The View at #instcon was Awesome!

Last week I traveled to Utah for a first hand look at the Instructure Canvas conference. I had seen the tweets last year. I had heard the stories. Could it really be that different from any of the other big edutech events?

Well, there were things like this.


And the whole concept of “Merch” really came to life. From the jackets, hats, and shirts. Sunglasses, bandannas, and very fancy program related material took the notion of conference swag to new heights. See image above again.

Try as I might to press for a wider notion of web use in academia (and life) by wearing a #ds106 shirt every single day, I was overpowered by the conference swag, billboarding, and larger monitors on the stage. Although, one #ds106 moment came during a keynote where #phonar was recognized as brilliant, which of course it is. Another came with a @gardnercampbell quote and a video with Howard Rheingold who spoke more to the notion of digital literacy which has more to do with an open web than a LMS. So all good.

The conference feel was youthful and exciting. The culture of Canvas seems younger than that of Blackboard. A technical comparison may be that Canvas is like html5 whereas Backboard is kinda like PageMill or HyperCard. Youth has some good qualities. Old age has some good qualities too.

I am excited about our move to Canvas. For our faculty I think the simple adjustments that come with any change will helpful in asking them to take a deeper look into how their courses are structured and delivered. As we have experienced with Quality Matters training, just by looking at the course at depth helps us see it differently and that may produce some positive change. Speaking with attendees at #instcon I feel better about the difficulty of the move and that has already played out well with faculty feeling confident in their ability to make the move without less helpful emotions like anger, panic, and remorse.

The sessions were not as informative as I would have liked, but I heard great things and lots of stuff I already knew. I attended two pre-conference workshops. One was great, the other not so much. The keynotes were really different with way less focus on the product and more on emotional intelligence and the work of learning. I liked that.

Lunches were and hour and a half and of course that is where all the best stuff happened. I met some really great people doing wonderful things in education. Fantastic discussions about faculty training models, subversive tricks to gain adoption,

I was happy to attend the “unconference” with @slamteacher for a very short time. It was held on the day of the pre-conference workshops so I visited for a while. I am going to write about the 9x9x25 for and see if it gets some airtime.

I certainly saw Canvas in new ways at the conference. I met Tara, our Customer Success Manager and many other Canvas folks. They were all very positive and seemed genuinely interested in the product and impacting education in a positive way. The open attitudes about the use of the web at large was also evident in many conversations about improving digital literacies among faculty and students.

I am happy to be moving to Canvas. I think our students and faculty will be given opportunities to interact and learn in ways we did not have with Blackboard. Even if that only means being able to see who is online and have synchronous chats….

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