Hello, reader friends! Today is the third post in my series titled, “Technology Trends in Education.” This series will go through the end of the week. It is especially applicable to educators, school leaders, and parents. If this particular post doesn’t apply to you, I hope you’ll pass it along to a friend in the season of educating a child.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s quite likely that you’ve heard someone mention a “Canvas Classroom,” or “Google Classroom.” These online platforms have equipped teachers and students with a means to teach and learn online. While various programs exist so that teachers can instruct students who are absent from school, I’m going to take a close look specifically at Canvas classrooms today.
At the onset of the pandemic shutdown in the spring of 2020, I was using Google Classroom to post my lesson videos and learning resources for my students. I loved Google Classroom, but the following school year brought a shift for my school district to Canvas. After the first training day, I silently wondered to myself how I might make this new resource accessible for elementary age students. Thanks to a great deal of quality training and a few amazing Youtube tutorials, I can honestly say that I adored Canvas by mid-September of that first year. I truly love my Canvas course. Let me tell you more!
First of all, my Canvas page feels like my face-to-face, real life, in-person classroom. My students really connect with it. That didn’t happen overnight. It took hours of hard work to put the bells and whistles (more like button graphics, actually) into place as I preferred them, but it was so worth the time and effort. Last year, as students were put on quarantine week after week, I became increasingly grateful that they had a way to hear my instruction and to take part in my lessons. As students and their families visited my Canvas classroom, I was so glad that I had prioritized the careful construction of my online classroom. I’d love to share a few of the tutorials that helped me in those beginning days of “decorating” and “organizing” my class’s digital space.
1. Bitmoji Classroom and Canvas: This video guided me through the creation of my homepage’s banner for my Canvas classroom. This effort was worth doing well because an inviting homepage is necessary for a quarantined 3rd Grade child. After carefully following the tutorial, my finished page banner was complete with many of the chapter books that my students read throughout the year in my classroom, my regular classroom’s llama poster, my Wonder movie poster, my Cacti banner, and a Mrs. Stanford Bitmoji wearing pink. It was as realistic as I could manage. It feels like home to my students and it looks like this:
2. Canvas Headers and Buttons in Google Draw: Upon the completion of this video tutorial, I was able to make numerous buttons for my classroom including: one button for each day of the week’s lessons, a button for the read alouds I record for my students, a button for Epic books, a button for archived lessons, and even a button for a class sing along page. What is a quarantine without an option to participate in your class’s “Fun Friday Singalong” after all? Clearly, a Canvas page has the ability to be personalized to your own classroom’s needs. The buttons on my page are displayed from top to bottom: Monday Lessons, Tuesday Lessons, etc. The following picture doesn’t do the actual page justice because alas! It is a screenshot from the page on my mobile device and the real page’s buttons aren’t spaced nearly as far apart, but here’s an idea of their appearance:
3. Next, I used what I learned in the previous button tutorial to make buttons for each day’s lessons (after you click on the initial day’s page, that is) using Google draw. I’ll share a few images of those with you, as well.
4. The lesson pages aren’t the only ones with buttons. I’ve added buttons to the other pages that link to other web pages my class uses for independent reading, lessons, and videos of read alouds. The bottom examples below are from my “Read Aloud Page.”
5. I share the following page purely for the purpose of inspiring fellow educators. At the bottom of my Canvas page, the final button is a “Stanford Squad Singalong.” That page doesn’t serve an educational purpose. It serves a social and emotional purpose. I’ve added this page for the joy and comfort that it might provide for a child who is sick with Covid or quarantined because their family member is sick with Covid. As much as I love educating children in academic areas, this may be my favorite capability of an online classroom. The positive school to home connection cannot be overemphasized in any school year, but is especially critical in the life of a child during a pandemic. Drumroll, please…
With all designing and practical organizing of a Canvas page aside, you may still have questions about how a student uses an online classroom page. Allow me to clear up a few commonly asked questions.
Q: What is a Canvas page? A: Canvas is an online course management system that allows students to learn and teachers to teach online.
Q: What can teachers do with a Canvas page? A: Teachers can make announcements, share assignments, link other pages, share rubrics and lesson videos, display graphics to aid instruction, and so much more.
Q: What can students do with a Canvas page? A: Students can email teachers, watch video lessons, turn in assignments, visit other pages linked to the Canvas page, study graphics and other reading materials such as rubrics, and beyond!
It is my desire that this summary might be beneficial and informative to educators and parents who may be new to the world of Canvas classrooms. My knowledge is still growing and has its limits, because I certainly haven’t “arrived” as an online 3rd grade English Language Arts instructor. I hope my favorite tutorials and my blossoming love for my Canvas classroom has answered some of your questions pertaining to online classrooms. I hope you might be inspired!
May we pour from all that we know and use every available resource to meet the needs of our students in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and the years that will follow. May we seek to give the best of our tools and methods to educating little minds and comforting little hearts when they must learn away from their usual classroom. As our world changes, we must seek to grow on behalf of the children.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”Colossians 3:23-24
From my teacher heart to yours,