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.

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.