I Shamefully Admit
For twenty years, at the start of each academic year, I hunted for a teacher’s gradebook that didn’t scream kindergarten class with apple and worm on the cover. I also popped for a package of overpriced-brightly-colored pens hoping this would light a fire to attack the piles of essays coming my way. I shamefully admit: my grades weren’t online and students were still printing drafts for peer review. Gasp!
I had seen a few online learning platforms come and go. I would invest in fumbling through an interface–Blackboard, Moodle, Desire2Learn–only to get that inevitable email from the administration saying we are transitioning over to something new and all our information would be lost if we didn’t transfer it by a certain impending deadline.This cultivated a feeling of insecurity and led to minimal investment. Once in a while, a colleague would discover a tool, post it on Facebook, and a plea for help would follow: “this is great! Can you teach me? I really need help with this!” But the reality was we were relying on half-understood information and were hesitant to delve into the wormhole of online teaching. Then came Canvas, a new full-time position at Channel Islands and the FIT Studio that, for me, changed everything.
A New Beginning with One Simple Goal
As educators, we expect students to be open to new experiences, but somehow when it comes to technology, I noticed a resistance in myself. My classes ran like a well-oiled machine, but I knew this generation of students was different and I needed to change to meet their needs. Google slides had definitely replaced PowerPoint and poster board presentations were dusty relics. When I got the full-time position in the Composition Program at CI, I decided on one simple goal: I was going to get my grades online. Students were asking for this transparency and if I were ever going to invest in online learning, it was now. I went to the FIT Studio in summer of 2018 and in one short year, not only are my grades online, but I am teaching blended courses and video conferencing with students. I credit this to the staff of the FIT Studio and Dr. Stacey Anderson, our Composition Director, who trusts in my experience and gives me the space to grow.
Like most instructors, I like my classes to run smoothly and I will only introduce something if I have a full grasp on it. With the FIT Studio behind me, I am no longer stagnant. Like my students, I am growing and learning, feeling supported by my campus. What’s different about the FIT Studio experience is that I can drop-in anytime within their business hours and get training or ask a specific question. The team is made up of very experienced staff who sit down and problem solve on the spot. They are also happy to see me and offer snacks. With snacks, they offer workshops too of course, like the Blended Learning Preparation Program and 5-day Workouts. This support allows me to take risks.
A Nugget of Advice: You Don’t Have to be a Know-it-all
Canvas has so many tools that enhance course material and engage students. It can be overwhelming to entirely reinvent a course and use it all. Choose 2 or 3 tools that take your assignments to the next level. Here are my 3 favorites:
VoiceThread is like PowerPoint on steroids. Students can upload slides and then use video, voice or text to comment on the slide. There is a doodle tool (simple click of your mouse) for drawing on slides. My students use this for presentations and prewriting work. My colleagues even use it to comment on student writing.
Hypothesis is an annotation tool. With this, you can upload any PDF file and students can highlight, comment and reply to one another. This can be great for analytical reading and class discussions centered around a source.
Speed Grader: Commenting on Student Writing Using Voice Recognition When students submit their assignment on Canvas, I can respond to their writing using voice recognition. It is a simple click of a microphone icon. This voice feedback strengthens the connection with my students. I am no longer using a brightly colored fine point pen to respond to student writing.