A horse is a horse, of course, of course: the importance of names, part 1

Warning: I am Harry Potter fan. And when I say fan, I mean, absolutely obsessed, went to every midnight movie premiere, got my book the night it was released from Goblet of Fire onward, wear a Gryffindor tie and carry a wand for Halloween, die-hard fan. I just wanted to warn you, because I’ll probably start making at least one HP reference per blog post.


Albus Dumbledore once said, “Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself” (Harry Potter and the Philsopher’s Stone 17). Of course, he was referring to the darkest wizard of their age, but the same concept applies to Canvas. I know that you’re thinking this is quite a stretch, but wait for it. I’m going to show you how accurate this is to Canvas (and most things in your life).

I know, as soon as I hear someone refer to Canvas as “that new Angel thing? You know… the online course editor… um… Canvas?” that someone is struggling with Canvas. Call it what it is. Canvas. Learning Management System. Calling it the “New Angel” isn’t doing either of those platforms justice, and it’s going to make it harder for you (aka everyone) to get used to the new system.

Language is everything. Everything has a word (sometimes multiple words) associated with it, and by keeping a standard of language, everything flows a bit more smoothly. What’s easier to figure out? “That guy with the fancy tie that kind of looks like Abe Lincoln” or “Billy Nye, the Science Guy”? I hope you agree that the second option is easier to figure out, and will probably lead to less communication issues if you use it. Cool? Cool.

bill nye

First things first: Canvas is the new system. Still with me? Awesome. Canvas is a service that is owned by a company called Instucture. This means that you (aka everyone) uses Canvas, but might get an email from Instructure. They are the same wonderful people! Think of it like iTunes. You use iTunes, but when you need help with something, you get help from Apple. So, when Instructure gets mentioned (“oh, those fancy folks at Instructure are working on a new tool for videos within Canvas”), your brain should immediately click and connect it with Canvas.

I’m making a list of words that everyone should be familiar with when working with Canvas. You may never use some of these, but they’re good to know either way. Pay special attention to words that are bolded from here on out in this entry. These are the words you should use when referring to these tools, or when asking for help with something. It will help everyone involved in the long-run.

Heads up: I am using Student View for this. I will include teacher vocabulary in the second post

Dashboard: After you log in, you end up at a screen that holds all kinds of information. It shows you new announcements, recent activity within the class, upcoming assignments and events, and is your homebase for your experience in canvas. Take a look around without clicking on anything, and you’ll see all kinds of links along the top. Those are the Global Navigation.
Global Navigation: Across the top of your screen is a blue banner with the college logo and some links. This is your Global Navigation. On the left are links for actually navigating around Canvas.

global navigation

Hovering your mouse on Courses will bring down a list of your current courses that use Canvas for any or all of their content. So, if you’re trying to find a specific course, hover there and click on the class you’re looking for.

Hovering your mouse on Assignments will show a menu of upcoming assignments that are due in all of your Canvas courses. If you click on Assignments you will be taken to a page where you can see all the assignments you’ve completed, all upcoming assignments, and all overdue assignments. This is a great organizational tool!

Clicking on Grades will take you to your personal gradebook. Here, you can see your overall grade for the class, and the grades for each single assignment.

Clicking on Calendar will take you to, you guessed it, your calendar. This is an easy way to keep track of due dates and any events you enter for yourself. I plan to write a post concerning using this calendar to its full advantage, so keep an eye out!

Inbox: This is where all conversations and messages end up. You can send messages to your instructor or other students. You’ll also get a notification if your instructor comments on an assignment or forum post. Any and all communication that happens within Canvas gets recorded here.

Conversations: Instead of email or chats, Canvas calls all communication from within Canvas is called Conversations. It sounds friendly, right? This means that if someone says they started a conversation with you on Canvas, you should check your inbox, because that’s where it’ll end up!

Up next is a blog entry about vocabulary to use when describing things within your Canvas courses. Get excited, folks!


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