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.

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. I embed these videos in blog posts at the Reading Guides blog for that class, as here: Calendar Art (that is an example of embedded videos from a playlist, rather than an embedded playlist.)

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:

Twitter4Canvas: event | YouTube | slidedeck | blog post
This event is coming up on Thursday, March 23 at 3PM EST.

Blog-as-Homepage: event | YouTube | slidedeck | blog post
This event is coming up on Thursday, April 6 at 3PM EST.

Growth Mindset: event | YouTube | slidedeck | blog post
This event is coming up on Thursday, April 20 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.

~ ~ ~

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.

 

Twitter4Canvas CanvasLIVE Slides

Here’s the Twitter4Canvas slideshow that I’ve drafted, with notes and links below. Tune in for the CanvasLIVE presentation on Thursday, 3PM Eastern.

Slide 1: CanvasLIVE opening slide.

Slide 2: Twitter4Canvas title slide

Slide 3: Connected Learning with Cats slide
This is the first 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.

PART A: Using Twitter for CONTENT in your Canvas Course. You may be used to Twitter as a communication tool, and it certainly is that, but what I am focused on here is the use of Twitter as a tool for collecting and (re)sharing content.

Slide 4: Dedicated Class Twitter Account
I teach two courses: Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics, hence the name of my class Twitter: @OnlineMythIndiaI would recommend that you create a separate Twitter account just for class content. You can follow Twitter accounts that are related to your class content, and also school events and activities. Then, all you have to do is retweet, and you will have a stream of content for your classes.

Slide 5: Twitter Widgets in Canvas Pages
You can use Twitter widgets anywhere that javascript is accepted, so that might mean in your blog sidebar or in your wiki sidebar, and in Canvas of course! You can see my @OnlineMythIndia Twitter account in this Canvas Page. Canvas doesn’t let you use javascripts in Pages but no worries: I’ll show you how to paste javsacripts into a Canvas File, and then embed that File in a Canvas Page.

Slide 6: Twitter Widgets in Discussion Boards
In addition to displaying a Twitter widget in a Canvas Page, you can display the widget in a Discussion Board, providing a continuous stream of live content for students to react to in the discussion!

PART B: Different TYPES of Twitter Widgets. One of the best things about Twitter is all the different widgets that it lets you create (and don’t worry: to create a widget takes less than a minute!).

Slide 7: Twitter Widgets for Other Accounts
In addition to your own dedicated class Twitter account, you can also create widgets for other Twitter accounts, like your school’s Twitter account, your school newspaper and other news sources, along with libraries and museusm. The slides hows the Twitter widget for our student newspaper.

Slide 8: Twitter Widgets for Hashtag/Search
You can also create widgets for Twitter hashtag/search. So, for example, you could have your students use a distinctive class hashtag, or you can create a widget for an existing Twitter hashtag, including the hashtag of a Twitter chat. The slide shows a hashtag that is incredibly useful for my class: #FolkloreThursday.

Slide 9: Twitter Widgets for Lists
Lists are my favorite Twitter feature: I do pretty much all my reading at Twitter by using lists, and you can create widgets for lists. So, if your students do use Twitter, you could create a list of their accounts. You can create Twitter lists of authors or lists of museums. The slide shows the widget I made with a list of OU’s own museums. Even just a list of two is useful, and here you see tweets from OU’s Natural History Museum and also the Fine Arts Museum. lists of museums: OU’s Museums.

PART C: The Canvas Twitter App. There are some serious (SERIOUS) drawbacks to the Canvas Twitter App.

Slide 10: About the Canvas Twitter App…
Yes, there is a Twitter App for Canvas, but… the Twitter App has some serious limitations: it shows no images; it plays no videos; and it allows no lists. You can see the Canvas Twitter widget on this slide, and on the next slide I’ve got a side-by-side comparison of the Canvas Twitter App and a real Twitter widget.

Slide 11: Twitter App versus Twitter Widget
On this slide, you can see the Canvas Twitter App on the left, and a real Twitter widget on the right, and you can see a live comparison here. Which one do you think students will want to explore? You know they want images and videos.

PART D: Using Twitter Content in Class Assignments. There are so many ways you could use Twitter to prompt student research and writing; here is one example from my classes: Wikipedia Trails.

Slide 12: Twitter Assignment: Wikipedia Trails
There are so many ways you could use Twitter as part of class activities and discussions, and I’ve included just one type of assignment that I use in my classes: Wikipedia Trails. For this assignment, students look at the latest Twitter items, browsing until they find something that grabs their attention, Then they look it up at Wikipedia, and then they go from one Wikipedia to another until they’ve looked at four Wikipedia article. Then they write up a blog post with links to the four articles and a blurb about each one, plus at least one images. Here’s how it looks in Canvas: the assignment instructions are on the left, and the Twitter stream is on the right. 

Slide 13: My Students’ Wikipedia Trails
Because my students are posting their Wikipedia Trails in their blogs, I can use Inoreader, a blog aggregator, to collect their Wikipedia Trail blog posts and then deliver them into Canvas. So, that means you can see the latest Wikipedia Trails from my students here; as students publish new Wikipedia Trail blog posts, they pop up automatically here. It’s the magic of RSS: you can find out more about Inoreader here. 

PART E: The Nitty-GrittyHow to create Twitter widgets and embed them in a Canvas Page (or Discussion Board).

Slide 14: Twitter4Canvas Workshop
I’ve built a Twitter4Canvas Workshop that provides detailed, step-by-step instructions for the whole process: how to set up a Twitter account, how to follow other accounts and retweet the content you want to share with your students, and also how to create Twitter widgets and embed them in Canvas. No previous knowledge of Twitter required.

Slide 15: Create & Embed a Widget: 1
The process for creating and embedding a Twitter widget in Canvas takes about 10 minutes total: it’s not hard at all. The first step is to configure Twitter widget. You just go to your Settings in Twitter, select Widgets, and walk through the Twitter Widget configuration process. Details.

Slide 16: Create & Embed a Widget: 2
Next, you take the Twitter widget javascript code and paste it into a plain text file that you save with an HTML suffix. Details.

Slide 17: Create & Embed a Widget: 3
Now you upload that HTML file into your Canvas Files area. Details.

Slide 18: Create & Embed a Widget: 4
And here’s the magic: you configure an iframe snippet with your Canvas course number and file number, along with the height and widget that will suit your purposes. Details.

Slide 19: Create & Embed a Widget: 5
Just paste that iframe into your Canvas Page (or Discussion Board), and then configure as needed. You can use tables or CSS in order to put text next to the Twitter widget, providing context and instructions for your students. Details.

PART F: Sharing Canvas Widgets. This is a brief note for those of you doing faculty development and support: you can create Twitter widgets for your faculty to use that are literally a matter of copy-and-paste, no configuring required.

Slide 20: Ready-to-Use Widgets
This slide is more for instructional designers and system administrators (and also for geeky faculty like me): in addition to using Canvas File space to host your widget javascript, you can also host javascripts in your own file space, and then share that with others. I’ve been doing that with the Reclaim Hosting Domains project at my school, which gives me my own webspace at lauragibbs.net. So, I’ve published lots of Twitter widget javascripts in that space, and it means other faculty at my school can just copy-and-paste the iframe snippet to use in their own Canvas course pages. That makes it possible to promote campus activities and services across courses, like, for example, the University of Oklahoma Library Twitter. To get a sense of the possibilities, browse my Ready-to-Use Canvas Twitter Widgets. Each Ready-to-Use Twitter widget has its own page there with more information; I’m really hoping to promote this when my campus goes all-Canvas next year.

And that’s all….!

Slide 21: Let’s connect!
As you can guess, I love using Twitter for teaching, so let me know if I can help you explore Twitter options; I’m eager to brainstorm any time. You can ping me at Twitter; I use this Twitter account for myself (separate from my class Twitter): @OnlineCrsLadyAnd you can use the #Twitter4Canvas hashtag too!

Slide 22: CanvasLIVE closing slide.

Blog Index / March 4, 2017

I didn’t do a blog index last weekend (it was my birthday, whoo-hoo), but here’s an updated index with the new posts in bold that I’ve added since the last index.

I’ve also been crossposting in different areas of Canvas since I finally figured out that the totally private University of Oklahoma area is not visible in any way to the rest of the Community. I’m glad I finally figured that out; maybe someday the OU Community will come to life, but now I know I need to put my attention elsewhere; contributions to a totally private group like that unfortunately don’t benefit the larger Community in any way.

So, here is a complete blog index, and over at Canvas, I’ll just post a list of the latest posts:

CanvasLIVE: Possible Topics

Canvas Class Announcements

Grading and Going Gradeless

Widgets and Other Dynamic Content

Posts about Students and Student Voices

Posts about Faculty and Faculty Voices

Thoughts about Canvas and about LMSes

CanvasLive: Growth Mindset / Feedback Cats

Twitter4Canvas Mini-Course

Spring 2017 Reports

Openness, Sharing, and Connectedness

Blogs and Blogging

Teaching Writing

Some Practical Canvas Advice

And here is one of this week’s Growth Mindset Cats:

Take some time to reflect.
 

The Sidebar Never Sleeps: Live Content 24/7

I teach General Education courses in the Humanities, and that means I welcome any opportunity to share with my students the wealth of literature, art, and music that is online. I can never be sure just what will click with each student, so I’m try to expose them to a steady stream of ever-changing items. Ideally, they might see something that makes them want to click and learn more, but even if that does not happen, by the constant parade of content, I am showing them what a world of culture they can find online … if they go looking.

The main way I do this is with my Class Announcements blog: every day there are new announcements, and then in the sidebar of the blog things are ever-changing, not just day to day but every time the page reloads. My goal is that every time they log on to Canvas, they will see something new… automatically. I’m busy doing other things (commenting on their projects), but while I am working, the power of the dynamic content in the blog is working too!

I’ve written elsewhere about how I configure Canvas so make my blog the homepage, and in this post, I want to provide a quick tour of my sidebar. If you go to my class Myth.MythFolklore.net (fully open, just click and go!), you can follow along by looking at the sidebar there for yourself; there is information about each sidebar item below.

Text Box: On top is a text box which is static and does not change; it contains the single most important link for students who are in a rush to get to what they need for class: the Class Calendar. While I want the blog to be a fun, exploratory space, I also want students in a hurry to be able to find what they need to get to work on the class.

Email Subscription: Some students subscribe to the announcements by email, which I think is great. Blogger’s Feedburner service provides really nice email presentation of the blog, so I am glad when students do choose to get the announcements by email. I’m subscribed too, so I can see the same email the students receive.

Random Cats: This is a randomizing widget of Growth Mindset Cats; the cats have turned out to be incredibly helpful in promoting a spirit of learning and also fun in my classes. If you’re interested, you can snag this widget and use it too, either in a blog like this or directly in a Canvas page: Widget Warehouse: Growth Mindset Cats.

Class Twitter: I try to update the class Twitter at least twice a day; it only takes a few minutes to add new items (I just retweet), and it’s always fun for me to see what’s new. Here’s how that works: Twitter for Class Content: My Top 5 Strategies.

Reading, Writing, Learning. This is a combination widget that randomly draws on several different widgets: Writing Inspiration, Reading Inspiration, and H.E.A.R.T. (each of those links goes to the Widget Warehouse page; these are also available for anyone else to use). Thanks to the power of random, new things appear each time the page loads!

Random Storybook. These are student projects from my class archives. I really like reminding students all the time how the projects they create will become part of future classes too. Their work matters! You can see the archive here: eStorybook Central.

Free Books Online. This is my favorite widget: it displays free books of stories and legends (I teach Mythology-Folklore and Indian Epics), drawing on the 900+ free books in my Freebookapalooza Library. I’ve broken that widget down by region, too, hoping that might make it more useful for others if you might also want to share free books with your students: Widget Warehouse: Freebookapalooza.

Videos. This is the playlist that I create with the videos from past class announcements; every day there is a new video in the daily announcements, and this playlist gives the students access to all the videos so far this semester. It’s like a second chance in case the students didn’t notice the video in yesterday’s announcement. You can see the playlist directly with this link: Announcements Videos.

RSS Links. I’ve never been able to get my students excited about RSS (alas!), but I do include the RSS links here in my sidebar.

Suggestion Box. Finally, there is a link to a Google Form where students can provide anonymous suggestions. Since there are lots of other opportunities for feedback in the class via their blogs, the students rarely use this, but I want to make sure they know that anonymous feedback is also welcome!

Every semester I tinker with the sidebar, and it’s hard to restrain myself from putting even more in there. I’m happy with the selection that I have now… but when I get some time to make more widgets this summer, I’ll probably be redecorating the sidebar for classes this Fall.

 

Crossposted at Canvas Community: Instructional Designers.