Using Apps in Canvas

Rubik Apps by Cesar Poyatos, Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Rubik Apps by Cesar Poyatos, Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

One of the truly amazing things about Canvas is that it incorporates apps, which is a truly revolutionary and modern way of looking at an LMS because it makes it so…mobile-like.

Here are just 8 apps (of a great many) to whet your appetite for more.

  1. Dropbox – As an instructor, if you have a dropbox account where you keep all your documents (and, well everything), you can add this app in Canvas and on every editor toolbar (on pages, discussion forums, and quizzes) you can click this button and seamlessly add any of your content. Boom. Quick. Easy.
  2. YouTube (search) – There are a couple of YouTube apps and we’ll explore the recorder at a later time. This YouTube app allows you to import videos easily from any editor toolbar (again, like on pages, discussion forums or tests). When you click on it, you get a search box where you put in what you’re looking for. This is great if you’re not looking for something specific. If you’re looking for something particular, you may be better off going straight to YouTube and embedding the video from there.
  3. Khan Academy – This works the same as the YouTube app – editor tool in the editor toolbar. If you don’t know what Khan Academy is, it helped start the latest flipped classroom movement (I say latest be caused the concept of flipped classrooms has actually been around a while). The site has tons of recordings that explain things through a whiteboard-type presentation. Topics include tons of math, science, economics and finance, history, art history, American civics, computer science, computer programming, test prep, and many more.
  4. Redirect – This amazing tool allows you to put any website as a button in your class’s left hand navigation, which you can then hide or not from your students based on what you want. Do you have an Adobe classroom that you meet your students in for office hours? Boom. Easy button takes them right there. Want your students to have easy access to a website resource your class uses? Boom. Easy button right there in your classroom. Magazine subscription? Boom. Flipboard? Boom. Anything on the Web? Boom. All you need is the complete url to where you want to direct your students (or yourself) and Boom. There it is.
  5. Flickr Search – Another editor toolbar tool, you can search public photos to easily put on your pages, discussion forums or quizzes.
  6. Google Charts – Another editor toolbar tool, you can create charts and embed them easily in pages, discussion forums or quizzes. You have a choice of lots of different types of charts and graphs. And you can easily change the data set if you need to. This is so much easier than any other way I can think of.
  7. LTI (Google) Maps – Embed an interactive map right in your page, discussion forum or quiz with this editor toolbar tool. Put in an address and you get a map that is movable to other areas on the map, zoomable, and you can switch to satellite view. What could you do with that?
  8. Internet Archive – Our last app for this week is another editor toolbar tool. This app searches public databases for pictures, soundbites and video that are in the public domain (no copyright worries) with a keyword search. Here’s the slightly wonky part. It then puts a link inyour page, discussion forum or quiz. I used the link to go to the actual website and get the super handy embed code and put that in the page’s html editor to have the movie right there on the page (or discussion forum or quiz). And it’s public domain. That’s better than free. That’s free and a get-out-of-jail card all in one.
  9. I hope you enjoyed this week’s “Focus on Canvas Apps.” Stay tuned for more and happy educating!


Homepages Are Where Your Class Begins to Succeed or Starts to Fail

Mount Rainier above a layer of clouds

“Obstacle Course” by Ho John Lee, Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

Homepages. They are your students’ first impression of you and your class. It’s the same thing as meeting on the first day in a face-to-face class. It sets the tone for the whole class, your style, how students can approach you, how they get help, if the class (and the teacher) are engaging and exciting. This may seem like a “no duh” statement, but let’s take a look at your homepage and what kind of an impression you’re making.

Recent Activity Course Homepage

Recent Activity Course Homepage

We call this the “What the Heck?” or “Absent Professor” homepage

As a student, what would your first impression be of this page? There are no directions. There is no greeting. There are lots of “buttons” to push. It’s kind of like walking into your classroom and no one is there. The lights aren’t even on. There’s no message on the board, but there are papers on a table. What do you do? I guess you could start exploring and maybe you’ll find what you’re supposed to do. This is the same impression students get when this is their first impression of your homepage.



Text Course Home Page

Text Course Home Page

“Wow That’s A Lot of Words” Home Page

Ok. Now imagine you walk into a class and at least there’s a person there. The person is talking…a lot. What they’re saying is VERY IMPORTANT and probably on the test, but wait…is this in Latin?

Pages filled with lots of text are difficult to track. Have you ever tried to read a lot of text on a computer screen and retain any of it? It’s tricky and sometimes your eyes wig out and your head starts to hurt and then you start thinking, “Do I really need to read all of this? Maybe I could just skim. You know what I’d really like to be doing?” And then the phone rings, or the dog needs let out, or something (anything else) happens and you’re taken away from that horrible thing you didn’t want to do in the first place…which was read a screen full of text.

Also keep in mind that people’s attention spans are getting shorter in our world. Since we have so much information coming at us all the time, our attention spans are trained to be used for short spurts rather than long periods of time. Check out this infographic on the effects of social media on attention spans.

Assignments Course Home Page

Assignments Course Home Page

“Here Are My Assignments, No Instruction Required”

A course page where the assignments are listed can be problematic if you want students to read or complete other tasks before going on to the assignments. As a student this page says, “This is the most important thing.”

Be careful to make sure your assignments have the due dates you want, the points, etc. listed correctly or it will not look how you want it to and it will confuse students.

Without any instructions on this page, students may interpret they don’t need to show up in class or that any other instruction is unecessary or optional and to quote a teacher from a recent conference I went to, “Students don’t do optional.”

If you include the Syllabus on this page, it would help clear up directions, though the impression may still be the same that they only need to worry about completing assignments, not showing up or engaging in other materials.

Modules Course Home Page

Modules Course Home Page

“Course Map/Here’s How My Brain Organizes Things” Homepage

Next, we have the modules as the homepage. This can be a clear, concise way to direct students to the content they need and even in the order you’d like them to go through it in. If you’re not a linear thinker (meaning week1/module 1, then week 2/module 2, etc.) and you choose this as your homepage, you may confuse students because there are no instructions to guide them as to how you have your modules organized. For example, if you have Group Projects as one module, Daily Readings as another, Bonus Quizzes as another, and Resources as another, that may be difficult for students to interpret what they’re supposed to do unless they had some instructions.

Ok, Let’s Time-Out For a Minute…

There are pros and cons to every type of homepage and I don’t want you to feel as though there is a right and a wrong way. There are, however, some important guidelines to keep in mind when deciding on your homepage.

    1. Decide on what your homepage is going to be. Don’t just allow a default and whatever it is, it is.
    2. Put thought into how you want your students to see you and your classroom. If it looks like you don’t care, that’s what they’ll assume you think about the class.
    3. Be mindful and intentional with your left hand navigation buttons. Hide things that your students don’t need.
    4. The information and content you teach is HUGELY important, but if noone can get to that information or understand the format it’s in, it won’t matter.
    5. Lastly, I’ll give you the best quote I heard from a teacher at a recent conference I attended about the effect of intentional design on the classroom.

The more you put of yourself into a class, the more interested your students will be in what you have to say – to teach. One of the best lessons about being a teacher is, don’t pretend to be someone else teaching. Be yourself. The same is true in your online classroom whether you’re using it as an extra resource for face-to-face students or even as the center of your class. If you’re fun and spunky, put that in your class. Even if you’re stiff and serious, BUT you’re really excited about what you’re teaching, SHOW SOME EXCITEMENT. Students appreaciate and respond to a teacher who looks and acts like they care. The same is true in an online environment.

History of Ancient Civilization

Here’s a way to welcome students, give them some information and even have interactive (and colorful, visual, class-specific) pictures they click on each week or module.

Notebook Style Homepage with Active LinksHere’s  a way to treat your page like a notebook and have the modules be clickable tabs.

Table Style Homepage with Links

Here’s a way to give access to the important points you want your students to see as soon as they log in to your classroom. You could make clickable links to get to outside resources, put your midterm and final dates with clickable links to lessons, etc.

Announcements Home PageAnd here, you could treat your page like a daily announcement while keeping important information always visible and clear.

Video and Active Links Homepage

And here you could welcome your students with a video that introduces yourself and the class, sets some expectations, and gives some people presence. Below the video are some buttons (pictures made in paint that could be hyperlinked anywhere in or out of Canvas) that say whatever you want and direct students to wherever you want. Students appreciate knowing there’s a real person on the other end of the computer even if you meet face-to-face.

Whatever design you choose, make sure it’s sending the message you want it to send. If you’re having some issues with student engagement in your class, try taking a look at your online environment and asking what impression you’re giving.

Confessions of eLearning Student Life

April 15, 2014 1 comment

In case you lose touch with the realities of being an online student (as we all do from time to time), the following is my own personal experience I just had with turning in a very high stakes paper with a nearly missed deadline for my Masters in education program. This is an edited email I sent to my mentor.

I just almost completely had a total melt down. Things took me a little longer to complete than I thought, so I took today off of work and have been working ALL day to make sure the task was done well and in the right format and checking with the rubric, etc. Just as I was going to Task Stream to upload my two documents – part A & part B – I couldn’t find my part B, which I had just clicked save and closed. I searched everywhere and couldn’t find it. My laptop is Windows 8, so it isn’t as straight forward to search anyway, but the document wasn’t even showing up in recent documents. For an hour, I searched, I cried, I begged God for help and guidance and then finally decided to start over again at 9pm. I downloaded the template again and still looked to see if I could use it to search. It had a 1 at the end like it was the second copy, so I knew the original document had to be somewhere. Computers don’t just eat documents these days. There’s too many backups in place. On the file tab, there was an info tab, which had breadcrumbs to where the file was saved. I was able to open that folder (some innocuous temporary folder, immune to my earlier searches) and there…at last… was my original document.
So, it’s all turned in now and hopefully I won’t get it back, but even if I do that’ll be OK too. But seriously, my heart still isn’t pumping normal yet.

What I left out of the email is that I was at home with my 4 year old son all day as well and had to care for him and our dog and cat and do other non student focused things. It’s very sobering to be in a position of panicked student because the best laid plans fell apart.

Embedding a Twitter Feed into Canvas

April 4, 2014 2 comments


Say What?

A reoccurring issue with course design whether you’re face-to-face, hybrid or completely online is student engagement. Even though you think underwater basket-weaving off the coast of Tunisia is the most fascinating thing since the invention of sliced bread, students may not be as excited about it as you. They can be fickle creatures that way. So, as educators, how do we handle that?

A very common thought in modern pedagogy is to go to where the students are – their interests, they habits and behaviors, and sometimes even their physical location. Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 5 years, the majority of students are on some sort of social media…A LOT. According to a study published in 2013, people aged 18 – 34 spend 3.8 hours per day on social media.

So, pedagogically, how do we work with that, instead of against it? Incorporate social media into the classroom to get students excited about your course work, following news and interacting with each other and the material outside of class time.

One easy way to do that would be with Twitter. Twitter is a microblogging social media service where user’s can send short messages into the world. Users can follow world leaders like senators, representatives, secretaries of state, presidents, governors, prime ministers, etc. Users could follow religious leaders, famous people, newspapers, news networks, activists, NASA, museums, libraries, corporations, or just plain old regular people too.

In Twitter, you can categorize or tag things for future reference or to add your voice/comment to a trend.

You could create  hashtag for your class or assignment, like #BUS101 or #smithsfinalproject. Then, you could encourage students in class or at home to post with the hashtag. Imagine if you did a group research project where students used hashtags to organize all the material and everyone could have access. You could have students post questions and you could answer them in class or at a later time. You could have students give answers to polls or surveys. Honestly, the possibilities are endless.

Now, you can embed a twitter feed into your Canvas class. That feed could be a person, organization, movement, etc. or it could be a hashtag feed. Why, you may ask. Because you’re bringing social media and your classwork together. You’re teaching students how to responsibly interact with social media and their school work. It even allows students who don’t have Twitter accounts to participate by following a feed. Let’s say you want your students to follow the latest information on the Oso mudslide or the latest technology. By putting the twitter feed in your class, you give students direct access to up-to-date information that you can leverage (Twitter posts happen live and in the moment, even faster than news stations and websites). And yes, you’re getting students excited about your class.

explosionSorry, the possibilities just blew my mind again.

Here’s how you do it:

1. Decide what twitter feed you want in your class. You’ll need the hashtag or username. My name shows Erin Baker, but my username is @erinandelijah

2. Add the Twitter app to your Canvas classroom (you have to do it to each of your classes that you want to embed Twitter in).

  • In your course, go to settings in your left hand navigation.
  • Now, find the Apps tab towards the top of your page next to Navigation

Apps in Course Settings





  • Now scroll down to find the Twitter App (or just type Twitter into the filter) and click on it.
  • Now click +Add Tool

3. Now, create your page or assignment or discussion forum (based on your needs).
4. Now you’ll notice a little blue bird icon in your toolbar when you go to edit your page, discussion forum or even quiz.
5. Click on the bird and enter either the # or username of the person, group, organizations, movement, etc. and click Preview to make sure it is what you want
6. Click Embed

Welcome to a whole new world!

For more awesome info on Twitter and how other educators are using it, watch this webinar.


Want to Embed Flipboard into Your Canvas Discussion Forum, Page, Assignment or Quiz?

April 4, 2014 1 comment

Nerd Alert!

Q: Why would you ever want to embed something like Flipboard into your Canvas classroom?

A: Because it’s AWESOME!

First, Flipboard is a news aggregator where you can follow and read articles from everywhere, all over the world. You can follow social networks, publications and blogs. You can read articles from Vogue, CNN, Newsweek, Martha Stewart, Food magazines, Lifestyle magazines, etc. etc. etc. Surely this must cost a service fee, right? Wrong. This app is free.

Next, you can create your own magazines where you can collect articles that you like or categorize them according to “science,” “Around the World,” “Things My Mother Never Told Me,” or whatever category you can dream up. You can share magazines and even add contributors.

Then, you can put these magazines into your Canvas classes. If you’re a writing teacher, you can put articles directly into a discussion forum and have students ‘flip’ through the article right there in Canvas and then post their response to the article (or questions you want them to respond to about the article). You didn’t put a link to a webpage that takes your students out of Canvas. You put the magazine article right there in front of their faces. If you’re a chemistry (or insert ANY other subject here) teacher, you could provide the latest news articles in your field and have students do research on the topic and then submit the assignment. You could also invite the students to share the articles or contribute to a class magazine. You could provide multiple articles for students to respond to. The possibilities are endless.

Have I whet your appetite? Read on.


How to embed a webpage (like a Flipboard magazine) into a page or discussion forum in Canvas:


  1. Get the url to the page you want to embed. For example:
  2. Edit your page or discussion forum (or anything in Canvas that has an html editor option – like quizzes and quiz questions).
  3. Find and click “HTML Editor” on your page, discussion forum, etc. above the normal toolbar you use to edit your page et al.

Canvas HTML Editor

  1. Now for the fun code part of your day J Follow this format to embed your url:
  2. Now click save.
  3. One more step. Because of the change in secure website vs. non secure websites (Read the blog post about it here), you also have to disable your “sheild” in your browser in order for the content to show. Students will also need to know this or they will not understand why they see nothing. You can put a link to our blog post in your directions and even put a video explaining it or go over it in class if you meet face to face.

For Chrome:                                                           For Firefox:
Chrome ShieldFirefox Shield

Now you (and students) can view and interact with the webpage on your Canvas page. For Flipboard users, this means students can ‘flip’ pages, share articles and follow magazines. Happy flipping!

Screen Shot of Flipboard

Students Get Microsoft Office 365 Pro Plus Free



From the Centralia College IT Page


Microsoft Office 365 Student Advantage logo

Centralia College now offers Microsoft Office 365 Pro Plus for students at no cost via the Microsoft Student Advantage program. This agreement between Centralia College and Microsoft allows us to provide current students with the latest version of full Office at school and at home.

How to get it:

- You must be a current student
- Access is integrated to your e-mail address.
- Sign in to your Office365 Portal with your student email address and password at the following link

At the top right of the page, Click Settings  > Office 365 Settings

- Select your language
You must uninstall previous versions before running this installation.
- Click on the “install” button.

NOTE: Office installs the 32-bit version on your PC by default, even if your computer is running a 64-bit version of Windows. If you are unsure which version of Office you should install, see Which version is best for me?

Instructions are also located here on Microsoft’s website.

More information…

Deactivate an installation on either a PC or a Mac:

If you’ve already installed the latest version of Office with Office 365 on five computers that you use and you want to install Office on a sixth computer, you can do that by first deactivating an installation on one of your current computers.

Go to Software > Office. Click Deactivate next to the computer you want to deactivate the installation from.

Troubleshoot your Office installation:

When you’re installing, you may get a “Something went wrong…” error. Or, if you get some other error, see General troubleshooting for installing Office 2013 and Office 365.

After you have Office installed, try creating a few documents. If an Office program looks blurry, displays as all black or all white, the screen flickers, or looks different on different computers, see Office 365 doesn’t look right.

More information:

You can install the latest version of Office on up to five computers that you use. After you’ve completed the installation, make sure you have automatic updates turned on.

Depending on your operating system, here’s what Office includes:

- Office on your PC includes Access, Excel, Lync, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Word.
- Office on your Mac includes Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word.
- Mac users can install Lync separately.

NOTE: You can also install the latest version of Office on your Surface Pro. You’ll have all the same programs as Office on a PC.

How you get the latest version of Office is different from Office 2010 or Office 2007. The latest version of Office with Office 365 is offered as a subscription. Also the Office applications are packaged together for faster download and installation. Once you’ve installed Office, you can remove the short-cuts to the applications that you don’t need.

You can also use Office 365 with Office 2010 or Office 2007 or Office for Mac 2011.

Learn more about getting started with Office 365

What is included with Office 365 ProPlus subscription license?

- Office 365 ProPlus for PC (Office 2013 ProPlus base applications)
- Office 365 ProPlus for Mac (Office 2011 for Mac base applications)
- Office Mobile for iPhone
- Office Mobile for Android

How many machines/devices can I run this subscription on?

Each subscription license allows you to run Office on up to five machines – Mac or PC. You can also run Office Mobile for Android or Office Mobile for iPhone on up to 5 mobile devices.

Is this a full version Office and available for offline use?

Yes, this is full Office on the PC, Mac, iPhone, and Android platform and all are available for offline use.

What applications come with Office 365 ProPlus for PC?

- Word 2013
- Excel 2013
- PowerPoint 2013
- OneNote 2013
- Access 2013
- Publisher 2013
- Outlook 2013
- Lync 2013
- InfoPath 2013

What comes with Office 365 ProPlus for Mac?

- Word 2011
- Excel 2011
- PowerPoint 2011
- Outlook 2011

What comes with Office Mobile for iPhone?

- Word Mobile
- Excel Mobile
- PowerPoint Mobile
- OneNote and Lync Mobile available as separate download.
See here for more options.

What comes with Office Mobile for Android?

- Word Mobile
- Excel Mobile
- PowerPoint Mobile
- OneNote and Lync Mobile available as separate download
- See here for more options.

What are the PC requirements for Office 365 ProPlus?

Operating System
Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 7, Windows Server 2012, Windows 8
Note: 32-bit Office can be installed on 32-bit or 64-bit operating systems and 64-bit Office can only be installed on 64-bit operating systems.

Computer and processor
1 GHZ or faster x86 or 64-bit processor with SSE2 instruction set.

1 GB RAM (32-bit)
2 GB RAM (64-bit) recommended for graphics features, Outlook Instant Search, and certain advanced functionality.

Disk space
3 gigabytes (GB)

Monitor resolution
1024 x 768

What are the Mac requirements for Office 365 ProPlus?

Computer and processor
A Mac computer with an Intel processor.
DVD drive or connection to a local area network (if installing over a network).

Operating System
Mac OS X version 10.5.8 or later.

1 GB of RAM recommended.

Disk space
2.5 GB of available hard disk space.
HFS+ hard disk format (also known as Mac OS Extended or HFS Plus).

Monitor resolution
1280 x 768 or higher resolution monitor

What are the iPhone requirements for Office Mobile for iPhone?

iPhone 4
iPhone 5
iPhone 5s
iPod Touch 5th generation

All devices above must be running iOS 6.1 minimum

What are the Android requirements for Office Mobile for Android?

Android OS 4.0 or greater
Android touch enabled smartphones only

Do students have to sign into Office 365 to use any of these applications with Office 365 ProPlus?

Yes, a valid Office 365 ProPlus license tied to a valid Office 365 login for students is required to enable any of the four Office 365 ProPlus features.

How long can a student leverage Office 365 ProPlus?

The guidelines are such they can leverage this program until they graduate or are no longer attending Centralia College. At that point, we must disable their Office 365 ProPlus license.

How is this different from Office 2013 Professional Plus?

The Office 2013 applications are exactly the same however there are some differences including patching, license sign in for usage, and Click-to-run (C2R) technology for rapid installs (2 minutes for quick usage).

Where can I get training on Office 365 ProPlus?

There is some excellent end user training on Office 2013 here.
There is some excellent end user training on Office for Mac 2011 here: Excel 2011 / Outlook 2011 / PowerPoint 2011 / Word 2011

Some end user help guides on Office Mobile for iPhone here and here.
Some end user help guides on Office Mobile for Android here and here.

For assistance please contact the IT Helpdesk.

Contact Helpdesk during office hours below.
(360)736-9391 ext. 297
Washington Hall, Room 201 Staff Offices or Room 203 Mentoring Center

Helpdesk Hours

Monday–Friday, 8:00am–5:00pm

Information Overload Just in Time for Spring Quarter

Head Exploding cartoon

Does this look familiar to you, especially at the beginning of the quarter?

I just went to an AMAZING conference for Washington Canvas users at Tacoma Community College and this is how I feel. There were SOOO many great sessions that my head seriously wanted to explode by the time we were done with the conference. Topics included how to incorporate twitter into your classroom (did you know you could embed a live twitter feed into your class?), using videos and images to make your class more engaging, using html and Css to ‘jazz up’ your Canvas class, different tools available to use in synchronous or asynchronous assignments, using Canvas as a way to communicate with everyone within a department (creating a department page), using Flipboard to aggregate articles and embed them into your Canvas pages, challenges to consider when designing a course (Community of Inquiry – Teaching Presence, Social Presence, Cognitive Presence), flipped and open math classes, Speed Canvasing and the amazingness that is Open Educational Resources (seriously, FREE courses that have already been designed by educators around the world and you can just plug them into your classes, adapt them or whatever you need – no copyright issues), just to name a few.

I will be blogging about all these topics and more, but I will be doing them in a way that will (hopefully) be easily digestible.

Keep a look out for future posts and let me know if there are some features, issues or topics that you would like to see in particular.


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