Blog

Eric Hills

05 Nov 2017

It’s amazing the insight you can get from candid conversations with students.

 

This past week, I sat down to help a student who was having some issues tracking down a document in their Google Drive. We went into his Gmail and to my shock and horror, the student had 1,300 unread messages. Glancing over the messages, I saw a number of emails from teachers intermingled with Canvas notifications and other inbox clutter. When I asked the student about it, he basically just said, “I can’t keep up. So I only go to my emails when directed by a teacher or when I need to email them.”

 

The student I was talking to is a productive, hard-working, and academically successful student. But when it came to organization and communication, he could use some help.

 

This conversation illustrated something simple we’ve probably all been thinking for years: email just isn’t a great form of communication. Canvas has tools you can use to communicate more efficiently. But first, we need to relieve students from the email flood.

 

Step 1: Edit Canvas notifications.

The default notification settings for Canvas are a little much for anyone’s inbox. Students can and should edit their notifications so they receive only the important ones. Most settings can be changed to “Send daily summary” instead of right away. See the screenshot below for some suggestions. (Side note: students can also use text messages as notifications.)

 

 

Step 2: Use Canvas Announcements.

Announcements are a fabulous tool for sending messages to students. For one, the Canvas inbox is limited to messages between teachers and their classes. That means there won’t be any clutter to sort through. Another benefit is that many students use the mobile app for Canvas and therefore get push notifications that alert them to new messages. Announcements function exactly like a page in Canvas. You can embed content, links, files, and images. You can also edit them in case you make a mistake. Lastly, you can delay when they are sent so you can draft them up and then send them at the end of the school day for example.

 

Step 3: Use Gradebook in Canvas for messages.

One last way you can use Canvas for sending messages is kind of hidden. Using the Canvas gradebook, you can send messages to students that haven’t completed or submitted an assignment or got a certain score. For example, you could send a message to students who need to retake a quiz or better yet, you could send a congratulatory note to students that did really well!

15 May 2017

At #EdCampTC on May 6th, the DLCs learned about a new (Minnesota created!) tool called Edji. We are really excited to share this tool with all of you as it has a lot of potential uses.

 

Edji is a unique, collaborative annotation tool. Students and teachers can highlight portions of text and leave either emoji comments or text comments. They can also place a hotspot on a picture and leave a comment as well. Teachers have the ability to control whether “Heat Vision” is on, which allows you to either turn on or hide student comments and hotspots. When you turn Heat Vision on, areas of the text that have been highlighted by students will appear yellow to dark red depending on how many other students highlighted that area. Most teachers will likely leave the Heat Vision feature off until students have had time to highlight and comment. Once they are done, you can turn on Heat Vision to show common highlights and comments.

 

 

Creating a reading for students to complete is very easy. You can copy and paste text from other sources such as Newsela, CommitLit, The Tween Tribune, Project Gutenberg, or any other preferred source of texts. You can also upload PDFs that you have, but they must have machine-encoded text (that you could normally highlight on a computer) to work properly. So basically if you scanned your resource into the PDF format, it will act like an image file, not a PDF so students won’t be able to highlight.

 

 

Another feature is adding images to a reading. In fact, you can use Edji exclusively for collaboratively annotated images. Imagine students pointing out features on a map or commenting on the process of a math problem. The possibilities are endless!

 

 

Once you have created a reading, students access the reading by entering a 4-digit code. They can sign in as a guest or create an account so they can get back to the lessons they have completed. You can also create readings groups. This helps so that the comments are manageable. If you use the same text for 30 (or 150) students, it might be difficult to navigate the comments.

 

(As a bit of a disclaimer, we would currently recommend this only be used on MacBooks or Chromebooks. Occasionally when trying to highlight on an iPad, the comment buttons do not do anything when clicked on. It appears that holding your device in portrait mode works consistently, but not always when in landscape mode.)

20 Mar 2017

Multimedia projects are a great way for students to demonstrate learning in a creative way. Creating multimedia projects like videos also provides opportunities for students to build collaboration and communication skills. With 1:1 devices, making multimedia projects has never been easier. But having such easy access to images, videos, and songs also adds copyright complications that consumers need to be aware of. We all need to know how to find, use, and cite appropriate resources.

We teach about plagiarism in many different subject areas. We know that it’s not okay to use others’ ideas or written works and claim them as our own. And yet when it comes to images, music, or videos, students - and often teachers - don’t adhere to the same standard. We get it! Finding high quality, royalty-free media resources is time consuming. This blog post will (a) address common misconceptions about copyright and (b) provide great resources for royalty-free photos, video, and music that students (and teachers!) can incorporate into projects and presentations.

Students also need to know how to (legally) share original content. In order for learning to be authentic and transformative, students need to share their learning with the world!

 

FAQ/Common Misconceptions

 

Because we are using this (song, video, image) for educational use, it’s perfectly legal to use it.

Educational use, or fair use, is probably the most confusing aspect of copyright law. It allows for teachers to use limited selections of works. Typically fair use is related to using a copyrighted work sparingly in a review, commentary, research, or instruction. Because images, songs, and videos are creative and not factual information, they are less likely to meet the requirements of using it for fair use.

Can’t I just use 30 seconds of this song?

The 30 second rule is a complete myth. It doesn’t exist. Seriously. Here’s more details.

My student really wants to use this copyrighted song. It just fits the video so well! Can’t I use it if it’s for educational use only?

Unfortunately, no. Educational use does not extend to using music in media projects or other original creations. I would recommend checking out the links above. There is a ton of royalty-free music out that that fits every occasion.

Well it’s on YouTube, so can’t I use it for my project?

Not exactly and we’ve got to be pretty careful here. While a ton of the content on YouTube is copyrighted and posted illegally, we shouldn’t be encouraging students to use this content. Saving MP3s off YouTube or downloading the video files is definitely not legal unless you get permission from the owner of the video. The way videos earn money for an artist is based on how many times that video is viewed so taking it off YouTube will not earn the artist views. There are some YouTube channels that offer free stock footage and provide you a link to download the content, but these types of videos can be difficult to find.

Doesn’t this take more instructional time?

Yes, it definitely can take more time especially when kids are just learning how to cite sources. But having kids practice digital citizenship will be very important when they get out into the workforce. They need to be able to create media without stealing just like we need to be able to write without plagiarizing.

My student wrote a parody of a copyrighted song. Can they put it on YouTube?

Not to be a killjoy, but that also violates YouTube’s terms of service. While it might not get flagged right away and some artists don’t care, it may get flagged and taken down. That would be a great project to showcase to your classroom or in front of the school.

One link to rule them all!

bit.ly/freemediasites - A binder with tons of links which you can share with students.

Photos:

https://pixabay.com/

http://www.photosforclass.com/

http://www.pics4learning.com/

http://publicdomainpictures.net/

https://www.flickr.com/commons

https://www.pond5.com/free

https://unsplash.com/

https://ccsearch.creativecommons.org/

Video Footage:

https://pixabay.com/videos/

https://vimeo.com/groups/freehd?scrlybrkr=182fc7c2

https://videos.pexels.com/

http://www.beachfrontbroll.com/p/general-stock-video.html

http://www.vidsplay.com/

Music:

http://www.bensound.com/

http://audionautix.com/

https://licensing.jamendo.com/en/catalog

http://freemusicarchive.org/

https://musopen.org/music/

22 Feb 2017

Giving feedback on student writing is incredibly time consuming. Anything that students can do to help each other and themselves before they submit their final drafts can be a huge time-saver for teachers, but also gives them a unique perspective to look at their writing. Here are some tools that can help your students analyze their work in the drafting stage of the writing process.

Note: All of these tools work on iPads, Chromebooks, and MacBooks. iPad users will need to use Safari for all these tools.

 

Canvas Peer Review:

In Canvas, you can automatically or manually assign peer reviews to students. Simply check the box in the settings for an assignment. While you can do anonymous peer reviews, this disables the ability to comment directly on student work. During peer review, students can use a rubric, submit comments, and annotate a fellow student’s work. Click here to learn more about how to set up a peer review assignment!

 

If a situation arises where one student does not have someone to peer review their work, the tools below can be a great substitute!

 

Hemingway App:

Ernest Hemingway was known for writing concise, tight prose that was simple, bold, and effective. With the Hemingway app, you will be given feedback on use of adverbs, passive voice, and sentence complexity. Your work will be color coded to help you quickly identify issues in your writing. You will also see a readability score and word count to help you get your point across clearly and quickly.

 

Students simply copy and paste their writing into the Hemingway editor to begin. They will lose formatting so if students have bullet points, they will not paste correctly. When you are done, students copy their work from Hemingway and can paste it into Word or Google Docs for final editing and submission.

 

Slick Write:

Slick Write is similar to the Hemingway App in a lot of ways, but comes with more features. Just like Hemingway, you will need to copy and paste your work to and from Slick Write. Once you have entered your writing, you have the option of looking at “features” of your writing such as grammatical errors and adverb usage, “structure” to identify complex sentence structures, and “word variety” to identify and eliminate repetitive word usage.

03 Feb 2017

Have you ever had the feeling that you are spending time communicating with parents and students and they just aren’t reading it? Are they checking their email? Are they checking grades? Do they have a Canvas or Infinite Campus account set up? Did they watch that cool video I sent them?

 

Here are some ways that you can see how people are engaging with your resources you share:

 

Infinite Campus Portal Usage:

There is a report in Infinite Campus where you can view how often your students and parents access Infinite Campus to see who is engaged and who needs more support and encouragement in staying involved in checking grades. Simply go to Reports (Roster) and select a “Portal Usage” report from the drop-down menu. When you are generate the report, you’ll see when the last time a parent and student has been on Infinite Campus and how many times they have visited the site recently. Very insightful information can be gained for this!

 

Canvas Observers:

Your parents can create parent accounts to see grades, the to-do list, the calendar, and course content in Canvas. If you click on the People button in a course, you can see how many observers you have in your course as well as identify which students are being observed. You can also see how long they have been active in your course. This will give you a more targeted idea on which parents are already engaging with your courses and which could use some encouragement to get involved. While you are in looking at People, you can also see the total time they are actively using your course. There's also a brand new feature called Context Cards. If you click on a student in the People menu, you'll see how they interact in your course compared to other students in the class.

 

Canvas Analytics:

Canvas Analytics can give you a lot of information on how frequently students are engaging with your course. You can view analytics by student to see if they have missing or late work and how often they are viewing the course. You can also look at analytics for assignments to see how many students have it turned in, missing, or late. There’s a lot of great information to be gleaned from Analytics in Canvas! Simply click on the “view course analytics” button on your homepage to take a look. Or to view student analytics, click on People and then click on a student.

 

Short Link Generators - Bit.ly or Goo.gl:

Using shortlink creators like bit.ly and goo.gl is useful for a number of reasons. It makes it easy for people to manually type in a link. The other benefit is you can track the number of clicks on a link created using one of those programs. Bit.ly allows you to customize the name of the link, while goo.gl is quick and easy to use and has a QR code maker built in. Creating a short link and pasting it into an email or on your website lets you see how many people are engaging with that link. It can be a great tool to use when sending a link to a survey or video to see how many people clicked on it.

 

MailChimp:

MailChimp allows you to create “campaigns” for sending emails. MailChimp automatically tracks who on the list opens the emails and who does not. Using a spreadsheet of names and emails or manually entering them one by one, you can create a mailing list to send to your parents and/or students. MailChimp also has a form you can put on your website so that people can sign up to be on your mailing list without needing to contact you. This very convenient, especially for coaches and advisors!

28 Apr 2016

A few years ago, Shakopee looked at many different learning management (LMS) platforms such as Canvas, Schoology, It’s Learning, and Moodle. Many of those in attendance loved the flexibility that Canvas offered over its competitors. While Canvas was not used by many school districts in Minnesota at the time, it was clear that they were expanding their reach across the country because they have a solid product that continues to improve.

Nearly three years later, Canvas has spread to Minnesota K12 school districts including Duluth, Wayzata, Proctor, Esko, De La Salle, and more. It’s cool to be the trendsetters, right?! And, amazingly, it is the second fastest growing LMS platform and fourth most popular LMS for Higher Education. Using this LMS will definitely help our students become college-ready!

New LMS Implementations vs 2015 Market Share for HigherEd in North America

 

When we signed our contract with Canvas, they made it very clear that they wanted us as a partner, not just a customer. They are receptive to suggestions and transparent about their development process. They sincerely want to get better at serving our teachers, students, and community.

Did you know that you can suggest new Canvas features? If you click on the “Help” button in the lower-left corner of any screen when signed into Canvas, you can access the Canvas Guides or make a feature request. (It helps to click the log in button so you can participate in the community using your shakopee.instructure.com credentials). All you need is 100 votes on your feature request and it could go into development!

You can also check out other people’s feature ideas and vote for them. For example, Eric Hills wrote a simple request on adding a shortcut to Modules on the Dashboard. Only a few more votes and this could quickly become a reality. No idea is too big or too small! You can follow and participate in discussion threads or feature suggestions, join user groups like the K12 Canvas Group, and read about upcoming features that are in development or recently completed. This is a great place to learn from others and see what’s coming up in the world of Canvas!

25 Mar 2016

We all need to be gone from school from time to time. Whether we are ill, have sick kids, or have articulation or committee meetings, absences happen. When we leave our classroom, we don’t know exactly what to expect when we get back. We might have multiple teachers cover our classes or a sub that we’ve never met before. Often times we are just hoping that there weren’t any behavior problems! We feel like we lose a day of instruction when we are gone.

 

So how can we “be” at school, even when we aren’t able to be physically present? And how can we save time making sub plans that might get lost or be completely ignored?

 

Many secondary teachers have been using Canvas to provide directions, assignments, and resources. This is a huge benefit for those teachers that use Canvas regularly and have expectations on how students use and access it. And while you’re gone, you could even double-check their work before your students arrive in class the next day!

 

But what if your students don’t have devices or your class is not using Canvas?

 

Have you considered screencasting? Simply put, screencasting means that you are recording whatever is on your computer screen and you turn it into a video. Now you can give directions to your class, your sub, and use your own words and materials to do so!

 

Tools Needed:

MacBook

Your presentations, documents, and voice

Google Drive account and/or YouTube Channel

 

Step 1: Open QuickTime on your MacBook. While there are other tools to screencast, this one is built into every MacBook. Click File, then New Screen Recording. Click once in the middle of the screen to record your entire screen and then hit the record button. Sidenote: follow these directions to display your iPad on your MacBook to record it.

 

Step 2: Now that you are recording, guide your students and sub through the materials that you have for their lesson. This can include ANYTHING you can use on your computer, including SMART notebook files, PowerPoints, Word documents, PDFs, and more. Try to keep your directions concise and clear so there is no confusion, since you won’t be able to answer questions! And don’t be afraid to mess up; just keep talking and then edit out your mistakes later.

 

Step 3: When you click the record button again to stop recording, you can save your video to your Desktop or Google Drive. Depending on your preference, you can simply share the video with students in Google Drive by sharing it as “anyone with the link can view.” YouTube is another great option. Check out these directions to set up a YouTube Channel.

 

Step 4: Share your video. In Drive, it’s easiest to make your video “anyone with the link can view” and then post the link somewhere like your website, Canvas, or whatever. Another great method of sharing links is using a short link. You can create short links with one click by using either the goo.gl URL shortner or bit.ly, both of which have Chrome Extensions. Bit.ly does offer the ability to change the name of the link so that they are easier to type in.


Optional: Edit your video! Perhaps you have a few videos clips or just messed up a small part. Either way, the best method is use iMovie. It can be downloaded for free through the Mac App Store. Clip out the parts you don’t need, add all the clips and media you want in one video, save it, then upload it to YouTube. While this is another time-consuming step, this does make your videos more engaging and professional. And if you plan to reuse this video, you may want to edit.

15 Mar 2016

Here are five ways to get started getting the most out of your Mac. Anyone can use these MacBook tools! Are you a 9th grade teacher looking for some new uses for student MacBooks? Or perhaps you are a 10th-12th grade teacher thinking ahead to next year? MacBooks can be used in a lot of productive and creative ways with your students.

 

1) Preview - Preview is a tool that is built into your MacBook. It allows you to take an image or PDF file and add shapes, text, drawings, highlights, and more. This is perfect for highlighting texts, editing pictures, or taking notes on a graphic organizer. Click here for more information and a student handout.

 

2) QuickTime - Wait, you mean that media player that pops up when I open videos? Yes, that QuickTime! It can be used to display an iPad to a classroom, screencast (record your screen) to create flipped lessons or sub plans, or simply record audio files to use in iBooks Author to turn your book into an audiobook!

 

3) iMovie - iMovie is free with new MacBooks and can be found in the Mac App Store. iMovie is your go-to video editing software for your MacBook. You can add videos, images, music, sound effects, and voice overs to your projects. For more detailed information and screencasts on how to use it, click here.

 

4) iBooks Author - iBooks Author is a free tool that you can get from the Mac App Store. It allows the creation of interactive e-books that can be used on iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks. These books can include hyperlinks, images, videos, interactive images that you can caption with hotspots, and even check-in quizzes. A few teachers have used this to create children’s books for elementary school students. And if you want, you can easily publish your final creation to the iBooks Store to sell. Now that’s an authentic audience!

 

5) Chrome - Technically, Chrome isn't a MacBook tool because you can use it anywhere! It’s easy to overlook, but the Chrome Internet browser is an incredibly powerful tool. It can definitely do more than simply access websites! You can use extensions, which are little pieces of software that increase your organization and productively immensely. Using Chrome, you can also sync your bookmarks across different devices if you are logged in with your Google Account. And of course, using Chrome is the recommended tool to interact with Google Drive and Canvas.

 

*Safe Exam Browser - Safe Exam Browser is a perfect solution for taking quizzes on the MacBook while using Canvas. It is a locked-down Internet browser that disables the dock, screenshots, copy/paste, and moving between applications. Students must complete their quiz before exiting this browser. Click here for more directions.

08 Mar 2016

 

HTML code. What image appears in your mind when you hear those words? A series of 1s and 0s in green letters on a black screen? Your old customized MySpace profile? Well if you know how to copy and paste, keep reading because you can use it to make your Canvas course or Teacher website more interactive!

 

So why use HTML code? For starters, many web tools provide you with the HTML code you need to embed their content directly into Canvas or SchoolWires pages by simply copying and pasting it in. No coding experience required! And students and parents can pull up your teacher webpage or Canvas course and seamlessly access content you want them to see such as a Google Slideshow or Quizlet flashcard set.

 

Here is a (far from comprehensive) list of great tools that can be embedded directly in Canvas and School Wires:

 

Google Slides - take your slideshows and place them directly in Canvas for viewing

Google Forms - create surveys for parents or use them as exit tickets with students

Edpuzzle - take a video, add questions, assign to students to watch it without skipping parts!

Desmos - create interactive math lessons kids complete independently

YouTube - embedding keeps kids in Canvas and out of YouTube!

Padlet - an online collaborative cork board for links, pictures, and text

Answer Garden - create a question prompt, kids respond, generates a word cloud

Quizlet - vocabulary review games with leaderboards, make your own sets!

 

EmbeddingYouTube

 

04 Mar 2016

Quizzes are one of the most common features we see teachers using in Canvas. And with the help of Canvas, you can create some truly impressive and useful quizzes. This blog post will cover some of the great options that are available to you in Canvas that you might not be aware of. Use the links to find more detailed step-by-step instructions that show you how to use these features.

 

With Canvas, you can create all sorts of quizzes; multiple choice, matching, true/false, drop down menus, multiple answers, essay, etc. But with Canvas, you can add digital media as well! Kids can watch a video in the quiz directions or in each question. You can insert high-quality images (think maps, charts, and diagrams), math equations, and even use formulas to create randomly generated math questions. You can even create question banks and randomly select only some of the questions, then use numerous question banks on a later unit test. And of course, any selected-response questions are automatically graded for you and your students! Convenient!

 

For each question, you can provide details as to why a question was answered correctly or incorrectly so that students receive immediate feedback. I love this feature because then you can address misconceptions, give links to resources, or simply give feedback so that students know what they got wrong.

 

quizquestionfeedback

 

You also have the option to use the SpeedGrader to give them detailed comments and points for each question after they have taken the quiz.

 

quizquestion

 

Quizzes are a great place to use requirements in a Module. This allows you to restrict students from moving on to the next assignment until they have achieved a particular quiz score. You can give kids multiple attempts to complete a quiz. Using the “moderate this quiz” options, you can even differentiate the number of times specific students can retake a quiz.


Advanced analytics are at your disposal once all your students have taken the quiz. You can see overall statistics/averages for the class, item-by-item breakdowns, and more! You can download them into a CSV file and manipulate the data in Excel for PLC data protocol. Another useful feature is the discrimination index, which tells you the correlation for how reliable that question measures your student’s understanding of a topic. Be sure to check out the quiz statistics!


QuizStats

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