5. The Canvas Past

Community Champion

You can see the embedded video here: Josh Coates

The first keynote came on Tuesday evening, before all the sessions got started on Wednesday; it was Josh Coates talking about the history of Instructure, with an introduction to the new president, Dan Goldsmith. It was also our first introduction to the carnival barker who provided entertainment at all the keynotes! The carnival theme throughout the conference was really fun; I've never been to another InstructureCon so I can't compare, but I thought everything about the carnival theme was really charming; even the artwork you could see around was delightful -- here's a sample from a building column they had decorated in the registration area (see also banner image above):

lion tamer graphic

The carnival theme was very nostalgic and backward-looking in a good way, and so was the first part about Josh's keynote. I already knew some things about the history of Instructure before, but I learned new things here; the picture of Brian Whitmer with their first-ever check was wonderful to see. It was also wild to think about them shipping the software without documentation because they were so convinced that it was just that intuition (but hey, as teachers we all know that nothing... literally nothing... is going to be equally obvious to every learner). Josh showed the flamethrower video, Change is Good (that video had endeared me to Canvas back in the day!), plus a hilarious K-12 roll-out video that I'm still thinking must have been a gag and not a real video but, hey, with Instructure back in the day, anything is possible ha ha. Here's the Change is Good video, which you can see at YouTube:

In another session, I also learned about the panda from early days: the reason the Instructure mascot is a panda is that they couldn't afford a receptionist at first, and so they put a stuffed panda toy animal in the receptionist's chair until they could afford an actual person. What a great story ( snufer who shared that with us, told us that Instructure is sticking by this story, although he could not get it independently verified, ha ha).

Canvas definitely has a storied past, with some great people and personalities involved. In particular, I have been a big admirer of both Devlin Daley and Brian Whitmer from early days, and I got to meet Devlin at InstructureCon this time; they are both involved in wonderful new work of their own now, having left Instructure.

As for the future, I have to confess that I was very disappointed by the second half of the keynote where Josh was talking with Dan Goldsmith. What a lost opportunity. That was a really valuable moment for an important group of people from the Canvas world to meet the new president and learn about him, but we learned very little, and what we did learn was off-putting (at least for me), especially when they started talking about driving for Uber and delivering packages for Amazon, and what great employment opportunities the new gig economy is making available now.

In a word: OUCH.

One of the biggest problems in higher education is the Uberization (i.e. adjunctification) of teaching, with most college teaching now being done by adjuncts who are poorly paid and have zero job security (I know; I am one of them). Likewise, in K-12, teachers are poorly paid; Oklahoma was one of the states this year that saw a massive teacher walkout to protest poor salaries and working conditions. A lot of the hostility towards  education comes from instructors who, rightfully, fear that bureaucrats would like to replace actual human teachers with automated processes: auto-grading, auto-feedback, auto-everything. So, to hear Dan Goldsmith and Josh Coates talking about how great it is to be a casual employee for Uber and Amazon was really depressing (and disingenuous, coming from men who do have real jobs of their own). Uber and Amazon are both companies that, to my mind, provide terrible models of employment at a moment when teachers at all levels are having to fight for their most basic rights as employees.

Luckily, though, we had fantastic keynotes from the invited speakers Adora Svitak and Michael Bonner to provide a strong counterpoint to that strange first-night conversation; I'll have more to say about their inspiring work in future posts!

Who else has quotes and pictures to share from that first night keynote? Although I was disappointed by the second half, the first half was a blast! Even Scott gave a death-defying as a "volunteer" from the audience! I need to find a picture of that fun carnival moment to add to this post. 🙂

I was traveling yesterday, so I'm one blog post behind but I'll get caught up this weekend! Here are 

here are my #InstCon30 posts so far:

  1. Hats Are Good
  2. All the Feels
  3. I am TPACK
  4. Inspired by Earl