How To Integrate Websites Into Canvas

I wanted to walkthrough one of my favorite Canvas integrations. Originally, I discovered this integration and used it in one of the early professional development courses I led for faculty transitioning (from D2L) to Canvas back in May 2016, which you can view here. My discovery of this integration was driven by the desire to replicate what Adam Croom had done with his PRPubs.us course website in D2L.

Anyways, this is the type of website integration into Canvas I’m referencing:

Mobile Blogging & Scholarship Canvas course shown with a Domain of One's Own website integrated inside the Canvas Course.
View from Canvas of an integrated website.
Canvas app on an android phone displaying the redirect tool+website integration.
View from Canvas App of the same integrated website.

What You Need

1. Website you control – If you have a DIY website through a web hosting company or use website companies like WordPress.com, then you are off to a great start. I use Reclaim Hosting for my website needs as Reclaim specializes in education. (Technically, any website can be used, but the one’s I’ve tried using have been hit or miss. Thus, I believe a website you control is ideal and should work perfectly.)

2. An encryption SSL certificate for your website – Your website will only be displayed within Canvas if the site is encrypted. In other words, your site needs to function using a https:// address (instead of http://). There are many ways to obtain an encryption certificate. I use Let’s Encrypt SSL which is offered for free by several web hosting companies (including Reclaim Hosting). Alternatively, you can use a service like Cloudflare to acquire a SSL certificate for your website.

Please note that many website companies like WordPress.com furnish https:// versions of websites to their users by default. In such case, you don’t need to acquire a SSL certificate for your website as it’s already present. If you’re unsure about whether your site meets this requirement, try visiting your website with https:// at the front of the URL (like so: https://example.com) and see if it loads normally.

3. Canvas Course – Use your institutions page to login to Canvas and create a new course or use an existing one. If you do not currently have access to Canvas, you can acquire a free account by selecting “Build It” on this page.

4. Redirect Tool – In your Canvas course, under “Settings>Apps” is the Redirect Tool (the best app!)—make sure it is available for your course. Refer to the screenshot below, under Step 1, as a guide.

Setup Steps

Step 1 – Navigate to Canvas course settings and find the Redirect Tool in the Apps Tab:

Image showing how to access the redirect tool in a Canvas course.

Step 2 – Click “Add App” to add the Redirect Tool:

Image showing how to add the redirect tool in a Canvas course.

Step 3 – Configure the Redirect Tool with your Website Name (will appear in Course Navigation), the https:// URL, and check “Show in Course Navigation:”

Image showing my configuration settings of the redirect tool in a Canvas course.

Zoomed into my configuration settings for the Redirect Tool:

Zoomed in image showing my configuration settings of the redirect tool in a Canvas course.

Step 4 – Refresh the course by clicking “Home” to see the fruits of your labor:

Image showing successful integration of the redirect tool in a Canvas course.

Image showing successful integration of the redirect tool in a Canvas course.

Step 5 – Enjoy:

Image showing successful integration of the redirect tool in a Canvas course.

Troubleshooting

If you’re experiencing any issues, they are typically caused by one of these two problems:

Problem 1 - Redirect Tool Configuration
Problem 2 - Don't have https:// URL for the Website

Integration Examples

I recently submitted proposals that included this website integration to the #Domains17 conference. As I shared then, I believe the best examples of this integration involve a course blog or research/course website.

Course Blog – The course blog in Canvas is a fantastic use case of the Redirect tool combined with the FeedWordPress plugin to bring all of the students’ posts from their own websites into Canvas. This setup is inline with the POSSE publishing model and can be utilized to bring students’ course reflections into Canvas for easier access and to promote peer-peer scholarship.

Cours Blog inside of a Canvas Course using the Redirect Tool

Research/Course Website – If you have course contents published on websites outside Canvas, you can use this trick to bring those materials into your courses. I’ve used this to bring my Canvas Camp curriculum into Canvas courses, but you could use it for course wikis, Drupal or Omeka research websites, and beyond.

Canvas Camp website displaying a lit campfire inside of a Canvas Course

Anonymous Blogging Inside of Canvas – When I ran the Mobile Blogging and Scholarship Canvas training back in May 2016, I used all of these tool in addition to the AccessPress Anonymous Post plugin to allow instructors to blog directly within Canvas. Here’s some more information of the tools I used to accomplish this course design.

Canvas course with AccessPress Plugin configured to let students blog directly within Canvas.

There are many more use cases beyond what I’ve presented here, but I hope this post gives you the guidance and inspiration to integrate websites directly into Canvas.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Corinne Kutz via Unsplash.

Chromebook: Manual for Mac User – 2016

I’ve been exploring the current state of Chromebooks this past week and I wanted to document all of the analogous softwares and workflows I use to be productive on a Chromebook if you are coming from a Mac. From word processing to photo editing, here is my list of recommended software alternatives if you are switching from a Mac to a Chromebook:

Mail

Chromebook: CloudMagic

Mac: Mail

CloudMagic offers similar functionality in terms of adding multiple accounts and sorting emails to their respective inboxes and folders as the Mac Mail client. On my Chromebook I added Gmail, Yahoo Mail, iCloud, and Office 365 emails to the CloudMagic app in a couple minutes. So far, I’ve been really pleased with the performance of CloudMagic, not to mention it is a nice looking app to use for reading and writing email.

Calendar

Chromebook: Sunrise Calendar

Mac: Calendar

I needed a way to access my iCloud calendars, Google calendars, and work Exchange calendars from one app on my Chromebook and Sunrise Calendar allows me to easily do this. However, first you need to sync your calendars from another device, and if you need to use iCloud calendars, you have to install the Sunrise Calendar app to an iPhone, iPad or an Android device first (this will not work from the Mac version of Sunrise Calendar). Once, you overcome this syncing hurdle, Sunrise Calendar works well and looks great for organizing meetings and events. Unfortunately, this solution may not be viable in the future as the team behind Sunrise Calendar is now working for Microsoft and does not plan to provide updates to their Sunrise Calendar product in the foreseeable future. For now, it is my recommendation, but be aware it may not be a permanent calendar client solution for Chomebooks.

Office Suite

Chromebook: Google Docs Suite –> Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides

Mac: iWork –> Pages, Numbers, & Keynote

My go to office software on my Mac is Pages, Numbers, & Keynote. Although you can use iCloud.com to access these apps, the Google Docs suite loads much faster for me on Chromebook. If you prefer using Microsoft Office, you are also able to use office.com on a Chromebook if you have an Office 365 subsription. However, the Google Docs suite still loads faster for me and benefits from the Google Drive integration that is part of the Chrome operating system. All that to say, you can always export documents, spreadsheets or presentation slides to their most universal formats (.doc, .ppt, .xls) with any of these aforementioned office suites on a Chromebook.

Music

Chromebook: Google Play Music

Mac: iTunes

If you are not already using Spotify (or another music service), I recommend Google Play Music on Chromebook. Before you move from your Mac, use the Google Play Music Manager app to upload all of your iTunes music into Google Play Music. Once complete, you are able to stream all of your music to your Chromebook from music.google.com. As an added benefit, from this point, you will be able to stream your Google Play Music to your Android phone, iPhone, or any computer that can access music.google.com.

Photo Storage

Chromebook: Google Photos

Mac: Photos

Since Chromebooks have very limited amounts of internal storage my suggestion for storing photos is Google Photos. Similar to the process of uploading your music to Google Play Music, there is a way to upload all of your pictures from your Mac before you move to a Chromebook. Use the Google Photos Uploader software to store all of your pictures in Google Photos for free. Once your images are uploaded, you will be able to access them from your Chromebook (or any other computer) using photos.google.com. In fact, this is a great solution to combine your library of photos from all of your computers and mobile devices into one place!

Photo Editor (Simple)

Chromebook: Canva

Mac: Preview

For basic editing beyond what Mac Photos and Google Photos offer, Canva is my recommendation. Canva can be used to alter the pixel dimensions of a photo and is robust enough to be used as an alternative to Photoshop for basic photo editing. Not to mention, Canva is way easier to use than a traditional photo editor. Just be aware Canva requires signing up for an account before you start creating memes and other graphics from your Chromebook!

Slack

Chromebook: Slacky

Mac: Slack

I use Slack at work to instant message my coworkers from my phone or laptop. It is a great alternative or supplement to email when having online conversations. I prefer the Slacky app to the regular Slack app in the Chrome Web store because Slacky displays Slack within its own window. This makes it is easier to separate Slack messages from other work I am doing on my Chromebook since I can minimize Slacky.

Twitter

Chromebook: Tweetdeck

Mac: Twitter & Tweetdeck

Simply add the Tweetdeck app from the Web App store to your Chromebook and you will have similar access to Twitter as you would on your Mac. The only difference is that Tweetdeck on Chromebook is used through the web browser versus its own window like the app that is available on Mac.

Trello

Chromebook: Trello External Window

Mac: Trello Website

Trello has been my main app for tracking of projects and to-do lists for the last year. I recommend using the Trello External Window app on Chromebook for the same reasons I prefer Slacky to the regular Slack app, it has an external window interface. This makes it easier to separate Trello content from other web browser work.

Feedly

Chromebook: Feedly

Mac: Feedly Website

To access RSS news feeds, I have used Feedly for a long time. It keeps me up-to-date with education blogs and technology news outlets I follow. Like with Tweetdeck, add this app to your Chromebook and you are ready to access news the same way you would have on your Mac.

Ending

This list of 10 Chromebook recommendations covers many of my major productivity needs and workflows that I am accustomed to on my Mac. I hope it has been helpful to you! Also, I am happy to continue this list if you are interested in more suggestions, just let me know.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Tran Mau Tri Tam via Unsplash.

Trainings, Projects, & Gaming – Fall 2015 Updates & Reflections

Hello internet, it has been a while.

I have wanted to do more blogging recently. Yet, I keep running into the issue of starting a post with an awesome idea, but keeping the post in draft form indefinitely because it is not high enough quality or I feel there are pieces missing.

I need to interrupt this pattern. SO, today how about an update on work and life?

Trainings

Lynda.com FLC – This has been one of my largest projects of the semester. I am training faculty on how to use Lynda.com content for instructional purposes. From supporting student learning of softwares to having students curate and share their own Lynda.com playlists, the activities and discussion for this FLC have been extremely rewarding.

If you are interested in this project, you should take a look at the website I have built (and am still building) for this training:

Lynda.com FLC Website

OU Create Trainings – Another of the programs at the university I have been excited about is OU Create. (You can read more about OU Create here.) Over the summer, I got to help with the redesign of the OU Create website by generating support resources for this program, including a FAQ section and curating relevant Lynda.com instructional videos:

OU Create Support Page

I am also hosting introductory training for OU Create several times during the semester. There are three in-person sessions and one online session being offered. The online session was my first opportunity to host training using Google Hangouts on Air. Here’s how that experience went:

Projects

Android Phone Screencasts – Google recently released an update for the YouTube Gaming App that allows users with Android OS 5.0+ on their device to record the contents of their screen. Although this feature is intended for game capture, you can record your screen in any App on your device. Therefore, I have been investigating how this could be leveraged for instructional purposes. Here is a sample of my exploration:

TSI Presentation – Next month, I will be presenting with my colleague John Stewart (http://www.johnastewart.org, @jstew511) at the Teaching Scholars Initiative (TSI). The title of our presentation is Amplifying Every Student’s Voice: Mobile Blogging. Together, we will be discussing how blogging can be utilized to give every student a voice and how the affordability of mobile devices can make blogging more accessible to students. I am very excited for this presentation and hope to solicit discussion about some of the questions I have been pondering recently.

For instance, I have been thinking about the lowest common denominator in terms of what technologies are required for a student to participate in digital learning experiences.

Part of this process has been exploring a range of devices to see what is capable of providing students with viable learning experiences. So far, I have been experimenting with Windows Tablets ($79), Fire Tablets ($50), unlocked Android phones ($50), and many other low cost devices.

I still have some research and exploring to do, but I am often amazed how the cost of a device does not contribute to its functionality in a linear relation. In plain english, a $50-$100 smartphone possesses 80% of the functionality of a $650 smartphone. It is eye-opening to see what some of these low-cost devices are capable of doing.

Gaming

There have been many fun video game activities in the last few month too!

Star Wars Battlefront Beta – I LOVED the Star Wars Battlefront Beta! It was exceptionally good experience since my wife also enjoyed playing this game with me. Not that we don’t play games together, but finding shooter games that we both like to play has been challenging in the past. If you would like to experience the magic of Star Wars in video game form, here is some footage I recorded from that event:

Live Streaming – One thing I have always wanted to try is live streaming video game footage. Using my cheap gaming computer, Open Broadcasting Software, YouTube Live Streaming, etc. my wife and I streamed some gameplay of the Wii U game Splatoon last month. If you are interested, you can view my first time streaming live gameplay here:

Closing

Although I included a lot of content in this post, these are actually just highlights of everything that has been going on at work and in life. Concerts, twitter events, other trainings—the list could gone on and on! In fact, many of the topics discussed in this post may be expanded upon in the future as I see opportunities to provide guides/feedback about solutions and workflows I am developing/discovering. Overall, I am having a blast learning new things and improving my teaching craft; and all of this is in preparation for the projects I have in mind for Spring 2016…. 🙂

Until next time internet!

Teaching Digital Scholarship with WordPress on Mobile Devices

Yesterday concluded the first section of my Mobile Blogging & Scholarship Training. This is a professional development workshop series for instructors at the University of Oklahoma, which I created in my role as Educational Technologist at the Center for Teaching Excellence.
The Course

Over the course of nine hours, six sessions, and two weeks, professors came together to learn both technical skills and what it means to be a digital scholar. The main goal of this course was to equip participants with the ability to manage and run their own blog from a tablet, while justifying the value of doing so. This dynamic of learning both how and why to blog stimulated the success of this course.

First, we spent time setting up and learning the basics of operating an iPad. Then we turned our attention to the essentials of WordPress. Once participants had foundational knowledge of both iPad and WordPress, we dove into producing their first blog posts. The remainder of this training focused on creating pages, posts, and comments. Other topics, like including videos in posts, were taught in tandem with each writing assignment to give participants the opportunity to apply new skills with each of their posts.

On an educational sidenote, the pedagogies employed in this training stem from constructivism, social learning, active learning strategies and much more. Together, these teaching practices manifested into an interactive social learning environment where participants explored what it means to blog. In other words, time was spent actively blogging, commenting, and exploring the use of photos and videos during class while instructor assistance was available.

By the end of this section, participants had completed sixteen blog posts totaling 2,713 words, in addition to including photos and videos in their WordPress sites and exchanging comments on each other’s submissions.

My Experience

I had a phenomenal experience getting to work with these professors! Learning about iPads, WordPress, and what it means to blog are exciting topics in our digital world of education. Sessions were filled with rich discussion, individual instruction, and diverse perspectives that made teaching this course extremely rewarding.

Now, I am looking forward to my next section of Mobile Blogging & Scholarship in July, during which I am expecting fifteen participants!

Additionally, I was excited by the perspective my training offered in terms of mobile blogging, since blogging is often thought to occur using a traditional computer. There are specific characteristics of mobile devices, like integrated cameras and physical mobility, that lead to entirely different forms of blogging. It was exciting to see participants take advantage of these features, and use their iPads to capture images to include in their posts. I hope combining blogging and mobile devices will inspire individuals to create and use new forms of digital scholarship.

Feedback

I am excited to report that I received positive feedback at the conclusion of this professional development. Instructors wrote that they had learned how versatile the WordPress platform was for both blogging and establishing a web presence. Not to mention, one of the participants stated that she/he believes everyone who is interested in digital scholarship should go through this training. I even had one instructor tell me I didn’t assign enough homework! In other words, I received confirmation that this training was both essential and impactful.

Suggestions

Having finished teaching the first section of this training, I want to suggest something for anyone looking to bring blogging into the classroom or your professional life. Effective blog prompts were some of the most meaningful aspects of each session. Not only did they provide relevant topics to blog about, but they also functioned as scaffolding for the learning process of writing a post. Over the duration of the training, I decreased the amount of information provided with each prompt to wean instructors off of this support mechanism and prepare them for blogging unassisted. Additionally, I made it a point to encourage participants to write about any topic they could think of, as my prompts were only a starting place.

I believe blog prompts were so important in this training that I plan on sending more prompts to participants after they have completed this workshop series to continue stimulating ideas for blogging.

Looking Forward

So what is next for this course? Even before my first session started, I had big plans for this training. I see potential for transitioning more and more of the content online until the course could be taken independent of an instructor. Using plugins like BuddyPress and BadgeOS, I would love this website to evolve into a self-sustaining learning environment devoted to self-paced, open, and community-driven instruction centered around mobile blogging and scholarship.

Additionally, I would like to alter Mobile Blogging & Scholarship to incorporate instruction for more types of mobile devices like Android tablets and/or a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) model of participation. I also see an opportunity to develop a ninety-minute version of this training that focuses on the core components of this training to introduce professors to this form of digital scholarship.

For the record, this entire post (like my previous post) was created exclusively on my iPad! Shout-out to my fellow mobile blogging pioneers!