10 Notable Ideas From InstructureCON 2016

I’m aware that this post is overdue since InstructureCON concluded two months ago, but I wanted to share a few ideas from the conference. If you prefer a breakdown of the sessions I attended, I recommend checking out John Stewart’s eleven posts linked in his concluding reflection.

EdCamp – InstructureCON Un-Conference

1. Canvas Mentor Professors: This idea capitalizes on transforming both the early adaptors and heavy users of Canvas into becoming mentors of other instructors across campus. The goal is to crowdsource the Canvas support system for faculty and showcase examples of ideal Canvas implementations, giving instructors context for how Canvas might be used in their own courses.

2. Student Feedback Of Courses: Have students provide anonymous feedback on the structure and design of courses to help faculty improve their designs. Too often, we make course design decisions from the perspective of an instructor rather than a student. This pragmatic approach is an opportunity to enhance our courses to best meet the needs of our students.

3. Educating Teachers & Students On OER: One of the practices I heard from other institutions, was using Canvas trainings as an opportunity to engage both faculty & students in learning more about copyright, open-educational resources (OER), and media literacy. Teaching faculty about Canvas Commons and OER in tandem aims to empower instructors to incorporate open materials into their curriculum and know what that means for their courses.

Sample Canvas Commons content, some of which is OER
Sample Canvas Commons content, some of which is OER

4. Canvas Camp Via Email: One idea with similar intentions to the Canvas Camp trainings we host was broadcasting daily Canvas challenges via email. This aims to engage faculty in learning a little more about Canvas everyday. If faculty complete all of the challenges outlined in these emails during the week, they would end up producing an entire Canvas Course. With the right amount of scaffolding (instructional videos, written guides, etc.) the reach of this type of self-directed training could be significant.

InstructureCON – Day 1

5. Student Information Systems (SIS) Are Not Always Necessary: I understand this is a heated topic, but I witnessed one person replace the functions of a SIS using Google Apps Scripts and the Canvas API. Student data was housed in Canvas and the operations of the SIS were performed using a few lines of code and Google Forms. Interestingly, this setup was both efficient and easy to use since interactions with the student data were simplified to a few forms. Feel free to explore a Canvas course that outlines how this was accomplished or read more about the session where this idea was shared.

6. Moving From API To LTI Integration Can Be Detrimental: I have to pick on TurnItIn for a second since this is a perfect example. Here was the API implementation of TurnItIn:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 2.00.51 PM

What is great about this is the discreet implementation of the TurnItIn service. In other words, the API integration made it easy for instructors to enable this feature. Additionally, instructors could enable TurnItIn in conjunction with “Media Recordings,” “Website URL,” or “File Uploads” assignments through Canvas. However, the new LTI implementation looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 2.04.08 PM

Not only is this less accessible as a service, but it also makes Canvas less functional. For example, when the TurnItIn “External Tool” is enabled, it takes over the Submission Type. Meaning if an instructor wants to use TurnItIn for a paper in tandem with a video of a student presentation, the teacher will have to make two assignments to receive both of these pieces of content. In this case the TurnItIn LTI effectively dissuades people from using more that traditional written assignment types—another example of how educational technologies impact the design decisions in our courses.

7. Build with Accessible Tools: One irritation I had during a couple of the sessions were these beautiful courses that were build using (HTML) pages in Canvas. Design-wise they were excellent, but functionality-wise, they always seemed to ignore the mobile accessibility of their course. To me, sacrificing the mobile experience of a course does not benefit students. Not to mention the exorbitant amount of extra work this involves.

InstructureCON – Day 2

8. Live API Lowers Entry Barrier to APIs: If you have not already seen the Live API page on your instance of Canvas, you should view it now. The URL to access the Live API requires your school’s Canvas domain as follows:

[your-schools-domain].instructure.com/doc/api/live

Alternative, here’s a generic preview of the Live API:

Screen capture of Canvas LiveAPI website

9. Educating Teachers About Online Instruction: Similar to how Canvas professional development is infused with opportunities to teach instructors about OER materials, there’s room to engage faculty in what it means to teach online. This was apparent during InstructureCON, but I’ve seen evidence of this more and more. For example, I’ve witnessed a shift in organization of content in the LMS. Instead of distributing course contents by topic, instructors are now choosing to order their materials chronologically to simplify the presentation of their Canvas courses.

Bonus Idea

10. Making Internet Accessible To All Students: I have to share one idea that was presented during the Pack Light for Performance session. The presenter was in a district that used Kajeet Smartspots in conjunction with Chromebooks to give all students access to the web. This equalization of technology access meant that teachers were confident their online assignments were available to all students. Since, I’m passionate about overcoming socioeconomic barriers and am constantly explore the validity of low cost technologies in the classroom (1, 2), I was ecstatic to see the cellular hotspot approach to making internet accessible to all students!

Please Note

I wanted to take a moment and let you know that post has been difficult to complete. I started writing it during InstructureCON and intended to publish it shortly after, but family matters kept that from happening. Anyways, I just wanted to note that much of this content deserves more in-depth explanations, so if you have any questions, please let me know. I would like to revisit many topics, but at this moment, this blog post is as much a highlight of my Canvas Conference experience as it is a scar that needs to reach conclusion.

Summer Updates & Grandmother Passing

Goodness, so many things are going on at the moment. At work I have been focused on all the training programs I am developing and facilitating this summer and upcoming semester. Additionally, I want to share some awesome things I have been working on in Canvas. Between itching to write about Canvas and my experiences from recently attending InstructureCON 2016, I have started writing only to be overwhelmed with all I want to do at the moment.

But none of that matters right now.

Writing and projects are on hold because while I was at InstructureCON this past week, my Grandmother passed away—complications from a surgery. It has been hard to express what I am feeling as I go through pictures and revisit memories. I have been ignoring social media and avoiding checking email for a few days. Right now, I just need time.

Even with my sadness, I wanted to tell you about a project I’ve started that makes me really excited. A project in honor of my Grandmother.

ellenjayne.keeganslw.com

Yesterday, I build a website in memoriam to her. The website itself is rather simple, but the functionality is phenomenal. This website facilitates the crowdsourcing of stories and media pertaining to my grandmother. What has been really exciting, even in the first few hours, is that I am reading stories and seeing pictures I never would have discovered. For example, my father posted one memory I’ve never heard and I just shared one as well.

I really want this tribute to my Grandmother to grow. So, I set up the ability for family, friends, and her many students to write about their memories of her. Additionally, I have created a space on the website where I am currently receiving pictures and videos of my Grandmother. If you want to see the submissions, check out the written memories and media that’s already available.

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 12.42.30 PM
Website lets you read memories written about Grandmommy.
Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 12.42.47 PM
Website lets you view photos and videos of Grandmommy.

Website Anatomy

The ellenjayne.keeganslw.com website is built with WordPress and automated using a few plugins, dropitto.me, and OneDrive.

First, I setup the AccessPress Anonymous Post plugin to allow others to submit their stories of my Grandmother without needing an account on the website. This allows me to automate all of the writing that takes place on the website and notifies me about new posts.

accesspress anonymous plugin form
AccessPress Anonymous Post plugin on website.

Next, I setup a dropitto.me account and connected it to my OneDrive cloud storage (since I have 1TB of space from working at a University). These two services allow others to submit photos & videos directly to a folder in my OneDrive. I embedded the submission of photos & videos into one webpage and the OneDrive gallery on another page. (I explored the Perfect OneDrive Gallery & File plugin to display a gallery directly in the website rather than linking out, but ran into problems that I didn’t want to spend time solving.)

Dropitto.me integrated into website to share media files.
Dropitto.me integrated into website to share media files.

Finally, since dropitto.me is limited to 100MB file size submissions, I also setup a page where people can submit URLs to photos and videos they wish to share. That way if individuals have large video files, they can submit a Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive link. Alternatively, this allows people to submit links to FaceBook photos, etc. This is the only part of the website that is not currently automated. I have enabled email notifications upon receiving submissions through this form, but this feature requires my attention.

In Memoriam Projects

In addition to this website, I am also working on a Twine game and preparing for the memorial service. At the moment, it sounds like family members want me to live stream the service and setup a place where we can record videos of people reminiscing about my grandmother. Additionally, I hope to have ellenjayne.keeganslw.com available at the service to offer attendees the opportunity to read and writing memories about my Grandmother. The goal of each of these projects it to allow people to share their experiences and connect to one another like they connected to Grandmommy.

Closing

All of these projects, especially the website, are important to me as a tribute to my Grandmother and to facilitate positive connections between family, friends, and acquaintances as we honor this wonderful women. She had a profound impact on so many people in this world and she will be sorely missed by all.

Writing this has been especially hard because this will be my first post that is not read by my Grandmother (after she became a subscriber to my website, she started reading everything I wrote). Yet, I want to share ellenjayne.keeganslw.com because, although I am grieving, everyone’s memories are bring me joy.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Viktor Mogilat via Unsplash.

#games4ed – Leading My First Twitter Chat

Last night I moderated the #games4ed live chat. Little do anyone know, this was my first time to host a Twitter chat. O.o I’ve had a lot of fun on Twitter recently. First I remotely participated in a conference and then I published my first set of open Twitter data. Not to mention joining the #games4ed live chats and meeting many awesome people: Melissa Pilakowski, Steven Isaacs, Mark Grundel, & PBJellyGames, to name a few. With all of these experiences, I felt prepared to moderate a Twitter chat for the first time.

Preparing to Moderate a Twitter Chat

1. Brainstorming topics & questions – After Melissa asked if I wanted to host a night of #games4ed, I started thinking about what subjects I wanted to do. Eventually, I decided on Open Educational Resources (OER) and Game Design. John Stewart and I had just recently finished GOBLIN, which was built as an OER table-top game to teach professors about gamification and game-based learning. All of these ideas were fresh in my mind and I wanted to hear other educators contribute to this conversation. I am glad I selected this topic because #games4ed has not covered OER yet. So, I was excited to be the first!

#games4ed QAll
Final list of my #games4ed questions shared under a CC-BY 4.0 License

2. Creating question graphics – #Games4ed uses images to showcase the questions each week. The advantages of this approach means questions can be longer than 140 characters and graphics are easier to see among a sea of tweets. Additionally, I wanted to emphasize the OER theme for the night. So, I ended up using artwork from the public domain game Glitch to build the graphics. Some of the assets were used in GOBLIN, so I was familiar with the resources at my disposal. Finally, to edit the graphics, I used Pixelmator (a streamlined photoshop-like software) and I believe the graphics turned out great!

Example question graphic shared under a CC-BY 4.0 License

3. Scheduling Tweets – One of my major concerns for moderating was getting overwhelmed by the number of tweets I felt required to produce. Therefore, I removed all of this stress by using Tweetdeck schedule tweets feature. First, I calculated how to spread seven questions across one hour—I determined to start questions at 8:05PM ET and reoccur every eight minutes. Next, I scheduled other tweets I thought were relevant for the chat including an introduction and links to OER resources. In other words, I intended to limit my focus to the tweets of the participants.

List of my scheduled tweets in Tweetdeck.

What I Learned from Moderating

Scheduling tweets is the only way to keep up with the conversation. As a moderator, I want to welcome and make as many people feel at home as possible in the Twitter chat. Between being hospitable and attempting to hold a dozen conversations at once, having my own questions and answers running in the background helped me stay on track.

Begin moderating Twitter chats in small circles. The #games4ed live chats are sizable with anywhere from 25-60 participants. (Last night included 37 users.) In contrast, there were nearly 400 participants #oklaed on Sunday evening. If you want to host a Twitter chat for the first time, I recommend starting with a smaller community. A manageable live chat let me practice moderating and I had a positive experience hosting.

Inviting friends makes the event more fun! I gave some of my friends access to the questions for the night and although they couldn’t be present, they scheduled tweets to sync with my questions. This generated more ideas and their support was encouraging during the live chat (shoutouts to John Stewart and Jason FitzSimmons).

I need to practice keeping up with the conversations. During the chat, I fell behind a couple of times as I was attending to earlier tweets. I know this is inevitable in a Twitter chat, but since hosting I want to improve my response time in future sessions.

A core group of participants helped engage more users. Since it can be difficult keeping track of everyone, I am grateful to the regular participants for helping supplement my engagement. Melissa and Steven, were especially helpful during this session as they insured participants didn’t slip through the cracks.

I enjoy live tweeting! This was an awesome experience. From brainstorming questions to connecting with educators, I discovered that I value the process of moderating Twitter chats. I can’t wait to host another!

#games4ed Open Twitter Dataset

Finally, I am releasing all of the Twitter data from last nights session as an OER! If you would like a copy check out the following link:

Open Twitter Data Google Sheet

If you want to analyze this data I suggest a tool like Voyant-Tools 2.0. For more information on collecting or visualizing tweets check out my post on Open Twitter Data.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.47.23 AM
Tweets from this #games4ed Twitter chat in Volant-Tools 2.0.

Alternatively, check out the Participate Learning transcript from the live chat:

Thank you everyone for making my first moderated Twitter chat a positive experience. I look forward to more of these opportunities to connect and discuss with other educators from across the world!

How to Blog, Develop Curriculum, Microblog, & Discuss in 50 Minutes

Last Friday I had the pleasure to present at OU’s 5th annual Academic Technology Expo with John Stewart. Since our “presentation” was more of a hands-on workshop, titled Mobile Blogging, Scholarship, and Cultivating Student Success, we had participants blog, develop curriculum, microblog and discuss applications of mobile blogging in their classrooms. It was phenomenal, and here’s how we accomplished everything in 50 minutes:

Minutes 0-10

First, John and I started with a Paper Tweet microblogging exercise, asking participants to name and describe their favorite classroom activity in 140 characters or less. Individuals shared some of their examples before we engaged them in a followup discussion.

“Why blog?” and “Why blog using a mobile device?” were the initial questions we posed to the group. And with each inquiry, John and I wanted to establish reasons why instructors might employ blogging and mobile blogging in their classrooms.

Minutes 10-30

Next, John and I asked participants to take their favorite classroom activity—the one from their Paper Tweet—and modify this activity to include a blogging component. We requested participants record these responses as a blog post to let them experience the nuances of writing a post. In other words, we were asking participants to develop curriculum while simultaneously documenting this content as blog posts.

This exercise was the primary logistical challenge of our workshop. For individuals that had their own blog, we encouraged them to use their own digital space to publish responses. For other, John and I brought several tablets to be used to accomplish this task. Following several minutes of collaborative and individual curriculum development, we heard many excellent classroom activities that now included new blogging components.

For example, some responses included having students blog about articles they had to research for assignments. Other examples included having students respond to photographs as blog posts or “live tweeting” during classroom presentations. All that too say, there were several, viable new pieces of curriculum that were outlined and shared in this short period of time.

Minutes 30-45

At this point, John and I led more discussion about mobile blogging. We wanted to know what participants had to say about “how the nature of an assignment is changed when blogging is introduced?” and “how could student success be determined as a blog?” These are a few of the questions that we used to develop the concept of how mobile blogging could be applied in a classroom.

Minutes 45-50

Lastly, John and I spent a few minutes presenting our thoughts on Mobile Blogging. Some of which included:

Reflection

Overall, this experience was excellent. Many participants where introduced to mobile blogging and experiencing it for the first time, while others had attended related training.  During our workshop, John and I wanted to make sure everyone got to discuss mobile blogging applications in the classroom and generate a piece of curriculum that could be used in their courses. We designed this workshop to be hands-on and give participants an opportunity to produce something valuable—and to accomplish all this in 50 minutes was an exciting challenge!

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!