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Issue 1

September 27th, 2019

Canvas presents challenges with close to first six weeks

SUN. | 10-11-20 | NEWS

SAT. | 10-10-20 | NEWS

     As the first six weeks comes to a close, Rose teachers and students alike have been faced with new obstacles concerning the curriculum’s new dependency on the application Canvas as well as challenges in its relationship to Powerschool.

     “Teachers’ attention has had to go from ‘what are the cool things I can do in the classroom,’ or ‘how can I better help students learn’, to ‘how does Canvas even work’, ‘how do we take care of grades’, or ‘what happened to my grades,’” instructional coach Michael Flinchbaugh said.

     In the beginning of the year, teachers were given four days to complete 15 hours of training via a Canvas module, while preparing everything else for the year. Many teachers feel that Canvas is a valuable resource that holds many opportunities, but poses a challenge with having to adjust to the new system, especially toward the beginning of the year. 

     “Most teachers did not have any real experience designing in Canvas and they had to do training the week before [students] came back, meanwhile trying to get everything else ready,” Flinchbaugh said. “The training that we were able to provide was very messy and honestly kind of inadequate.”

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Photo by Murphy Fisher

     Many teachers faced technological issues in the beginning of the year in adjusting to the shift of hybrid learning. Mainly, these challenges included anything from user error to inconsistency in syncing grades.

     “The most troubling thing for students is that sometimes the grade calculations [between Canvas and Powerschool] don’t match and that can be for a variety of reasons,” Flinchbaugh said. “It can be because a teacher might have things set up a little bit differently by mistake, or it could be because grades aren't transferring in correctly.”

     With instruction from Flinchbaugh as well as the support among teachers, they have been able to better overcome these difficulties in order to utilize Canvas to the fullest extent.

     “The first thing that we did as a really intentional thing school-wide is a student survey to see what those experiences were so that we were being responsive to what the reality was,” Flinchbaugh said.

     Teachers then held a Zoom meeting to discuss how these responses could be applied to new practices on Canvas in order to improve effectiveness. With the start to a virtual semester, teachers have seen a decrease in students being active virtually and turning in assignments. 

     “Probably the most troubling thing is students who aren’t going onto Canvas, and we’re reaching out to try and figure out what’s going on, but that sometimes is hard to know why,” Flinchbaugh said.

     Even in spite of these challenges, however, after the end of the first six weeks teachers such as math teacher Natasha Smith feel they are beginning to better understand the intricacies of the Canvas application.

     “I’m getting acquainted, I feel comfortable at this point [with Canvas],” Smith said. “I don’t feel I’ve mastered everything, but I’m not as overwhelmed as I was in the beginning of the school year.”

     Largely this increasing ease and familiarity with the application can be attributed to communication between teachers in providing advice and tips concerning the application.

     “The teacher-to-teacher support has probably been the greatest measure in terms of making improvements for us,” Flinchbaugh said.

     The math department is particularly collaborative in that they plan schedules together as a department, and Smith feels that this support has been a valuable resource in navigating the challenges Canvas presents.

     “For me, help has come from the surrounding teachers; we have really worked together to share ideas and to really find out things together,” Smith said. “Without them, I really feel like I would be lost right now.” 

     Although the shift to virtual learning has presented challenges to both Rose students and staff, they feel that, Canvas particularly, has allowed for new opportunities of growth in regards to collaboration and technology.

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