Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Canvas for Teachers

More and more teachers in Canyons District are beginning to use Canvas for part of their course instruction. The primary idea is to help teachers and students succeed in a Blended Learning environment; or in a classroom where part of the instruction is delivered online. Canvas allows teachers to post and grade assignments, have class discussions, give collaborative assignments, peer reviews, quizzes, and much more. Canvas also give teachers access to powerful analytics tools so that they can see which students are engaged and which are not. Formative evaluations are easy, effective, and comprehensive.

We are working to make the transition to integrating Canvas into our schools a smooth one. We know there will be concerns as we move forward. Here are some of the common questions we are hearing:

Question: Will Canvas replace teachers? or, Are we building the machine that will replace us?
Answer: Envisioning a future where robot teachers are rolling around the classroom isn't a new concept, but we don't think this will happen any time soon. Why? Because great teaching is complex and constantly changing. Your students' needs are just as diverse, nuanced, and quickly evolving as they are. Canvas adds the ability to connect with students anywhere and at any time. It allows you to (and we encourage you to) use your voice or a webcam to keep that valuable humanity in the teacher-student relationship.

Note: If you have 20 mins, this TED Talk from one of the creators of Coursera, one of the largest providers of massive open online courses (MOOCs) is well worth your time to watch.

Question: Can I share my course/content with other teachers?
Answer: Yes! Currently in Canvas, you can add other teachers to your courses so that they can copy your content into their own courses. This make working in collaborative teams, departments, and PLCs much easier. We are working on helping schools, departments, and teachers in building question banks for Canvas Quizzes that can be shared with others. We hope to have training materials and other documentation available for this later in the year.

Question: Do I have to use Canvas? or, When can I begin using Canvas?
Answer: All CSD teachers have access to Canvas and all secondary students (6-12) have Canvas accounts already created. Some groups are being asked to use Canvas this year as we all work together to learn more about this system and how it can benefit our students. Groups who are actively being trained with Canvas include:
  • 8th and 12th  grade Language Arts
  • Middle School Social Studies
  • World Languages Teachers
  • Physics, Biology, and Chemistry
  • Canvas Implementation Program (teachers who began using Canvas last school year.)
Other teachers are welcome to use Canvas. Training for all teachers is managed through our Canvas Fast Track course. We know that it will be difficult to connect with every teacher and answer every question about Canvas, so we created this course as a way for teachers to learn the parts of Canvas they want to learn, when they are ready.  To fully participate in this course, please contact your school Ed Tech Specialist.

Question: Does Canvas replace my class website?
Answer: Not really. Think of your website as a library of information. You may have videos, handouts, and other files on your website. You can use all of these in Canvas as embedded links. Canvas gives your students the ability to interact with your library. Not only can they download your handouts, but they can edit them and resubmit them to you as their completed assignment. And, you can grade that assignment, give students the assignment to review the work done by their peers, give feedback, and allow for re-submissions. Not only can they watch your video, but they can leave comments, ask questions, share ideas, and even create their own videos.

Canvas can be a great tool for giving and receiving feedback to and from students. It can be a great way to engage students in your classroom. What is your experience with Canvas so far? How are you or will you use Canvas in your teaching? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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