Canvas has a number of nice updates coming soon! Each month, Canvas releases updates on their Release Notes page. There are lots of updates to follow so we have curated a list of especially useful features you'll love. This blog post will continue to be updated for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year. Click here to read their Release Notes.

March 20th, 2021

Reassign Assignments

Problem: A student submits a blank/incomplete assignment or submits a file to the wrong assignment. Solution: Reassign it! It will then appear to the student as if they never submitted it and put it back on their to-do list. Note: this update does not work on External Tools (LTI), on paper, and no submission assignments.

Webcam Submission

If you have students complete work on paper, they can now submit using their webcam! This is great for high schoolers that don’t have a smartphone available to them and simplifies the submission process.

Create New Quiz in Modules 

If you’ve ever made a New Quiz, you know how tricky it can be to add them into a Module. Now you can create a Classic or New Quiz directly on the Modules page in your course.

Coming in May

PDF Annotation Assignments

Teachers will be able to assign an assignment to students that allows them to annotate on a PDF file and submit it to Canvas. This functionality is already available on iPads. While there is a workaround to do this on MacBooks already, this update should make this more seamless. The annotation tools will look similar to the annotation tools that teachers have available in the SpeedGrader. Click here for the release notes on this feature.

Available Now (in Beta)

Google LTI Update 

Google and Canvas have an all-new integration that is now available. It will be replacing the Google Docs Cloud Assignment tool in September of 2021. If you’d like to try it this year, there is one thing to know upfront. Student submissions do not appear in the SpeedGrader and your rubrics created in Canvas do not work with the integration as is. SpeedGrader support is on the roadmap and should hopefully be available Fall of 2021. You can still provide feedback and give grades that students can view and any scores you give students will display in the Canvas gradebook. 

The main difference between this new Google Integration and Google Docs Cloud Assignments is when you create the assignment, you can immediately start viewing a student's document. You can comment or edit their Google Doc automatically without having to remind them to change the share settings. This allows you to view their work in-progress and give them actionable feedback in the moment just like you could on any Google Doc.

Starting on January 16, 2021, Canvas will automatically be switching over to the New Rich Content Editor (RCE). Most of the changes are cosmetic but they are definitely significant. The icons for the buttons and steps you take to make assignments and pages will be impacted by this change. There are also a few amazing new features such as: auto-save, fonts, and an integrated image search. 

You might be wondering to yourself, "Why now? The timing seems weird." The New RCE was available in January of 2020 and because of a few bugs, we turned it off. Now that they have been ironed out, Canvas is requiring that the New RCE be turned on for the start of the calendar year.

We highly recommend that you practice and try out the New Rich Content Editor prior to January 16th so you are comfortable with how to navigate it. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see how to turn this on now.

New Rich Content Editor - Overview

The primary method for creating and editing content in Canvas is through the use of the Rich Content Editor. This is where you write instructions, link to websites, upload files, or embed videos. Here’s what it currently looks like.

The New Rich Content Editor has a simplified look with some useful new features. The biggest change you will notice is the Links, Files, and Images tabs on the right are now located within the Rich Content Editor toolbar. Watch the video below for more details.

New Rich Content Editor - Linking, Uploading, and Embedding

There are a lot of new options for linking, uploading images and files, and embedding apps and HTML. Below is a screenshot that shows you the important buttons you likely use daily. Watch the video below for a more in-depth look into how to format how you link, upload, and embed content.

Whether you are a Shakopee Online teacher or an IHD teacher, knowing how to host an interactive lesson online is a skill we should all have in our tool belts. I'm sure we’ve all experienced a Google Meet by now and we can all recognize how different the experience is leading a class virtually compared to being in person. Even from a distance, we can still do the best practices we know and use in the classroom face to face such as workshop model, formative assessment, feedback, conferring, and group work. Below is a compilation of different tools and ideas on how to make your Google Meets into engaging and collaborative experiences for your students.

Google Meet Basics

Knowing your video conferencing software is the place to start! Below is an FAQ with videos and resources to help you. These questions are based on our experiences working with Shakopee Online teachers. The number one question we get is, “how do I present my screen and see my students at the same time?”

Google Meet Frequently Asked Questions:

Ways to Use Google Meet Breakout Rooms:

The Breakout Rooms feature has been a game changer! Teachers have been using it to randomly do peer editing, they’ve created different rooms for quiet work, collaboration, and conferring, and they’ve been used for collaborative games like Kahoot! If you plan to bring students back a specific time, you can use this online timer that allows all students to know the exact time they should return to the main room and to stay on track with their group work tasks. 

Interactive Tools to Try:

Now that you know more about how you can use Google Meet, consider how you and your students could use the following tools to interact, complete formative assessments, and practice independently. If you have questions or want more support in trying to implement any of these tools in your classroom, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Digital Learning Coaches!

Pear Deck: Take your Google Slides, add formative assessment questions, and share those results with class! It’s very easy to insert into existing slides you already use.

Kahoot: Live formative assessment tool. Use it to preview an upcoming unit or review a unit before a summative assessment. Students will need to be able to see their teacher’s screen and their own so be sure to practice this with students (video).

Quizizz: Live formative assessment tool. Students can complete these games as homework assignments or live in a Google Meet.

Quizlet Live: Take a set of flashcards in Quizlet and allow students to compete individually or as teams to match terms to their definitions. If you plan to go as teams, you’ll want to use Breakout Rooms

Doozy: It’s very similar to Kahoot or Quizizz but it allows you to have students type answers, then grade them if they didn’t spell it exactly right. It gives you better data than multiple choice questions.

Desmos: Not just for solving math equations, Desmos can be used to create simple slideshows and insert formative assessments. It also has a unique card sort activity that is great for categorization assignments.

Padlet: You’ve probably used it before but Padlet is a digital corkboard that allows people to post all sorts of media. Posts can be arranged in columns (for compare and contrast activities) or as a free form wall like Pinterest. Students can also like, comment, and upvote each other’s posts. 

Edji: Edji is a collaborative text annotation tool. It allows you to create a reading, assign it to students, and then they can comment using text, audio or emoji. After students have had a chance to comment, teachers can turn on “heat vision” allowing students to see each other’s comments and highlights. The darker the color red, the more people highlighted. Click here for a detailed blog.

Jamboard: You may have seen the video above that allows you to use Jamboard within a Google Meet. Jamboard is like a simplified version of Google Slides that allows students to collaborate on a whiteboard. They can add text, post-it notes, drawings, and images. It can be used for simple formative assessments like fist to five or students can use it to create their own presentations. This tool allows the teacher to create a “room” that they invite students to. Then each student gets their own whiteboard to draw on for purposes such as solving a math problem or drawing a diagram. The teacher has a board that all students can view and a dashboard that allows them to see the whiteboards of all their students in the class. This tool is super simple and easy to get started with. It is recommended that the teacher uses it on their iPad so it’s easier to draw. This tool is similar to but has a way more features! For example, you can insert a PDF or image into the background and students can draw on top of it to answer questions and the teacher can see their responses in real time as they work independently.

Preparing for Distance Learning in such a short time was quite the whirlwind! We had a lot of resources to curate and publish in very little time - that goes for teachers and DLCs! It also afforded us the opportunity to explore (and experience) a brand new tool in Canvas called Studio. After designing our Distance Learning PD Course in a matter of days, we came to rely on it. Now that we have some room to breathe and reflect, we think it can be your new best friend for distance learning. It’s a fantastic tool to bolster the accessibility of your videos, deliver seamless formative assessments, and can even be used as a powerful creation/collaboration tool by students.

Canvas Studio is a video platform built into Canvas. It allows teachers and students to upload videos they have created (or grab videos from YouTube) and create video-based discussions or quizzes. Elementary teachers might be thinking, “but my students aren’t using Canvas...” Well, you are in luck! You can still upload media to Canvas Studio, generate closed captions, and share the video link through Seesaw. (Note that captioning is the only tool available if students are not in Canvas.)

As instructors in the Distance Learning PD Course, we inserted Studio media into Announcements and Pages all over the course. One of the biggest reasons we used Studio was to automatically generate (and edit) closed captions for our videos to increase the accessibility of our tutorials. In addition, we can view analytics of who watched our videos and how long they watched. This can help us edit our media in the future if we determine there are portions of the videos that could be cut or are confusing. We also turned on Comments so that participants in our course could ask questions and respond to each other to increase collaboration and comprehension.

Here is a screenshot from one of our Announcements that included a Studio video.

Teachers can use Canvas Studio as a means to disseminate screencasts and instructional videos in their courses or to formatively assess student understanding by inserting multiple choice, true/false, or multiple answer questions. If set up correctly (see step 3 of this guide), you can even include these grades in the Canvas Gradebook. And because your videos are stored in Studio rather than YouTube or Google Drive, you know your students won’t run into Internet filters or privacy issues! Yes, there are other methods for formatively assessing students that offer more question types, but the seamless nature of Studio working with Canvas is a huge benefit for students and staff.

The true power of technology in classrooms is when it is in the hands of our students. That’s right, students can use Studio just like you!

Students can upload media to Studio and either submit it for assignments or embed it into Discussions. When submitted to an assignment, it does display the video in the SpeedGrader and allow teachers to comment on their video. This could be a great way for you to give feedback that is time stamped so students know exactly what they need to fix in their video. 

Studio videos show up in SpeedGrader, allowing teachers to give time-stamped comments and feedback.

Another application for student-created Studio videos is adding commentary on a YouTube video. How could students use comments to demonstrate learning?

  • Complete a film analysis commenting on different aspects of a scene from a movie.
  • Identify the narrative arc in short films.
  • Identify skills that are used by professional athletes in sports clips.
  • Translate a video that is in another language.

Let’s take this one step further, shall we? Students can create quizzes in Studio; just like teachers. What are some ways students can use this feature? Take any of the previous examples and have students create quizzes for their classmates. These can be inserted into a Discussion response so everyone in their class can attempt their quiz.

We hope that after looking at Studio, you find a way to incorporate it into your distance learning toolbox! 


Minecraft Magic

Since the release of Minecraft: Education Edition (read about it here), I see it used everywhere. Students are using it for fun and teachers are using it with students to give them a creative and collaborative way to demonstrate their learning. But before we get into how it’s being used in classrooms, I have a little story.

Working in the Learning Commons at West, I often overhear student conversations in the morning and see what they are doing on their iPads. One morning before school, a student came into the Learning Commons and ran over to two other students. He said, “Hey! Want to build a huge castle in Minecraft and then blow it up?!” They all seem genuinely excited about the idea and then spent the next thirty minutes collaborating on a castle with the intention of just destroying their work immediately. In another instance, a teacher told me that her students begged to help classmates finish their projects when they had finished their own.

So what does this say about our students?

  • They are really good and fast at building in Minecraft.
  • They know how to work cooperatively and collaboratively in Minecraft.
  • They are perfectly happy “wasting time” in Minecraft with no discernible goal.

So what if we gave them a goal? Why shouldn’t we tap into that passion, creativity, and engagement? If you give it a chance, you will experience strong engagement, a high attention to detail, and some seriously hard work from your students. Take a look at a few examples of ways teachers have been using Minecraft: Education Edition in Shakopee Schools. For more lesson ideas, look here!

3rd Grade Language Arts:

Students created a house for a character from a story they had read. In the house they included things their character would have and use. Students also created a book cover for a recent book they read. When they were done, students used the built-in screen recording features of the iPad and included a voiceover. Finally, they submitted their videos in Seesaw. You can find these activities and more by searching through Minecraft Classroom Build Challenges. Some of the options under Language Arts include create a story setting, design a book cover, and build a treehouse.

3rd Grade Math:

Students were learning about multiplication arrays in Math. They used a pre-created lesson and world to build arrays with their partners to practice multiplication. When they were done, they had to write out the math equation for each array on a slate (chalkboard) in the Minecraft world. This allowed them to see a virtual manipulative to visualize how multiplication works. Screenshots of the completed slates were sent to the teacher via Seesaw.

7th Grade Life Science:

Students in Life Science explored the extinction safari world to learn about ecology and the impact of humans on the extinction of certain species. Students then responded to some questions in a Canvas discussion about what animal they would like to see recovered and why as well as what impact it might have on our ecosystem today.

8th Grade Earth Science:

Students created a model of the Rock Cycle in a Minecraft world which included an exploding volcano. They had to use different types of rocks and create geological layers. When they were all done, they AirPlayed their iPad in front of class to demonstrate their understanding of the Rock Cycle.

New Semester

As we have a new semester that is just days away, now is a great time to be getting our ducks in a row in Canvas. Remember to import your content from previous courses (don’t forget to remove due dates), get those CoLD home pages ready to go, publish your courses, and adhere to the Secondary Canvas guidelines!

Each month, Canvas releases a new update to the product that includes bug fixes, new features, and updates. Both of these updates will help you as you prepare for the new semester. You can read the release notes here.

New Ways to Create

The primary method for creating and editing content in Canvas is through the use of the Rich Content Editor. This is where you write instructions, link to websites, upload files, or embed videos. Here’s what it currently looks like.

The New Rich Content Editor has a simplified look with some useful new features. Click this link for a detailed list of all the functions of the Rich Content Editor. For a video guide, click here. The biggest change you will notice is the Links, Files, and Images tabs on the right are now located within the Rich Content Editor toolbar.

Here are some highlights of features that you will find especially helpful:

  • There are now different types of text formatting. This will help you emphasize specific written directions for students.
  • You can upload images directly to the Rich Content Editor using a drag-and-drop interface. This is especially helpful if you have a lot of images that you want to include into individual quiz questions. 
  • You can upload videos (such as screencasts) directly to the Rich Content Editor. Students also will have additional options for playback with this media player such as increasing or decreasing the playback speed.

New Ways to Share

Canvas is a flexible program that gives you multiple ways to obtain your goal. Sometimes this can be overwhelming because there are so many ways to peel the orange. Below you will find a summary of the ways that you can share and move content (assignments, pages, quizzes, etc.) in Canvas, with a description of when these features come in handy.

Where to Store Content:

Current Courses: These are the courses that are automatically generated for you for the current term. These are your live courses that students access daily. You will always have access to your current courses and last year’s courses, as well as any Master or Sandbox courses that you have requested. Courses more than a school year old will be archived every June.

Master Courses: Master Courses are used by a PLC to place common assessments and assignments that everyone plans to use. They never are archived. If you have too much old content or need to clean house in your Master Course, contact a DLC.

Sandbox Courses: Sandbox Courses can be created for you by submitting a help desk ticket. You can have one Sandbox Course for every different course you teach. A Sandbox is a great place to store your personal course content long-term as they will never be archived.

Ways to Share Content:

Import Course Content: Most users go to Settings, Import Course Content, and then copy their previous courses. This is a great way to move your entire course to a new semester or year, or back up your course at the end of a semester to a Sandbox Course.

Canvas Commons: Canvas Commons is a repository of Canvas content items or course that you can share with our district or people outside of our district. We recommend only using this feature if you intend to share something outside of your PLC or school. Using Canvas Commons to share content can largely be phased out for most purposes because of the introduction of the Direct Share feature.

Direct Share: Direct Share is a new feature as of 1/18/20 that allows you to share an individual assignment, quiz, or discussion. “Send to” allows you to share content directly to colleagues who can then choose what course and Module they would like to place that content in. “Copy to” allows you to move content from one course to another course you are a teacher in. This features also lets you choose which course and Module where you would like to place the copy.

"Send to" is a great way to share with colleagues.

“Copy to” is perfect for quickly transferring content from one course to another.

Minecraft in the Classroom

Something really interesting happened on November 20th, 2019. Minecraft: Education Edition was added to Self Service for students and staff to use. Without any information being provided, students immediately starting using it, especially at the Middle School level. Less than 24 hours later, the app was temporarily pulled from Self Service so we could inform staff and students that it was available and how it could be used. Once pulled, students at West Middle School started a petition to have it brought back. As of the writing of this post, the petition is up to 281 signatures.

So what is the lesson we can learn from this? That kids LOVE Minecraft! And as educators, anytime we can tap into the passions and interests of our students, we should jump at the opportunity. 

A principal (and parent of a Minecraft-obsessed son) once described Minecraft to me as "digital LEGOs." It is a space where students can solve problems, collaborate with peers, and be creative. The sky is the limit for what students can do inside a Minecraft world. So how can you use it with your students? Let's start with a video.

Interested? If so, I highly recommend going through "My Minecraft Journey" to get trained. It will walk you through how to use Minecraft: EE with students. From there, I'd recommend checking out the Minecraft: Education Edition website. You can find lessons for many subject areas and Hour of Code activities to get ideas or use the templates they have created. Here's a list of a few ideas to get you thinking about the possibilities:

  • Have students recreate a historical event, battle, or city in Social Studies.
  • Have students use one of the biome templates to explore an ecosystem and interact with wildlife in Science.
  • Have students explore perimeter and volume "physically" by walking around in a world that has various shapes. Once students have identified the shape's volume and perimeter, have them construct someone of their choosing and identify its perimeter and volume.
  • Taking that last example further, one school had students create a digital replica of their new school addition that was going to be built. Students had to use blueprints for the new additions, do unit conversions to convert feet into meters, and then build and problem solve together.

To pull it out together, your students can either use a screen recording or share the world with their teacher using a link. If they screen record, they can include a voiceover so you can hear them explain their new learnings. 

All the features mentioned thus far can be used on an iPad. On MacBooks, teachers have more administrative tools so they can monitor student use, turn on/off features and in-game events, and track progress. This is called Classroom Mode. Click here for more information. Hopefully Classroom Mode is coming soon to iPad! In the mean time, I would recommend using Apple Classroom to monitor student use.

Behavior Disclaimer: I know this is probably in the back of your mind so let's address it! In the event that a student is misusing their iPad or MacBook (whether it be a game in Safari, Minecraft, the camera, etc.) the same classroom expectations apply. Keep records of student behavior, discuss at PLC/team/academy meetings, and hold them to consistently high standards. Refer students to admin as necessary. 

iPadOS 13 is Here!

iPadOS 13 is now available for our students and staff to install!

One question that people often have when new updates drop is; should I update or wait? The answer for all school-provided devices is yes! Updates are blocked until it is deemed that they are ready for everyone to use. As of the writing of this blog post, iPadOS is at 13.2.2 so many of the bug fixes that were included in 13.0 have been fixed. And because apps get updated in order to work with the latest operating system, it is advisable to keep your iPad up to date.

Now that we have that out of the way, what are the new things that you might want to know? Below are a few highlights. For a really deep dive, check out this video.


In the past, when you visited a website using Safari on your iPad, you were sent to the mobile version of a website by default. No longer! When you go to a website, you will be viewing the desktop version from now on. A few examples of how that impacts us are that you can edit Google Docs directly in Safari, websites look more like they do on your MacBook, “new” Google Sites is editable on iPads, and many other websites will act as if you’re on your MacBook. Another feature that was added is a downloads manager. This is awesome because you are able to download files from websites such as YouTube Audio Library to get royalty-free music or image/video sites such as Pexels to get video footage for green screen projects. (And for our Middle School students, FlexTime Manager works flawlessly when trying to register for a session. No more glitches!)



Opening two apps into Split View has been available for awhile now. iPadOS 13 adds the ability to have two windows of the same app open side-by-side. For example, if you want to view two different websites in Safari, now you can! Another feature that was added is called Slide Over. It can be used to glance at other apps like Reminders or Calendar and it can also be used to drag and drop images and files into other apps.

Dark Mode

Dark Mode is all the rage these days in the tech world. When you turn Dark Mode on, many apps will display white text on a black background or just have a generally darker appearance. Dark Mode does save on battery life on your device and is better on your eyes than turning the brightness down to save battery. To turn it on, open Settings and tap on Display & Brightness. You can turn it to Light, Dark, or Automatic. Automatic will change you to Dark Mode from sunset to sunrise or whatever schedule you want. You can also add Dark Mode as a button in the Control Center. Click here to learn how to add buttons to your Control Center.

Photos and Videos

There are a number of great editing features now available. Probably the most useful feature is that you can now crop a video and straighten it. This helps if the video you recorded has a little too much in the background or it was shot on an uneven surface. There are also a number of photo features and updates. Check them all out in the video below.


You can now install Fonts on your iPad. They don’t work system wide, but they do display in a number of apps such as Keynote, Pages, Notability, etc. We currently don’t have any apps for students to use but teachers can install apps using the App Store. Some apps to check out are iFont, Font Diner, and Fonts. To learn more about how to use fonts, check out this guide.

It's Getting CoLD Outside!

Winter is coming! This means that it is about time to start planning for potential Connected Learning Days (CoLD). This blog post is your one-stop shop for all your CoLD-related resources. Be sure to check out the videos and directions below and explore the "Additional Resources" linked over on the right.

Note that this is intended for secondary staff as elementary staff have a different level of expectations.

Here’s a quick overview of getting set up for a Connected Learning Day:

  1. Import the CoLD home page template from Canvas Commons.

  2. Create your assignment and link it to our home page.

  3. Set your CoLD home page as the home page for your course before the school day official starts.

This video will walk you through every set up step or you can see the written directions below.

Import the CoLD Home Page template from Canvas Commons. Open Canvas, click on the Commons button on the left, and then search for Cold home page. Click Import/Download and check the box next to the courses you want to import the template into.

Edit the template to include your course title and name. Enter your email and press the space bar after it so it is hyperlinked.

Create your assignment. It is recommended that you make a Module and include all of the CoLD Assignments that you use throughout the winter. Link the assignment to your home page so it is easy for students to find exactly what they should be working on. To link an assignment to your home page, highlight text on your home page and then use the Links menu on the right to link to other items in your course. If you are looking for some fun ideas for CoLD activities, check out this blog post and scroll down to "Inspirational CoLD Lesson Ideas."

Winter 2019, you will see a significant change to the Rich Content Editor (the place where you type your directions in Pages, Quizzes, Discussions). Check out this video for a detailed walkthrough.

When a Connected Learning Day is announced, change your course home page to the CoLD home page. Open your course, click "Choose Home Page," and select to use your "Pages Front Page." Click on "Change" to find the correct home page you will need for that day.

Email Etiquette

Email. It is essential to the functioning of any workplace but it also can add a lot of stress to our already busy days. The sheer volume of emails we receive daily can be daunting so I thought it would be good to go over a few etiquette tips that will help everyone and give you tips on how to manage your inbox. If we all do our part by following these etiquette tips, we will all be happier!

Email Etiquette:

  1. Keep your message brief and to the point. Explicitly call out the action that is required by the person receiving the email. Novels are never your friend. 

  2. Use the subject line as intended. The subject line tells the person receiving your message what your message is all about. Include the audience for the email if you think some people will not need to read it such as “8th Grade Only” or “Advisors Only.” Conversely, do not write your entire email message in the subject line. 

  3. Create a signature. Your signature should include your name, title/position, and location. Not only do signatures look more professional but they can help avoid confusion when you are sending to people that don’t know you.

  4. Use the “send later” function of Outlook 2019. Outlook added this feature so you can now send an email later. This is great if you are answering something late at night or over the weekend if you want to respect the work-life balance of your colleagues. If it can wait until Monday or the next day, you can schedule it to send then!

  5. Don’t reply to an email with an unrelated question. If you are replying with a question about that email, click reply. If you want to ask that person a question that does not pertain to their email, create a new message. This keeps the conversation separate and allows you to organize your emails by conversations, which saves on confusion.

  6. Don’t use reply all. This function basically never makes sense for large organizations. CC people that might want to know your answer to the question but otherwise avoid this at all costs. If you need a flowchart to make this decision, click here. Save the inbox of your colleagues and just say no to “reply all.” 

  7. Avoid unnecessary replies. If you aren’t advancing the conversation, it’s okay to not reply. As long as the person in question knows that you received their message, it may be unnecessary. If no further action is required, do everyone’s inbox a favor and end the conversation.

  8. Use work email for work. I love Girl Scout Cookies as much as the next person but emails should be for work-related functions. Keep the advertising to a minimum.

Managing your Inbox:

  1. Mark messages unread or flag them. When you open an email you don’t have time for in the moment, flag it so you know to come back later. 

  2. Prioritize. If an email is going to take you a while to respond to or the information is important and you need to internalize it, wait until you have time to read and respond. 

  3. Use the “Focused Inbox.” This directs newsletters and other large-scale emails to a separate folder. This allows you to focus on important conversations and worry about the ads and newsletters later.

  4. Arrange your Inbox by conversations. This will arrange your messages into threaded conversations that are easier to follow and reply to. This is a great way to view emails but it depends on whether people adhere to #5 listed above by only replying to your email with questions related to the topic of your original message.

  5. Use Folders. Create folders for information you know you will want to go back to. Delete items in your Inbox that you don’t need. 

  6. Create and use distribution lists. If you plan to email a group of people within the district fairly often, create a distribution list that only includes the people that need to receive your email. The district has also recently created more well-defined email lists so that you are zeroing in on your target audience.

EdTech Update 2019

Summer is a time when many edtech companies announce and release updates to their products. Below you will find a list of updates to many of our DLC-favorite tools. Be sure to click on the links included in each paragraph to learn more about these new features and reach out to a DLC if you are looking for support on using these tools in your classroom!


Canvas has a number of amazing new features coming out in the next 6 months including a new rich content editor that is more sleek and easy to use, enhancements to Assignments, and more New Quizzes functionality. In the meantime, a few features you can enjoy now are that when you “message students who” haven’t turned something in the Canvas gradebook, you can choose to message Observers (parents) at the same time. For our Elementary and Middle School Canvas users, the Student app has seen significant changes. Click here to see GIFs of these updates in action as the assignment submission process is way easier and faster.


Seesaw (E-5 Only)

Seesaw has added a number of creative tools that allow students to create new artifacts of their learning. Students can upload multiple pictures to create a collage, annotate pictures with highlighters and drawing tools, and add labels to any picture. You can also change the background for drawings to include things like graph paper. The new shapes tool allows you to add math manipulatives, arrows, and speech bubbles. All of these features can be used to create engaging Seesaw Activities for your students.

Microsoft Outlook

Email is something we all deal with everyday. The Microsoft Outlook 2019 Mac app has released a couple of nice features that should help us save time and even help us with our work/life balance. Have an important email you want to make sure you send but you don’t want to bother your colleagues on the weekend? There’s an update for you! You can now schedule Outlook emails to be sent at a later time. Get a lot of distracting junk emails? Check out the Focused Inbox. The Focused Inbox sorts your email into two inboxes: “Focused” and “Other." Focused is for important emails sent directly to you and Other will include promotional emails, newsletters, etc. Just be sure to check the Other inbox occasionally in case something important ended up in the wrong inbox.

iMovie (iOS)

The iOS iMovie app saw an exciting release in June. There are now 80 options for soundtrack songs (instead of 7) and you can do Picture in Picture and Green Screen directly in the iMovie app without the need for an additional app. Green Screen by Do Ink is still a superior green screen app, but having this functionality built into iMovie is another level of convenience and means less app juggling for students.

Adobe Spark (iOS and Mac)

Adobe Spark (Video, Post, and Page) has become one of our most popular and heavily used suite of creation tools. For Mac users, they have released collaboration features that allow you to add collaborators. You cannot have multiple editors in at one time, but it’s a definite improvement. For iOS and Mac users, they added a number of animations and stickers that can be used to create professional designs and videos. 


Flipgrid is one of the best tools in the edtech scene and they just keep getting better! This summer, they launched a new camera that allows you to add a whiteboard screen to videos, upload videos and images from your camera roll, and add stickers/emojis. They added a number of partners that have pre-created topics you can use with students. And lastly, Flipgrid AR! This feature easily generates QR codes to each video submission in a topic so you can print them out so others can watch them. This is perfect for art projects, posters, or word walls. Watch the video below to see it in action!


Many teachers use Edpuzzle to create video quizzes for their students which are done independently. Edpuzzle recently launched Live Mode which allows you to present the video to the class and students respond on their own devices. Edpuzzle also created an LMS integration with Canvas so now you can create Edpuzzle lessons and assign them to your Canvas courses. This makes enrollment in your Edpuzzle classes way easier and incorporates their scores into the Canvas gradebook.

Kahoot and Quizizz

Kahoot and Quizizz are really fun and useful formative assessment tools. Kahoot added a new editor and question types. Quizizz added a Team Mode for collaborative review sessions. Both tools have made it much easier to create assessments quickly and are worth another look if it's been awhile since you've utilized these tools.

Book Creator (iOS and Web)

Book Creator added some nice creation tools. They added an autodraw feature to improve your sloppy drawings and additional pen tools and ink options to add a little creativity to your projects.

Self Service

A number of apps were removed from Self Service over the summer because they either have not been updated in years, had similar features to other apps already available in Self Service, or no longer worked. We also added an AR/VR category and Wellness category so be sure to check those out. 

Summer Learning!

We would like to hear from you on this blog post! Submit to the Padlet below to share your amazing ideas and resources with other staff. FYI - The Padlet is moderated so your posts won’t show up until they’ve been approved.

Summer is a restorative time for educators. We’ve put in a lot of work over the course of the school year and summer serves an essential purpose of helping refuel and reinvigorate us. When the school year ends, we are suddenly relieved of the daily pressures of planning and delivering lessons, attending IEP meetings, supervising hallways, and the 7,000 other things we accomplish in it day. Summer can be a great time to think about how we can get even better at our craft and reflect on struggles we’d like to avoid next year.

Professional Reading - Books and Blogs

There are so many great books out there! After you reread Harry Potter for the ninth time this summer, what book are you going to pick up? We would like to hear from some of you. Share your favorite book suggestions to the Padlet below. Don’t have time for a book? Reads some blogs or listen to podcasts!


Am I the only person addicted to podcasts? Podcasts are great because you can be doing something else while you listen such as driving, exercising, yard work, or chilling at the beach! There are so many great educational podcasts out there. They can teach you about your subject area in greater detail, edtech, teaching strategies, and creative ideas you’ll be excited to try out with your students. Here is a list of some great educational podcasts. Post your favorites in the Padlet below!

Professional Development Opportunities

Attending conferences and professional development sessions can be another great way to learn. And without the pressure of students coming into your room the next day, summer gives us time to digest, reflect, and implement our summer learning from conferences. If you find something to attend, it is possible that your building has available professional development funds. Budgets are tight but it never hurts to ask if your administrator can pay for your registration.

SORLA - June 17th-20th

MNCodes Scratch Camp - June 19th and 20th

Bloomington’s Student Centered Showcase - June 18th

Powerful Learning Conference - August 7th

Southwest Metro Professional Development - August 12th-15th

Twitter Chats and Hashtags

Twitter is still very active in the summer. New edtech tools get released or updated, blogs are posted, and Twitter Chats (live discussions on Twitter) are happening all the time. Check out this website for a schedule of Twitter Chats and resources on how to engage with them. You can also follow Twitter hashtags for summer conferences such as #ISTE19 for the ISTE Conference in Philadelphia. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn from others on Twitter!

Facebook Groups

For those of you that are avid Facebook users, there are tons of great Facebook groups out there where you can learn about specific topics in education. Facebook's notifications make it a much easier conversation to follow as well. Join some groups and share your favorites in the Padlet below!

Fishbowl - A Safe Online Network for Teachers

Fishbowl is a brand new app that has a ton of promise and it’s very easy to get started. Download the app, create an account, select what industry or discussion groups you want to join, and then post questions and responses to people from across the country. Fishbowl is unique because it addresses a big problem many educators have with social media: a lack of privacy. When you are on Twitter, everything you Tweet can be seen by anyone else. Asking tough and honest questions can be very difficult at times. Not everyone feels comfortable sharing their struggles in their career field with complete strangers. Fishbowl identifies me to other users as Middle School Teacher in Minnesota without sharing my name so I feel like I can be honest with my questions and responses. Definitely check it out!

During this summer, be sure to take some time to unwind, relax, and recharge. Set some goals on what you'd like to learn more about. When you are ready to dive in to the wealth of resources available out there, a great place to start is the list below. Have a great summer! 

Made with Padlet

My EdCamp Adventure

I want to share a story with you which I think explains a lot about me as an educator. It greatly changed the course of my career and influenced me to become a Digital Learning Coach. More importantly, I hope it convinces you to join us at Shakopee High School on April 27th for Edcamp Twin Cities!

In the Spring of 2012, I was a 2nd year teacher at Shakopee Middle School teaching Social Studies. Having just found out that I would be moving buildings and grade levels to start teaching geography, I knew I needed help finding resources to expand my horizons. So what’s the obvious next step? I joined Twitter, of course!

After following some edu-famous educators on Twitter, I stumbled upon something called Edcamps. Edcamps are “unconferences” where the participants create the schedule for the day based on what they want to know, share, or discuss with other educators from the area. After doing a little searching, I was excited to hear that Edcamp MSP would be taking place just a few weeks after I joined Twitter. Check out my very first Tweet back in 2012!

Twitter 101: always have a hashtag or no one will notice your tweet.

EdCampMSP was awesome, to say the least. I did not feel like I had much to share as a 2nd year teacher, but I quickly realized that if you are passionate about something, you have a voice that others should hear. I made some long-lasting connections that day from other districts, vastly grew my Twitter PLN, discovered amazing tools like Flipgrid and Earthducation, and learned how to leverage YouTube to curate playlists around topics for my course. More importantly, I learned how to learn about new resources through Twitter and my newly discovered PLN.

I left EdCampMSP feeling so empowered and inspired and I want everyone I know to share in that experience. EdCamps are incredible opportunities for educators to collaborate and learn from each other. Everyone has ideas and expertise to share. But EdCamps are only as good as the participants that attend. That’s why I encourage you to come to EdCamp Twin Cities hosted at Shakopee High School!

To register, click here. Check out our website here. Follow @EdCampTC on Twitter!

Do your students enjoy games and puzzles? Do you want those games and puzzles to reinforce the learning experiences in your classroom? Are you looking for a way to engage your students in a fun, exciting way?

Enter BreakoutEDU!  

Breakouts engage students in current classroom content while participating in collaborative tasks requiring critical thinking and problem solving. Success with a breakout depends on students’ abilities to communicate effectively with one another toward a common goal.  

In Shakopee and across the globe, teachers are implementing (and even creating their own) breakout games. It is truly a win-win for students and teachers.  Students get excited when they see the little black boxes and love working to beat the clock. Teachers like that students are using deductive reasoning skills and solving content-based clues.  Oftentimes the success of the group relies on student abilities to communicate effectively and work collaboratively.

Breakout EDU trailer:

How do I get started?

First you will want to decide what your content-specific goals are for the breakout.  If you have not implemented a breakout before, we recommend you submit a DLC request so that someone can help walk you through the steps. DLCs do have access to a wide-variety of a pre-made games that are available with a subscription to the BreakoutEDU platform. There are also free "user-generated" breakout games that you can find by creating an account on the breakout platform. Oftentimes, we can use those games to meet your goals. DLCs also have breakout kits including boxes, locks, UV flashlights, and more.  

I found a game, now what?

Every breakout has a variety of clues that will need to be printed and cut out. Additionally, many of the games use tools like UV pens and UV flashlights to disguise clues from students and increase the rigor of the challenge. As you prep the game, we highly recommend that you work through the challenges and understand how they will be solved.  Because as your students work through the game, you may need to provide a hint to the class.

Once all of the clues and materials are prepped, you should find appropriate locks for your game and set the codes to match those in your game. Often times there are 2 locked boxes in the classroom. One of the boxes will contain a tool (red lens filter or UV flashlight) that is needed to solve one of the clues. Clues prepped? Locks set? You are ready to set-up the classroom and hide clues or hang up materials in the classroom.  

Can I make my breakout digital?  

You can search the Breakout EDU Digital Sandbox to find already-created digital breakouts for many subjects and grade levels. Teaching your students about the United States? Check out this Google Site; it has a digital breakout for the 50 US States.

I have done a breakout before. How can I make my own clues?    

BreakoutEDU has game-creation templates to help you organize a game you create. We highly recommend using them as a way to organize your game as you build it. It is also very beneficial to use as you facilitate the game or use it in subsequent years.

We have also compiled a list of websites you can use to create clues. View that here:

“The bad news is that time flies, the good news is you’re the pilot.”  This quote comes from Michael Altshuler, a successful businessman, and I believe it summarizes what I know about time.  For a teacher, time is precious. You only have so many minutes in a day to plan lessons for students. I have compiled a list of resources that teachers can use to minimize how long you spend searching for instructional ideas, and maximize your time.  

  1. I love listening to Podcasts. There are so many shows that are meant for teachers that can provide you with ideas for lessons.  In addition, you can do other things while listening, like washing the dishes, working out, or driving the kids to their activities.  Here are some shows that are worth checking out:

    2. Did you know that Facebook can also be used as a resource to get teaching ideas and access to lesson plans? Here are some groups that are definitely worth following:

   3. Pinterest can be a very valuable resource to search and find teaching ideas.  However, you can also find yourself in a rabbit hole trying to find a certain idea.  That is why it is smart to follow a few accounts that you know are educators. Here are few Pinterest pages that are worth the time investment:

  4. Talking about relevant topics in class helps to increase students’ engagement.  Check out Google Trends to know exactly what is current and popular.  This site summarizes what are the most searched topics on Google.  Using Google Trends can spark great ideas for teachers to design discussions, debates, or find articles for students to read.  

  5. PBS Learning Media is another great resource for teachers to find ready-to-use lesson plans.  Activities are standards based and available in all sorts of different grade levels and content areas.  Why reinvent the wheel folks?!

 6.  Finally, Twitter is one of my favorites sources to find great ideas.  If you have something specific you are looking for, use a hashtag with that specific topic to filter through Twitter.  Or, try the advanced search feature to narrow down the resources.  Here is a list of educators that are excellent to follow:

Education has changed for the better through technology.  Now teachers have access to thousands of different resources to help develop strategies or create lesson plans.  It can be very overwhelming and time consuming if you aren’t looking in the right place. Hopefully my six suggestions will help you navigate the waters and save you some of that precious resource we call time.  

Written by: Jeff Jackelen