As we gear up for the most exciting week of the year—CanvasCon Online Week (queue the confetti)—we connected with a longtime customer, Canvas Community advocate, and four-time InstructureCon/CanvasCon attendee, Beth Crook, Technology Manager & Virtual Learning Administrator at St. Andrew’s School of Delaware.
Our discussion covered many topics—from why she attends CanvasCon every year to how she’s leveraged the Canvas Community over the last five years to build a network with educators from all over the world to how her school is using Canvas to keep the learning going.
Q: Tell us a bit about your history with InstructureCon/CanvasCon. What does it mean to you? Why do you attend?
A: My first InstructureCon was in 2015 in Park City, (which was an incredible location), but my first impression of this conference was that I was completely blown away. It was unlike any other conference I’ve ever attended and I almost felt guilty. Should a work-funded conference be this much fun? In most cases, when you travel to conferences solo, you grab dinner and head back to your room for the evening. But at InstructureCon, after the sessions is when all the magic begins. THAT is when the best conversations and networking happens!
Q: Do you have a great InstructureCon/CanvasCon story or memory to share?
A: There are always so many great memories and stories. But as I’m actually sitting here wrapped in this special quilt hand (and feet) made by the amazing Community Director Renee Carney and the Community team as I do this interview, I still feel the love and energy around #stepsforbeth in 2017 and 2018.
Days before leaving for [InstructureCon 2017 in] Keystone, I survived a rare spinal stroke that left me paralyzed from my T11 down. Many attendees that I knew or hadn’t met yet started walking (in ridiculously high elevation) around the resort grounds instead of using the bus or golf carts and reporting their steps back to me at the rehab hospital as I learned to sit up and try to move a toe. Little did they know that their steps counts and motivation gave me the spirit and drive to constantly have something to report back to them with, even if it was as little as 3 minutes on the assist bike, that was more than I could do before!
In 2018, I arrived in Keystone with a wheelchair, a cane, and an endless supply of hugs, to a team I called a family that logged over 17 million steps in 30 days to the last day of InstructureCon. But my absolute best memories from that week were the private conversations I had with those new family members, many I had just met for the first time. There were very personal journeys discovered during this walking challenge. Relationships were formed. Mental illnesses were battled. Meditation through walking was embraced. New routines became lifestyles. And #stepsforbeth wasn’t (and isn’t) just about me, Beth. It’s about whoever needs community support and huge panda hugs from our village!
Q: If you could give a first-time CanvasCon attendee a piece of advice, what would you say?
- Don’t be shy or afraid to say hello or strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know or may recognize from the #CanvasFam. This group is seriously the kindest group of people that will genuinely want to get to know you.
- Don’t be discouraged if you don’t come away with 15 pages of notes and solutions. The most important notes that I have brought home from past InstructureCons have been one or two solutions, some really cool ideas (that I can look into and research when I get home) and the most valuable GOLD were the contacts of people I connected with! Because they are the ones I can collaborate on new ideas and troubleshoot issues with.
- Join the Community conversations BEFORE CanvasCon!
Q: How do the Canvas Community and CanvasCon/InstructureCon overlap for you?
A: This is my tagline: It’s like a family reunion! Seriously, I get so excited when it’s time for ‘Con because I get to see everyone, even if it’s going to be virtual this year. Especially now that I’ve seen the setup for the networking event. SO AWESOME! Knowing that we have a dedicated time when everyone will be there together, around tables, and can see each other. Yes!
Q: How do you use the Canvas Community to connect with other educators?
A: I use the Community in many different ways. The Canvas Advocate program is my flair. I love this product and how it helps others, so why not share that using my own opinion, right? I try to help answer questions as much as time allows, as well as doing my fair share of asking! I’m also interacting in different topic groups, commenting on blog posts, I love a good twitter chat, and it’s always great to follow along on the Canvas Lives to learn from all of the amazing experts out there. Before July 2017, I would attend every local event I could drive to (or the Canvassador program at my school would be willing to send me to.) Anywhere I could help other educators while also learning some new tips myself was worth the adventure!
Q: Tell us about your open forum in the Canvas Community, “Open Hours With Beth Crook.”
For those who aren’t familiar: “Open Hours with Beth Crook” is a virtual office hour for teachers and administrators to ask questions about getting started with Canvas.
A: I’ve immersed myself quite a bit with a couple of the Canvas Facebook groups, particularly World Languages, Fine Arts, and Secondary Educators. Within these groups I offer my support by answering questions on everything from beginner-level Canvas tips to administrator-level best practices. I’ve also hosted a few individual Zoom calls to boost morale and calm nerves at the beginning of the school year.
My favorite part of being involved in these groups and hosting my own within the Canvas Community is learning great ideas from other educators that I can take back to my teachers. I’m constantly sending departmental or individual emails saying “Hey, check this out!” or “Here’s another software solution for music classes and it integrates with Canvas! SCORE!” (← pun intended). That’s what is so great about the Canvas Community: The sharing aspect.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your school and how you’ve overcome the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A: St. Andrew’s School is one of only three 100% co-ed college-prep boarding schools in the United States, and is situated on 2200 acres with a historically unprecedented commitment to financial aid. This fall, the school welcomed students from 32 states and 17 countries. The school fosters a culture of kindness and a community of care, what we call our ethos.
Our students and faculty not only learn together, but live together. Convincing our faculty that we needed a LMS when students and faculty meet daily face-to-face was our challenge when we first signed on with Canvas. However, it didn’t take long for our faculty to discover how to use Canvas successfully in a blended classroom environment and what the benefits were of doing so. By using Canvas, our teachers were fully prepared when the school announced the switch to virtual learning in spring 2020. Students were prepared with the skills on how to use the tools, and the faculty was ready to deliver content and interact in a learning environment that needed to span time zones across the world.
Q: How does Canvas impact your teaching and your students' learning?
A: Since I do not teach, I went straight to the source and asked two of my teachers:
“Canvas acts as my organization motherboard. I must think carefully, think about connectivity from one lesson/assignment to the next, and be ever mindful of student-teacher collaboration (what works, what doesn’t, and what else my students might need). I love that it’s a one stop shop for my students. It reduces confusion and reinforces clarity. It keeps us involved with each other in person or remotely (I love discussion boards where students can respond once they have submitted). This year more than ever, given the uncertainty of times, Canvas helps me navigate my teaching with purpose! I feel much more confident in my approach!”
“Canvas eases the information flow. Students can turn to a single place for all their assignment information, my contact information, etc. They know where to find resources beyond their reader (videos, website links, images, etc.). It reduces the logistics so we can focus on the learning.”
Get to know Beth even better! Watch our recent live stream discussion in which we connected with her and a few other CanvasCon enthusiasts to hear more about why they’re excited for this year’s online event.