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Canvas is an ever-evolving platform that continues to churn out great features. Below is a brief summary of features that have added or changed over the summer. 


Sync grades from Canvas to Infinite Campus - Canvas guide

It’s been a long time coming, but it is now possible to sync grades from Canvas to Infinite Campus. There’s a few things to know so if you don’t feel confident in diving in headfirst with this, it is recommended that you don’t check the box to sync grades between Canvas and IC. The key thing to know is that if you do sync scores to IC, you will need to go into IC and move those synced assignments from “Uncategorized” to the appropriate grading category.


New Gradebook - Canvas guide

There is now a “New Gradebook” in Canvas to start the school year. Some of the key features that are nice about the new gradebook include being able to color-code scores in the gradebook to indicate missing, late, etc. Another useful feature is the filters, which allows you to view specific chunks of your assignments such as from one module.

New Gradebook Status options and colors


Migrate quizzes to Quizzes.Next - Blog

Quizzes.Next is a major update to the quizzing engine that is built into Canvas. It is still considered a beta feature because it doesn’t include all the functionality of the original quizzes, but there are some really useful question types in Quizzes.Next that are worth a look. The highlights of those are categorization, ordering, and hotspot questions. Check out the blog post above to learn more about the new question types and how to get started.



Parent Account Creation - Canvas guide

Canvas has changed the process for parents to create parent accounts. Students or the tech department can create a pairing code, which allows parents to become an Observer for their student. Directions will be updated on our websites soon.

Pair with Observer


Hearing Every Student's Voice

Every one of us can admit that the voices of our students don’t always have an equal standing in our classroom. We hear far too little from some students, while others are very comfortable sharing their voice (even when we don’t want them to). We simply don’t have the time to sit down and talk directly with each student daily. How do we make sure we have equity of voice in our classrooms and find time to hear from every student? And even better yet, how can we share the amazing voices of our students with our families, the community, or even the world?

Enter Flipgrid.

For those of you that have never used Flipgrid, it is a video discussion tool. The teacher creates a prompt or directions and students respond with a short video. For that personal touch, once they submit their video, students can take a selfie and put stickers and drawings on their selfie. It is simple and easy to use, yet is a powerful reflection tool that can be used in dozens of ways to engage your students. It is rare to say this about a tech tool, but it honestly can be used effectively E-12 in every classroom. But before we get into some examples of how to use it, let’s take a look at some amazing updates they’ve made!


This is an example of a Flipgrid used during professional development for 6-12 teachers.

Flipgrid has made a number of exciting announcements over the summer. In June, Flipgrid announced that they had been acquired by Microsoft and all their paid features would be free going forward. A couple of those features include longer video posts (up to five minutes) and direct video replies to each other’s posts.

On August 1st, Flipgrid announced a number of other innovative new features. They improved the overall performance of the camera and added simple editing tools so you can trim your video responses in order to add more at the end. My favorite new feature is #GridPals. Teachers create a short bio detailing who they are as well as who they want to connect with, and then they appear on a map of other Flipgrid teachers. This allows users to connect and collaborate with classrooms from around the world. Imagine partnering with a classroom in Australia to compare and contrast the local climate or ecosystem? Or connecting with a Spanish-speaking classroom to discuss daily life with a native speaker? #GridPals makes creating those connections very easy.



For our secondary teachers, Canvas and Flipgrid work perfectly together. You can install an integration which allows you to create grid topics from within Canvas, embed them directly into an assignment, and then grade them using the SpeedGrader. It takes a little to set up but is a huge time saver once you have it up and running.

Here are just a few creative ways you can use Flipgrid in your classroom:

  • Replace your exit ticket with a Flipgrid video response. You can limit responses to a short time, such as 15 seconds to force students to be concise.

  • Students can use Flipgrid to upload existing videos they have on their device, such as videos made in Book Creator or Adobe Spark. Have students upload their video projects to Flipgrid to do a virtual gallery walk so you don’t spend all of your precious class time watching every student’s video. Just have students watch five and reply with feedback.

  • Create a Flipgrid topic, record an introductory video, and send it to your students and their families so they get to “meet” you during the summer. This could be another great way for interdisciplinary teams to share their back-to-school messages with students and families.

  • Send students home to cook a meal for their family and have the students film their family's reactions/reviews of the food cooked by the student.

  • Create virtual pen pals using Flipgrid. Have students from other classes/schools/states/countries work together to solve problems, share what they know about their local community, etc.

  • When students are working in groups, have them do virtual check-in with Flipgrid so you can see what progress they made during class and then explain their next steps.

Teach Vocab with Desmos Polygraph


I’m going to speak from my own math experience when I say teaching vocabulary was not easy. We did Frayer Models, creative pictorial representations, and graphic organizers which worked well for many of my students. My struggle was getting students to use the formal academic language when they were doing collaborative activities, justifying thinking, writing, and talking about math. I needed a way to have them practice using the academic language so they were ready to use it to explain their thinking.


Desmos Polygraph provides an opportunity to collaboratively teach and practice vocabulary and give students the need for formal academic language. What is Desmos Polygraph? Glad you asked.

Have you ever played Guess Who? You ask yes or no questions to narrow down the person your partner chose on their game board. Desmos Polygraph gives you the ability to create the same style of game with 16 images that you choose.

The goal is to play 2-3 rounds allowing students to use informal vocabulary to describe what they see and figure out which image their partner chose. The images are mixed up on each students’ screen. That means questions like, “Is it on the top left?” won’t work in this game.

After the initial rounds, you can use the informal student questions and descriptions to build formal content area vocabulary. Use the teacher dashboard to monitor the questions each pair is asking and you can use student work to springboard discussion on the formal academic vocabulary. Desmos conversation tools allow you to pause the activity to have a whole group discussion and anonymize student names to show student work examples.

You also have the ability to create follow up questions to get students to share questions they would ask to differentiate between two images.

Then you can play a few more rounds looking for the use of the formal vocabulary. Students are automatically paired with other students who log into the same Activity Builder session so you can play with your class, other classes in Shakopee, or a class anywhere in the world that connects to the same session.

Polygraph has the ability to push student communication and critical thinking skills. In addition, students will find the need to use academic vocabulary as the task will require increasingly specific questions to narrow down which image their partner chose.

Scaffolding Strategy from Shakopee: Give students sentence frames or word banks to support the use of formal academic language in playing Polygraph.



When you create formative or summative assessments for your students, have you felt limited in what kinds of questions you can ask your student? Or are you feeling like maybe these matching questions don’t really assess critical thinking? On many tests we give, students answer selected-response questions like multiple choice and short answer essay questions. But now we’ve got even more options! That’s why I am excited to introduce you to Quizzes.Next.

Disclaimer: This is a beta feature that we have elected to turn on. There are some limitations at this time. We turned this on to allow our DLCs and early adopters time to learn the new features so we can support staff when the features are out of beta. 

The Good:

The first thing you’ll notice is the streamlined interface. It looks a lot more like Google Forms. Settings have been simplified to allow for question randomization amongst other things. But best of all, the new question types open up an incredibly amount of possibilities. The coolest new question types are hot spots, categorization, and ordering.

 

The Bad:

As was mentioned above, there are limitations to the new quizzes features. For one, you cannot currently transfer your quizzes between courses at this time. So if you want to share with your PLC, they will need to recreate them. For a more detailed breakdown of the limitations and differences, see this comparison chart.

 

How to get started:

Open a course you want to try this with. Click on Assignments on the left-hand navigation button. Click on the +Quiz/Test button. Enter in a description of the quiz, save it, and then go back in to edit it. Click the + to add questions and get started!

 

Categorization - Create categories students must sort different terms or statements into. You can also add distractors to make sure they truly understand the content. Create compare and contrast questions such as Fact vs. Opinion or Cause and Effect.

 

Hot Spot - Upload an image, select a portion of the image that you want students to click on, and you are done! Use a map to test if they know locations or upload a photo for students to label a diagram.

 

Ordering - Give students a list of dates, numbers, or whatever and have them order them from largest to smallest or oldest to newest. Have students use the order of operations to indicate their steps in a math equation.

 

Resources:

Guides: https://community.canvaslms.com/groups/quizzes

FAQ: https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-12076-quizzesnext-faq

Comparison Chart: https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-12115-quizzes-lti-feature-comparison

The Paper Paradox





Start by watching the video above. Watched it? Great! I hope it was worth a chuckle. More importantly, know that this is the perspective Shakopee DLCs take regarding paper: There is a time and a place where paper is a better choice than using digital tools.

 

If we cannot explain to our students why it is better that we are using technology for a particular task, then it is probably not worth doing digitally. I heard a teacher tell students, “We are using Notability to highlight this article because then you can undo mistakes and use more colors. It’s also nice to have it in Notability because you’ll need this article for a long time so it won’t get lost or ruined.” That explanation makes sense, and students will understand that there is added value in using technology.

 

But if a teacher were to simply provide a digital copy to students and not explain the added benefit, students are far more likely to get frustrated with the effort required to type on an iPad screen or draw with a MacBook trackpad. 

 

I am biased in this discussion. I rarely use paper. Meeting agendas, to-do lists, notes, reminders, and nearly everything else I do in the course of my work is digital. I see a lot of advantages: I always have my phone or computer with me, I can type faster than I can write, typing looks neater, and digital files are easier to share with others. For teachers that do not use technology in the ways I describe above, paper is just as essential as my computer or phone is to me. Both methods are equally valid. Whatever works for you is great. But what works best for your students may be different.

 

As teachers, it’s our job to help students discover how they learn best, even if it does not align with our own preferences. This may require them to get outside their comfort zone. Exposing students to multiple methods of doing tasks is an essential part of becoming an independent learner.

Regardless of the notetaking method you promote in your classroom or your students’ preferences, there are a number of reasons to consider submitting notes and other assignments digitally. Even if your students are completing their work on paper, it is very easy to submit that work digitally through Canvas - see the resources at the bottom of this blog post to find out how to scan documents on an iPad or MacBook.

 

As I mentioned above, it is important to spell out to students why it is better for them to turn things in digitally. So what are the advantages?

  • Students can turn things in anytime, anywhere. They could be absent, in study hall, or even on the bus! They can turn work in when they are done instead of waiting until they are physically in your classroom.
  • You don’t need to create a place in your room for assignment collection, spend time in class handing back papers, or worry about losing anything.
  • No more “No Name” assignment submissions!
  • You can provide prompt feedback on smaller chunks of work rather than waiting for the end of the unit to collect work or check notebooks. Students can submit each page they complete and it can be graded as you go without taking away their notes when they could be using it to study.
  • Parents will know if assignments have been turned in or not and they can see the quality of their child’s work. This is great during parent-teacher conferences. No more parent questions about whether work has been turned in or not - and they get to actually see the work, even if their child threw it away.
  • Students can look back on their previous work for reflective purposes.

 

Digital submission is one of the first steps towards integrating technology into your teaching practices. In a future blog post, we’ll examine how technology can be used to create experiences for students that cannot be replicated on paper.

 

Resources:

Use Notes App to Scan Documents  (iPad)

Use PhotoBooth to Scan Documents  (MacBook)

Grade Using the Canvas Teacher App  (iPad)


AR and VR in the Classroom


In a world chock full of smartphones, digital cameras, and powerful computers, virtual reality and augmented reality are making their way into the lives of billions. We can no longer say that these technologies are just for gaming and entertainment. The possibilities in education are limitless and will only continue to improve.

Augmented and virtual reality can be a perfect fit in any class in order to engage your students. They can be used at the beginning of a unit to get students excited about the topic you are teaching. These technologies can also be incredibly effective in showing something that is best viewed in 360 or 3D. Imagine diving into the ocean with your students and looking around in a coral reef. Or perhaps you would like to take a journey into the human body like your very own Magic School Bus! Or maybe you’d like to hold the entire solar system in the palm of your hand. All of these things and so much more are possible with the help of AR and VR. But before we dive into some lesson ideas, let’s get more specific about what VR and AR actually are so you know the difference.

Augmented reality involves adding or overlaying digital elements onto the physical world. Typically your device needs a camera which shows the physical world with additional content overlayed on top. Virtually reality is an immersive, completely digital environment. Virtual reality usually requires a headset that completely blocks the user’s view of the real world and displays only a virtual one.

Ideas to get you started:

Merge Cubes - Hold the solar system in your hand with Galactic Explorer and explore the human body with Mr. Body (both are available in Self Service). Check with your DLC to get a class set of Merge Cubes.

YouTube 360 videos - Search YouTube for 360 videos. There are TONS! Check with your DLC to see if they have Google Cardboard or other VR headsets you can use.

Google Expeditions - Explore distant places in 360. Take your students on guided tours that have lots of cool locations and information.

Metaverse - Create an augmented reality scavenger hunt for your students or have them create their own using Metaverse. Works with phones or iPads.


 SVRF - Find amazing 360/VR videos that your students can view on their computers, phones, iPads, or using a VR headset. You can also insert these videos in Metaverse experiences.