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The Study Hall

A Radical Shift in Thinking: Canvas in the Elementary Classroom

In July 2017 I interviewed for the position I hold now, Technology Integration Coach. I remember boldly telling the interview panel that I was incredulous about using the Canvas learning management system (LMS) at the elementary level. I continued to explain that I had Canvas experience as an online instructor with graduate students at a nearby university but had hesitations about its use with our youngest learners.

I got the job and began to shift my thinking on the topic of Canvas in the elementary classroom. Today I have a radically different perspective. Reflecting over the last six months, I attribute this radical shift in thinking to several events:

First, I found my Canvas sensei.

The truth was that I didn’t know what I didn’t know about Canvas. I thought that I had seen what Canvas could do through my work as an online instructor, but it turned out that I was barely scratching the surface. Christy, my professional counterpart at the secondary level and who I call my Canvas sensei, was willing to sit with me shoulder to shoulder to demonstrate the flexibility of Canvas. Though everyone can’t have their own Christy, her guidance is testament to power of having an expert Canvas user empower others to visualize the possibilities.

Noblesville Schools photo of students at computer

Second, I sought out examples of Canvas in the elementary classroom.

I got in touch with teachers who I knew had been using Canvas in the primary years. Kelly, now a K-5 Instructional Coach, kindly added me a Designer to her kindergarten course from the previous school year. I was able to see how she relied on Canvas to establish classroom scaffolds and procedures. Her large fonts and colorful images dispelled any notions I had about Canvas lacking elementary appeal. Kelly also showed me how an LMS and a digital portfolio tool can be best buddies, not frenemies.

Third, I had the epiphany that embracing Canvas didn’t mean compromising any of my beliefs about teaching and learning.

We need to work within our professional learning communities to define what online learning is and is not. Canvas lends itself to digital collaboration through its tools and features (see my infographic below). I also appreciate how my favorite collaborative tools beautifuly embed themselves within Canvas content pages. Canvas is ideal for collecting and assessing project driven work. I can facilitate an entirely inquiry-based classroom with Canvas as my framework for organization.

I admit that radical shift didn’t happen overnight. The more time I spend with Canvas however, the more I’m a believer in its use with our youngest learners.

Keep learning,

Kristin Patrick
Technology Integration Coach, Noblesville Schools (Indiana)
Twitter: @krismarley12

Canvas LMS Why I love Canvas infographic