As I was about to head out to a couple of conference, I paused as I gathered up the devices I was taking with me. iPhone, iPad, Macbook. I wonder briefly if any of the new people I’d meet would look over at my pile of shiny, silver apple splendor and chuff an exhale before contemptuously thinking . . . “Well, it looks like SHE’S enjoying the Kool-aid.” Because these are the kinds of exchanges I believe really happen in the delusional wonderland that is the inside of my head.
And I admit it. I’m a Kool-aid drinker. A Macphile. An Apple Fangirl. I always smile when I see someone using a Mac in a movie. I then point it out to the person next to me. There was never any point in denying it. Though I’ve never gone so far as to be a stand-in-line kind of Appleholic, the love is deep, and it’s pure.
The story of how I came to love the Mac might illustrate how Apple romanced an entire generation of kids into a lifetime of loyalty.
My story goes something like this:
One day, in the 4th grade, I walked into math class to find that overnight, a beige plastic TV and box thing were sitting on the table at the front of the classroom. Everyone wanted to use it. No one wanted to use it more than me, though.
No, they didn’t.
You see, they could not possibly have felt what I felt when I first saw that computer. Mr. Howe had briefly mentioned something about possibly staying after school to work on the computer if our parents said it was ok.
I don’t remember if I asked my folks or not. If I didn’t, sorry guys. It wasn’t my fault.
The computer was the damnest thing. It was this little box and it had a whole world inside. It wasn’t a tv. I had no agency when it came to a tv. This huge place inside this little box was all mine.
There was a game. I don’t remember a lot about it but I remember naming the players in my “gang” after the ghostbusters and working through the areas of the game and the computer and there was nothing there but this world. And me. There was no time.
Unfortunately, that was not true for the rest of the world when the secretary came down saying that my mom had called and HOLY SHIT IT WAS 4:30.
Well, I raced home, bag and jacket flailing. I’m sure I got a stern talking to but my parents were usually pretty cool about stuff like that.
As I grew up, Apple grew up and seemed like ever other year my school was filled with a whole new set of Apple computers. (I think someone at my school must have been a beast at grant writing.) The mouse. The color screen. Don’t get me wrong. I love technology now, but there was something magical about the way that technology was rapidly evolving. I was just old enough to know that we were watching the birth of something amazing.
And for me, that amazing was wrapped up in this beautiful package.
So when we acquired our very first computer, a used DuoDock 230 that my Husband brought home. I still have the key to that computer on my key ring. (Because you could lock the little laptop into the docking station and, yeah, well . . adorable.)
So Apple grew up and I grew up with it.
It’s not a matter of me believing that Apple is perfect. There are legitimate criticisms. Heck, I’m the first to admit how sad it is I have to jailbreak my phone to get it to perform simple tasks Droid has been doing for years. I get it.
But for all of you out there who poo-poo Macphiles and their seemingly endless pursuit of the next version of iShiny, know that for many of us, that love is like the love of your hometown sports team, or of a particular brand of car. Not totally rational, definitely somewhat emotional, but most definitely real. And shiny.
You ever wanted a way to keep track of information can be shared between you and the student and can be changed and updated in a way that both parties could see . . .
All in one place. . . . clear and transparent.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I had worked with a contracted grade-based course structure for a year or two when I decided to introduce contracted grading to my friend, gamification. Once their eyes met, there was nothing anyone could do to stand in the way of their love. It was like the old reeses commercials.
(Insert chocolate peanut butter video here)
I added some ice cream, with a huge ribbon of theatre running through it and everything was magical.
Magical, that is, until I realized my students were having a horrible time calculating their grade.
Sure, they could look in the gradebook, but that was only going to show them a series of X’s or Check marks. Students voiced uncertainty. Even confident ones were unsure. The rest were hopelessly lost.
In my mind it was simple. There are 10 Green Gems, 5 Purple Gems, 90% on quizzes and discussions would get you an A in the class. All you needed to do was keep track of your green gems, your purple gems and the averages of your quizzes and discussions and you were fine.
All of the information was accessible to the students, but their feedback and the frequency of it, told me that I needed something different. Students have a clear idea of where they were in the course.
It had to be something I could update frequently. It would be ideal if I could also leave messages/notes to the student there.
First I tried working with student journals. I had an idea to set up editable tables only the student and I could see. After a few hours of trials I just couldn’t make it work the way that I wanted. By that point in the semester the students just needed information. So I sat down and wrote out 50 or so updates and went over them with each student individually.
Tensions eased. It was clear students were enjoying the alternative structure of the course. But because it was not a structure with which they were familiar, they needed a way of keeping track of their progress that would serve the same function in my class the grade book served in others.
Learning Management Systems aren’t designed to handle a class that is not grade-based. Canvas is no exception. I’ve had to actively work against Canvas’s inherent bias toward traditional grading structures. That’s not unique to Canvas, That’s a pretty typical trait of most LMSs. I started out first by “hacking” the grade book to cough out absurd letters instead of letters that looked like grades. I’v learned it’s hard for my students to “ignore the percentage,” no matter how many places it is posted or how many times I tell them in person. It’s a little easier, however, when the letter next to it is a Q instead of a D.
Working in Canvas with this new problem was fortuitous, however, because I had just discovered I could grade assignments for which the student had not yet made a manual submission. This may not seem like a big deal, but it had been a pain in my rear in ANGEL for years.
Believe me, I LOVED ANGEL. It was a remarkable piece of software, but this was one of the few flaws that made me bang my forehead on my desk regularly. My students came to campus to give speeches. I couldn’t grade the speeches with the rubric unless they had submitted something, anything. Usually I just asked for the date they were coming to campus. However, if they hadn’t done it ahead of time, we would have to stop everything in class and have them submit “Hi,” so I would be able to grade them.
By the time I got to this point in Canvas I already knew it would let me grade unsubmitted assignments like it was no. big. deal. That was one of the reasons I was eager to make the switch. So I decided that modified rubric might be the answer to all of my problems. I could click my way through a simple framework. It could be updated multiple times. Students could get notifications. I could leave notes! It would be easy.
The good news is, it is possible to do this in Canvas.
The bad news is, it was a HUGE pain in the ass to figure out how.
The good news is, I totally DID figure that out.
The good news is, now you don’t have to. Just head on over to this little handy dandy tutorial and save yourself some time.
The other good news is, once you know how to do it, it’s not actually that hard or frustrating.
The bad news is, I think this is going to be a second choice for me with badges becoming to easy to distribute inside the class and across the institution.
I know it’s not the sexiest title but if you need Canvas to provide you with this feature, it’s sexy enough!
Gather up all of the info you want in your rubric. I knew exactly what I wanted to have in the rubric before I ever built it. That’s not normally how I roll. I like to be a little more freewheeling. Now look up at the title of this rubric. Note the 3.0. That’s version 3. By the third time I had it memorized. That is ALSO how I knew that it is important to know the info ahead of time. So trust me.
Ok, first the easy stuff. How to make a rubric. Here is a link to a guide on how to make a rubric. Go in and click “add a rubric” and then STOP.
Once you get there, follow me.
You have got to build your rubric carefully and in the right order. I don’t fully understand why that is, but I have figured out how to make it work for what I need. If you’ve found a better way to do this, please let me know. Because easier is good.
Name Your Criterion on the left hand side.
Then go to the right hand side and enter the number of points this row is worth.
Yes I know we don’t need points. Take a deep breath and stay with me.
The number of points the row is worth (and thus, the number you are inserting here), is equal to the number of items you need in that row. It’s hard to be more specific than this because the rubric can be used in a lot of ways if you’re careful. For example. There are 10 green gems available for this class. Because I needed a box for each gem I made the value 10.
This will immediately give your left-most choice, 10 points.
It is now time to play “expand the rubric.” Your rubric is persnickety. It has a certain logic and it wants you to follow it. I have tried to outwit it at every turn, But, in the end, like a spoiled child on an overseas flight, I decided to cater to its fussiness and get what I wanted.
Expand the Rubric.
Let the rubric do the point-distributing. (The points don’t matter for the class anyway, remember?) Click to add a new box only in places that have a number gap [ex. 5,4,2,1 would need a box added between the four and the two], until you have a box for every option you need for that row. As you can see, for my top row, that number was 10, but for the second row, only eight.
Carefully change the names of each box to reflect your choices. Do not, in any way, touch the number of points.
Repeat this process with all of the rows of items that you need.
1. Start with a fresh rubric. If any of the following goes wrong, consider your rubric infected. Delete it and start again. It would want it that way.
2. You must have the largest number on the left and the lowest on the right.
3. Start with the total number of points and let the rubric self-distribute points to the individual boxes. If you try to distribute points manually, the rubric will become possessed by little imps who will randomly change your numbers and the order of your items.
4. Set your assignment value to zero. NOT YOUR RUBRIC. The value the assignment you attach the rubric to must equal zero or these points will start to matter.
5. Your number of points must be equal to or greater than the number of boxes or your rubric will become infected with a box-eating green virus and cause you to have headaches.
So, as you can see. Not ideal. Not impossible. Once it is built, it works really, really, nicely. Is this an overly complicated build process for a pretty simple idea? Definitely. But remember, we’re not thinking outside the box with this, we ARE outside the box. We always want to be in the position where our ideas drive our need for tools and not the other way around.
When I run across an idea that I have to create workarounds for, I know that I am in uncharted territory. I love the smell of learning in the morning!
Wow! This has been a busy semester and there are so many things I want to talk to you about. But first, I promised that I would come back and give you a rundown of my time in Anaheim at the Innovations 2014 conference.
Here are my basic reactions.
HOLY SHIT William Rankin is awesome.
The wifi situation at this conference was ridiculous.
In this day and age, if you don’t have wifi coverage for your entire conference, you are shooting yourself in the foot. No one should have to leave the conference space to access the internet, cloud storage, etc. This is a tech-conference deal breaker.
William Rankin, I adore you.
California is pretty outside.
Twitter is still the best way to find the coolest people at a conference.
I invented the Swagnet.
I also promised a lot of folk that I would be putting up more info from my session on Gamification and that is happening this week.
What do selfies, instagram, vine, snapchat, twitter, tumblr, and a slab of granite all have in common? Storytelling.
On Thursday, President Obama let slip, perhaps for the first time, his true feelings toward liberal arts education. In a statement on his post SOTU address tour he stated, “A lot of young people no longer see the trades and skilled manufacturing as a viable career, but I promise you, folks can make a lot more potentially with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.”
This has prompted an almost unprecedented shift in the Republican stance on the arts and the roles that they play in society and in our schools.
Sen John McCain (R) was one of the first to break the silent tension when he declared, “I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. We need mandatory arts education in all of our school!”
Since his declaration, several other key Republican spokespersons have followed suit. “The President is trying to devalue arts in education. Look at the record, he’s been doing it for years. Why? What do we know about what happens when kids have free access to art in schools? Critical thinking happens. Teamwork happens. Individualism and invention happens. Problem solving happens. The last thing the President wants is a bunch of intellectuals running around.”
Republican Senator Marco Rubio took to his blog and advocated for arts funding. “The time has come for our government to stand together in a bi-partisan effort and declare that we support arts. And we need to put our money where our mouth is and back that up with grants and other arts initiatives. I mean, Obama takes charge and all of a sudden we have people like Justin Bieber running around. This has to stop.”
When the question of a federally funded initiative for supporting the arts came up at Friday afternoon’s press conference, Rand Paul expressed support. “It’s a wonderful idea but I’m pretty sure we already have one of those. So we’re looking into it. John Dingell is sure it’s around here somewhere.”
Sarah Palin waited until late afternoon yesterday to weigh in on the subject. She was scheduled to speak with a group of journalists and community members following an impromptu performance by a local Inuit artist in the town hall. The performance began with dancing and chanting and concluded at the 17 minute mark, with the artist disemboweling a dead seal and “sort of stomping around on it,” described one witness.
Visibly moved by the performance, Palin emphasized her commitment to art and particularly art history which, she explained, is filled with examples of Americans with strong morals and a deep love of patriotism.
She was quick to cite more global examples as well, stating “Just look at Shakespeare’s books. Those are stories about good people. Moral upbringing, and hard work. It’s not vulgar. It’s not violent. What we need to be asking is why Obama’s fighting to keep art out of schools? I think that’s the question I’m not afraid to ask.”
Palin isn’t the only Republican outsider who feels the president is doing too little to make sure all Americans have access to art. Late Friday night Rush Limbaugh also weighed in on twitter, citing,
“NObama wants to shut down your minds, man. Wake up sheeple! He wants all of you to be mindless robots. #1984”
Sean Hannity was quick to reply to Limbaugh.
“@SeanHannity We should take the initiative. We need to support art if Barack is too scared. #wahh”
“@Limbaugh Agree! Let’s make a website or a tv station or something! All art! #rebelsWITHacause”
“@SeanHannity You know, you could be on to something here. Call my people. I’m excited about this. Let’s have lunch ;-)”
“@Limbaugh Love it! And we can filter out all the icky stuff. #weiners #haha #insidejoke”
“@SeanHannity You’re a genius. This is going to be huge.”
“@Limbaugh Freedom ART! #USA #USA”
@SeanHannity RT Freedom ART! I think we have a name!
While no official word has come from the senate minority leaders on whether mandatory arts education legislation is on its way to the senate floor, Democrats are already gearing up for a fight.
In Chesney, Colorado, a local politician stated they were eager to begin plans for a book burning/wiener roast rally as soon as the weather was warm enough.
It is uncertain what the future holds for arts in education and arts funding in general. Republicans insist that they are ready to fight to keep Obama from getting his way, but his recent declaration of intent to wield his executive privilege may mean that their hands are tied.
This has been Master Blog Theatre, nothing in the above performance of a news story was real except for the absurdity of its believability.
I’ve been preaching the message of high impact student engagement and development for a while now. People are getting the message but I don’t know if they are getting the urgency. My friends kindly suggested that perhaps I take my own advice and share my thoughts using my own words. Because I’m a storyteller. And a teacher. And I dare people to do things that scare them ALL THE TIME. I encourage it. But all the time this big scary thing was hovering in the back of my mind. Well I did it. I broke all the rules of video blogging and just got up and was my natural self. One small victory for me. Hopefully the first of many. I don’t let a lot of people see the “real” me. I’m happy to let all of you.
I’m also on Vine now, although I haven’t posted anything yet. I suppose since I have mentioned it, I had better get started.
Fine me through Twitter
Be well, you crazy weirdos.