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:

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 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.

CanvasLIVE: Planning Twitter4Canvas

Okay, so like with Growth Mindset Cats post yesterday,  this is going to be a brain dump of how I might do a 15-minute presentation on Twitter4Canvas, which seems the other likely candidate for a way to get started with CanvasLIVE. Like yesterday, I’ll start with some “why” examples in terms of teaching and learning, and them zoom in on the technical stuff.

Update. Okay… I am excited about BOTH of these options, but after writing up this post, it’s clear that Twitter4Canvas one is closer to being ready to go; almost everything is already in place, so my guess is that it will be better to do this one first, and then do the Growth Mindset Cats a couple of weeks later after I’ve had a chance to finish documenting those materials more fully. I will see what Stefanie thinks about that! Also, this one provides a kind of lead-in to the idea of dynamic content in Canvas, but it starts with something more familiar: Twitter. I think if people experiment with this first, then some of the strategies in the Growth Mindset cats (other kinds of embedding) will make more sense.

Update again. I’ve been able to radically streamline my Twitter4Canvas Workshop thanks to the Canvas Files trick I learned at Canvas Community, and I have modified this presentation accordingly!

~ ~ ~

Some kind of quick 1-minute introduction followed by:

TWITTER FOR TEACHING (total of 4 minutes): My focus is not on students using Twitter (although that is a great opportunity also), but instead Twitter was a way to deliver fresh, new, real stimulating content to students, especially images and video.

My Class Twitter stream (1 minute). I’ll talk about the sources I draw on to create the @OnlineMythIndia Twitter stream for my classes, and I’ve written a post about Twitter curation: Twitter for Class Content: My Top 5 Strategies. My students see it embedded in my class announcements.

And it can run in other webspaces too, like  at our class wiki.

Other Account streams (1 minute). I’ll show some of the other account streams I’ve widgetized, like our student newspaper

and our Library Twitter account.

Hashtag streams (1 minute): There is an international weekly chat by folklorists at the #FolkloreThursday hashtag:

And there are also occasional hashtags, like the beautiful #ColorOurCollections

Sample Twitter-based assignment (1 minute): Wikipedia Trails (1 minute). One of my favorite ways to use our class Twitter is as the starting point for a Wikipedia Trails assignment. (I should mock this up as a Canvas page; right now it is just a page at my class wiki, and the student blog stream is also just at the wiki, but I can also mock that up as a Canvas page):

Some kind of quick 1-minute transition into next section:

TECHNOLOGY (total of 8 minutes).

Canvas Twitter App versus Real Twitter Widgets (1 minute). It’s all about the media. The Canvas Twitter App displays no media; for me, that makes it a complete nonstarter.

Different Kinds of Twitter Widgets (1 minute). Another difference from the Canvas Twitter App is that Twitter offers a lot of different kinds of widgets, not all of which are supported by the Canvas Twitter App, such as List. Here’s a simple List example: our two university museums, combined in a single list:

Twitter4Canvas Workshop (1 minute). I’ve created a self-guided Twitter4Canvas Workshop which has everything you need to get up and running with Twitter (even if you have never used it before), and to then create a Twitter widget for your account and include it in your Canvas course. The key steps are Creating a Widget, inserting it into a File, and then inserting that File into a Page.

Generate Twitter Widget (1 minute). After you are up and running with Twitter, you can use the Twitter Widget generator to get the Twitter Widget code you need; it just takes a few seconds.

Insert Twitter in Canvas File (1 minute). For the next step, you’ll insert the Twitter Widget you created into a Canvas File:

Insert File into Canvas Page (1 minute). Then, you insert the Cavnas File into your Page; for security reasons, you cannot just paste the Widget directly into your Page, but routing it through the File system takes care of Cavnas’s security concerns:

Canvas Tables (1 minute). Tables can be useful for layout. You might consider putting the Twitter Widget in the right column of a table, and then using the left column to explain what the Twitter stream contains, how to use it for a class assignment, etc.

Ready-to-Use Twitter Widgets (1 minute). One of the other powerful things about Twitter Widgets is that you can share them with others. So, I’ve been making “ready-to-use” Twitter Widgets to share with people at my school. They don’t even have to use Twitter: just copy-and-paste the code snippet, and they can put Twitter into their Canvas Pages directly. So, for example, our student newspaper, as I mentioned earlier:

Quick 1-minute conclusion to review and point to Slidedeck online plus single page with all the links mentioned here.

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

CanvasLIVE: Planning the Mindset Cats

Beware: brain dump! These are notes… but I am happy with how it turned out. 🙂

~ ~ ~

So, I need to start thinking about a way to go with the actual CanvasLIVE presentation proposal. It looks like I’ve got two more-or-less separate tracks to follow: Mindset Cats and Twitter4Canvas. I’ll sketch them both out, and then list the components I have ready to go, along with components I still need to document to fill in the gaps.

For today, I’ll focus on the Growth Mindset one; I’ll do Twitter4Canvas tomorrow.

Growth Mindset / Feedback Cats: This is one that would start from a more pedagogical perspective, following up on Janie’s Feedback presentation. I’d like to do what she did, going from the teaching philosophy/strategy and then to the technology. My goal is a 15-minute presentation. So, that would be maybe 5 minutes on the role of growth mindset / feedback in teaching and learning, and then maybe 10 minutes on strategies for using cats and other motivational memes to weave that content into the online course environment.

Some kind of quick 1-minute introduction followed by:

TEACHING (total of 4 minutes): Growth mindset shifts the focus away from teacher-awarded grades to student-driven learning.

Growth Mindset / Feedback: 2 minutes. I need to series of cats to demonstrate the main themes. I have lots of cats; just have to choose key themes. These slides can go quickly; I’ll reduce each main them to a single word or short phrase — and I’m creating new feedback cats as my focus this semester:

Student Voices: 1 minute
. These would be key quotes from student blog posts that I will read. I can get quotes student blog posts via their Mindset stream as they write about and explore growth mindset in class (I learn so much from reading their posts). I need to do a Canvas page that has that blog post stream in; works same as at wiki page where I feature growth mindset student blog stream, as in screenshot here:

Growth versus Grading: 1 minute
. Quick statement about all-feedback-no-grading approach. I’ve collected grading materials at, including page of quotes from students re: both grading and curiosity), so I would select key quotes to read.

Some kind of quick 1-minute transition into next section:

TECHNOLOGY (total of 8 minutes). So, once you’ve decided to weave growth mindset into a course, how do you want to do it? Growth mindset is not just content to cover on a given day of the class; instead, it’s about how you approach the design of the class, and it’s also about how you help the students reflect on their own assumptions and take charge of their own learning. For growth mindset to be effective, it needs to be a persistent, recurring feature of the class.

Sharing Cats Out to Students

1. Announcements: 1 minute. New cat every day. And I’ve already written up how to do blog for announcements in Canvas. What I want to talk about here is power of daily class announcements as way to both remind students about deadlines, etc., and also to reinforce the goals and strategies of the class itself. I value growth mindset, and I show that every day by including a cat. Students can subscribe to the blog by email; snag screenshot of how the cat looks in the email.

2. Random Cats: 1 minute. I have a randomizing widget in the sidebar of the announcements: This means that in addition to the cat of the day, there is a new cat every time students log on to Canvas course; no scrolling – I put it up near the top! Say something about power of random to continually surface material, provide something new, etc. – lots of randomizing widgets in my blogs and also at Widget Warehouse.

3. Widgets-in-Canvas: 2 minutes. You can also embed randomizing Growth Mindset Cats widget in any Canvas page, integrated with other types of Canvas content. I should mock up a page so there could be a random cat page that can go at open or close of any Canvas module… and explain that my widgets are ready to go and use; if there is interest I would be glad to demo how to use to create widgets like this – no programming required.

Prompting Students to Reflect, Write, and Share

This is obviously the important part: getting students to engage with the mindset materials, experiment, apply them, share what they learn, etc.

4. Discussion Board: 2 minutes. You can use random cats or cats of the day as Discussion Board prompts; I tested to make sure it works – it does! Details. I use blogs instead of discussion boards, but same idea applies of course: students need space to write and share what they write with others. They can also create their own cats, their own memes, etc. (Tech Tips for students). Basically all of my blog-based challenge assignments and tech tips can be repurposed as Discussion Board prompts for people relying on that space for student sharing:

5. More Resources-as-Prompts: 2 minutes. In addition to randomizers, you can also use blog streams and also Diigo bookmark streams to share content with students for them to reflect on as part of their chosen growth mindset challenges that students could write about and share at Discussion Boards (my students do that in their blogs, but it’s the same idea). Here is how you could do those kinds of prompts in Canvas:

Blog. For example, I have a blog stream for my new Feedback Cats; new blog posts show up automatically in Canvas page:

Diigo. I also have a stream of new articles at Diigo that I have bookmarked and annotated for the students to use:

Videos. Plus, it’s easy to embed a YouTube playlist in Canvas, and you can keep the content fresh by recycling, just bumping up a video from bottom of list to the top every day or as often as you want. (I need to write up instructions on how to embed video playlist in Canvas; emphasize advantages of playlist over single videos).

Quick 1-minute conclusion to review and point to Slidedeck online plus single page with all the links mentioned here.

Okay, that’s a rough sketch, and I think it is fitting together pretty well. Now I am excited! 🙂

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

Friday… and what a great week!

What a long week, but it was soooo productive! I’m going to write up a kind of highlights of this week here just to remind myself of why I am so tired (TGIF: Thank the Goddess It’s Frigg’s-Day), but also why it was such a good week!

1. Google Sites. First and foremost, my students started publishing their project websites. There will be a lot more this weekend, but I had 8 sites go up (Myth-Folklore, Indian Epics), and I was so relieved: the new Google Sites seems to be working great! I’ve been using the old Google Sites since 2010, but I’ll be the first to admit that the old Google Sites was kind of clunky and weird. In particular, the navigation options, while good, were very hard to configure. In the new Google Sites, everything is streamlined; it’s not really my style of web publishing (no access to the HTML at all now), but for my students, I was guessing it would be better than the old Sites… and so far, so good! I put up just one simple page of instructions, and based on that, the students published these sites without asking me a single question about anything! Probably 30 more sites will go up this weekend, so I’m hoping they will all go just as smoothly, and look just as nice, as the ones so far. Check out The Tales of Pegasus: Seeking Love! Nice!

2. Twitter4Canvas. I made a breakthrough with the Twitter4Canvas, figuring out how to share not just a Twitter widget but an entire configured page. I was thinking that it really would be great if all the faculty in the Ed School were promoting @OklaEd chat with all their students, and offering a fully ready-to-go Canvas Page might be the way to do that, so here’s what I came up with: Twitter Widget Ready-to-Use: @OklaEd. I need to document the steps this weekend, because the real goal is not for me to build these pages, but for other people to build and share pages this way. I’m really starting to see this Twitter project as a serious form of distributed content; now I just need to find some people at my school willing to experiment on it with me. I will shamelessly start contacting people by email over the coming weeks to see who’s interested! The selling point is that we are going all-Canvas next Fall, so now is really the time to develop plans like this, test them, and then be ready to promote them heavily with the full Fall roll-out. Fingers crossed.

3. Feedback and Growth Mindset. I watched a CanvasLIVE video that really got me excited about developing more of my growth mindset and feedback materials, especially using distributed approaches like javascript widgets. Here is the video and my thoughts: CanvasLIVE with Janie Ruddy: Feedback!

4. Brainstorms. I also brainstormed all the topics I would eventually like to share through the CanvasLIVE program: Brainstorming. This is going to keep me busy for months, ha ha. But that’s good. When I shared this with my supervisor in the College of Arts & Sciences (I don’t have an academic department; instead, I am employed by the Dean’s Office to teach Gen. Ed. courses online), she was really supportive and enthusiastic, so that made me feel good too. She’s known me since I first started teaching online, and so she can appreciate what an opportunity Canvas has given me: I’ve always wanted to share more of my work with others, but I know most faculty are not going to want to have their own websites and blogs; they want to work in the LMS. Now, with Canvas, I can share my work in ways that integrate with the LMS, making it truly useful to other faculty at my school. I’ve been using widgets and such for over 10 years and now, finally, I have ways to “show and tell” … and I’m just as excited as a little kid in kindergarten on “show and tell” day!

5. Twitter. I really enjoy Twitter as a way to collect and share content with my classes, but this week Twitter AS THERAPY was amazing. From #DressLikeAWoman to #ActualLivingScientist to #ShePersisted, I was so glad and even proud to be a user of Twitter this week, and I look forward to more Twitter consciousness-raising hashtags in the future. Two things I really value: humor AND social justice. We are going to need lots of both in the months to come.

Finally, I also got around to watching For the Love of Spock (free at Netflix!). I cannot hope to find words for how much this film moved me; Spock was my best friend when I was growing up in the 1970s — we moved around a lot, and as a result I had attended 9 different schools by the time I graduated from high school in 1986; I was the “weird new kid” over and over, a friendless and freaky geek. Friendless, that is, except for Spock and my other imaginary Star Trek friends. So, even if you are not a Trekkie, this is a really lovely film…and if you are a Trekkie, it’s a must-watch. But get out your handkerchiefs, especially for the Burning Man scene at the end (you’ve been warned!).

CanvasLIVE with Janie Ruddy: Feedback!

One of the reasons I am very motivated to do some CanvasLIVE demos is that there is a YouTube option, so it is possible to watch at YouTube later and also share with all the powerful YouTube sharing options like embedding. I could not attend Janie’s “live” presentation, I watched it later that evening with great interest. I should say GREAT interest with all-caps: feedback is, in my opinion, the single most important factor in creating a strong learning experience in any setting, not just online. So, here is a link to Janie’s presentation on YouTube: Inspire Greatness with Canvas Feedback Loops, and you can see it embedded at the bottom of this post. Plus there’s a Community Page for the event, and also a page with Feedback Resources in Canvas. If you have time to spare to watch the video, you should watch; it is very useful, focused, and easy to follow. This screenshot gives a good summary of where the presentation ends up:

The whole presentation was very thought-provoking for me because I could connect in some ways (feedback) but I’ve gone a very different direction in terms of grading. Below I’ve hit some highlights and I also included links to posts where I have written about this previously, both at this blog and in my other materials online.

UNGRADING. The biggest difference I have with the approach advocated in the presentation is that I do not grade. And that is my advice to everybody who has the freedom to make this choice: just stop grading. Give a final grade at the end of the semester if you must (I must), but do not let grading interfere with the feedback process. Grades are not just labels as Janie says several times in the presentation; grades are a system of reward and punishment, and they are fraught with all kinds of unhelpful baggage that holds students back in all kinds of ways. I’ve documented my own ungrading process here: Points-Based Grading: Cumulative, Not Punitive. And check out #TTOG at Twitter; Teachers Throwing Out Grades is a movement!

Anyway, I’ve never put grades on student work since I started teaching online back in 2002, and that means I can provide 15 years of testimony to the effectiveness of an “all-feedback-no-grading” approach. Even more important, jus listen to the students: What Students Say about Ungrading. Short version: they say it works!

I know that K-12 instructors don’t have this freedom, but many of us (even most of us?) in higher ed actually can do this type of grading. In a subjective discipline like writing, I believe it is the best way (no grades is the key to unleashing creativity), and I think it also has advantages even in disciplines where assessment can be more objective (but no less arbitrary).

UNGRADING IN CANVAS. The way I take myself completely out of the grading process and put the students in charge of their own grade is to associate a checklist (not a subjective rubric; just a simple checklist) with every assignment, and then I create a true-false quiz with the checklist as the “question” in the Gradebook. When they answer true to the checklist question, the points go into the Gradebook automatically. I call these Gradebook Declarations, and I’ve written up all the details here: Points-Based Grading: Student Gradebook Declarations. This has a lot in common with Janie’s quizzes-for-feedback, but it goes farther and turns this into the grading procedure for the class.

I also discovered a useful quiz question hack that I use so that I can make changes to a question that recurs week to week and not have to edit every question instance separately (thank goodness! otherwise, the sheer tedium of updating all question instances would inhibit me from tinkering with the checklists to improve their clarity and usefulness, which is something I am now free to do).

GROWTH MINDSET. While I have never graded, it was only in Fall 2015 that I started using Dweck’s growth mindset in my classes, and the results have been amazing. The students have always liked my ungrading system, but they did not really have a narrative of self-directed learning … and now they do! I should write up a post about all the ways I weave growth mindset into my classes, but let me share here just how I get the students started with that: Week 1 Growth Mindset. You can also see the blog posts they write about growth mindset both in the first week and in optional posts later on here: Growth Mindset blog posts.

GROWTH MINDSET CATS. Okay, they may seem silly at first, but the Growth Mindset Cats have turned out to be a huge success with the students. I’ve written up a post at this blog about the power of the random cats. And since writing that post in October, I’ve created a Canvas Javascript Widget with Random Growth Mindset Cats: anyone and everyone is welcome to use it! You can find the iframe magic code here: Growth Mindset Cats Canvas Widget. See the bottom of this post for the cat widget in action!

PEER FEEDBACK. I spend most of my time each week as an instructor giving feedback to students (I teach writing, so, that’s what I do: I have stories from 80-90 students each week to read). The bigger challenge, though, is helping the students learn how to give each other useful feedback, and also how to make good use of the feedback they receive from me and from others. Especially since they have been so grade-oriented (and grade-traumatized) over their years of school, this is not an easy task! In Week 2 I start by sharing with them some useful articles on giving and receiving feedback which they read; then they share their thoughts: Thoughts about Feedback.

New Randomizer Idea. One idea I got while watching Janie’s video was to create a randomizer for the feedback articles I share with students; that would actually be better than the system I use now where I give them a list. Randomizers are more fun than lists, and I have lots more articles than appear in the list for the assignment, so a randomizer would let me share more of those articles with the students.

… and that’s all for now! I know this is more a post just about teaching philosophy and strategies; since I prefer to keep myself OUT of Gradebook and grading, I don’t use any of those Canvas Gradebook or Mastery tools with my students — their grade in the class is between them and the computer; I just keep an eye on total points to see who is struggling so that I can intervene accordingly. Still, I hope that some of these materials can be useful for people who are using a feedback-driven process that takes place in the Canvas grading tools.

Meanwhile, it was so nice to get to watch a CanvasLIVE presentation on a topic that is of great interest to me and of great importance in the whole teaching endeavor; I’m looking forward to more events… including events like this one where I can’t make it live but can catch up later. 🙂

And here’s a random cat to finish off the post (reload for more):


Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

CanvasLIVE Brainstorming

I can already tell this week is going to run away with me (some students are already moving on to setting up their website for their projects, which is so exciting!) … so, I decided I should just do a brainstorm today and jot down ideas for CanvasLIVE demos and/or support materials. Yesterday I wrote about how I set up a CanvasLIVE play space and tested one thing: putting my javascript widgets in a Discussion Board area (it worked!). So here are some ideas about things I want to document and share.

… Okay, I brainstormed in no particular order for the duration of a cup of coffee, and now I will go back through and add links where I have something up and running, either by way of example of by way of documentation (which is the real time hog: it takes so much time to document things, and some of these I have not documented at all yet, just used for my own purposes)

Dynamic content in discussion boards: using randomizers and “daily” prompts to add some variety to a discussion board topic.

Contextualizing Twitter with Tables: using table layout to put Twitter in one column and context in the left column – links to websites, assignment instructions, link to discussion board, etc. etc.

Wikipedia Trails: this is an optional assignment that my students do, and it is a really popular one; Twitter is one of the best starting points too

Creating widgets to share at a university: Most faculty are probably not going to want to mess with https and iframes, but it just takes one person to create Twitter widgets to share with the most useful Twitter feeds at the school

Using RotateContent: how to create simple text randomizers … how to create simple text “today” messages … how to create more complex randomizers and daily content with media assets … metarandomizers which randomize other scripts

Introduction to the Widget Warehouse: a guided tour of the scripts, generalizing from the work I have done for my own classes to how the basic principles of randomizing can be applied to other types of course content

Embedded Blogs: using a blog for course announcements / homepage / wiki front page, etc. (keys are https, iframe, and making sure blog is configured to open all links in a new tab)

Growth Mindset: different ways to use dynamic content to make growth mindset and other motivators a persistent part of the class experience

Different Twitter Widgets: by using real Twitter widgets you can create widgets for profiles, lists, hashtags, and searches… advantages and disadvantages of each

Twitter4Canvas: materials already worked up on https, iframe, table layout

Inoreader: Sending RSS to Canvas with HTML clippings. I’m not doing this in Canvas but at my own wiki: need to document Canvas examples.

Student Blog Network: blog randomizer… Inoreader HTML clippings for latest blog feeds … specific assignments – again, I don’t put my blog network in Canvas but same techniques apply as for my blog hubs

Student Projects: stop using disposable assignments, create a lasting archive… and then use a randomizer to make that archive part of every class, like on front page of my wiki; would work same in Canvas

Repeated Quiz Questions: https images for global updates to your quiz questions

Using Points-Based Grading and Declarations: Taking yourself out of the grading loop and turning that over to the students.

FreebookapaloozaFree books and free library resources are just a click away. Public domain, OER: going beyond textbooks: you can use randomizers to increase student awareness and integrate into course content.

Storify: Another way to curate Twitter (use the curated #NetNarr class discussion as an example!)

Diigo to RSS: Once you have learned how to use the magic of RSS in Canvas, you can use other RSS sources, like Diigo, to send content to your class space. I really need to do this to get my own Diigo challenges stream under control!

Well, this will keep me busy for a while, ha ha. Maybe it will also keep me out of trouble. Consider this the messy beginning of a new learning adventure! What’s great is that having to clean things up to share with others will help me to clean up my own digital house (like the disaster that is my current incoming Diigo bookmarks). It’s like having guests over: the best reason to do housecleaning. 🙂

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.




CanvasLive: Getting Started

Well, it wouldn’t be a new project without a new blog: CanvasLIVE Playground. That will be the space where I can start evolving some CanvasLIVE materials, and of course that is the homepage (blog-as-homepage) for a new Canvas course I created to document and test things: Playground course space. And I made a URL: to make that easy to remember.

Then I started by testing out my random/daily Growth Mindset Cats in the DISCUSSION area. It worked! See the screenshots. I like the idea of exploring possibilities like this that might be helpful to other instructors even if I don’t use Canvas Discussion myself.

I’ll say more about randomized/daily content in a separate post (today ran away from me), but first I went to check at the Canvas Community to see what other “random” content I could find there, and I only found randomized quiz questions and randomized group/peer assignments. I did not find any random content approaches, so hopefully my randomizers can be a good new contribution. I love the power of random: it’s like a game. 🙂

So, just for fun I will paste in my Growth Mindset Cat randomizer here; just reload for more power of random.

Excited about CanvasLIVE (thank you, Stefanie!)

I am excited about something that happened last week: I got a really nice email from Stefanie Sanders at Canvas (the one who introduced me to the genius API for global date changes), and she asked me if I would be interested in doing some CanvasLIVE presentations/demos for the kinds of things I have been developing over the past few months like the Twitter4Canvas project, the way I do class announcements with an embedded blog, the countdown widget, etc.

First off, I was just totally flattered that she had been reading about my experiments; I do these things because they are really fun and useful just for me, but when they are useful to others, that is even better.

More importantly, this again shows me how Canvas is willing to reach out and work with faculty, including people like myself who are not big fans of the LMS as a system. So, I wanted to take a few minutes in this post to say something about my history with Instructure, because their proactive outreach has been going on for a long time!

Way back in 2010, Cory Reid got in touch with me when Instructure was getting started and asked me to try their new LMS. I’m a total nobody at my school (just a year-to-year online adjunct), but I’m a noisemaker online, and he had seen me posting in education Nings and other public places online about my dissatisfaction with D2L. I was surprised to get his email, and I wrote back and said I wasn’t interested because I saw no point in another LMS that was closed. He wrote back and assured me that Canvas was different: I would be able to share course pages created at Canvas on the open Internet with a normal URL, no log-in required. That got my attention!

So, a very nice person named Devlin Daley did a demo for me and, much to my own surprise, I was really impressed. Instructure WAS different. The pages WERE open. I mocked up a Latin Composition course (eegad, I just checked: the pages are still up: wow!), hoping that my school would agree to let me teach a Latin Composition course online both as a contribution to the Latin program and as an experiment in using Instructure. That went nowhere (my school has refused to ever let me teach Latin online, alas, even though Latin is my actual academic specialty). As a result of my school declining the course and also being very committed to D2L, nothing came of that experiment, but I followed Instructure’s progress with great interest; the open course content was the key factor that motivated me.

At the same time, as Instructure grew and Canvas gained more and more clients, I was frustrated by the ways it appeared to be falling into some of the same closed, controlling features of the old-school LMSes. Yet even when I was complaining about Canvas (as when I was a student in a Canvas course for HumanMOOC), there was positive engagement from people at Instructure like Brian Whitmer and Jared Stein. That also really impressed me! For any kind of education and development, there must be open and honest feedback. Learners need feedback, and so do teachers, and so do technologists. I would also occasionally get emails from developers at Instructure, asking my opinion about some things they were trying. I thought that was really cool, and I was always glad to write back and share what I had learned from my own experiments in teaching online.

So, based on those positive experiences, I did not hesitate to participate in the Canvas roll-out at my school this year (soft roll-out this year; Canvas for all courses next year). Things went really smoothly, and my students have been pleased with Canvas, both in my classes and in their other classes that are already using Canvas (I wrote about my student Canvas survey here).

In addition, because the openness of Canvas courses allowed me to share my experiments with other faculty at my school, I created some Canvas courses to demonstrate the kinds of things that really interest me: javascript widgets and other dynamic content delivery that can bring the “live” Internet into online spaces, including Canvas course spaces. That has actually turned out to be really fun, and I’ve been learning some things along the way that have been useful for my classes too. I started with a Growth Mindset Playground in the summer of 2016 (that one is a bit of a mess as I was just learning how to use Canvas), and based on what I learned from that I created my Canvas Widget Warehouse over the winter break (that was so much fun), and I just now set up my favorite experiment so far: Twitter4Canvas.

So, here we are now, 7 years after my first contact with the people at Instructure. I’m still a foe of the LMS as a default for online teaching, but at the same time I am really pleased at the way the openness of Canvas courses does let me connect and share with others. You know, like on the real Internet! 🙂

But seriously, as much as I would like to call a moratorium on the LMS for a year (using it only for enrollment and grading), and thus encouraging/forcing faculty to try other online options, I know that is not going to happen. The LMS is here to stay, and if I want to make a positive contribution to the development of online learning in higher ed (and I do), then I need to find a way to contribute to what people are doing with the LMS. And Canvas, with its open courses, makes that a viable proposition.

About CanvasLIVE (i.e. the “live” part): people who know me know that I am not keen on synchronous events; I’m the Queen of Asynchrony. Video hangouts and such are usually not my thing… but I’m going to set a growth mindset challenge to myself to get out of my comfortable asynchronous zone and try something new by working with the Canvas Community on these CanvasLIVE events. I’m excited that I can make my Internet widget magic work inside Canvas, and in my posts here in the coming week I’ll brainstorm some strategies I can use in presenting that to people who are new to the world of javascript magic and widgetry. Then … I will do my best to be synchronous.

And here’s a growth mindset cat to inspire me to take some risks and get synchronous:

Go beyond your safe zone.

That is a meme I made inspired by Tibby the cat who sees circles of fear all around; find out more about Tibby here: The Rumpus Interview with Caroline Paul and Wendy Macnaughton, creators of Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology.

I’m ready to cope with the slow moving object that is synchronous Google Hangouts. I just need to remember to… breathe. 🙂

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.