Twitter4Canvas: I’m excited about this!

Okay, I’m officially excited about this. Whether or not it turns out useful at my school, I am really going to have fun putting together what I’ve learned from past projects — my Twitter Bootcamp of last winter break, and the Canvas Widget Warehouse from this winter break — in order to do something nice with Twitter4Canvas.

I explained yesterday what I did to get started, and here are the new developments today:

Sample Page. I’ve got one sample page up and running, showing how you can create a Twitter widget in OU Create and then publish it inside a Canvas page. Here’s a screenshot, and since the course is open, you can visit the page: Hashtag Search Widget. It will be fun teaching people how to use the https power of OU Create in order to get around the (totally annoying) security measures in Canvas that prevent instructors from using javascripts.

Blog for Content. Creating content inside Canvas is a nightmare, so I’ll only be putting up sample pages there; I need a real space in which to do the content. So, I quickly created a Twitter4Canvas blog, and I also started reposting there some useful Twitter graphics I’ve collected over the past couple of years. I have lots more to add from the heap of stuff I collected for the Bootcamp. Although I don’t really use Twitter as my own PLN (I prefer Google+), I do find Twitter to be an amazing resource for my classes, so I am really excited about sharing how I use Twitter with others, and of course I am also going to learn a lot by thinking about other ways to use Twitter in Canvas. Ideally, my school will publicize this with faculty and I will be able to brainstorm with them about their classes too!

And from my new blog, here’s a great graphic by Bryan Mathers: for me, Twitter is all about the network of creativity!

Okay, I will have more to say about this project over the weekend, but I am glad I got it off to a solid start. I think I will have the mini-course ready in a couple of weeks. Fingers crossed!

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

Twitter4Canvas: Getting Started

So as I was pondering yesterday’s #MuseumSelfie and today’s #FolkloreThursday (such a great hashtag for my Myth-Folklore class), I was thinking that I should build a Twitter4Canvas course to help people learn how to harness the power of Twitter inside Canvas. I did a Twitter Bootcamp for the Tech Expo last year but between D2L (yawn) and the fact that IT and CTE chose not to publicize the Bootcamp, it fizzled. Totally fizzled. But I amassed a lot of useful materials I could re-use, and of course with Canvas and OPEN courses, this is much more likely to succeed: anybody can use the Canvas materials, no redtape enrollment and start-stop dates required.

So, I’m going to use this blog for brainstorming over the next two weeks, with a goal of actually creating the course that first weekend in February, and then refine it as time goes on.

I’ll start by creating a class.
https://canvas.ou.edu/courses/56095

Then I’ll make a custom URL: Twitter.LauraGibbs.net. I’ll have it go to the page I’ve chosen as the homepage for the course (front page of the wiki).

Settings: I need a nice Twitter bird image; I should be able to find one at Flickr.

Navigation: I guess I just need Pages and Modules. I’ll redirect Pages-Home as overall Homepage. Oh, I’ll use a Syllabus too.

And I’ll use the ridiculous “Redirect Tool” to add a link in the sidebar to my two Twitter accounts (I cannot believe every new link in the sidebar is an “app” … ugh).
Update: I forgot how totally annoying it is that Canvas will not just let people click on links in the sidebar without being “warned” that they are leaving Canvas. Ugh. Not worth it.

Okay, published! And just to get one page up and running, I’ll put in a FolkloreThursday widget as a taste of things to come. YES: Here is #FolkloreThursday happily displaying in Canvas.

Okay, that’s enough for today, but I’ll come back and continue tinkering tomorrow.

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

Twitter in Canvas and the Occasional Hashtag

Since today is #MuseumSelfie Day, there are all kinds of fun photos showing up in Twitter, just the kind of thing that I like to share with my classes via the class Twitter feed at @OnlineMythIndia. The most likely place that students see that is when they log on to Canvas and see the announcements blog as the homepage, with Twitter in the sidebar! Here’s a screenshot:

Of course, they might also see the Twitter in the sidebar of another blog for the class, in the sidebar of the class wiki, or they might even follow the class Twitter if they are Twitter users themselves.

In any case, I really like the fact that on #MuseumSelfie Day, I can share fun pictures with my students, bringing both art and fun into their online course experience. 🙂

I’ve been thinking that to contribute to the ongoing Canvas training efforts that are happening on my campus, I’d like to create a totally asynchronous, come-and-go-whenever Canvas course on using Twitter with a special focus on how you can use Twitter in Canvas. The power of Twitter widgets is mighty!

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

Martin Luther King Canvas Widget

I did not post anything in this blog so far this week: there was Martin Luther King Day on Monday, and then school started on Tuesday — and the first day of school is always wild. But it’s now Wednesday; I’ve got 84 blogs up and running and all happily networked (just waiting on 2 more), so I wanted to catch up here a little bit.

First, I want to share the Martin Luther King Day widget which I made, using some King quote posters that I had created a few years ago in honor of the holidays. Like with my other widgets, you will find it in the Canvas Widget Warehouse. There’s an iframe version you can use inside Canvas, plus javascripts you can use in a blog, like there (just reload for more):



Even though I only use that widget one day a year, I am really glad for it: on that day, I replace the daily class announcement blog post (which students see as the Canvas homepage) with a post that features the widget, and I also include the 200-pixel version of the widget in the blog’s sidebar. That means students who are doing work for the class (and that means quite a few of them) get to see multiple quotes throughout the day, hopefully learning something new about Dr. King and his legacy.

For more information, see the Martin Luther King widget page.

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

Blog Index / January 15, 2017

Welcome to the second Blog Index post of 2017! I had a great “Week 0” with the soft start to my classes, and classes start officially this coming Tuesday, after the Martin Luther King Holiday. Best wishes for the new semester, everybody!

This week’s posts are in bold:

Thoughts about Canvas and about LMSes 

Blogs and Blogging

Spring 2017 Reports

Widgets and Other Dynamic Content

Openness, Sharing, and Connectedness

Posts about Students

Posts about Instructors

Teaching Writing

Canvas Class Announcements

Some Practical Canvas Advice

Grading with Canvas

And here’s one of the growth mindset cats from last week’s posts:

I need space to question and to explore.

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

Friday Thoughts re: Online Presence

This week’s posts were originally going to be all about the blog networks in my classes (the students’ blogs, my blogs), but it ended up getting mixed in with a couple of posts about the online Canvas training in which I participated this week. For this final post of the week (Happy Friday!), I want to write a post that follows up on both of those themes: ONLINE PRESENCE. Specifically, the way that blogs build online presence, and the way that Canvas does not.

Online Presence: Instructors. As an online instructor, I consider “online presence” to be the most important factor in my course design. What can I do to be “present” to my students? That’s actually pretty easy, for me anyway; I see other faculty struggle with this. I’ll have more to say about that below. But even more important is…

Online Presence: Students. This is the biggest challenge I face as an online instructor: how can I encourage students to be “present” both to me and to each other? Students don’t really expect to be “present” in an online class; there’s not really an online equivalent to classroom attendance. To be present in a classroom-based class means to show up. You put your butt in the seat. You answer “Present!” if the teacher calls roll. But that mere physical presence doesn’t rank really highly in my experience: if students are present but not participating, I’m not impressed. Presence needs to be more than just butt in seat (or eyes on screen), more than just taking notes (or mouse clicks).

The notion of “online presence” is a big one, something that you can explore in many ways. And it is something very important to explore. In this post, I’ll describe some of the ways I think about online presence in my classes. In fact, it is such a huge topic that I think I will resort to just listing the first 10 thoughts that come to mind, knowing that I will return to this topic again later. So, in no particular order, here are 10 things that come to mind when I think about online presence in online courses:

1. Blogs provide a personal space AND a personal stream. Blogs are a space in the sense that you build a blog like a website, but it’s better than a website because the blog is also a place where people can come visit you and leave comments (person to person) and it is also your personal stream which can then be combined into larger streams for the class as a whole (see my post on Inoreader for assignment streams).

2. Canvas has no personal space and no personal stream. There is a Canvas profile page but it is very static: you just put in a little bio and a list of links. The profile page does not reflect your activity in the Canvas network; see my online convo with Jared Stein at Instructure about the lack of personal streams in Canvas. It would not be rocket science to make the profile page into a dynamic personal stream: Canvas has all the data it needs to do that. The problem is not a lack of data; it is a failure of design. A failure of culture. A failure to be present.

3. You can be yourself at your blog. As students work on their blogs over the semester, it builds their presence through the contents of their posts and also through the way they work on the blog design: the look-and-feel of the blog overall and also the contents of the sidebar. They are making choices, they are getting ideas from one another, they are learning about technology. It’s a great process, and it is one that unfolds easily step by step over the course of the semester. There are always new things to explore and experiment with in the digital world. Words, images, media, design. Personal. Creative. Fun. (I need to make sure to come back around to fun before this post is over!)

4. You cannot be yourself in your Canvas profile. I am more than a picture, a paragraph, and some links. But that is all you can be with a Canvas profile.

5. People don’t even fill out their Canvas profile. Even though I think the Canvas profile page is totally boring, I took a few minutes to fill it out; since it is so primitive/limited, it only takes a few minutes to complete. Yet in the online Canvas training I had this week, there was no reminder to fill out the profile, and the trainer had not filled out her profile.

6. An Introduction post in a discussion board does NOT help to build online presence. What is up with the cult of discussion board introductions? In the Canvas training, we were not told to fill out our profiles in Canvas (which is at least potentially useful over time), but of course we were told to write a “self-introduction” post at the Discussion Board… yet those Discussion Board Introductions were not important at all as things turned out. I commented on a few of them to try to create some kind of conversational atmosphere, but the trainer did not reply to any of the Introduction posts, and we were not encouraged to read and reply to each other. Time and effort are precious commodities, both online and in real life. Writing those Introduction posts was not the best use of our time and effort.

7. Introduction blog posts can be in continuous use. In contrast to the perfunctory discussion board Introduction posts, it’s possible to make really good use of Introduction posts at a blog, but you need to design the class with that in mind. In my classes, students do an Introduction post in their blog in the first week of class, and they use the “Introduction” label on that post. It’s the only post that will have that label, and by having a label, the post then shows up automatically in their sidebar navigation. I make sure to explain to them how labels work as a navigation system for the blog overall; it’s part of the Introduction post assignment! Then, at the end of the first week, I put students in random groups where they read each other’s first week posts, including the Introduction post. But here’s the key thing: they are in random blog groups like that each week, and when they meet a new person in their blog group (which is almost every week), they read that person’s Introduction and leave a comment. So, as a result, they are reading and commenting on Introductions all semester long, and the Introduction post is always the one with the most comments because it is in continuous reuse.

8. Introduction blog posts can evolve. As the semester goes on, students can expand on their Introduction posts. They might want to add “new news” about themselves (accomplishments, big events), and they might also expand on their technical skills, like if they learn how to embed video or audio media into a blog post and want to go back and add that to their Introduction. Some students keep on tinkering with their Introduction, some don’t — and it’s all good! The continuous activity in the comment section for the Introduction post is both a way to connect with other students in the class along with a reminder about the existence of the Introduction post, an open invitation to tinker with the post some more as the semester progresses.

9. Discussion board posts do not evolve. The problem mentioned above with the perfunctory Introduction discussion board posts applies to the use of discussion board posts in general. Although there are some creative ways that people can use discussion boards, the actual technology involved works again the reuse of discussion board posts compared to blog posts. Discussion board posts are hard or impossible to link to (blog posts and even blog comments are linkable), discussion board posts are hard or impossible to find (compare the automatic navigation provided by blog labels), and discussion board posts do not contribute to evolving personal streams (see comment above about the gap between the Canvas profile page and user activity in a course). In short: blogs can build personal presence in so many ways, but discussion boards do not. Insofar as discussion boards are the locus of inter-action in an online course, that course design is not actively helping to build each person’s online presence in a lasting way.

10. Online presence can … and should be … FUN. Spontaneous. Unpredictable. Dynamic. Stimulating. Pleasurable. But Canvas is just not fun. Aside from the panda, is there anything fun about Canvas? The design imperative of Canvas is clearly to make things look all the same, to have everything (and everyone) behave in the same way, and to standardize everything. Which also means: to take the fun out of it. For more about Canvas and cognitive underloading, see the sharp and insightful commentaries by Lisa Lane at her blog; here are just some of her posts:
The LMS and the End of Information Literacy
The Pedagogy of Canvas
Complexity over simplicity in online classes
(and you can read my thoughts about all that here: Engagement, Creativity, and Non-Conformity)

Okay, I have reached the magic number of 10, and I have work to do today, so I’ll stop here. That was admittedly a hodge-podge of thoughts, but it gives me something to return and build on the next time that I address the question of online presence. Blogging: it iterates! 🙂

It takes time for potential to flower.

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

The LMS and Its Dis-Contents

So, I’m following up on yesterday’s post re: connected blogs as a content management system, as opposed to putting content into the LMS with its semester-based course-defined approach. For me, blogs are better in every way, and I’ve actually never put content into an LMS; before I switched to blogging platforms exclusively around 2005, I created freestanding websites with tools like Composer and Dreamweaver. There are a lot of factors involved, and I’ll sort them into two categories:

  • the advantages of publishing on the open Internet and using real publishing tools
  • the disadvantages of publishing inside an LMS and using the LMS tools.

I’ll try to limit myself to just 10 factors (5 for each category), and then maybe somebody who has had success with content inside the LMS can share their experiences. I’m sure that content inside the LMS can work well in some situations, but I honestly don’t know what those situations would be. What I do know is that publishing content on the Internet with real tools has worked great for me, and here are the main reasons why… and I hope I’ve zoomed in on the most important reasons here, but I’m giving myself the option to add to the list later if I realize I left something important out! 🙂

Advantages of publishing on the open Internet and using real publishing tools:

1. Fast, fast, fast, fast, fast. Did I say fast? The whole reason I have opted for blogs over websites is that blogs optimize my time for content creation. I rely on labels and other blogging tricks to manage the navigation, and I am happy with simple templates for the design. That means I can focus on content creation. And I have so much content I want to create and share! If you look at the list of blogs for my classes, you will see what I have created lots of content. Beyond those blogs, I have many other blogs for my writing and research that are full of yet more content. The thought of trying to create all that content inside an LMS makes me shudder.

2. Fun. It may sound silly, but the fun factor matters a lot to me. If I am going to spend serious time creating content (and I do), I want to be able to have fun doing that, creating fun widgets to use in my blog sidebars and playing around with the template design. Nothing fancy, but being able to just play around with it. There is nothing (NOTHING) fun or playful about creating content inside the Canvas LMS. At least D2L kind of sort of tried to provide some fun design templates. In Canvas, the goal is clearly to stop anyone from having fun because everything is supposed to look exactly the same in every course everywhere all the time.

3. Project-Based. As you can see from my list of content blogs, they are project based. Some are old projects, some are new projects; some are retired projects, some are ongoing projects, and some are projects that I’m thinking about reviving. A few of the blogs are specific to a course, but the majority of blogs are actually not course-specific. I need to be able to develop content based on specific project goals, and it would be very limiting if I were to think of my content in course-based terms.

4. Co-Learning with my Students. As I mentioned in previous posts, my students are blogging too, so we are learning about blogging together. Canvas is not a tool I can co-learn with my students. I far prefer to use the same tools as my students so that we can do that together. I learn more, they learn more. We all learn more. Connecting learning: it works.

5. Real Tools for the Real World. This is closely related to the previous reason I gave about using the same tools with my students, but with a forward-looking / outward-looking emphasis. If my students and I are using real tools as we work and learn online, it’s more likely that we will able to use those same tools for other tasks, both now and in the future. The LMS is a faux tool that does not have a lot of transference. Blogs have great transference, as do the other digital tools that I encourage my students to use as they create content for this class. Their blogging and content creation skills are something they could put on their resume; their use of the Canvas Discussion Board is not.

Disadvantages of publishing inside an LMS and using the LMS tools.

6. Lack of Course Continuity. Instead of seeing a course that persists over time with new cohorts of students (which would make sense), the LMS treats every new semester instance as starting from scratch: new students and new content. So, each semester you “copy” content from the old semester to the new semester, but that’s a bad way to do business — and it’s a TERRIBLE way to do business if you want to make your courses public, as I do. If you make your courses public to share with other teachers and learners, you want the links to continue to be valid, and you want the links to lead to the current version of the content. That kind of content continuity is impossible when the LMS treats every semester as starting from scratch. How did we end up with this deplorable mess? It happened because the LMS was built, first and foremost, to meet the administrative needs of enrollment and grading, not for the purpose of developing online content.

7. Terrible Content Creation Tools. I’ve now created a fair number of pages at Canvas for my Canvas Widget Warehouse and my Growth Mindset Playground, and it is a very frustrating experience. Probably the biggest frustration for me is how little of the screen space I control. Looking at a 1200×800 display, I have 900×500 of real estate that I can edit, which is less than half of the available space.

8. Terrible Content Navigation. Or, rather, there is no navigation. I have to build the Pages navigation menus manually, which is a nightmare. If I want to try to use the left-hand navigation bar, my only recourse is to keep adding instances of the Redirect LTI, as opposed to just editing the navigation directly. If I want to, god forbid, put an external site in the sidebar navigation, students are warned of the danger of leaving Canvas, even though I am the one who put the link in the navigation bar for them! The idea, of course, is that I am supposed to do all the navigation through the Modules, arranging everything in linear order. But there is nothing linear about my pedagogy, and nothing linear about my content: it’s exploratory, not a one-size-fits-all scripted experience of “previous” and “next.”

9. Terrible Content Maintenance Tools. Or, rather, the LMS content maintenance tools are non-existent. In Pages, I cannot put my pages into folder or tag them in order to help me manage my workflow. Why are there folder options in the Files section, but not in the Pages? I can sort Pages by creation date and last edit, but that’s it. There are no other tools available for me to use in managing the content. Not even a search box. Eeek.

10. Uncertain Longevity. My school stayed with D2L for many years, and based on that, I can imagine we will stay for many years with Canvas LMS. But that’s not something that I control; Canvas could go away next year or the year after. As someone who is in this for the long term (I’ve been developing online course materials since back in 1998), that worries me. I’m not a proponent of “it must all be on my own domain,” but I am a proponent of being able to make my own decisions about the platforms that I use, and longevity is important to me. When it comes to my school’s commitment to an LMS, I can hope for longevity, but it is just that: a hope. They could change LMSes any time, a decision completely beyond my control and even beyond my influence.

So, as part of driving my own learning, I need to be able to drive my own content… and the LMS just does not give me a way to do that. For me, blogging is by far the better option.

I drive my own learning.

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

A Blog Network for Class Content

Yesterday I wrote about how I use Inoreader to collect all my student blog posts so that I can read them, and also how I use Inoreader to organize those posts into content streams that I can then share with my class. My students’ blogs form a network that IS our class: all that they are reading and writing and learning travels through that network, reaching me and reaching the other students in the class. Connected learning. I cannot imagine teaching any other way.

What I want to write about today is a different blog network: the interconnected set of blogs that provide the content for my classes. I do have a class wiki, but it just contains the class calendar and assignment instructions: Online Course Lady Wiki. All the actual class content comes through my various blogs.

Why blogs? I use blogs for my content because they are the fastest, easiest, most flexible, and most organized type of web publishing that I have found. YMMV. Today I will list the different blogs I use to support my classes, and then in tomorrow’s post I’ll describe the advantages of using blogs for content as opposed to (ugh) using the LMS.

Daily Class Announcements. This is the blog that I use as the homepage for my Canvas courses; it features new content every day during the semester, but I do not use it when school is not in session.
Total posts: 1839.

Writing Laboratory. This is a writing support site with all my help pages for English punctuation and other writing mechanics. Plus, I add new humor and motivational materials during the semester. This blog houses the content for my Writing Inspiration and my Writing Humor widgets.
Total posts: 537.

Growth Mindset Cats. I added new content to his blog regularly for three semesters; now I add new content periodically, and I also recycle old posts to bring them back to the front page of the blog. This blog also houses the contents for my Growth Mindset Cats widget.
Total posts: 426.

Learning by H.E.A.R.T. This is a newish blog, a companion to the Growth Mindset blog, and I am actively developing it this semester; I’ll be adding new content several times each week as the semester gets underway. I also have a H.E.A.R.T. widget using contents from this blog.
Total posts: 178.

E-Storybook Central. This is a blog which used to house a lot of content, but it has been mostly spun off to the Freebookapalooza blog. With the coming demise of the old Google Sites, though, I will be repurposing this blog to archive past student projects in a kind of online catalog before the old Google Sites is shuttered in 2018. Right now, the main purpose of this blog is to provide a list of past student Storybook projects in both of my classes, along with the Storybook widgets.
Total posts: 68.

Freebookapalooza. This blog was a summer project from 2016; I managed to add about 900 books that summer. I hope to spend a good chunk of next summer adding more materials. I have created a variety of Freebookapalooza widgets using the contents of this blog.
Total posts: 937.

Myth-Folklore UnTextbook. This blog was a summer project from 2014; it contains the 100 reading units that students choose from in the Myth-Folklore class. I also add new content periodically that I think would be of interest to students in that class.  Most of the stories in the reading units have illustrations, and so I have a Myth-Folklore Images widget that uses those illustrations.
Total posts: 2572.

Indian Epics Images. I regularly add new content to this blog, based on artwork that people share at Twitter or that I find at museum websites. This blog is also the home of my Public Domain Editions of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata (a project from Summer 2015), which students use in for reading in the Indian Epics class. I reuse the images from this blog in my Indian Epic Images widget.
Total posts: 1142.

Indian Epics Reading Guides. This blog houses reading guides for the additional reading materials that I use in the Indian Epics class, along with other content that I think would be of interest to students in that class.
Total posts: 371.

Indian Epics Comic Books. This blog was a summer project from 2015; it contains pages for the 100+ comic books that students use as reading options in the Indian Epics class. I don’t add new posts here, but when I have time I add more detailed reading guides to the comic books that are most popular with the students.
Total posts: 151.

Proverb Laboratory: Posters. This blog was a summer project from 2013; I don’t add new Posters, but I recycle the old posters by using them in the daily class announcements. The new content at this blog consists of Latin LOLCats (a hobby, not for a class that I teach since my school, alas, will not let me teach Latin). Using the contents of this blog I’ve made a Proverb Posters widget and also a Latin LOLCats widget.
Total posts: 1665.

What I like best about blogs: they start small, and then they grow!

Big oaks from little acorns grow.

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

Inoreader: How I Manage Incoming Blog Posts

Okay, as promised: back to our regular programming. Yesterday I wrote about how I add the students’ blogs one by one to Inoreader, which the blog reader I use to set up my student blog network each semester. In addition to subscribing to the students’ blogs, I also have set up RULES inside Inoreader in order to  tag posts automatically as they come in from the students’ blogs. If you use rules to manage your incoming email, this is very much the same approach. Here’s an example of one of the rules I have in place:

As you can see, the rule-making system is highly configurable. Because I put the students’ blogs into folders when I subscribe to them, I can then have the rule run whenever a new post appears in the folder, and it can be triggered by words in the body of the post and/or in the title which will cause Inoreader to automatically assign a tag to the new post. There are many other possible actions as well, although I mostly just assign tags.

In addition, I can add or remove tags manually, so if something goes wrong (like if a student doesn’t use an expected title word for example), I can add the tag, remove it, etc. in the tag listing that appears at the bottom of each post.

So, as students create their “Favorite Place” posts (which is the first real blog post assignment), it gets automatically tagged by Inoreader. I can then see all those posts grouped together, along with the students’ names and also the class they are in because of the way I name each blog when I subscribe:

As I explained yesterday, I then add a star as I leave comments on the posts (and I do a lot of commenting during the first couple weeks of class). So, based on what I see here, it looks like there are two “favorite places” posts that have come in which I have not commented on yet, so as soon as I finish this post, I will go comment on them.

And… there’s more! In addition to being an RSS aggregator, Inoreader is also a syndication engine. That means I can re-publish this tag stream as a new RSS feed of its own. So, for example, I can create a page at my course wiki where students can easily take a look at the Favorite Places posts so far. This screenshot shows the magazine view, and I also have a link there to the full-post view.

And, not that I would actually want to do this myself, I could easily run that feed inside Canvas as a page inside a Canvas course too; you can see an example of an Inoreader RSS feed inside Canvas here.

So, in the instructions for the assignment, I encourage students to take a look at the posts that other students have already published. Especially for students who are a bit hesitant at first about blogging, being able to see other students’ work is a big help, so I am very grateful to the students who get started early, giving me posts that I can share in the stream this way.

And it’s automatic! As the “Favorite Place” posts keep coming in, that live feed will update post by post by post, showing the latest posts at the top… until all 90+ students have posted. It will be quite a nice collection of places by the time they are all done with that assignment next Tuesday (the first official day of classes).

As you can probably guess, I am really happy with how Inoreader helps me do a good job of watching my blog network so that I can engage with the students in a timely, useful way, and I also really like how it lets me share the content back with the class, assignment by assignment, so that all the students can be learning from each other too.

And now… I feel better. After feeling trapped in the LMS this morning (ugh), it feels much better to be pondering student blogs instead! 🙂

Here’s a growth mindset cat inspired by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.: “Every now and then a man’s mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions. After looking at the Alps, I felt that my mind had been stretched beyond the limits of its elasticity and fitted so loosely on my old ideas of space that I had to spread these to fit it.”

After teaching online in a learning network, I could never go back to being stuck inside the LMS: give me the Alps, please, not the so-called walled garden. 🙂

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

The LMS and its Ecosystem

So, I promise to get back on track with my student blog network posts next time, but as a follow-up to the Canvas training course post from earlier this morning, there’s something I really need to write about. The Canvas trainer unlocked the locked board, so I posted my intro, and I saw that another person in the course had a question about loading up lots of big image files into Canvas for course content. The Canvas trainer recommended that she use OUMyMedia which I had thought was just for video (???). The question was not about video but about image files, so I added a response about using OU Create which is where I am hosting all the images that I use for my Canvas Widgets. I also commented that I was surprised how there had been no mention of OU Create as part of the Canvas training (or, for that matter, in any of the Canvas marketing I received all last semester). And the Canvas trainer responded: “we would like faculty to focus on the core features and start building their courses.”

In other words: we aren’t going to present Canvas as part of a RANGE of options that faculty have so that they can decide what tool is best for their purposes. You know, maybe having some kind of chart which at least alerts faculty to the pluses and minuses of likely tools they might use. Nope. We are going to get them to just use the LMS regardless of any other considerations. Then, at some unspecified date in the future, the faculty might find out (not clear how) that there are options like OUMyMedia or OUCreate which they could use for content development. Or other content management tools, including tools that are fully supported by our campus IT like Microsoft OneNote (which has good Canvas integration), etc.

But here’s the thing: after faculty have already loaded all their content into the LMS, are they really going to want to “unload” that content and redesign their course using a different tool or tools…?

I don’t think so.

The result: people are going to load their content into Canvas, just as they loaded all their content into D2L, and they are going to leave the content in Canvas for 10 years until we make them move it to the next LMS (or however long we stay with Canvas; we stayed 10 years with D2L).

Are there reasons to have your content in the LMS? Sure, there are some reasons.

Are there reasons NOT to have your content in the LMS? Yes! There are many reasons to use other tools, and it depends on each person’s goals/needs.

So, what faculty need is some help, up front, in deciding which option(s) will be the best for them. Telling them just to put their content in the LMS and then explore other options later seems like a good way to make sure they won’t be exploring those other options. Not if it means having to redesign their course all over again.

And so, even though we have a new LMS, it seems like we are still stuck in the same old LMS culture from which we will never achieve escape velocity.

Wake me when it’s over. But I fear it will never be over.