Canvas-Friendly Javascripts

Here’s the Canvas-Friendly Javascripts Slidedeck for the CanvasLIVE presentation with the video of the session and notes on the slides below:

This is the video:

Slide 1. Welcome.

Slide 2. Title slide.

Slide 3. Connected Learning… with Cats.
You can see all the Connected Learning with Cats events here.

Slide 4. Connected Learning and Chance Encounters.
The theme I want to emphasize here is content serendipity, as opposed to content mastery. Especially in Gen. Ed. Humanities courses, like the ones I teach, mastery and coverage are not really the goals. Instead, for me, the goal is to get each student connected to something in the realm of reading and writing that they really care about, something that excites them, something that inspires them. That might be different for each student, and it might require sifting through massive quantities of content. By using the power of daily content and random content, you can expose students to a lot of content, and maximize the chances that something will click.

Slide 5. Javascript Randomizers.
I use javascript randomizers in all my class blogs (especially the sidebars) and at my class wiki. It means students see new content each time they return to a page, and the randomness is fun and unpredictable. Most importantly, randomness is a way to surface lots of content. If you have lots of links or images you want to share with students, displaying them all at once is not effective, but displaying something at random means that, over time, students will see all the content, a little bit at a time.

Slide 6. The Fates Say…
The first javascript I ever used was a little randomizer that I wrote myself by hand way back in 2002. This was the first semester I taught online, and my students were choosing between two units to read each week. I offered them a link that say “Let the Fates decide…” and then a message popped up at random with “The Fates say…” (and then a 50-50 chance of one unit or the other). Students loved it! They sometimes would write in their blog, “I chose Ovid because the Fates said Ovid three times in a row.”

Slide 7. Creating Your Own Javascripts.
Because of the success of that randomizer, I knew I wanted to use lots of randomizers, but I did not know any programming and did not have time to learn. So, I hired a genius student, Randy Hoyt, to build a tool for me that would take the content I supplied and turn it into a javascript, either date-based (“___ of the Day” for example) or at random. He created that tool back in 2003, and he is still hosting it online for free at his website: RotateContent.com. Thank you, Randy! (And in addition to being a genius programmer, he also designs board games: Foxtrot Games.) You can show Randy some love at Twitter.

Slide 8. Javascripts and Canvas. 
Using javascripts in blogs and webpages is easy, but Canvas does not let you just paste a javascript into a Page. There is a workaround, though: you just need to create an HTML page in an https webspace which contains the javascript, and then you can use an iframe to display the HTML page in a Canvas Page, in the Syllabus, in a Discussion Board, etc. etc. This technique works for Rotate Content scripts and also for Twitter javascripts widgets; see my Twitter4Canvas Workshop for details. You can also do this with javascript widgets from Flickr and from Pinterest.

Slide 9. Laura’s Widget Warehouse.
But don’t let all of that scare you: I’ve already created some ready-to-use Canvas widgets where you can just copy-and-paste the iframe from my Canvas space into yours. They are all in the Widget Warehouse, and you can also just browse the raw content and use that too if you want.

Slide 10. Agenda for this Presentation.
So, I’ll be covering those three topics in more detail: in Part 1 I’ll discuss the different types of javascripts you can create with Rotate Content, then in Part 2 I’ll show some of the ready-to-use Canvas scripts in my Widget Warehouse, and finally in Part 3 I’ll walk through the steps you can follow to create your own scripts with Rotate Content and use them in Canvas.

Slide 11. Part 1: Rotate Content Scripts.
The Rotate Content tool takes an HTML table that you prepare and converts it to a javascript. I’ll discuss the types of content that you can put into the table and then the types of scripts that it will generate.

Slide 12. Types of HTML Content.
You can basically put ANY kind of HTML content in the table. That can be simple text and links (example), images (example), embedded video (example), or even other scripts (example: this page calls a script at random from among all the scripts in the Warehouse). The key thing to remember is that everything must be https, and that includes images you might be using.

Slide 13. Rotate Perpetual Date.
In addition to displaying a range of content, you can configure the script in different ways. There are two kinds of date-based scripts: perpetual and specific. You use a perpetual calendar to create content that will recur year to year based solely on the date. For example, the Latin LOLCat Calendar has 366 items (Leap Year!), with a new cat for each date.

Slide 14. Rotate Specific Date.
You can also create content that you use for a specific range of dates in a specific year. That is how my semester countdown widget works; I change the dates for this one every semester.

Slide 15. Rotate Random.
This is what I use most often: the totally random javascript. In this HTML table, there is no date column; just the word “random” in the cell for each row. You can make randomizers with just two items or with hundreds of items. My Freebookapalooza widget has hundreds of items for example.

Slide 16. Rotate Date-Based AND Random.
Randy also built in a very nice feature so that if you do have a date-based widget, you can use that same content randomly. To do that, you just change a variable in the script call; the script itself is the same. You can compare the two different ways of displaying the Elizabethan Proverbs widget here: date-based and random.

Slide 17. Part 2: Laura’s Widget Warehouse.
Each page in the Widget Warehouse contains a link where you can find the script and the iframe version you need in Canvas, along with a link to the raw HTML table so that you can browse and re-use the source material directly if you want.
Slide 18. Random Motivation.
Slide 19. Random Humor.
Slide 20. Random Resources.
Slide 21. Random Art Images.
Slide 22. Random Student Work.

Slide 23. Part 3: Creating Your Own Scripts.
To create your own scripts you need to feel comfortable editing HTML, either with an HTML editor or editing by hand (I usually create my tables using a Google Sheet; it’s faster than editing a table). You also need your own https space. I am very lucky that my school has a Domain of One’s Own project with Reclaim Hosting, and I cannot say enough good things about the people at Reclaim. Even if your school does not offer web hosting, you can get excellent individual hosting. They really know how to work with and support educators!

Slide 24. 6-Step Canvas Widgets.
This is just a quick overview of the process of creating javascripts using the Rotate Content tool. You will find detailed instructions at the Rotate Content site for Steps 1-2-3-4. The two additional steps are required to get the javascript to work in Canvas. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you have about this, and based on people’s feedback I can create some more specific tutorials if you want.
Slide 25. Generate HTML table.
Slide 26. Enter content in table.
Slide 27. Convert table to script.
Slide 28. Publish the javascript.
Slide 29. Create and publish HTML script page.
Slide 30. Use iframe in Canvas.

Slide 31. Presentation Recap.
Please go browse the Widget Warehouse and see what you think. Maybe you will find some scripts there you want to use, or even just some content that is useful to you. And if you get some ideas for scripts of your own, you can use Rotate Content to create your own scripts. Maybe you will want to build a Widget Warehouse of your own to share your scripts with others too!

Slide 32. Let’s connect! Please feel free to contact me with any questions, ideas, or suggestions. 🙂

Growth Mindset CanvasLIVE

Here’s the Growth Mindset Slidedeck for the CanvasLIVE presentation, with notes and links below, and I’ve also embedded the YouTube video of the event. 🙂

Here are the slides with notes:

Slide 1. Welcome Slide.

Slide 2. Title Slide.

Slide 3. Connected Learning… with Cats.
You can find the complete series here at this blog: Connected Learning with Cats. I’ve got four more events scheduled after this one: Javascripts, YouTube Playlists, Free Online Books, and Pinterest/Flickr. Let me know what other topics would be of interest!

Slide 4. Five Key Mindset Concepts.
In Part A of the presentation, I’ll describe my approach to the growth mindset concept with these five key ideas.

Slide 5. Carol Dweck: Mindset.
I recommend Carol Dweck’s book Mindset very highly, and you can also find some excellent Carol Dweck videos along with articles and interviews online. She is extremely good at speaking to a wide range of audiences: teachers, parents, and learners of all kinds.

Slide 6. Five Design Strategies.
In Part B, I’ll explain how I use growth mindset ideas when I design my courses.

Slide 7. Five Tools at the Website.
In the final part of the presentation, I’ll provide an overview of some helpful tools I am using to build a new open Canvas course resource: Exploring Growth Mindset which has this simple URL: Mindset.LauraGibbs.net.

PART A: FIVE KEY MINDSET CONCEPTS

Slide 8. Five Key Mindset Concepts.
I approach the growth mindset concept from different angles: Aim High — Explore — Work Hard — Improve — Enjoy. You might decide to break down the mindset concept differently for your students; this is what I have found works best for me!

Slide 9. 1. Aim High.
This area involves setting realistic personal goals, along with being willing to take risks to achieve those goals, and persevering. One thing I find really helpful is to get students focused on moving forward; don’t try to retrace your steps, but just keep on looking ahead to figure out what to do next! There are articles and more resources here.

Slide 10. 2. Explore.
This is probably my personal favorite among the growth mindset domains: curiosity and creativity. This is also where I locate research on neuroplasticity and the fact that as you learn, you are literally growing new connections in your brain. Given that many of my students are future medical professionals, this is definitely something I like to emphasize in the growth mindset approach. There are articles and more resources here.

Slide 11. 3. Work.
Side by side with open-ended exploration is the need to stay focused, work hard, and be patient as you put in all the practice that is required to learn new skills. I teach writing, so practice is a huge part of that process, and patience is definitely required! LOTS of patience. There are articles and more resources here.

Slide 12. 4. Improve.
As a teacher, there is where I put in the most effort: students need detailed, helpful, timely feedback in order to learn from their mistakes. I also urge the students to do a lot of self-reflection and to see themselves as learners beyond the scope of the course: my biggest goal is to help them become self-determined learners for life! There are articles and more resources here.

Slide 13. 5. Enjoy.
By fun and enjoyment, I have in mind the joy of learning itself, along with connecting and sharing with others. Plus, it’s important to take care of yourself: learning is hard work, so you need to make sure you take time to relax. You can’t afford to neglect health or happiness if you want to succeed over the long run! There are articles and more resources here.

PART B: FIVE DESIGN STRATEGIES.

Slide 14. Five Design Strategies.
These are strategies that work in my classes, and I am guessing they can be generalized to other classes as well: Teach about Mindset — Reinforce Daily — Create Challenges — Focus on Feedback — Be a Co-Learner.

Slide 15. 1. Teach about Mindset.
I start the semester with a growth mindset activity in the first week of class: Week 1 Growth MindsetThis TED talk by Carol Dweck is one good way to get started, and my students then share their thoughts and reactions in a blog post (my students all have their own blogs), although of course a discussion board could work also. Students usually have a lot to say on this topic!

Slide 16. 2. Reinforce Daily.
I use Growth Mindset Cats every day in my class announcements, and you can find out more about the daily announcements: CanvasLIVE on Blog-as Homepage. There are Growth Mindset Cats both in the body of the announcements and in the sidebar, along with random student quotes from their blog posts in the sidebar as well.

Slide 17. 3. Create Challenges.
Students can complete weekly growth mindset challenges of their choice; developing new kinds of challenges is one of my goals for this summer. In addition, as students work on their writing, I pose that process in the form of  writing challenges. For those of you who teach writing, I have found this to be really successful: it helps students remember that learning how to write is a long-term growth process, and it also encourages them to set goals for themselves as part of that long-term process.

Slide 18. 4. Focus on Feedback.
I am constantly trying to improve my own feedback practices, while helping students understand both giving and receiving feedback. This is where I spend the largest chunk of my time as a teacher, and I try really hard to couch my feedback to the students in terms of growth mindset concepts.

Slide 19. #TTOG Teachers Throwing Out Grades.
I also have to say something here about the need to stop punitive grading if we want students to trust us that learning from mistakes is really okay. If it’s really okay, we have to stop penalizing for mistakes and instead focus on recognition of learning progress. You can read about how I’ve tried to do that in my classes here: all-feedback-no-grades.

Slide 20. 5. Be a Co-Learner.
Probably the thing I like best about growth mindset is that I am constantly working on my mindset, side by side with my students. We are COLEARNERS. Admittedly, our goals are different (I’m trying to learn how to become a better teacher; they are learning how to become better writers)… but growth mindset allows us to see those different goals as part of a shared growth process.

PART A: FIVE CANVAS-FRIENDLY TOOLS.

Slide 21. Five Canvas-Friendly Tools.
I’ll finish up with a quick overview of my new Canvas course resource site: Exploring Growth Mindset. My goal is for this site to have a continuous stream of new content automatically. I am not going to have time to update it when the school year begins, so I need it to update based on my normal web activities which is based on using these tools.

Slide 22. 1. Flickr & Pinterest.
As I create new mindset cats, I add them to my albums at Flickr and at PinterestBoth of these tools are easy to embed inside a Canvas course, and I’ll be doing a CanvasLIVE presentation later this summer about using Flickr and Pinterest in Canvas: Beautiful Curation: Pinterest and Flickr in Canvas.

Slide 23. 2. Diigo Bookmarks.
As I find new resources, I bookmark them with Diigo, and they then appear automatically in Canvas. My current focus is transcribing infographics. To get the Diigo bookmarks to appear in Canvas, I use an RSS tool called Inoreader; if that is something you are interested in, get in touch with me, and I will be glad to share details about how that works.

Slide 24. 3. Twitter.
I have a dedicated Twitter account, @MindsetPlay, that I use just for growth mindset and related materials. You can see the live feed inside the Canvas course, and I did a CanvasLIVE that explains how to use real Twitter widgets this way inside a Canvas course: Twitter4Canvas CanvasLIVE.

Slide 25. 4. YouTube.
I have a YouTube playlist of growth mindset videos. Please send me suggestions of videos you find useful in teaching about growth mindset with your students! There’s a Feedback form at the site you can use for that. Also, I have a CanvasLIVE about YouTube Playlists coming up this summer: Amplify YouTube with Playlists.

Slide 26. 5. Padlet.
I am really excited about using Padlet to collect and share thoughts from my students about their growth mindset experiences. I find their ideas to be really inspiring! You can read more in my Canvas Community blog about Padlet and my Padlet Randomizer. I’ll be doing a CanvasLIVE on javascript randomizers like this: Laura’s Widget Warehouse: Canvas-Friendly Javascripts.

Slide 27. A recap….

Slide 28. Five Key Mindset Concepts.

Slide 29. Five Design Strategies.

Slide 30. Five Canvas-Friendly Tools

Slide 31. Let’s connect!
And I’m glad to discuss and brainstorm about any and all of those things! You can reach me at Twitter: @OnlineCrsLady and at the Canvas Community where I’m now blogging regularly.

Slide 32. Get Involved…

 

 

Blog-as-Homepage CanvasLIVE Slides

Here’s the Blog-as-Homepage Slidedeck for the upcoming CanvasLIVE, with notes and links below. After the CanvasLIVE event on April 6, I’ll add the YouTube video here too.

And here’s the video 🙂

Slide 1: CanvasLIVE opening slide.

Slide 2: Blog-as-Homepage title slide.

Slide 3: Connected Learning with Cats slide. This is the second in a series of Connected Learning with Cats demos for CanvasLIVE. Check out #CLCats at the Community, and you can find more information at the Connected Learning Cats posts here at my blog.

Slide 4More Canvas Projects. This slide provides links to some other Canvas projects I am working on. You can find all of those links here on the About Me page which I’ve put inside the Canvas: Growth Mindset course, my newest project!

PART A. Blog Tour. I’ll start off by showing you around the blog that I use for my class announcements.

Slide 5. Announcements as Exploration. I see announcements as a way to get important information to students, but also as a way to encourage them to explore, learning things to satisfy their curiosity and grow as learners. It’s not about “class content” in the sense that everybody in the class needs to read it and learn it. Instead, it’s more open-ended, trying to find ways to connect to the students one by one, across that wide range of individual interests. So, even if blog-based smorgasbord announcements aren’t a good fit for your class, you might still get some ideas here about open-ended, wide-ranging content “extras” that you can include in your classes.

Slide 6. Examples of Blog-as-Homepage. You can see how I do this in my two classes: Myth.MythFolklore.net and India.MythFolklore.net. How you might choose to organize your announcements blog would totally depend on your class, your students, their needs. My announcements blog has evolved over the past 10+ years, so I can assure you that it is a strategy that works for me. I was really glad to learn how to embed my announcements blog in Canvas just as I did for many years in D2L (the LMS we used for 10 years prior to Canvas at my school). I cannot answer people’s questions about the standard ways of doing announcements in Canvas because when we moved this year from D2L to Canvas, I just carried on with my embedded blog, just as I had done in D2L.

Slide 7. Class Business Section. There’s always a paragraph at the top with a reference to the day and week (there are new announcements every day, including Saturday and Sunday). I put the most important information that people might need in that top paragraph. Below that is a section called “Class Procedures and Reminders” which I try to keep to at most three items per day. These are paragraphs specifically related to class activities, especially any assignments that are due. I don’t have any images here, just text and links.

Slide 8. Fun Section. The rest of the body of the blog post contains stuff that is for fun and exploration. Each item has some kind of image or video that goes with it, and I’ll say more about that in the next part of this presentation.

Slide 9. More Fun in the Sidebar. The sidebar contains more fun stuff, all of which is dynamically generated. The sidebar is not something I have to edit; instead, the content creates itself. There are javascript randomizers from my Canvas Widget Warehouse, and I also have a Twitter stream there (find out more at Twitter4Canvas). More about the sidebar here: The Sidebar Never Sleeps.

Slide 10. What about Mobile? I use Blogger which has great support for mobile. It automatically detects when the browser is being used over mobile, and it defaults to a mobile view, suppressing the sidebar. You can simulate Blogger mobile view by adding ?m=1 to any Blogger blog or blog post address just to see what that looks like. That way I can be sure that the blog is useful to students whether they are watching it in the mobile view or in the laptop view with the sidebar. (My students mostly use laptops for their classwork since both classes are writing-intensive, but I know they use Canvas to check in on the calendar and announcements using their phones.)

Slide 11. Every Day Announcements. Blogging really lends itself to an “every day” approach, and that’s the approach I take with announcements. It’s also my philosophy of education in general, where I try to encourage my students to learn a little bit every day as opposed to the binge-and-purge learning that is so common, especially in higher education where classes don’t even meet every day. I don’t expect my students will actually read the announcements every day, but if they do, I have something to offer them!

PART B. Examples of Fun StuffI’ll show some examples here of the kinds of fun stuff I share with my students, focusing on the content that I’m also sharing through my Canvas Widget Warehouse, which means the content is all shared with you as well, ready to be deployed in your Canvas course Pages if you want.

Slide 12. Growth Mindset Cats. These are so popular with the students that I include them both in the sidebar and in the daily posts. You can find out more here: Growth Mindset Cats Widget. I’ll be doing a presentation on the Growth Mindset Cats for CanvasLIVE on April 20.

Slide 13. Free Books. I have a huge Library of Free Online Books for my students, and it is one of the main ways I hope to inspire them to keep on reading and learning after the class is over. You can find out more about the Freebookapalooza here. I’ll be doing a Freebookapalooza presentation for CanvasLIVE on June 15.

Slide 14. Student Projects. I love featuring student work in the daily announcements, both in the post and in the sidebar. Students can get ideas and inspiration from seeing other students’ work, and it also shows them that their work is important too, something that will live on in future classes. You can find out more about my Student Project Archive here.

Slide 15. Motivation. I’m a big believer in motivational graphics along with inspirational proverbs and memes.  I’ve got lots of different collections of graphics and memes which you can explore at the Widget Warehouse.

Slide 16. Videos. I really like including videos, and you can read more about my approach to YouTube videos and playlists here. I’ll be talking about YouTube Playlists at a CanvasLIVE on June 1.

Slide 17. Ask Your Students. Especially as you are developing the content to use in your announcements, ask your students! My students can choose an extra credit option each week to tell me what their favorite item was from the announcements (which is also a good way to get them to go back and review the announcements!), and that way I learn which kinds of content they are really connecting with. As a general rule, asking your students is pretty much the best way to improve your classes IMO.

PART C. Advantages of BloggingThese are the advantages of blogging, both for class announcements and also as a general practice.

Slide 18. Blogging and Co-Blogging. My classes consist of student blog networks, and so it is very important to me that I show the students how blogs can be a great space for writing and sharing online. I’m blogging, my students are blogging: we are co-bloggers.

Slide 19. Content Curation. Another thing I really like about blogs for content development is that they help you build content over time, post by post, and you can use the labels and search features of the blog to keep track of your editorial process, when you last used a piece of content in the blog, etc. etc. In my announcements, I am able to draw on a vast quantity of content that I have accumulated over the years; the blog helps me keep it all organized and ready for easy re-use.

Slide 20. Sharing and Syndication. By publishing content in a blog, I am able to connect and share with many people, not just my students. I’m also able to publish the content in one place and syndicate that content to other places: the announcements appear in my Canvas class spaces, it gets distributed by email, and people can also subscribe by RSS if they want. Students sometimes choose to remain on the class announcements blog email list, which always makes me happy, thinking about past students who might be out there reading the announcements too! If you are teaching in a K-12 environment and communication with parents is important to you, this type of approach to the announcements might be very helpful, since parents could also sign up to get the announcements by email.

PART D. Key Tips.

Slide 21. Use IFRAME. To use your blog as a Homepage, you’ll need to embed it in a Canvas Page using iframe, and it will need to have an HTTPS address. If you just want to include your blog as a navigation item, you can use the Redirect Tool to embed the blog in Canvas. That works great to get your blog inside Canvas, but for a Homepage, you need the iframe. Details here. My iframe looks like this; don’t forget that the address must be HTTPS!

<p><iframe src="https://ouclassannouncements.blogspot.com/" width="100%" height="1000"></iframe></p>

Slide 22. Be HTTP / HTTPS Aware. One potential problem you run into when you embed content in Canvas is that http links will not function. Your blog needs to be HTTPS, and so do the links in that blog. If the link is HTTP, then it must open in a new tab; otherwise, nothing will happen. Canvas will not open an HTTP link inside a Canvas page, but there will also be no error message; the link just won’t work. So, if there is any possibility that you will have HTTP links in your blog, you need to make sure that the links open in a new tab. I do that by having all links in the blog open in a new tab by including this in the <head> section of the blog; I’m sure there are other methods, but this is the easiest one for me:

<base target='_blank'/>

Slide 23. Include Navigation Links. This is a good rule for any kind of embedding: make sure you provide a link to the embedded object so that students can click on that link to access the content directly. That way, if anything goes wrong with the embedding, they can still access the content. You can also do your students a favor by letting them control the right-hand navigation panel. I configure my blog as the Front Page of the Pages area, and I make that Page the Homepage for the course. That means I can link to the Homepage URL (which displays the right-hand navigation panel) or I can link to the Front Page URL (which does not display the navigation). As a result, the students can toggle between the two views as they prefer. Details here.

And that’s all….!

Slide 24: Let’s connect!
I’m eager to brainstorm any time. You can ping me at Twitter whree I’m @OnlineCrsLady or leave a comment here, or we can connect at the Canvas Community.

Slide 25: CanvasLIVE closing slide.

Student Voices about Canvas: Spring edition

In Fall of this year (my first semester using Canvas), and again this Spring, I did a mid-semester survey of my students that was focused specifically on Canvas. In the Fall I had hoped there would be some kind of survey of students about Canvas, but I was told no mid-semester survey was planned. I don’t know if there was any end-of-semester Canvas survey of students conducted; if there was, I never saw the results. Since I learned a lot from the Fall survey that was useful to me, I decided to do the survey again in the Spring for comparison purposes. You can see all the survey data here:
Fall 2016
Spring 2017

Numbers

For the numeric ratings, the results were basically the same for both semesters. In comparison to D2L, the students on average rate Canvas “better” and about 1/3 of the students consider Canvas to be “far better” than D2L. Most of the students in my class are seniors so, like the faculty, they have years of experience with D2L, which means they are in a good position to compare the two systems.

I don’t use a lot of Canvas features, so the only features that I specifically asked students to rate were the Gradebook, Calendar, Messages, and Mobile App. In terms of the rating, the Gradebook is most highly rated (3.3 on a scale of 1 to 4), followed by the Calendar (2.8), then the Messages and Mobile App (both at 2.5).

Free Responses

As always, the most useful information is in the students’ free responses. I’d urge people just to read through the raw responses for Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 to get a sense of what they are like. I have a lot of thoughts about all of that, so to keep this blog post under control, I’ll just list 10 responses that come to mind.

1. Asking people to “give advice” on surveys is so productive! The most useful comments come from the two questions where I asked the students to give advice to instructors using Canvas and where I asked them to give advices to their fellow students. Unlike praise or complaints, advice is something actionable: when students give advice, they are oriented towards what people (instructors and students) can actually DO as we move to this new system so that we can make the best of it.

2. Students are driven by a focus on grades. Just speaking for myself, I consider the emphasis on grades to be a huge problem in education (details about my own un-grading here). Students are so focused on grades that they are not focused on their actual learning and how to become active, independent learners as they surely need to be. So, I’m not surprised that the Gradebook is the highest-rated Canvas feature, and if you read through the remarks in response to the question about what students like best about Canvas, it is comments about grades that predominate, as you can see in this word cloud from wordclouds.com. The fact that the LMS is largely an enrollment-and-grading tool is why I use the LMS very little in my own classes.

3. Email versus messages. There is a lot of dissatisfaction with Canvas messages, and some students said they would just prefer emails (like in D2L). Because of the extremely poor messaging inside the Canvas Gradebook compared to D2L, I send students a mix of Canvas messages and direct email, and I make sure to explain my approach to them. I don’t think students realize that we have no access to their email from inside Canvas (and I know there is faculty dissatisfaction with that also). It’s also clear that some students have either not configured the notifications at all or they find the configurations inadequate (getting too many messages by email or too few). I am very sympathetic to their wanting different settings for different classes, given that different instructors use Canvas in different ways.

4. Roster email. I was surprised to see how many students missed the roster email option; I had no idea students were even using that in D2L, and they have indeed noticed that it is not possible to email the whole class in Canvas. In my classes, I do Daily Announcements and I invite students to share announcements with me which I then include in the overall Announcements. I personally really don’t want students emailing the whole class with their own announcements, but I am very glad to publicize announcements for them as part of the regular class announcements.

5. Modules. Students clearly want course materials organized in modules, and they are frustrated if they have to navigate the Files, Assignments, or other areas to look for content that is not in a Module. There was also a good discussion of this topic at the Canvas Community recently: Faculty having a hard time with Modules (you can view that discussion without even logging in to the Community, which is great; to comment, you need to log in with your OU Canvas account).

6. Published… or not. A recurring student complaint is that faculty think they have published content when, in fact, they have not pressed the publish button. I’ve run into this problem myself; I think it would be a big help if Canvas made it much more obvious to faculty what materials have not been published yet, perhaps with some big banner across the top of each unpublished page. One student suggested that instructors use the Student View more so that they can realize for themselves where there are holes in the course as a result of unpublished materials. And, of course, experiencing the course as a student does is always a good idea; I personally really appreciate the way the Student View in Canvas is much more flexible than the D2L Student View was (you can actually complete assignments and view the Gradebook as a simulated student in Canvas).

7. Ready… or not. Students are also clearly frustrated when courses are not completely configured at the beginning of the semester. They want to be able to see all the content in advance and to use the grade calculator based on the whole semester. If faculty are adding and editing course materials as the semester goes along, students feel confused and/or frustrated.

8. Unused buttons. Several students remarked that instructors should disable course navigation buttons they are not using. Personally, I think it would be better to start out the default course spaces with only the homepage button enabled, and then let faculty ENABLE the buttons they are actually going to use since it is indeed unlikely that they are going to disable the buttons they are not using… although they certainly should do so!

9. Use the grace period. A couple of students recommended to instructors that they “use the grace period” which refers to the way that Canvas allows a soft deadline and a hard deadline for all assignments, which was not true in D2L. I’ve written about that elsewhere, and we had a good discussion about that just the other day in the Canvas Community: Grace Period.

10. Dashboard. Now that students are using Canvas for more classes, there were more remarks about the dashboard. I will write up a new Tech Tip to add to my collection (Canvas Tech Tips) to make sure students know what options they have for customizing the Dashboard. And I keep hoping the color overlay problem will be fixed soon (discouraging lack of updates here), because the Dashboard will be so much better when Canvas does not mess with our course card images. I like having the images, and I am eager to get rid of the overlay by next semester (fingers crossed…).

So, I’ll stop there, but I would encourage people to read the comments from my students or, even better, ask your own students what they think of how you are using Canvas. They might give you some great advice in return! 🙂

Notes on YouTube Playlists

I wanted to write up some notes for a possible CanvasLIVE demo on working with YouTube Playlists, so I checked the Community to see who might have posted about this already, and I found a very useful post from Laura Joseph: Video killed my Canvas page. She discusses the power of playlists and also the very useful “start at” hack.

I also found this very useful page from Adam Williams: Embedding Content Using the Public Resources LTI. YouTube is indeed one of the resources you can embed that way, along with Vimeo, SchoolTube, Khan Academy, and Quizlet.

In this post, I’ll share my tips and tricks for working with YouTube playlists, starting with some examples of the kinds of playlists I use in my classes, and then some nitty-gritty how-to information about creating and maintaining playlists, and also about embedding videos and playlists in Canvas.

Why playlists? When you share videos in a playlist, it gives your students some learning context for what you are sharing, and it also gives them other videos to watch if/when they reach the end of the video that you are sharing. I try to only share videos in playlists; it doesn’t take any more time to share videos-in-playlists, and it really adds to the value!

SAMPLE PLAYLISTS

Spring 2017 Announcements: I include a video in the announcements each day, and that builds up to a big playlist by the end of the semester. It also means that each day’s video in the announcements is connected to all the other videos of the semester. I embed this playlist in the sidebar of the announcements blog.

Growth Mindset and HEART: These are student success / motivational videos that are connected to the growth mindset and Learning by H.E.A.R.T. activities in my classes. I embed these videos in the sidebars of the blogs for these activities: Growth Mindset blog and H.E.A.R.T. blog.

Indian Music: I really like sharing music from India with my Indian Epics class, so I keep a big Indian Music playlist, and I also have dedicated playlists for some of my favorite artists like Maati Baani and Manish Vyas. The same videos can appear in multiple playlists so it’s easy to have big playlists and also more specialized lists too. You can see the Indian Music playlist in the sidebar of my Indian Epics Comics blog.

Epified Videobooks: An amazing resource for my Indian Epics class is the Epified Channel’s videobooks based on Devdutt Pattanaik’s “Seven Secrets” series for Hindu Calendar ArtVishnu, and the Goddess. You can see one of those playlists embedded here in my PAINT Canvas workshop: Calendar Art.

TIPS AND TRICKS

Creating a playlist. This is a tip I wrote up for my students. It covers how to create a playlist and add videos, and then how to share the playlist list and/or to embed the playlist in a blog. You can find lots more info at the YouTube Help page for Creating and Managing Playlists. You can even do collaborative playlists, although this is a feature I have not used myself. You can also build playlists that add new videos automatically, although again this is a feature I have not used myself.

Keeping playlists fresh. Some playlists you might want to keep fresh; that’s the case for my Indian Music playlist, for example. Other playlists might have static content that doesn’t change, like the Pattanaik videobooks. When you have a playlist that needs fresh content, you can add new videos… but you can also just recycle videos from the bottom of the playlist up to the top. To do that, hover over the time display for the video listing in the playlist, and then make it the thumbnail (if you want) and move it to the top of the playlist. When you do that, it refreshes the content of the playlist wherever it is embedded.

EMBEDDING IN CANVAS

And now, last but not least, embedding YouTube playlists and playlist videos in Canvas! First, you need to ask yourself if you want to embed a video-in-a-playlist or if you want to embed a playlist.

When you embed a video-in-a-playlist, the video will display, along with controls that allow students to move backwards or forwards in the playlist. By default, when the current video finishes, the display will move on to the next video in the playlist.

When you embed a playlist, the top video in the playlist will be the video that plays. This means the content is dynamic; when you change the top video in the playlist, that will change the playlist display wherever you have the playlist embedded.

To embed a VIDEO, just click on the Share button you see underneath the video, and select Embed. You will see that you have some options to configure, including the size! See the iframe code in the box? That is what you will copy-and-paste into Canvas.

To embed a PLAYLIST, go to the Playlist page, click on the Share button there, and then Embed, and you will see the same type of dialogue box as for a video share. Just like with the videos, you can configure the playlist width and other options.

So, once you have got the iframe code, you can paste that into the HTML Editor view of a Canvas page. If you want to center the video, just type VIDEO or something like that, center it, and then you will know exactly where to paste the iframe code when you are looking at the HTML Editor view:

Beware the Canvas-Bot. Be warned: Canvas will offer to convert a YouTube link into an embedded video for you, but the results are pretty poor, as you can see from this comparison page: YouTube Playlists in Canvas. It’s easy to learn how to configure your own YouTube embedding and do that yourself instead of letting the Canvas-Bot do that for you. 🙂

So, that’s an overview of how I am using the amazing power of YouTube playlists in my classes. What about you? Share your stories, questions, and suggestions in the comments! 🙂

Connected Learning with Cats: An Index

I’ve started an index post here at the blog to keep up with the Connected Learning with Cats presentations I’m developing for CanvasLIVE, along with related materials. I’m so grateful to the people at Canvas for making this possible, and I hope to connect and learn with/from other people I might not have reached otherwise! I’ll update this post as new links become available.

YouTube Playlists: event | YouTube | slidedeck
This event is coming up on Thursday, June 1 at 3PM EST.

Using Free Online Books: event | YouTube | slidedeck
This event is coming up on Thursday, June 15 at 3PM EST.

Pinterest and Flickr: event | YouTube | slidedeck
This event is coming up on Thursday, June 29 at 3PM EST.

Completed events:

Twitter4Canvas: event | YouTube | slidedeck
This event took place on Thursday, March 23 at 3PM EST.

Blog-as-Homepage: event | YouTube | slidedeck
This event took place on Thursday, April 6 at 3PM EST.

Growth Mindset: event | YouTube | slidedeck
This event took place on Thursday, April 20 at 3PM EST.

Javascripts in Canvas: event | YouTube | slidedeck
This event took place on Thursday, May 4 at 3PM EST.

~ ~ ~

I have a long list of other topics I would like to work on, and any feedback about topics of special interest would be much appreciated! There are a lot of different educational approaches that resonate with me, but “connected learning” is the one that best expresses the whole range of things I try to do as a teacher and also the range of things that help me as a learner.

I am still hoping to create a Connected Learning Group at the Community, so if you want to support that, it’s open for voting here: Feature Request — Connected Learning Group.

And, of course, there are cats; these are the random Mindset Cats which are also available as a Canvas widget:

Twitter and Connected Learning

In my Twitter4Canvas workshop and in the CanvasLIVE Twitter Widget demo, I’ve mostly kept the focus on the what-and-how: what are Twitter widgets and how do you use them in Canvas? There are so many possible ways to use Twitter, and these instructions will hold true for any possible use of Twitter. My use of Twitter is very much about connected learning, so that’s what I want to write about in this blog post.

Here are the ways I think about Twitter as a space for connected learning:

CONNECTING WITH STUDENTS. I use a class Twitter account to connect with my students, sharing things that I find at Twitter which I think can be useful and/or fun for them. Because I teach fully online classes, I need to find online ways to connect with my students, and Twitter is one of those ways. Every time they come to Canvas or visit one of our class web spaces (the UnTextbook, our class wiki, etc.), they are likely to see a Twitter stream in the sidebar. Sometimes what they see in the Twitter stream will be related to the content of the class, but often it is something extra: university announcements, campus events, etc. As I work with the students and get to know them, I try to find Twitter items that will appeal to them, as well as sharing Twitter items that help them learn about my own interests. When I find a Twitter item that I am sure will be of interest to a particular student, I send them an email with a link to the Twitter item: that’s one of the best connections of all!

CONNECTING WITH THE WORLD. Both of the classes I teach have a big reach: World Folklore and Mythology (so, yep, that’s potentially the whole world!) and Epics of Ancient India (but I certainly don’t limit it to ancient India; the modern relevance of the epics is a key theme in the class). By using Twitter, I can connect my students to people in other countries, showing the living presence of the class content in people’s lives today. For the Myth-Folklore class, one of the best ways to connect is with the #FolkloreThursday hashtag (it is seriously amazing, week after week), and in the Indian Epics class, I am so excited to connect with authors that we read in the class, especially Devdutt Pattanaik, a personal hero of mine. I can also connect the students with Indian musicians, like Maati Baani, who are doing beautiful fusion folk music; check out their latest video here, honoring the farmers of India: Saccha Mitra (True Friend).

INTERNET CONNECTEDNESS. The strength of the Internet comes from linkiness, the way one thing on the Internet is connected to another and another and another. Even better are embedded links where the browser goes and fetches the linked content and displays it for you, as it does with images and videos. That’s why I prefer real Twitter widgets to the Canvas Twitter app which displays no images or video. The media displays for both images and video in Twitter are really good, even in the tiny widget version. As a general rule, I only reshare that type of “connected” content at Twitter: tweets with images or video, or tweets with links… including the hashtag links that are one of Twitter’s greatest strengths.

HASHTAG CONNECTIONS. Whoever invented the hashtag is an Internet genius in my opinion. The hashtag allows people to connect and find each other in the vastness of Twitter based on shared interests, like the #FolkloreThursday example that I shared above, and as in the phenomenon of Twitter chats, which teachers use so well (like in Oklahoma’s own long-running #OklaEd chat every Sunday evening).

CONNECTING A CLASS NETWORK. Some people also use Twitter as a way for students to connect with other students, which is a great idea in my opinion! In my classes, the students are connecting with each other through their blog network, but if I were not teaching writing (blogs are great for writing), I would definitely consider using Twitter as a platform for building a class network. If anybody reading this blog post uses Twitter for class networking, share your story in the comments!

TWITTER AS PLN. Although my primary use of Twitter is to find and share content with my classes, I also use Twitter as a personal learning network, especially for connecting with other people at my school (I live in NC but I teach “in” Oklahoma, and Twitter is a big part of how I stay informed about what’s happening on the Norman campus). So, to close out this post, I will share this fun infographic from Sylvia Duckworth about connected educators on Twitter:

And of course there are connected cats for that:

I’ll be crossposting this at the Canvas Community.

My Courses… in just 10 links :-)

I’m attending a video-meeting on Thursday with some people I’ve known for a long (LONG) time and also some people I have not met before; the person organizing the meeting asked me to prepare a quick tour of my courses and how they work.

So, what I decided to do is to create a kind of link-trail that people can follow, stopping out at any point along the way to explore… and then coming back to pick up the trail again. I’ll limit myself to 10 links to keep from things getting too much out of control!

  1. Canvas Courses. I teach two courses, and I’ve set them both up as open courses, so you can click and go right there: Myth.MythFolklore.net and Indian.MythFolklore.net. I created those as URLs at my MythFolklore.net domain that I can redirect every semester; my specific Canvas course address changes every semester, but those custom URLs are always good. As you can see, I use a blog as my announcements homepage. My goal is for students to see something new every time they come to the Canvas course space. So, there are new announcements every day, and randomizers in the sidebar too.

  2. Class Calendar. In the upper-right box of the announcements blog there’s a link to the Class Calendar; the calendar is the same for both classes. I’m always hoping that students are working ahead in the class, so I created this calendar page with the current week and next week up at the top, a random “time management” meme, and the remaining weeks of the semester down below, plus completed weeks.

  3. Weekly Activities. Each week, both classes have the same structure, with six core activities, plus extra credit every week too. The week starts off with reading (the students do two blog posts with their notes, so that’s two assignments), followed by a story post (either writing an actual story, or planning a story that they will write the next week). That’s the first half of the week. Then, in the second half, students work on their projects (either a Portfolio of stories at their blog, or a separate Storybook website), and they also comment on each other’s blog posts and projects. The only difference between the two classes is the reading, so that’s why I am able to use these weekly assignment lists for both classes. Here’s Week 9 for example.

  4. Reading. In both classes, the students choose what they want to read. In Myth-Folklore, the readings are all online at our UnTextbook. In Indian Epics, there is a library of free online books plus a fabulous collection of materials on reserve and for checkout in Bizzell. In the Myth-Folklore UnTextbook, there are 100 reading units to choose from, and the students move through different regions week by week; in Week 9 in Myth-Folklore, for example, the readings are from Native American stories.

  5. Storytelling. Instead of reading for a quiz or exam, the students are reading to find raw materials for the stories they want to retell. You can see a stream of the story posts and story planning posts from the Myth-Folklore class here, and from Indian Epics here.

  6. Projects. Some students collect their favorite story posts into a Portfolio as their semester-long project; other students choose a topic that they work on all semester, creating a Storybook website for the stories they are writing. You can see this semester’s projects for both classes here: Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics.

  7. Project Archive. I’ve been teaching my classes this way since back in 2002, and students have been doing projects all that time. Almost all the students leave their Storybooks online after the class is over, for which I am very grateful; the archive of links to past projects is the most important resource in my class for helping the new students each semester to see themselves as writers and to be ambitious about their own projects: eStorybook Central.

  8. Comments and Feedback. One of the most important parts of the class is learning both how to give feedback and also how to make use of the feedback you receive. I put the students into blog groups and project groups each week using a randomizing spreadsheet. Thanks to the power of random, the students get to meet and interact with all the other students in the class week by week, and there’s an extra credit commenting option each week too if they want to reconnect with students they have met in past weeks. Here’s what one of the blog comment group pages looks like: Myth-Folklore Week 8.

  9. Extra Credit. I use extra credit as a way for students to make up missing assignments. It is also a way for them to do more of what they really like in the class (more reading, more commenting), and there are also some metacognitive and reflection assignments. I am a big believer in the power of growth mindset and other self-awareness strategies, so I like to promote them in the class by means of these extra credit options. Here’s what the range of extra credit looks like each week.

  10. Orientation. Okay, I’ll finish by going back around to the start of things: if you want to get started in the same way the students get started, you can begin at the Orientation Week. For the past couple of years I’ve used this Dumbledore meme to get things started…

(Word Magic)

Advice: Use the Canvas “Grace Period”

Students are filling out Canvas Surveys this week as part of my mid-semester evaluation process, and I’ll be reporting back on that after Spring Break… one survey result popped up yesterday, though, that caught my attention because for the question soliciting “advice to instructors using Canavs” the student wrote something in all-caps:

The Grace Period is a term I use in my classes to refer to the difference between the soft deadline at midnight and the hard deadline at noon the next day. I really like how Canvas makes that easy to do, unlike D2L. I wrote a post about this last Fall, so I am reposting it here, prompted by my student’s plea to faculty in all-caps! 🙂


Today I want to focus on what I think is one of the best features in Canvas: there are two different “deadlines” for any assignment, not just one. Generically, these are usually referred to as “soft deadline” and “hard deadline,” although I like to call it a “grace period” when explaining the system to my students.

D2L did not have a two-deadline option — not for quizzes anyway, although for reasons unfathomable to mere mortals, they did offer it in the Dropbox (which I never used). In Canvas, it’s consistent across the system: if you have a due date, you can choose a soft deadline and a hard deadline, and I would urge everyone to consider taking advantage of this system. I cannot imagine teaching without it! In my classes, I use the “grace period” as an automatic emergency extension, no questions asked, so that if students are a little bit late with an assignment, they can still turn it in, no problem, no penalty. Specifically, I have assignments that are due by midnight on such-and-such a day, but there is a grace period until noon the next day, and I offer that “grace period” for every assignment in my class.

Advantages. There are several advantages to this approach.

Just practically speaking, it means that midnight does not become some kind of fetish. Sure, if I say something is due on Tuesday, I’d like for them to finish the assignment on Tuesday, but it honestly doesn’t make any difference if students turn something in at 2AM as opposed to midnight. I’m not awake at 2AM, but I know that many of my students are.

This approach also respects the fact that there are all kinds of emergencies that come up in people’s lives; that’s only natural. Students shouldn’t have to share those details of their private lives with me, and they shouldn’t need me to pronounce on what is a “legitimate” emergency or not. If they consider something an emergency so that they are not able to finish an assignment on time, that’s totally their decision, and they can finish up the assignment the next morning.

I also offer extra credit options to make up for assignments they miss if the grace period is not enough; I’ll write about that in a separate post.

Grace period in D2L: so clunky! When I used this system in D2L — and I did, for many years — it was really clunky. D2L has only one possible deadline you can set for a quiz (which is how my students “turned in” all their assignments), so I had to make it the noon deadline of the following day. I would title each assignment based on the day it was due — “Wednesday Storytelling” for example — but that assignment would show up as due on Thursday at noon in the calendar.

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-11-37-43-am

Even with that serious drawback, I did use this system in D2L, and I was really excited when I learned that this is an easy-to-design option in Canvas, something that is officially built in as part of the assignment/calendar system.

Here’s how it works in Canvas:

When you set the availability dates for an assignment, you have three different dates you can enter:

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-11-44-32-am

  • Due: The due date is what shows up on the calendar. All my assignments are due on a specific day, and I let it default to the Canvas end-of-day time which is 11:59PM.
  • Available from: This is the earliest possible date on which students can complete an assignment. I use this option for only a few assignments. I prefer for students to work ahead whenever possible so, as a general rule, all my assignments are available starting on the first day of class, which means I leave this option blank.
  • Available until: This is when the item actually becomes unavailable to students. So, for this, I set the available until date for every assignment be noon the next day (I use 11:59AM instead of noon to parallel Canvas’s default use of 11:59PM for midnight).

The grace period is that gap between the “due” date in Canvas and the “available until” date.

Gradebook highlighting. If a student turns something in during that grace period, it shows up as a red in the Gradebook, but with no penalty. To be honest, having those red highlights is not very useful. You can see the splotches of red in the Gradebook; here is a screenshot of my smushed Gradebook (more about the awful Gradebook in a separate post) that shows the pattern of grace period use in one of my classes:

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-10-47-55-am

Instead of those splotches of red, I would actually prefer a real report about students who are using the grace period a lot so that I could share that data back with students. Is that possible? I couldn’t find anything like that in the Canvas documentation, and given the extremely in-flexible and un-useful Canvas Gradebook, I guess I am not surprised. If I had such a report, I could share that report with students who are struggling with time management so that they would know just how often they are using the grace period. They could then could consider making it a personal goal to use the grace period less often, but Canvas unfortunately doesn’t give me any data to use in that way (at least not that I can find out).

In terms of my Canvas advice tips, I would rate this one at the very top: it really does help students! So, I would strongly urge faculty to consider using this two-deadline option in Canvas. You couldn’t set a grace period with quizzes in D2L, but now with Canvas, you can!

As for procrastination: it’s a proverbial problem, something that we are all struggling with: For the diligent, a week has seven days; for the slothful, seven tomorrows. I am grateful for any and every tool I can use that will help my students to manage their time in positive, successful ways.

Carpe Diem

carpe

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community: Instructional Designers.

Mid-Semester Reflections from Students

In an earlier post, I outlined my mid-semester feedback/evaluation process, and now the mid-semester week is here. I really enjoy getting this feedback from students. When they are happy, I am happy… and when they are not happy, that gives me challenges to work on in future semesters. And there is never a shortage of challenges. But that’s good: we all get to keep on learning!

On Monday, students finished up the first part of the process, which is a general Reflections post. You can see the prompt here. There’s no word-count minimum or maximum; some students write a lot, others not so much. I learn things from every post, partly just from the contents of the post itself, but even more so from seeing that in the context of each student’s class project, etc.

I read the posts in Inoreader, but it’s also possible to use Inroeader to share a live stream of the posts in other spaces, so I create that live stream to share with Scott Dennis here: Blog Network RSS (with Inoreader): Reflections Posts. That’s a Canvas page, as you can see in this screenshot. Scott was interested in some quotes about #connectedlearning from students, so I’ve also highlighted some quotes below, along with a step by step for anybody who’s curious about the amazing powers of Inoreader.

What follows are selected quotes about connected learning with class-as-community; as you can see, the students are writing stories every week that are inspired by the reading, and they are also reading and commenting on each other’s stories. I don’t want them to just be waiting for my reactions to their writing; I want them to all be reacting and learning from each other all the time: that’s how massive learning happens. For a typical week’s assignments, see Week 7 (the week before this one). Meanwhile, here are some student comments where they are remarking on what they learn from in each other’s stories:

I think what I have enjoyed most about this class so far is reading other people’s stories and getting to enjoy such a wide range of writing styles. It has given me inspiration for my own writing, and it has been a great tool to see just how differently people might choose to interpret a story.

When reading other’s stories, I love looking at the different styles and vocabulary that people use in order to get their message across. Everyone writes differently and seeing those differences manifest themselves into great stories is awesome! I enjoy seeing all the creativity. I have been receiving lots of great feedback on my stories and I have been doing my best to give the same kind of valuable feedback to other students in this class.

I love reading all the different stories and seeing all the different writing styles that we have in this class. I have also enjoyed getting to read peoples introductions, I think that these posts give people the opportunity to express themselves in a way a typical in class introduction would not let you. I have also learned so much more about my classmates through the online introductions than I feel like I ever would have learned in a classroom setting.

When I read other people’s stories I often find myself amazed at how well other people can write. My skill level in writing is not the highest so it is nice to read something that is done by a better writer than myself. It helps me to study their writing style a bit and then add it to my own.

When I read other people’s stories, I am blown away. People do such an amazing job and are so experienced. The creativity in this class is honestly amazing. I think I have been so amazed I forget to be constructive so I will focus on being more constructive as well these next few weeks.

I really enjoy looking at other’s blogs and reading their work. It is cool to see how someone can take the same original story I have read and interpret it in a completely different way in their own story. I also admire those in this class who are technologically gifted and have truly made their blogs a work of art.

When I look at other people’s story I love how majority of them use a lot of dialogue. Dialogue is one of the things that I struggle the most with so I would love to be able to incorporate it more in my own stories.

I have been liking everyone’s stories so far. They are all so different and unique, that I get a new perspective on story writing every time I go to someone’s blog. I think that I need to use dialogue more in my stories. I read a lot of great stories where the author used dialogue really well, and that is something I struggle with.

I think one of the best ways to develop my writing skills is simply to practice, read others’ stories, and get feedback- all things we do in this class!

I saw a story one of my peers wrote and was amazed. He made me think about the different ways I could write a story for this class and the future. He spoke through to the reader breaking the 4th wall, so to speak. I felt like he really captivated the reader instantly and kept their attention. 

Each week as I read unique and wonderfully written stories, I am amazed on how people can create so many different stories from different perspectives, inspirations, and characters all derived from the same story. After reading their stories, I became more determined to enhance my storytelling, and judging by my writing since the beginning of the semester, I can honestly say that I’ve noticeably improved!

I really like reading others’ stories simply to see the wide array of storytelling techniques and styles people have.

I think my fellow students are very talented. I like reading their work because they bring different perspectives and insights to the same readings. I have noticed that the other students have no problem making their stories short and to the point. This is something that I need to work on, so it helps for me to read their work and to understand how they think and write. I love a cliff hanger, but I definitely need to work on bringing my stories to a close without going way over the word count.

I so admire the creativity of so many of the other students in this class. I am blown away by how they have written their stories and how they have made them their own.

I love the imagery that some people have used in their stories. I feel like I am there with the character and not just reading about him or her. I am definitely working on that especially with my storybook.

When I read other peoples stories, I admire a lot of the different qualities that people use. I like the dialogue and description. I think that my stories could use more of that.

I really like everybody’s creative ideas. I’m always amazed by what everybody comes up with about the stories! We don’t all read the same ones, too, and I really like seeing what everybody else chooses to read.

I really enjoy good stories. There are so many people in class with amazing writing skills and there are some that are about average. Some people have the tendency to make their stories a huge wall of text that makes it hard to digest the story. That is something I would like to avoid in my writing. 

As far as other people, I really enjoy reading my classmates stories. I love seeing how we all interpret things differently, and how our creativity comes out in different ways as well.

I admire the variety of people in this class. We have professional writers, engineers, nurses, and a crazy active mom. Everyone is so unique in their own special way. Its great seeing the different approaches they have to writing as well.

When thinking about other people’s stories, a couple things come to mind. First, there are a lot of good writers out there! At least that’s what I’ve noticed when reading other people’s stories. Some good habits that they have is their use of detail and imagery, both things that I am trying to improve upon. Second, is their grammatical errors in their stories. For the most part this doesn’t really bother me, but if I’m reading along and there’s a trip up in the writing, it throws off my groove and that can be a little annoying. I think that people just get excited when writing their stories and they forget to go back and edit their stories afterwards. I guess that’s where feedback comes in.

One of my favorite parts of each weeks assignments is to read other peoples stories. I like to see how creative people can get. We all read the same thing each week, so it is really interesting to see how they interpreted it and how they think about the content that was assigned. Reading these stories also allows me to see what to avoid. I try to stay away from too much dialogue. I also try to stay away from really long paragraphs. When I read stories that have big chunks for paragraphs, it gets tiring and draining for the reader. Either add some pictures to divide it up or make smaller paragraphs! This class is able to allow the readers and writer to grow every week, and I really admire that!

I enjoy the weekly commenting so much more than I would’ve expected to. It’s so interesting seeing how the same source material can end up becoming so many different things once different people start approaching it, and how sometimes you can see the interests mentioned in people’s intro posts end up influencing what they do in their stories.

I think another interesting facet of this class is being able to read the other student’s posts because it not only shows their creativity but helps me gain some inspiration as well! 

I have enjoyed reading my classmate’s stories so far this semester and I am often inspired by their creativity and unique approaches to stories that I never would have thought of! Sometimes, I am intimidated by reading them because I feel like my stories are far inferior, but it it still enjoyable and inspiring for me.

I definitely aspire to write more like some of the people in their class. I wish I could easily write funny stories that flow well. Some of my classmates are fantastic writers.

When I look at other people’s stories, I admire the details. Again, with my background in journalism and nonfiction writing, I have lost my creative mind, in my opinion. I don’t feel like I have gotten back into touch with a way to create vivid details. I could do it with nonfiction/journalism, but it took a while to master that because I had to create vivid words (not details) using the actual details the source had given me. So there wasn’t much leeway given to me. So I truly enjoy seeing the creativity of the students and hopefully I can force my brain into letting it be more creative.

In other people’s stories, I most admire creativity. I wonder how people came up with the storylines, and what motivates them.

Looking at writings from other students, I think the biggest thing I notice is other people’s ability to write descriptively. I can often see something vividly in my head but it doesn’t translate to paper like I’d like it to. So, I’m envious of others that can do it and I always aspire to improve that area of my writing.

I most admire some people innate ability to write stories that just flow perfectly. It seems like they can just think of a topic and write a story without even thinking much. That most likely isn’t the case, but there are a few writers in our class who I can tell are on another level when it comes to storytelling and their posts overall.

I dread dialogue, and will do everything in my power to avoid writing it. It so happens that that is exactly what I love the most about other peoples stories. So many of my fellow classmates can write dialogue, and they are amazing at it, and it makes me envious of that ability. Conversely, I feel like they end up missing part of the stories because they focus on the dialogue so much that there is not space for descriptions or support. To much dialogue and the story feels superficial. Oh well, maybe I should stop shying away from the dreaded conversation.

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The Amazing Powers of Inoreader

And if you are interested in the amazing way Inoreader makes that possible in just a few minutes, here’s a quick run-down:

Subscribe to blogs. I’ve subscribed to my students’ blogs and put those subscriptions in a folder in Inoreader. Details here.

Rule. I create a rule to automatically assign a tag to incoming posts with the word “Reflections” in the title. (That’s part of the assignment instructions.) You can create a rule before any posts have come in for an assignment, or you can create it after the fact and Inoreader will run the rule retroactively on the last 1000 posts in the folder:

Turn on syndication. I then turn on syndication for that tag.

HTML clippings. I then configure the HTML clippings, and I remember (!!!) to change the http to https. Thanks to Alexis for reminding me about that yesterday! (I do it automatically and sometimes I forget to mention it when I give instructions like this.)

Paste the iframe in Canvas. You see the results here: Blog Network RSS (with Inoreader): Reflections Posts.

And of course there must be a cat:

Look for patterns in the feedback.