Today, we are kicking off a new mini-conference called Paint Canvas. Prepare All Instruction, Now Teach (PAINT) is a half-day Canvas training that showcases the best of Canvas in the classroom to inform and inspire educators. PAINT is organized into 45 minute rotating stations that focus on various Canvas features including pedagogical approaches and technical examples. In this series of blog posts, I’ll share my notes on the talks I attend in each session.

In the third session, we had six presenters:

Topic Presenter Room
Student Choice Modules Jennifer Shaiman LL 118
Hypothes.is Collaborative Web Annotation Nick LoLordo LL 118
Student Engagement Math Assignments Jonathan Epstein LL 123
Life Design Small Groups Clay Wesley LL 123
Collaborative Mind Maps Andy Vaughn LL 123
Piazza Amy McGovern LL 123

I attended Dr. Jennifer Shaiman‘s talk on Student Choice Modules. Dr. Shaiman teaches in Expository Writing and has integrated games and gamification into her courses. In this course, she used Canvas modules to create student choice in a course.

By creating a large number of modules presenting students with different types of content and assignments, Dr. Shaiman allowed student to choose those topic sets that most interested them.

This is a really similar approach to what I’ve tried before in my history of science courses. I think that many humanities courses are trying to get students to grapple with themes, but without needing to dictate specific content. For my history of science courses, I want students to think about the relationship of science and religion, but it doesn’t matter to me whether they want to use examples from the history of biology, physics, astronomy, or the social sciences. If I can allow students to pick the particular historical episode that most fits with their own majors or their own interests, hopefully they will engage more with that theme that I care about.

In Dr. Shaiman’s case with expository writing, she wants students to understand the structure and rhetoric behind various kinds of arguments. The particular subjects that they are arguing don’t matter, creating room for student choice of topics. Even the question of what medium the student is writing in (old fashioned paper, blogs, tweets, etc.) can be flexible when the medium is not part of the message.