New options in Canvas!

Canvas has some pretty cool options being released!

Cool new features that are on their way:

1.  You can add a picture to the class icon on the homepage.

-This setting will be the first thing that is seen when you select settings in any given course.


2.  You can underline all links for a course.  Kinda cool!  Sometimes links are hard to identify and this is a quick fix!

-This setting is found by selecting the account option from the left nav bar (it’s the one that should have your picture) and then select settings.  Down at the bottom is where you will find the option to underline links..  


3.Ever made a calendar event only to find that it was assigned to the wrong calendar?  Oops.  Before, you could not re-assign the calendar, but now you can!  Yay!  

-Simply select the event and from a list of calendars, select the correct calendar!


4.  Admins now have the ability to set up ‘Help links’ in the left-hand nav bar.  If there is something that the college wants all instructors to have in their courses to ‘help’ them or their students, it can be done!


5.  Canvas Live!  (It’s where other instructors that use Canvas live.)  It’s a place to get instruction and ideas from other instructors in real time!  

Student Library Guides in Canvas

You can now embed Yavapai College Library’s Subject Guides in your Canvas course.

Subject guides contain books, databases, and websites on various topics recommended by YC librarians.  The guides also include instructional videos on plagiarism, research strategies, and ebook reader assistance.

For example, students can go to the English guide for recommended material on writing pro/con papers.  The Primary Sources guide includes vetted websites and suggested keywords to use in the library catalog.  There are currently 36 guides ready to help your students succeed. Each guide also has a chat widget so students can chat online directly with librarians if they run into any trouble.

You can browse through all available Subject Guides on the library’s web page:

In Canvas you will have the option of selecting which guide or guide page to add to your class, or let our app “Automagically” embed guides based on your course name.

Watch this short video on how to add the guide to your course.


Browsing for the Right Tool

BrowsersI reached my hand out to swipe it past the tiny black box with blinky red light that’s supposed to let me into my building on campus.  I hear the familiar beep and the red light flashes to green.  I’m in.  I pull back on the door but it doesn’t budge.  Must be sticking.  There’s humidity in the air for once, maybe it’s because of the rain.  I swipe my hand past the box again—familiar beep and red flashes to green.  Circumspectly this time, I pull on the door, harder to overcome a possible swollen jam.  Nothing.  The door’s not moving at all, which means that they’ve locked my key out, a severance package is on the way, and somehow I missed the email, or, my key doesn’t work.  So, I simply sat back and waited for Leslie.  She would be there in just a few minutes, arriving around 7:30am in the summer.  She arrived and opened up the door with her key, no problem.  She ushered me through the door and I was finally in.  I was ready to hit my office and get a jump on the fall semester.  I thanked Leslie and on my way passed I asked, “Has anyone else been having trouble with these keys?” holding aloft the new “key” that denied me access to building three.

“Having trouble with what?  I don’t know what that is?”

“It’s my key to the building and it’s not working!” I said.

“That might be the key to something, but it’s not to this building” she said.  “We have key cards remember?”

It was only then that I recognized my folly.  I had been trying to scan my church key fob with YC’s card reader!  The card reader and the key fob reader look so similar that I confused the two.  I was trying to open my campus building door with my church building key.  They functioned in such a similar way, that even when I was meeting with no success, I felt like it should have been working, and I never recognized my mistake.  After all, the little blinky light even turned from red to green.  That sent me a message that I was using the right tool to access the building, but I wasn’t.

How often do we use the wrong tool in our teaching efforts and not even realize it?  In considering this example, I thought first of Internet web browser applications, such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc.  These tools are so similar that, for the average user, it is quite easy to treat them all the same.  They all basically serve the same purpose and have the same functionality.  Some are faster than others, or lighter weight as far as the resources they consume, but they all do basically the same thing—they browse the web.  Or do they?

In reality, each web browser has its own strengths, and what is even more maddening is that these strengths are constantly changing.  As companies that own the browsers enter into short term sponsorships and partnerships with Adobe, Oracle and other tech-companies that produce Flash, Java, and other essential Internet webware, our favorite web-surfing applications are constantly fluxing between fast and slow, useful and useless.  As we update these browsers, as a matter of course, like we do with all other things Interne, we see, first hand, the results of these partnerships.  Firefox played well with Canvas, but Firefox can’t load any of my Panopto videos.  The last version of Chrome allowed my content to show up in my course, but this version of Chrome blocks it as “insecure content”.

Our new VP, Ron Liss, said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.  Unfortunately, today’s Internet-based world has conditioned us to try things over and over again, and indubitably, receive vastly different results.  Yesterday my web browser loaded my videos, today it doesn’t, or vice versa.  Yesterday I told my students to use Firefox, today I tell them things seem to work better with Chrome.  We have to use the right tool for the job; unfortunately, all of our web browser tools are so similar, it’s almost impossible to know whether we picked up a wrench or a screw driver.  The point of today’s online world is that, for most of us laymen/women, we have to simply try all of the tools in our toolbox until we stumble upon the right tool for the job.  Usually, after about three attempts, you’ll find what you need.  The big three, of course, are Chrome, Firefox, and Edge (formerly Internet Explorer).  Safari is running a close fourth.  If these browsers don’t work, you probably shouldn’t be viewing what you’re trying to view anyway.  But, you might try, as a last resort, Opera, Whitehat Aviator, Citrio, or Midori.

The point is, in today’s world, you have to use the right tool to get the job done.  I nearly always have three different browsers open at any one time, sometimes four.  Students need to get this message as well.  If at first the door doesn’t open, odds are, you are trying to use the wrong key.  Don’t get mad at the door, or even yourself for not being able to tell the difference between your keys (differences are subtle and nuanced), just take out the old key ring, and try a different key.  Soon, you’ll find what you need.  But, don’t be surprised if the key that works today isn’t the key that works tomorrow.

See you in the Internet Looney Bin!

A Case for Meditating on the “To Become” List

I think that we can go through years and years of our lives without really thinking.  Really.  I think that we wake up and we rush to work.  We teach or support people all day at the College, checking things off our long “to do” lists one by one.  We get the super urgent items done, we table the rest of the tasks and we rush to get home.  If we have kids, we get them where they need to go, piano, or soccer, or some such thing.  If we don’t, we delve into dinner.  One way or another, we all have to eat.  Once that’s over, we read, or dive into Netflix or, truth be told, we go back to work at the computer.  Then, we hit the sack.

No time in there for thinking, you might have noticed.

Of course, we do think, but do we think about anything of substance?  Do we meditate and ponder about improving what we do, not just moving through this life, but moving onward and most importantly, upward?  I know that I don’t.  Not usually.  It seems like this life is passing through me, not me through this life.

From an educational standpoint, what are we doing to improve?  Are we ever-improving our educational prowess for our students?To do,become list

I want to consider making a “to become” list for ourselves—for what we do here at YC.  We all have our “to do” lists, but we don’t often consider a “to become” list.  The “to dos” are all of the “urgent” items that have to be completed.  FTSE, mid-term grades, essays to be graded, lesson plans to be set up, mail merges to run.  But the “to become” list is more than that.  It would have things like, “become confident that my assessments are truly measuring my students’ growth in the learning outcomes” or “become the best timely feedback instructor at the College” or simply “become a compassionate instructor that students want to come to when struggling with my course”.  It’s easy to measure progress on a “to do” list, but a “to become” list is harder to measure.  It’s important to realize that not everything that’s important is measurable and not everything that we measure is important (don’t let my SLOA amigos know that I said that).  The “to become” list is something that can only be viewed in retrospect, after a lifetime of correct choices that lead us into being the best instructor we can be.

All of our decisions throughout the course of the day contribute to who or what we are becoming.  I think we have to stop and think deeply from time to time, about what our “to become” list is starting to look like.  We have to fight the tendency to let the urgent things on our lists push out the important things.  When we shoo a student out of our office who could have benefited from doing one more practice problem together, are we bypassing our “to become a more compassionate teacher” goal with our “to do a few more emails” check box?

When we take time to still the busyness of our lives and truly meditate and ponder on our “to become” list, our behavior changes.  We get lest irritable about the short term and more motivated and inspired by the long term.  As we ponder “becoming” we might change the projects that we take on here at YC.  We might begin to say “no” more, and we might even start to seek out and say “yes” to projects we’d never even considered, or previously imagined beyond our skill set.  The refining process of considering “becoming” will drastically alter our “doing” and we, our students, and the College will be better for it.

Pokémon Go – What It Could Mean for Education . . . And My Sanity

I just happen to live across the street from my own church.  As a concerned parishioner, I try to keep an eye on the old place.  It’s been vandalized a few times, as many churches are, so I try to keep abreast of any suspicious activity and report it whenever possible.  In today’s world, you never can be too careful, right?  The last few days have been weird though.  People have been flocking to the church during odd hours, none of whom I recognize as fellow congregants.  Who are these people?  Mostly teenagers walk through the parking lot and hang out on the grass and grounds in tight little groups.  Cars stop by, park for a few minutes and then leave.  What’s going on?  I started to notice that most of these clandestine visitors have their phones out the whole time and are looking intently at them.  Avid geocachers?

Last night I was leaving the church about 7:30pm and I nearly stepped on a tightly huddled group of suspicious looking teenage boys all staring at their phones.

“What are you guys doing?” I asked.

“Pokémon Go” they replied, almost in unison.

If you haven’t heard of Pokémon Go yet, you soon will be sick of hearing about it.  Mark my words, this game, started just a few days ago by a Nintendo subsidiary, will soon be a major story on nearly every news outlet in the nation, and if you have any stock in Nintendo inc. Pokémon Go has already made you a lot of money.