for "mindful mastery" as opposed to "mindless rote..."   and recognizing that it probably really honestly doesn't matter if the quiz is in a predictable order so BACK TO IT... 

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siouxgeonz
Community Contributor

Summer's Almost Over!  So!   I promised myself 5 hours this week on the "facts modules" ... 

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siouxgeonz
Community Contributor

I've put Canvas on a back burner since March since we got the okay to develop a basic Math course in our LMS, D2L.   (It was chosen over Canvas because our institution needed multiple-correct-answers options in multiple choice tests and at decision time that wasn't an option.)   We've really only just begun but now that semester's over I'd hoped to get back and work on my "basic facts for older students" little course here.  

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siouxgeonz
Community Contributor

When a bicyclist approaches a traffic light and passes the cars to sneak up to the front, it's called "shoaling."  

Canvas Community has turned its "gamification" over and I had enough points to get 500 of 'em grandfathered in, and I'm near the top of the stack because doing "training" kinds of things grants points, as does every comment ... and calling out of people and... and... 

awilliams‌  replied to a comment and suggested I blog about being FFT and about gamification and CanvasLive etc. 

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siouxgeonz
Community Contributor

I'm taking BlendKit2017 on Canvas ... and hoping to use some of the stuff I'm playing with here, there (tho' it's with my "parkland college" identity b/c I know I'll still have a job for the next five weeks).   

I'm also wondering why, in the reworking of the "community," I don't seem to be following anybody any more.   I'm going to just wait a while to see if it's something somebody's processing... 

  Going to try to embed,,, okay, don't see html possibilities in here so ... back to the lesson to try it there~

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siouxgeonz
Community Contributor

  I found iFraming in Canvas    and used it to embed a game from the NCTM illuminations math exercises into my little course. I'll also provide a link so that students can go there.

   I'll want to make some quizzes that do the equivalent, but it's a neat option and worked quickly and easily.   Hooray Smiley Happy   https://illuminations.nctm.org/Activity.aspx?id=3564   

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michelle_cicca1
Community Participant

As soon as you walk into the world of Canvas, you are able to build an online course with a rich variety of tools and tasks linked in a variety of possible hierarchies. You can add to it and change it on the fly, updating it as information in the world changes: it is all live. You are not passing out a thing that is then dead and gone from your hands. Students log on and access the live, ever-changing, ever-updating content you are building. This is a fundamental difference which frees the instructor to create explosively more dynamic courses. This is the difference between picking up a paper copy of the New York Times and logging on to a live NYT feed.

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siouxgeonz
Community Contributor

  I'm trying to make a module for learning the addition facts.  I work with grownups who discreetly are still counting (either on their fingers or in their heads) or using calculators for everything.   My experience has been that described in this blog post by Michael Pershan Missing Factors: On Learning What You Don’t Know – Teaching With Problems   in which  he  describes a teaching experience, and cites research showing that students w/ learning handicaps stuck to counting even with lots and lots of games for practice in basic facts.   They just learned to count as fast as they could.  Welp, when you get to algebra, it *really* gets in the way.  I want a way out!

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michelle_ciccar
Community Novice

Imagine going into a bricks-and-mortar library and being told that all of the books were shelved in totally random order, and then trying to find a specific book. The right LMS not only enables and promotes transformational education, but the wrong LMS or no LMS inhibits,  frustrates, and truncates attempts at those higher SAMR levels, especially if you are making a school-wide effort. The right LMS removes barriers and allows teachers, students, and administrators the freedom to fly.

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siouxgeonz
Community Contributor

Back when this "service learning" course I'm wrapping up was active (it ended 12/6, but we can finalize our submissions and submit 'til 12/31) I tried to let another person peek at the Canvas course I'm mucking about with as the "extra credit" part of the course.

   Seems we had to invite each other to be TA's to look at the materials.  

   I *think* that is because the course isn't "published."   Since I'm "Free for Teachers" I have no idea what the 'administrative' ramifications of publishing are, but I figured that if the folks at the service learning course were going to be able to check it out, I'd have to do that.   I logged out of the other 'puter and ... seems I could get to things at Course Modules: Math for Transportation: Introductory Lesson    even if I weren't logged in. 

    I've spent today's hours trying to figure out which files should go where.  

    ** That idea about letting people see what something is before they click into it would be really useful to me!!!**   I can think of the best titles I can, but I don't always remember which of the 10 or so videos & lessons I'm looking at.  Since breaking things into tiny chunks is an important part of my design,  I need to figure out a way to manage that (which might be a low-tech 'make an annotated list of your titles, dear, and stick it on the wall!')  

     I'm going to be making mad revisions betwixt now and the end of the year (and beyond)...

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siouxgeonz
Community Contributor

Easily found the nice How do I create a quiz with a question group to randomize quiz questions?    and I like that the "alt tag" is right there on the front to prompt me to write what my image is.   Since the answers *are* images, that's important.  

Realized I'd forgotten one of my cute number bar images but looks like I have to go out and in to get access to it when making the quiz; it's not updating the "files" catalog on the tab I'm using to make the  quiz, though it's updated in the tab where I dropped it in.  (Yes, loving drag and drop, too!)   ... but it worked nicely.  DIdn't lose anything along the way.

So... next question:   can I copy a question and edit it (since I'll have exactly the same answers to choose from, but different questions)? 

time to search Smiley Happy  

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tyler_clair
Community Champion

I have been a 11 year-old scout leader for almost 2 years now and have been looking for an easier way to track what my scouts have accomplished along their pathway to rank advancement. I have looked at a few other tracking systems in the past, but the cost of the system, though not particularly steep, seemed to be the sticking point. We currently track our scouts by photo-copying the rank requirement pages and signing off those and then once a month we update the scout's handbook so its current. The problem we have is there is only one set of records and usually parents will contact me or the other scout leader about where their scout is and we sometimes don’t have that information handy or have to send them to the other scout leader.

Being a Canvas administrator I realized I had a great platform and mobile apps to track this information and give access to the other scout leader and possibly the scout's parents, the last part is a bit ambitious so I am focusing on tracking first then add the bells and whistles later. I logged into my FFT Canvas account and created a new course and set about devising how I could track this information.

In Utah 11 year-old scouts, (Blazers to us old enough to remember), focus on getting through the rank requirements before they turn 12. So in short order we try to get them through their Scout, Tenderfoot, Second class, and as much as or all of First Class rank requirements. Usually we try to run through all the requirements in 6 months so we can repeat the process twice a year to ensure all scouts have an opportunity to pass of the requirements. That’s a lot of information to track and coordinate in a short amount of time, and it seems like a good plan in theory but executing that plan is a challenge, so tracking is vital especially when we need to hand that information off to the 12 year-old leaders to continue helping them advance.

Planning

I weighed the different options of how to track the scouts and determined the fastest way to get started was to use complete/incomplete assignments for each requirement and organize them in assignment groups according to the rank. I wanted to have the assignment have the basic requirement information so I wanted to name them based off of the requirement number, (i.e 1a, 1b, 2), and the requirement description be the assignment description. Now I needed a way to get them into a usable format.

The Boy Scouts of America had a handy PDF of the current requirements for download so I was able to copy and paste them into a text editor to manipulate them into a format I could utilize. It took a lot of cleaning up, but I was able to get them into a readable format. I first created basic text files of each rank requirements and then set out to determine how best to get them into Canvas, to semi-quote Liam Neeson from Taken, "…what I do have are a very particular set of skills [with the Canvas API and Python]."

Creating 120+ assignments by hand and adding them to the correct assignment group was not something I was willing to do, I had already spent several hours cleaning up the text, so I turned to the Canvas APIs to create the assignments. I first created the assignment groups named after each rank and using the API got each assignment group ID for the next step. The easiest way for me to do this, would be to create a CSV file of the rank requirements split up into the assignment name, description, type, group, and point value. I would then write a Python script to take the values from the CSV file to create an assignment for each requirement and place them into the appropriate assignment group. Turning the text files to CSV did take some time but I had warmed up the regular expression part of my brain and was able to get it done much faster than the text cleanup. I ran the script for each rank and had the assignments created within a few minutes.

Users

My next challenge was what to do about the scouts? My answer came in a sneaky hack Google added into their Gmail system. You can take any Gmail, Google apps, or Google apps for education address and before the @gmail.com or other domain put +whatever to piggy back a unique email address off your own account. So if I was Liam Neeson and had a FFT Canvas account under the Gmail address of liam.neeson@gmail.com I could use liam.neeson+fatheroftheyear@gmail.com to create another user account in FFT Canvas and it would still send emails to liam.neeson@gmail.com but still be a unique address to Canvas. Using this little hack in Canvas FFT I created accounts for each of my scouts that pointed back to my email address.

Putting It into practice

I finished it in time for our troop meeting and I logged into my FFT account using both the mobile app and SpeedGrader on my phone. From there I was able to use the attendance tool and the SpeedGrader to mark the requirements we went over that night as completed for each scout. It was very easy to use and I even got the other scout leader setup with his own account and he installed the mobile apps as well so he has access to the same information. I also accepted the invitation for each one of my scouts which allows me to use the gradebook CSV to bulk enter their requirements.

Future enhancements

I have been sharing it with others I work with that are involved with scouts and they offered some suggestions that I am going to consider implementing. Some of the suggestions include:

• Tracking campouts, activities, service project hours, etc…

• Adding the parents as observers to their scout so they can see the progress at anytime

• Changing the default email address of the scout's account to one of their parents so I can use the communications tools in Canvas

• Turning some of the requirements into an online submission assignment where the scout has to provide evidence of their requirement completion

• Incorporating Rubrics and/or Outcomes for requirements that need demonstration of understanding

This was quite a fun project to get going and it also gave me another valuable script that I can use at work if needed. I will post the course in Commons so that anyone can use the course and feel free to make changes and improvements or if you have suggestions of your own feel free to contact me anytime.

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siouxgeonz
Community Contributor

I've got two Canvas accounts -- one associated with the college where I work and then the Free for Teachers that I've gotten through "Instructional Design Service Course:  Gain Experience for Good" here on Canvas... so I'm abandoning the college one to be consistent (and because the college has nothing to do with the course -- I'm doing it on my own)...

... and having fun figuring out how to incorporate images and concepts in math...

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drimmer
Community Contributor

Oh, Canvas FFT, it is all coming together beautifully...did you know?

I now have a mark book that produces a current grade average automatically...I can see who are the top performers and those that need more support and scaffolding... differentiation for class tasks and prep is now not only feasible but evidenced.

Did I mention how much I love the SpeedGrader and being able to moderate quizzes? How I've found resources in the Commons that save me time in planning? How I can email students to congratulate for being above the exceptional threshold in a test, and set resubmission assignments for those that didn't pass? How I can set and monitor cover work for when I'm home ill, like today?

Now, if only I could get them all to actually open their emails and accept the invitation to the course...

Top tip: don't give them more than they can handle. I've made the homepage Modules and the only other option is Grades; they can't get lost or confused... probably.

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sujones
Community Novice

Like Don Bryn, I want a way to get students into a "course" so they can do things online -- before they're students, and/or independent from our "system."   I anticipate the same unfamiliarity w/ Canvas and, thus, necessity for "track down to contact" measures.   I work with students who want to build math & reading skills to be better prepared for college, and I"m trying to create a course for basic number sense.  

       I'm doing this through the exciting "Instructional Design Service Course:  Gain Experience for Good" here on Canvas... I completed it last semester so I'm trying to take it to the next level this one! I've got a school "Canvas" account, but making a "Free for Teachers" one liberates me from all kinds of nonsense, though it does make for some weird log-in complications. I"m hoping it will enable me to make things REally Awesomely Open. 

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DrNufer
Community Coach
Community Coach

How does FFT inspire you to be creative in the ways you leverage Canvas?

I want to shift roles right now.  Professionally, I work in higher education and my institution utilizes Canvas.  However, on Monday my daughter starts the second grade at a school that doesn't even have an LMS.  It is a top rated school in Florida (a state which ranks among the top in the nation for testing - which I have mixed feelings about for...reasons) and last year the principal was recognized at the White House as the principal of the year.  And all of this doesn't amount to the school having very much money.  They talk about things such as FTE and "seat time", and as it is a new school their library shelves are relatively barren. 

This past year I sat on the School Advisory Counsel - a post which I will continue this year.  I still feel like I am very new to the realm of K-5 education and was admittedly lost during much of the SAC discussions (I actually petitioned that they provide us all with a list of all the acronyms they use - a guide which turned out to be very helpful).  I gave a few presentations during SAC meetings discussing the research behind pedagogy and study techniques, and really tried to connect their agenda to what we in higher education would like from our K-12 graduates.

At one point I asked about their LMS and suggested Canvas as a good tool.  Initially I was met by crickets and then people tried to explain some district-sanctioned platforms and approaches.  But they did not understand what an LMS was nor why it would be important. 

So in my role as a SAC member, my answer to the question: How does FFT inspire you to be creative in the ways you leverage Canvas?  is that right now it doesn't.  But I am writing this post here because my goal for the upcoming academic year is that I really want to expose my daughter's teacher and school to the resources available in this group.  There are gems here and I really think that their participation in this community will benefit FFT, and vice versa. 

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drimmer
Community Contributor

1. Have absolutely no plan ready when the internet fails, the motherboard on the classroom computer dies (yes, that happened right at the start of a lesson), or there is a power outage. Instead, have at least three back up lesson plans that you can use at any stage in the year regardless of where you are in the syllabus. Have the materials prepared, enough handouts, etc. and just move straight into it seamlessly - don't let them (the students) see your fear - they will feed off it!

Here are my go-to options for Economics (most are useful for Business Studies, Social Studies, Geography, etc):

  • The international trading game - fills the lesson, they learn valuable skills and concepts, they love it = WIN
  • Take a stack of newspapers and A3 paper - ask students to find news articles on a particular concept/topic, rank them in order of impact/importance, prepare to justify their decision and debate with classmates. They can make A3 posters afterwards for wall displays.
  • Use A3 paper scattered on various tables in the room and write a key topic/concept recently covered in the centre. Organise students in teams/pairs and give them pens of a certain colour per team. Invite students to go to an A3 sheet in teams/pairs and write as many linked concepts/facts/terminology/diagrams/evaluation points about each topic as possible in three minutes - they can use their folders/textbooks as you see fit. At the end of the time, they must swap to another station until all have visited each A3 sheet. At the end you can judge which team knows most about a subject to see which colour pen is most used.

2. Spend ages trying to find a particular app or tool to use in/with Canvas but only using 'classroom' or 'T&L' search parameters. One of the best tools I used this year was designed for use in conference to get audience participation - tools may be out there under different guises - look wider afield.

3. Try to fill lessons with impromptu timed essays - there is far too much marking involved, especially if they don't learn to peer- or self-assess. Get them trained from the start to judge their work and that of others: don't accept that they only want your opinion as the expert - get them ready to recognise good work from bad.

K-12

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drimmer
Community Contributor

What ways do you use Canvas Free-for-Teacher?

As I've outlined in a K12 blog post (Students who say, "just tell me what to memorise," and how to serve them​), discovering Canvas was extremely exciting. I spent the Christmas holidays investigating all the tools, making content, and got ready to wow my students with this futuristic-science-awesomeness - and they said 'meh'.

This year I'm going to have a different strategy - start gently, from the very first lesson, with an introduction to the platform. Hopefully, I'll get it right this time!

Specifically, I was looking for somewhere to host all my course materials and quizzing links. There were other websites that I could use (Socrative, Nearpod, etc.) but there was nothing that incorporated all the elements I wanted for my students. Then Canvas came within view and it was love at first sight.

How does FFT inspire you to be creative?

My students now undertake a range of assignments online and offline that, I think, were inspired by FFT. They make infomercial films; they write their own exam scripts, model answers, and mark schemes to test other students; they complete class tests by giving presentations; they engage in peer-support and teaching opportunities for younger students. In essence, I took the students' expectation that every lesson would simply teach content for and ways to answer examination questions and turned it on its head. Now, I want students to learn how to be good learners, rather than just successful test-takers. And that makes my job much more fulfilling.

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bogardde
Community Participant

For an graduate-level educational technology course I took in the summer of 2014, my final project requirement was to create an online unit around an educational topic, via some type of web page or other web-based presence. This project also needed to be accessible to all other members of my class, as well as the professor, for evaluation purposes.

I wanted to create a science fair project unit that I could use with my after-school science fair club when it was done, and I definitely wanted to do my building in Canvas' LMS, which my school district had just adopted a few months earlier. However, I wasn't sure I was permitted to add my non-district classmates and professor as observers to our school district's Canvas site. Hmmm.

After pondering this a bit, I suddenly remembered the Free-for-Teachers site! So I started a new course, built my unit, and added my classmates and professor to the course. In doing so, I was able to leverage all those great Canvas tools to help walk my students through the complex science fair project process. In addition, this gave me the chance to show others in my graduate class what they were missing if their own institutions were not using Canvas. (I also made sure they knew that the FFT Canvas was available to them as well.) :smileygrin:

Later, after the graduate course was over and I had received my stellar (Thanks, Canvas!) grade... I neatly packed up my unit into a downloadable file, then imported it into my school district's Canvas site for use later that fall with my science fair students. A few clicks - Easy peasy! And I've been using it with great success ever since. 

Side Note: Each year, many of my students go on to our State Science Fair, and I believe some of the credit goes to the great way that Canvas makes content easily buildable for teachers, and easily accessible to students anywhere, any time.

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josh_emmitt
Community Contributor

"What ways you use Canvas Free-for-Teacher? How does FFT inspire you to be creative in the ways you leverage Canvas?"

There have been some great blogs about the benefit of free-for-teachers in Canvas, but for me the benefit of free-for-teachers somehwat echoes that of stefaniesandersFree for Teachers: Training made easy.  The great thing is that it lets you try things in Canvas that your institution has perhaps not brought in yet or is not going to bring in. You can get ahead of the game in other words. All of the extra apps that are not available can then be used without risk and you can see what will be beneficial and what won't, which you can then use to formulate a business case for the addition of an app or feature to the main Canvas interface for the institution.

Sometimes we get stalled by bureaucracy or caution, free-for-teachers lets you do your own thing, which can inform decisions and bring those potential upgrades and features into the fold.

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kmeeusen
Community Champion

lauramaewojo

I saw that you mentioned developing some PD for your more adventurous faculty, and I just wanted to let you know that the content in the CanvasHacks course came from my local "Do Not Fear the Code" workshop that I have now run for just that purpose at my own school twice, and at another school once with another shot coming in April. I'll be happy to share more details with you if you are interested, but essentially:

  • It is a two hour, hands-on  f2f session,
  • The Canvas Classroom is provided as an extra "always available" resource,
  • I include a style guide (the code snippets we are going to learn during the in-class time) in the Canvas classroom,
  • Make sure everybody has a sandbox to play in,
  • Give about 10 minutes of intro/overview/and examples of what can be accomplished,
  • Then we work through the style guide of simple starter snippets

I always spend the last 15 minutes converting an existing Canvas page to a gussied-up one using the snippets we have learned. I do this to demonstrate that they do not have to start over with their classrooms, and can easily enhance existing content:

  • At the end of the style guide I include the HTML code for a pre-selected page of content from on of my own courses,
  • I have them paste that into the HTE of a blank page in their sandboxes,
  • Show them what that page looks like without enhancements,
  • Then we start adding enhancements using that existing content.
  • I close with some general workflow advice.

I have attached my agenda.

I hope this helps, and you know where to find me if your need finer details.

Agent K

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lauramaewojo
Community Participant

I love the Free-for-Teachers side of Canvas, because it helps me become familiar with the new UI before my district rolls it out.  Also, it allows for collaboration and sharing beyond my school district.  Recently, another Canvas Community Member, Kelley Meeusen, added me as a student in the Canvahacks Demo Course.  Through this course, I was able to explore a lot of really cool "hacks" for teachers.  I have been looking at creating some PD for the teachers in my district who are looking to take the Canvas to the next level . This past year has been our first full year of implementation and some are ready to take off and keep growing.  The flexibility with the Free-for-Teachers, helps keep me inspired and on fire!  @kmeeusen ​

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