A Blank Canvas…Endless Possibilities

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Sereena Feeney

More stories from Sereena Feeney

Najee Rhodes
March 30, 2017

At the beginning of the 2015 school year, the upper school made a big adjustment in how teachers share information about classes with students. We shifted from the ODA Portal which could simply house and organize information to a LMS called Canvas.

What is a LMS, you ask?

LMS stands for learning management system. It is a system that makes it possible for teacher to run classes all of kinds. Essentially, it houses a course’s learning: files, resources, grades, calendar information, and assignments.

The hope with any LMS is that it will be an enhancement of the class experience.

Still early in our adoption of the platform, the most often cited use for Canvas for students has been for receiving information about assignments.

In fact, for many, this assignment notifying the only thing most students use Canvas for. Multiple students said they liked that it shows all their homework for the week.

While it’s great that students identify a clear use for Canvas, the calendar feature is a small part of what the system can do.

Beyond listing assignments, Canvas is a powerful way to integrate technology into a class. Teachers and students have the opportunity to create an unique learning experience–one that allows them to develop and present information, monitor their users’ activity, track participation, and integrate a wide range of other learning tools.

Consider how much more Canvas could become if it became much more than simply a resource for homework.

What if all of our quizzes were online, for example? Many quizzes can be graded instantly. No more sitting in anticipation of how you truly understood what was being taught. Imagine if these quizzes could be used to tell you exactly what you didn’t understand before you took a more impacting test?

What if when you missed school day, a lesson plan was already in place on Canvas? No more having to go around asking classmates and teachers what was done in class. Imagine not actually feeling like you got left behind in your work on that day you really needed to be home in bed.

Imagine if instead of always writing a paper on a prompt your teacher gave you, sometimes you could submit a video of yourself talking through your interpretation or demonstrating your understanding some other way?

What can we do to encourage a deeper use of Canvas to support our needs? Mr. Kinser, the Upper School Educational Technologist has some ideas.

His work with Canvas revolves around both the students and the teachers. Kinser is taking it upon himself to build Canvas to its full potential.

“So I’m tasked with creating two workshops. One of them for teachers to go to the next level. How do we create a canvas experience that makes students feel like it’s easier to get through the class? Then I’ll create a student workshop that’s how to navigate,” says Kinser.

What more can we add to better the use of Canvas? Some of our students and teachers have some suggestions.

Students would like to see teachers put assignments up with more notice. By almost building a course that is built out before the course begins so they can know what to expect. A syllabus kind of feel.

What can students do to deepen their use of Canvas? Here are some suggestions:

Add the app to your phone. Get notifications instantly when someone has made an announcement.

Consider creating a portfolio of your best work using the portfolio function found in your profile settings. Gather your best work to use in the college application process.

Create a “course” for a club that you’re in. Get club news onto your Canvas calendar.

Personalize your calendar by adding some of your own content like extracurricular responsibilities or your mom’s birthday.

Have ideas or thoughts? Seek out Mr. Kinser or Mrs. Giraud and share them. You have the ability to shape Canvas into something bigger and better for ODA in the upcoming years.