Collaborative learning with Canvas discussions

This year I’ve been using the Canvas learning management system primarily as a work flow tool–because that’s what it is–primarily. It’s heavy on teacher productivity. Post, turn in, provide feedback, and electronically grade assignments. Create pages for resources or a week-at-a-glance. Build modules to deliver content. But what are the students doing?

For me the best feature Canvas has to offer is the discussion forum. It’s a place where student learning is visible. It’s a place where students learn from others and contribute to the learning of others.

To launch our 7th grade unit on percent I posted a discussion prompt using Robert Kaplinsky‘s Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon task from the 101Questions site.

BBB questions

I probably shouldn’t have led the students by saying, “Here are my questions, what are yours?” but I was impressed with their questions. Here are a few:


The students not only had to post two questions, they also had to respond to one other student. What impressed me more was how the online discussion minimized student status, gave all students a voice, and allowed them to contribute.


The following day students explored the answers to their questions with Kaplinsky’s Act 2. But my point is how the on-line discussion facilitated collaborative learning.

Here’s another example. Students shared their solutions to a small task, gave feedback, and later revised their work. Some posted as a narrative while others uploaded their work.

Percent rectangle

percent shade2

I plan to add more discussion forums in the future. Overuse can kill a good thing, but a well placed discussion is gold.