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San Antonio ISD, meet Canvas
08/05/2020

New learning management system to enhance digital learning

 

woman at computerIn light of the increase of remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, San Antonio ISD has purchased a new learning management system, Canvas, for the 2020-2021 school year. Canvas is made up of a powerful set of highly integrated learning products that allow teachers and schools to customize their digital learning environment, as well as introduce students to a system used at colleges and universities around the nation.

 

“We have dual credit students at the Alamo Colleges and UT Austin who are already taking college courses using Canvas,” said Becky Landa, executive director of the Office of 21st Century Learning. “We felt this was a viable product for high school as it was a natural transition. Rather than having multiple platforms, it allows students to fully participate in college courses right away.”

 

The goal of integrating Canvas at SAISD is to provide a robust learning management system to facilitate rigorous and high-quality blended learning experiences as well as support teachers, students, and families. SAISD’s Office of Organizational Learning and Office of 21st Century Learning began training master teachers on Canvas in July.

 

“Training for us is non-stop,” said Landa. “When you think about who is getting trained, it’s not just teachers. We’ve got instructional assistants, consulting teachers, librarians, lead teams who train others. By the time we are done in August, we will have trained up 4,000 staff members.”

 

canvas According to Landa, Canvas takes about 12 hours for teachers to learn. Principals get an abridged version of the training so they can get a bird’s eye view of the system. SAISD librarians will be receiving a specialized training model focused on helping support parents and students through the new process this fall. The Office of Family & Community Engagement’s specialists are also being trained to help parents understand the system at the school level.

 

Almost 70% of SAISD teachers have already entered training as of August 7, according to Landa. In a normal cycle, training would have commenced on August 10 but this year, teachers on- and off-contract have jumped in and are already completing Canvas training modules.

 

Canvas has a variety of features including calendars, attendance tracking, curriculum and assessments, module sharing, analytics, discussion boards, differentiated assignments, assistive technology and a peer review function. Additionally, a language translator as well as an announcement and communication feature that sends real-time messages to students are integrated into the program.

 

“Teachers will never have to carry another journal, or notebook, or a stack of papers ever again because this type of student work is uploaded into Canvas and easily retrievable by teachers for evaluation and feedback,” said Landa. “Canvas tracks every interaction to monitor and support student progress. This is a game changer for teachers because the system gives them real-time information about student performance.”

 

Canvas gives students multiple opportunities to show their progress and allows teachers to set extended deadlines for students with special needs. Teachers can provide immediate feedback to students and ask them to revise their work.

 

“Typically in a classroom, a teacher would be redirecting, or be a guide-on-the-side, as a continuous process in teaching and learning,” said Landa. “That is what we are doing now with Canvas as the feedback features offer an ease-of-use of the product. When teachers see this, they remark, ‘It’s amazing.’”

 

While teachers may choose to start their Canvas classrooms from scratch, there will be a multitude of resources and lessons, some developed by SAISD’s own master teachers, that will be available. Some SAISD master teachers have already begun sharing resources on Canvas.

 

“Teachers can look for anything they want: a course, a module, a quiz, a video by grade level or by SAISD resource,” said Landa. “Eventually, we will be placing all sorts of instructional resources that our master teachers are developing. Master teachers received intensive trainings with Canvas. We used that model so that the master teachers could help us support other teachers within their own buildings and across the District.”

 

In addition to access to master teacher-developed resources, teachers can integrate District-approved apps, like Flipgrid and Google resources, into their Canvas course. Over the next several weeks, the Office of Organizational Learning and the Office of 21st Century Learning will be partnering to provide Canvas professional learning opportunities. Staff accounts are in the process of being established and will be accessible through the ClassLink Single Sign On when available.

 

Staff interested in learning more about Canvas may complete Session 1: Foundations by viewing the five-part video tutorial. Once completed, staff can register for training through Performance Matters or view the training recordings and modules by visiting the Ed Tech and Design Website at http://www.saisd.net/edtech

 

Teachers will need to participate in seven training sessions in order to complete the Canvas onboarding. At this time, Sessions 2-5 are available in Performance Matters. The training calendar will continue to grow with new sessions regularly for the remainder of the summer, during back-to-school professional development, and throughout the 2020-2021 school year.

 

Additionally, the Office of Family and Community Engagement will be conducting Canvas workshops specifically for parents Aug. 13-20. Both morning and afternoon sessions will be offered in English with Spanish interpretation, unless noted otherwise.

 

“The District is so excited to have this opportunity to engage and introduce parents to Canvas,” said Irma Hess, a licensed master social worker with the Office of Family and Community Engagement.

 

Click here to view Canvas parent training sessions.

 


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