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Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

Learning Platforms Compete for Classroom Use

Google Classroom is used by some teachers at T.C. Google is looking to merge with Canvas, which is also used by T.C. teachers.
Google Classroom is used by some teachers at T.C. Google is looking to merge with Canvas, which is also used by T.C. teachers.

Jackie Lutz and Chris Bright

Education is becoming increasingly modernized due to the introduction of the Internet and utilization of tablets, laptops, and other classroom technologies, such as the SmartBoard, an interactive whiteboard.  

This change comes with an increased need for organization and accessibility to ensure that students and teachers make the most of this technology. 

At T.C., teachers mainly use the Learning Management Systems (LMS) Canvas and Google Classroom to share and collect online assignments with students. 

It was intended that only one of these platforms would be used, after the decision to switch from Blackboard, another LMS that ACPS used from 2005 until spring 2017. This decision was made by a committee composed of K-12 teachers, administrators, technology staff, and curriculum staff, and took five months. The committee ultimately decided to switch to Canvas, which was first released in 2012. 

The switch was sudden, and teachers and students who had gotten used to Google Classroom had to readjust. The difference between the design and layout of Google Classroom and Canvas led to different opinions.

“I think Google Classroom is easier to use because it seems more intuitive and the design is better,” said junior Ronan Lauinger. “Although I do like that Canvas has multiple ways of submitting.”

ACPS encourages teachers of all grade levels to shift towards Canvas as the program has similar tools to Google Classroom but also offers additional tools and integrations. Technology Integration Specialist (TIS) Jamie Martin said, “Canvas can do way more than Google Classroom can do, which ties into what extent teachers are using Canvas.” 

“Every teacher uses [Canvas] differently,” said English teacher Sarah Kiyak. “This year, our technology integration specialists, our staff, and the administration have been trying to make it more uniform…so that all students have access to it. Because there is a lot of flexibility, I think that every teacher has their own take on it, which can be confusing to students.”

“Since it’s not a mandate, teachers are still able to use Canvas in whichever way they find most effective,” Martin said.

There is not a requirement at T.C. for teachers to use Canvas for daily workflow, but they must have contact information, links to their agendas, and their syllabus available. It is strongly recommended that they use Canvas, but teachers can choose where to place their assignments. 

The regulation of Canvas use, however, is up to the administration at each ACPS school. For example, George Washington Middle School is more strict about the use of Canvas because that is what the administration decided on. Martin said, “If students were to get together and say that how they want it to be used, then there would be a greater push towards regulating the LMS.” 

TIS train teachers to fully use Canvas, and there is optional additional training, including personalized customization help, available for teachers. 

“There was mandatory training when [Canvas] rolled out, and mandatory training if you are new, so everyone who is using Canvas should have been through at least one training,” said TIS Jill Divan. Everything after then is opt-in, and re-introduction courses to Canvas are offered at the beginning of the year.

ACPS is not alone in using Canvas. It is utilized by more than 2,000 school districts and learning institutions from all around the world, including universities and colleges such as Columbia, Yale, and Dartmouth.

“Most colleges and universities do one or the other… so I know that we’re preparing kids either way with these two resources,” said Kiyak. 

As soon as next year, ACPS may be seeing marked changes in Canvas. A new Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) application, an education technology standard that allows learning tools from different vendors to be used together,  is in the works that would integrate Canvas with Google platforms, including Google Docs and Google Slides. 

According to the Canvas website, the transition will allow “Google to maintain their own integration with Canvas, which will result in greater attention and updates than Instructure, [Canvas’s parent company], has historically been able to provide.”

Google Assignments, the name of the new addition, brings together the capabilities of Google Docs, Drive, and Search into a new tool for collecting and grading student work, in Canvas. The Community Website says that the integration will help save time with “…streamlined assignment workflows, (and) ensures the authenticity of student work with originality reports, and provides methods for constructive feedback through comment banks.” 

It is uncertain if T.C. will incorporate this new feature, but it would be a step towards organization within online applications that the school currently uses. 

As Canvas evolves, so does the use of technology in the classroom and around the world. It is important to have a program that is efficient and accessible. Canvas provides that, and the changes to  come are with these goals in mind.

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Learning Platforms Compete for Classroom Use