Playing with .html in Canvas

I recently attended a CanvasCon event in Dallas and had a chance to learn some new tricks for maximizing my use of my district’s learning management system, Canvas by Instructure. I have been using Canvas for three years now, and the folks at Instructure are constantly adding to and improving the product. I teach a computer applications course to 9th graders and my course is built exclusively around Canvas.

Canvas, which is free, by the way, to teachers is a very robust industry leader that allows me to build a strong, blended learning experience for my students. I’m certain that there are some differences between the free version and the version that my district pays for, but it is worth every penny invested. When I need it to be completely online, it functions extremely well in that capacity, too, allowing me to meet the needs of homebound and absent students very nicely.

Back to CanvasCon, though, and something really cool that I learned howh5p-logo-box to use at that event. In a session sponsored and led by a crew of consultants from our Education Service Center Region 11 from Fort Worth, I learned about a third-party tool called H5P.org. (See the #canvaschicks on Twitter.)

According to the H5P website, users can “create interactive content by adding the H5P plugin to yourWordPress, Moodle or Drupal site, or you can create content directly on H5P.org and embed it on your website.” Add Canvas to that list.

Using the plug-in to create interactive elements has allowed me to experiment with elements that improve the functionality and the visibility of my lessons in Canvas. I have been able to create and embed via .html these types of content in my Canvas lessons:

  • Accordion vertically stacked content
  • Image juxtaposition files that allow amazing comparison/contrast activities
  • Collages and Hotspots that allow for the identification of key images within a series
  • Embedded video-based quizzes
  • and more

I was even able to backdoor the installation of an audio file in my Weebly portfolio site,   (a feature not normally allowed in the free version) by creating the audio file in H5P and then embedding it into an .html box inside of Weebly. The result was exactly what I wanted.

Now,  this post is obviously not a full-blown training event, but I am working on a demo video that will explain this a little better for visual learners like me. Or, you can just go to H5P.org, create a free account and play around with the toys in the toolbox. You’ll be amazed!

Try out the Image Juxtaposition function by clicking the photo below. You will be taken to a module in Canvas in which you can use the vertical slide to move the image from 100% color to various degrees of black and white.

Grand Carousel1

Do You Have Snowflake Students in Your Classroom?

There are a few books that have greatly influenced how I view my students over the last couple of years. They include Jessica Lahey’s Gift of Failure, and Susan Cain s QUIET: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I recently ran across the name of Wilson Bentley, also known as The Snowflake Man and was intrigued by his passion for photographing snowflakes. Born in 1865, wbBentley developed an insatiable curiosity for the snowflakes that fell every winter in his home state of Vermont. Bentley’s life is the subject of a 1999 Caldecott Award winning book called Snowflake Bentley. According to the Official Snowflake Bentley web site , he is credited with the discovery that “no two snowflakes are alike.”

“Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.”

Now, I don’t claim to know a lot about snowflakes, having spent most of my life in the warmer climates of Florida and Texas, but as an educator,  I was captivated by a couple of comments contained in the quote above from Bentley’s writing.

First of all, Bentley wrote, “Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated.” Sounds a little like Bentley has been to my classroom. I teach ninth graders at Arlington Collegiate High School, in Arlington, Texas, and I can assure you that everyone of my students is unique. Most of them are the most important human beings in the lives of their parents, and they are fearfully and wonderfully made to achieve something important in their lives. This is my 12th year of teaching in my school district, and during that time I have had the privilege to teach students and their siblings again and again. I have taught all four children from one family. In each of those cases, while there may be subtle physical similarities, no two students are same — even when they come from the same genetic pool.

The other statement above that resonated with me was, f361f234ccb772b78dc9404cb6064a19When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.” Each of my students represents something that only comes along once in a lifetime. It’s so easy for some students to pass through our hallways, coming and going, leaving little more than a counselor’s data file behind to mark their existence. Bentley seemed determined to preserve the beauty of each individual snowflake he photographed (capturing more than 5,000 images on equipment that would pale against today’s digital tools). I’m certain that I can no more “save” every student who comes my way than Bentley could photograph every snowflake that fell within his reach. I can, however, make a difference where I can before my students “melt” and move on with their lives.

So what does this mean for me as an educator?

  • It is the reason that I differentiate, individualize and personalize as much as I can when planning my lesson strategies.
  • It is why personal student conferences are so important to assessment.
  • It is why I love my district’s choice of learning management system for it’s feedback functionality that enables me to communicate so easily with my students. 

I do have snowflake students in my classroom, and chances are, you do, as well. Our challenge is to appreciate them and mark their presence and existence in a way that ensures that they do not juts melt and move on with “no record left behind.”