HFT Summer Academy, Canvas

HFT Week Three: Learning and Practicing in Canvas (part 1)

Digital learning today is chocked full of apps, devices, interfaces, systems for managing learning, systems for personalizing learning, and practices that respond to or are complicit with those systems, devices, and apps. Teaching has become an act of engineering … The teacher has all but left the chalkboard behind in favor of shiny new instructional technology. (“Innovation through Reflection: A Call for Teachers”)

The past two weeks have seen all of us:

  • Reading (a lot) and annotating the web using Hypothesis
  • Moving in and out of Canvas
  • Producing knowledge through Google Doc activities (and conversing about what we write there in the comments)
  • Attending office hours
  • And, for many, trying to navigate our way through what is a very flexible curriculum with little more than our instincts to guide us.

While the pedagogy of this summer academy is very intentional, I’m certainly aware that it’s not the easiest path to take through learning about teaching online. Nope, the easiest path to take is to learn the step-by-step process of building a Canvas course, or perhaps diving deep into the best practices for online learning. This course asks you not only to make up your mind about what’s important to you, but also about how you will approach your teaching in the Fall.

That said, we are moving over to Canvas for the next two weeks. There’s a lot more than two weeks’ worth of work there, which is why the Canvas course will remain available to you indefinitely. So, even inside of Canvas, you’ll want to make some choices about what’s most important to your learning. (If you’re not interested in learning about Canvas, skip to the Recommended Reading below.)

Canvas, like every LMS, is an organisational tool. Pages line up inside of Modules, and are capped off by Discussions and Assignments. Modules are numbered, pages are titled, discussions and assignments are all aligned with content. Orderly, relatively clean, easy to navigate. This is the lure of the learning. management. system. It takes the chaotic act of learning and puts it in columns and rows. Audrey Watters writes, “There seems to be such a failure of imagination around ed-tech, and that’s a shame… believing that things work because they just sound like they should.”

So, as we venture into Canvas, a few words of guidance:

  • The LMS is just one tool available to you. This is why we’ve waited a couple of weeks to dive in: so that we could have pedagogical discussions about technology and learning online that have nothing to do with Canvas. Even if we are required to use particular parts of the LMS in our teaching this Fall, understanding that there are diverse other tools, as well as critical ways of using Canvas, is important.
  • While the LMS makes learning look tidy, learning is not tidy. At certain points in the Canvas course, I’ve asked you to edit pages, to create discussions, to mess around a bit with the LMS so that you might get a feel for how you can bring some of the messiness of learning into the management system.
  • Like I said, be aware: there’s a lot more to do in the Canvas course than you can do in two weeks. So, plan to get started, and return later in the summer for what you want to finish.
  • Read the home page carefully. It explains the course pretty plainly.

If you choose to jump into Canvas, don’t plan to do much else. I won’t be introducing any new activities this week, as I expect the Canvas coursework will keep you busy. However, if you don’t wish to jump into Canvas, may I suggest instead diving into some reading (these resources are also cited in the Canvas course).

Finally, if you are unable to access Canvas, please reach out to me or to concierge@ldt.agency.

Photo by Mael BALLAND on Unsplash

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About Sean Michael Morris

Sean Michael Morris is the Director of Digital Pedagogy Lab and Senior Instructor in Learning, Design, and Technology at the University of Colorado Denver.
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