Teachers’ Canvas use varies

A student checks his Canvas page – Yan Graf ’20

Entering its fifth year, Canvas has become a staple of academic life for students and teachers alike. The multicolored calendar page greets students every day when opening up their computer, informing them of assignments they need to complete and upcoming assessments in their classes. But while each teacher is required to use Canvas in their class, they utilize it in dramatically different ways.

     To acclimate new teachers to the ways of Canvas, members of the IT department, such as Director of Information & Instructional Technology Ms. Andrea Drinkwine, set up sessions during teacher orientation in August to teach the multitude of features Canvas offers.

     “They talked to us a lot about modules and all sorts of other things such as a feature where you can mute grades,” said new English teacher Ms. Harnett, who attended the Canvas introduction sessions over the summer.

     Once teachers become familiar with how Canvas works, they begin to implement it into their classes.

     Each component of Canvas has its advantages and disadvantages. A great example of these advantages are especially noticeable in language classes, which involve lots of discussion.

“The different features are fun to explore, and I think the more you use Canvas, the more you learn about it.”

Mr. Benjamin White

     “The different features are fun to explore, and I think the more you use Canvas, the more you learn about it,” said Spanish teacher Mr. Benjamin White, “We do a lot of discussion in Spanish class, so using the discussion boards is a great tool for our curriculum specifically.”

     In classes where large research papers are assigned, teachers often use Canvas to put up an assortment of resources and documentation for students to use. Having the ability to upload so many different files and customizing a course page has made some teachers worry about overwhelming their students with so much information and tasks to do.

     “I worry, and I wonder if we have all of this cool technology, will there be kids who are just unable to shut off and will spend an hour on a discussion board when really just ten minutes was enough,” said history department chair Ms. Hannah Turlish.

     Another program many find helpful for learning is OneNote, as it allows students to access what was talked about in class by going through the slides presented and written on the smartboard. Although it is prominent in many math and science classes where typing notes might prove more difficult, other departments have also begun to contemplate how it could be incorporated into their daily lessons.

     Above all else, Canvas’ main purpose is as an online academic planner for the student body, but with that role comes some controversy. Before Canvas, students would be required to write down their homework assignments themselves and keep track of everything that is going on. Some teachers struggle with the fact that they should be managing student’s assignments when instead, they could be using the time to work on new lesson plans or grade tests.

“Consistency is really helpful for the boys developmentally, and if one day I post something on Canvas and the next day I just say it out loud, that might be hard to track.”

Ms. Emily Harnett

     “On the one hand, I don’t really think it’s my responsibility to manage my student’s homework besides just telling them what it is, mostly because it doesn’t feel like a good use of my time…Would they rather I grade their papers faster or write a bunch of work that they could easily do themselves?” Ms. Harnett said. “On the other hand, I do understand that consistency is really helpful for the boys developmentally, and if one day I post something on Canvas and the next day I just say it out loud, that might be hard to track.”

     Many members of the student body feel strongly that it is part of a teacher’s job to load assignments onto Canvas, especially for students who might already have packed schedules.

     “If [teachers] didn’t put it on Canvas, how are we supposed to remember it?” said Sixth Former Caleb Cannon. “We have a lot of things going on every day between school, athletics, clubs, and whatnot, so it’s hard to keep track of every detail mentioned in class.”

    “Overall,” Ms. Turlish said, “I think [Canvas] is a really powerful and effective way for kids and parents to know what’s going on and to find ways of learning more if they’re interested.”

Author: Matthew Schwartz '21

Managing Editor Matthew Schwartz has written for The Index for three years. He previously served as News Editor.