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)

… I’m updating this list as I complete some CanvasLIVE presentations and get ideas for others:

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.

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

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

Using Points-Based Grading and Declarations: Taking yourself out of the grading loop and turning that over to the students. And use repeated Quiz Questions: https images for global updates to your quiz questions

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!

PAINTCanvas. I could do a repeat of the presentation for my school’s PAINTCanvas event.

Embedding Audio. People are used to working with video, but there are some great advantages to working with audio and embedding audio. I’ll provide examples from both Soundcloud and NPR (perhaps others).

Curation Tools. I’ll share my favorite tools: Inoreader, Diigo, and Pinterest, with an emphasis on Pinterest as a curation tool for students.

Connected Learning. An overview of Connected Learning, with an emphasis on how it can thrive in Internet spaces … including Canvas.

My Courses … in Just 10 Links. This is a presentation I did at my school to introduce people to my approach to teaching, and it went well, so maybe it would work as a CanvasLIVE.

The Power of Slack. Not the software: the pedagogy. This would be a presentation on ways to design your course to give your students slack, the room they need to make mistakes and recover from them. I would emphasize the Canvas grace period, points-based grading, flexible projects, and the power of extra credit.

Student Web Publishing with Google Sites. I’ll provide an overview of my use of Google Sites with students and examples of their 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

Online Presence for Students and Teachers. Instead of anxiety about not having face to face, let’s think about how to build online presence.

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.