How can web 2.0 tools, specifically those new to the market fit into K-12/post-secondary education? Are they beneficial? What are the potential downfalls? What are the pros and cons of implementing the tool or tool genre that you selected? Are there promising practices or exemplary programs that provide examples?
The amount of emerging technology tools geared toward educators and students can be too overwhelming or too underwhelming, depending on who you ask. Umang Gupta is on the side of underwhelming. He wrote in an EdSurge article that educational technology tools are, to put it frankly, nothing that’s going to change the world. “Educational technology has been effective at solving problems related to school information processing—such as managing student data, testing and compliance,” he wrote. “Few products have conclusively been proven to help kids learn better, however. And that means technology has never really been viewed as “mission critical” by most educators and school administrators.” On the other hand, Steve Hargadon, the host of a podcast called The Future of Education, compared emerging tools of the 21st century to the perspective of a massive wave coming to shore. Some educators feel the wave is so big they want to watch it cautiously from above while others want to hang on and enjoy the ride while it lasts. In this blog post, I am going to research the benefits and potential downfalls of using Canvas as a primary learning management system over Google Classroom.
So what is a learning management system (LMS)? According to an article that appeared in the journal Elsevier, a learning management system is a “web-based system that allow instructors and/or students to share materials, submit and return assignments, and communicate online” (Lonn, Teasley). In other words, an LMS is an online all-in-one platform that allows educators to provide content and instruction more efficiently and it helps engage more students by giving them a variety of tools to be assessed and communicate with their instructor and their peers.
I am currently experimenting with Canvas in my face-to-face language arts classroom. All students have access to laptops or desktops on a daily basis. Therefore, in January of 2018 I decided to move away from Google Classroom and begin using Canvas to deliver and store class content. The implementation of Canvas has overall been successful but I have experienced my share of failures as well. In Chapter 2 of Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies, Michelle Pacansky-Brock writes that it’s a good thing when educators — or anyone for that matter — experience failure with technology. “… failure is tough,” she wrote. “And professors don’t openly relish the opportunity to fail” (2). In my experience, failure is another word for botched implementation. Whether it’s an unpublished assignment or a mistake in grading or an error in communication, failure comes in different forms with technology. Students will catch mistakes and they can react either positively or negatively based on how well the instructor responds to the failure.
According to The Ohio State University, there are three main benefits of using Canvas: 1. Clean interface; 2. Easier building experience; 3. Speedgrader. There are four main benefits for students: 1. Mobile app; 2. Grades; 3. Simplified collaboration; 4. Calendar. PC Magazine ranked the best 2018 learning management systems and Canvas came out a winner. “Boasting a modern interface, native web hosting, and extensive third-party integrations, Canvas is the best educational learning management system on the market today.” So what makes Canvas the best LMS on the market? What makes it better than Google Classroom? PC Magazine said this about Google Classroom: “Lacks most features associated with a traditional learning management system (LMS). Needs tighter integration with Google’s own communication tools, including Hangouts. Lacks Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) support.” According to IMS Global Learning Consortium, the advantages of an LMS including an LTI component is that it can communicate with a central grade book. In other words, Canvas can be set up to save educators time by avoiding the dreaded double-entering of grades. For example, if Johnny takes a quiz on Google Forms, his teacher needs to make a note of his score and then manually enter the score in the school district’s grade book. Taking a quiz on Canvas avoids that step by syncing its grade book to the school’s grade book.
To some educators, the grade book feature can be a major downside. What if Canvas doesn’t sync correctly with the grade book? What if Canvas completely glitches out? What if I invested time to put all of my classroom materials and resources on Canvas and the company goes bankrupt? Or — more realistically — what if my school district stops supporting Canvas? These are fears that keep educators from exploring new technology, said Anne Glasel, who wrote an article for Medium.com called 6 Reasons Why Teachers Don’t Use Technology in the Classroom. “Some teachers would love to have a specific device or app for a particular class that they are teaching, e.g. Physics, Maths, Biology, but because other educators don’t know or don’t want to understand the benefits or the possibilities of that particular type of tool, they down-vote it or simply reject investing in them.”
In conclusion, Canvas has become the go-to learning management system in the K-12 classroom, more so than Google Classroom, simply for its usability. Based on the evidence above, the pros seem to outweigh the cons. Every educator and student in the Anchorage School District has access to Canvas. Now the question is if school districts are willing to give quality professional development for Canvas and if the state government can invest more money into classrooms so every student can have equal access to a reliable electronic device.