This post is being used to document and distribute materials associated with a training I'm giving at the University of Oklahoma, which covers collaborative web annotation as a tool for engaging students.
“Writing in the margins” of books and journal articles (or any other texts) in collaboration with others is one way instructors seek to enhance learning experiences. Using collaborative web annotations, faculty on our campus are seeding their course discussions and engaging students in collaborative scholarship. Here’s an example of course that is using collaborative web annotations:
We’re going to dive deeper into collaborative web annotation as it’s one technology that’s being used across many disciplines. Here are several pieces of literature that are being annotated collaboratively by students:
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:
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.
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.
Step 1 – Navigate to Canvas course settings and find the Redirect Tool in the Apps Tab:
Step 2 – Click “Add App” to add the Redirect Tool:
Step 3 – Configure the Redirect Tool with your Website Name (will appear in Course Navigation), the https:// URL, and check “Show in Course Navigation:”
Zoomed into my configuration settings for the Redirect Tool:
Step 4 – Refresh the course by clicking “Home” to see the fruits of your labor:
Step 5 – Enjoy:
If you’re experiencing any issues, they are typically caused by one of these two problems:
Problem 1 - Redirect Tool Configuration
If your website never loads in Canvas, there might a mistake in the URL submitted when configuring the Redirect Tool. To fix this, you will need to view the edit the App Configuration:
Problem 2 - Don't have https:// URL for the Website
In this case, the website you’re integrating into Canvas will have to be loaded in a new tab when students are viewing the content. If you have an https:// URL version of your website and you don’t see it appear in Canvas, follow the steps outlined in “Problem 1” above to confirm you entered the https:// URL properly.
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.
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.
Lots of things are happening, but I wanted to take a moment and talk about a project from last month. I participated in my first game jam! Serenity Forge hosted this event over the weekend of August 5-7th and the theme was to build games about “Healing.” Due to the timing and the theme of this game jam, I was compelled to develop my first game!
The Tool – Twine
To build my game I used Twine—an open source tool for developing text-based games that are often labelled as “interactive fiction.” Twine is an interesting game development tool because it is far easier to learn than any other game engine. (In fact, this is the reason John and I decided to use Twine in the professional development for game design that we’re hosting this semester.) Since it is free and accessible, I invite you to give Twine a try. You can learn more about how to use it here.
Since the timing of this game jam coincided with the passing of my grandmother, I chose to create a game around the healing I was seeking at that time. The most difficult part of this project was reflecting on my pain to decipher what steps I was taking to heal—examining my emotions and exploring how writing memories of my grandmother was cathartic. The narrative of my game evolved from these experiences, and rather than rewriting the story here, let me show you the game:
Did making a game about my pain help me heal? – At the time it was being developed I would have answered “no.” Having to listen to voicemails from my grandmother and watching videos of our adventures together was disheartening. In fact, I struggled to listen to her final voicemail to me, which I had not yet listened to at that point. But building “Healing Words” and coming to terms with her death required me to address my feelings.
Looking back on this experience after about a month I can adamantly say “Yes, making a game about my grandmother’s death did help me heal.” It wasn’t the process of making the game that helped—rather, that part was painful. Instead, it was the process of sharing my experience with others through the game that helped me heal. Using a game to communicate my emotions and then to engage others after their playthrough was the point where I felt the most healing. From people expressing their condolences or sharing their own memories as part of the game, soulful relations bloomed as a result. These connections then manifested in healing.
Would I recommend doing this? – Game design made me think about human experiences and communicating ideas in ways I never would have dreamed. Thinking through how text, media, and choice impact players was a metacognitive exercise for me. I had to translate both my emotions and the responses to those emotions into physical mediums. In so doing, I learned a lot about myself and how I want others to play my story. In other words, I would recommend developing a game to commemorate a loved one. Although it will be painful, the personal growth and connections to others that will be made are worth the investment.
Questions? – If you have any more questions, please let me know. Healing Words has been a big part of my life in the last month. Thank you to the 50+ people who’ve played my game and helped me heal.
The featured image is provided CC0 by Moritz Schmidt via Unsplash.
These last few weeks have been intense work-wise. I’ve been developing and hosting multiple Canvas courses for instructors at the University of Oklahoma. This has been especially nerve-racking because I am (also) learning how to effectively use the tool I am teaching. Fortunately, at the end of the week I will participate in official training from Canvas experts. In the mean time, I will continue this rapid prototyping process that is keeping me afloat. 🙂 Anyways, I wanted to give a brief overview of the training programs I have been spearheading these last few weeks (please note this is not an exhaustive list as these trainings are only the ones I have been involved with):
Introduction to Canvas
This is the basic overview of Canvas. It’s an hour long session that’s about 20 minutes of demonstrations and 40 minutes of discussion and Q&A. With this session, I want to introduce faculty to Modules and course organization within Canvas while highlighting the notable features. This presentation is conducted using an example Canvas course rather than just a slideshow. I released these materials to the Canvas Commons for other to use and titled them Keegan’s Intro to Canvas.
How to Learn Canvas
The idea behind this training is to empower people to capitalize on the many resources in the Canvas Community to facilitate their own learning. In other words, I hope to produce fishers rather than give away Canvas fish. During this session, I walk people through the workflow I use to explore and learn from community.canvaslms.com. This allows me to highlight different features of the community such as the CanvasLIVE events and community groups. When attendees already possess some knowledge of Canvas and have the intrinsic motivation to teach themselves, this session is poised to equip them with the tools to succeed.
This session is both informal and open-ended. The content is directed by the attendees and their inquiries. From Canvas navigation to specifics about grading and course design, this session aims to provide teachers with any and all answers to their questions. I like to equate this experience to group and individual consultations because when there are multiple people present, the participants get to hear the ideas from their peers in addition to my responses. So far, these sessions have been successful in terms of tailoring assistance to faculty and since they require minimal preparation for the facilitator, they are easy to conduct.
This is my favorite training at the moment. Mobile Blogging & Scholarship (MBS) is the first Canvas Mini Course. MBS is meant to indirectly introduce people to different features of Canvas as they focus on the topic of blogging from a mobile device. Other Canvas Mini Courses will be hosted in the coming months and will also be fully online 4 day experiences centered around a topic to give instructors the experience of being a student in Canvas (while also participating in professional development). These trainings can range in topic depending on the facilitators interest. Overall, Canvas Mini Course are intended to be a minimal commitment to experientially introduce faculty to Canvas.
One of the notable features I am using to conduct MBS is the Redirect Tool. This Canvas app allows me to embed full websites into the course. Since I can setup a WordPress website to accept blog posts from users without accounts, I have enabled my students to participate in blogging without the overhead of creating a WordPress account or learning the WordPress software—the focus is on the MBS content! You are welcome to read more about this setup here (and an official writeup will be coming soon). Also, MBS is a public course that you can explore here or add the contents to your own course(s) through the Canvas Commons.
The goal of Canvas Camp is to have faculty build and finalize a Canvas course in four days. This face-to-face training means to simultaneously teach best practices of using Canvas while giving instructors time to development their own courses, incorporating what they learn during each session. Thus, at the conclusion of this pragmatic training, attendees have produced a course to use for an upcoming semester.
Each day of Canvas Camp covers a different topic. Day 1 and 2 are about importing and (re)organizing content within Canvas, while Day 3 and 4 are geared toward interacting with students and the steps remaining to finalize a Canvas course. Whether an instructor wants to build a course from scratch or import contents from a previous class, they are welcome to this training. For those that do not complete their content related to the daily topic, they will have to work outside of the allotted course time to finish developing their course.
There are many features in Canvas that were not available to faculty in the previous learning management system (LMS). To introduce the multitude of features in an efficient manner, we (the Center for Teaching Excellence) have conceived of a program that is being branded as “Speed-Dating for features.” Faculty will spend a few minutes learning and experiencing the affordances of a Canvas feature before rotating to the next. This program is still in development, but the main idea is that features in this Speed-Dating program are being developed as interchangeable modules that could be used to give a Feature Speed-Dating sessions different flavors depending on the audience. Since this training is still in development, this is all I can say for now. 🙂
Other (Beyond Canvas)
In addition to all of the Canvas trainings, I’ve also been hosting other professional development:
WordPress Office Hours – Like the Canvas Office Hours, this is a come-and-go session that was intended to facilitate group consultations and answer individual questions informally. This style of training is ideal for me at the moment since it requires minimal setup, allows me to address random questions, and let’s me build relationships with faculty while we are learning together. This session was a huge success and I plan on offering more of these during the summer, especially since I got this piece of feedback from an instructor:
I’m very, very, irrationally excited about the progress made on the website this morning. Thanks for the office hours!
OU Create Training – This introduction to OU Create is intended to give an overview of OU Create while walking participants through setting up a WordPress website. In fact, typically every attendee ends up with a functional WordPress site in under one hour. For more information about this training check out this video walkthrough:
There are so many exciting trainings going on at the moment. My focus moving forward is expanding programs and coordinating with the newly hired Canvas Graduate Fellows to also host trainings. Although this summer is intense, I am looking forward to the next year of building curriculum and facilitating professional development. 😀
The featured image is provided CC0 by Chester Ho via Unsplash.