One thing my school as Tech newbies will have to consider as we move forward with Canvas, or really any LMS, is consistency. Consistency for our students and parents within our course design to easily find important information quickly. That is one of the main reasons behind adding the digital nature to what we do. The Tech doesn't define our class; it is there to help as another avenue to engage today's students, parents, and community members with your content area expertise. Schools should not be a 'member's only' club, especially not in public education. This new tech allows us to deliver the same message to all stakeholders. There is no more playing telephone between what you said in class versus what version parents received when they returned home, tired from work. And for us as teachers, this is awesome to have the ability to control your classroom virtually and remotely! We teachers in today's world need to be mindful of what we can all do despite our comfort level with technology so that we can engage more students. Meet them halfway between old school and new school. Draw the lines in the digital sand. Have a dialogue with your classes, let them help you decide how to dip your toes into the water.
I think the easiest first steps are the creation of "Assignments" followed by the use of "Modules". They are going to be key players where we can agree on a uniformed front for all of our students. When you create assignments in Canvas and you keep the "Assignment" button active on your course menu (left side of screen), students get a nice view of what is "overdue", what is "upcoming" and then at the bottom any "past assignments". They can also view by assignment group/type (See bellow image).
The Assignment area allows students and their guardians a quick and easy screen view within your course to stay organized. They can also see upcoming items in three other locations. First, it is displayed on the right side of their dashboard every time they login on a computer or Chromebook. Second, they can see it on their course calendar. Third, if you have a "Syllabus" page it also creates a running list of assignments at the bottom. So you just create the assignment one time and Canvas intuitively send it to all the aforementioned locations. Pretty nice!
Are you entering "Assignments" from the calendar? The Pro is that it is quick and easy if you are not allowing submissions. You just click on the date you want it to be due/completed. Then you start at the top by clicking on the "Assignment" tab then enter the "Title" of the assignment, then choose a time if you wish otherwise it defaults to 11:59 pm. You can really leave the time alone or maybe just put it in for 7:30 am as a reminder that it should be done before school starts that day. Then you need to make sure you are on the "Calendar" for the particular class you wish to assign and finally you need to hit "Publish" and "Save".
The Cons are as follows. First, if you're not paying attention you could put it on the wrong class calendar. Second, you can inadvertently put it as an "Event" and not an "Assignment" and it will not appear as described in the last paragraph. Third is the kids will only see the title with no instructional information nor how many points it is worth nor how you want them to turn it in. Which ultimately means that students who are absent will still have to come to you or another classmate for directions instead of being able to follow along remotely if their absence is one that allows them to keep afloat remotely. One nice feature about "Assignments" is that you also have the ability in Canvas to attach files and embed videos in the instructions area that might have been part of that HW assignment/Unit. If you hit the "More Options" button from the calendar view you can go to that area and add in details to keep parents informed as well, which might help you not have to answer as many emails or make as many phone calls home. That alone is worth the time it takes to enter in the details and if you use this assignment in future years you will only need to tweak the date and reassign for future years.
Once you are comfortable with Assignments the next step is to build Modules that are orderly and chronological. This will be key if you want to help with transfer students or late additions. It can also help with students who are absent for an extended periods of time for illness etc. When you have all of you material on Canvas in your "Pages", "Files", and "Assignments" going to Modules will allow you to build your course quickly by placing in any pages, discussions, assignments and links you may want them to access in the order you want them to access those materials! Then students can just go to modules and pick up where they left off! You can even put in settings so they get check marks showing where they left off!
Once you build a system then the concept of Emergency Sub Plans and Digital Snow Days can be a possibility with little to no confusion. If you have a chance consider taking an course, there are lots of free options with Google. It might help you better understand good and bad examples of how material can be disseminated. This is something to really strive for by next school year, but thinking of it now will help as you learn the system and how best to build your courses! It will take time and some trial and error! Don't be discouraged, it is not an easy journey! But it is worth your time and effort!
Formerly a Latin and Spanish Teacher at a public high school in Southeastern PA. I know help empower my HS (1700 Students and 160 Teachers) to better levage technology in today's classrooms. I also work as an Instructional Designer in the evenings for Villanova University.
I am incredibly passionate about pedagogy and how Edtech can enhance that experience. I hope to see Education revolutionized in my lifetime!