Pages, Files, PDF, and More in Canvas
There seems to
be scattered "concerns" about some Canvas items which work flawlessley,
and which a powerful fetures in Canvas, and not patch jobs for the sake
of adding a feature. They all work great.
Let's start off by eliminating some serious myths:
- Pdf files work great. They display
flawlessly in canvas, and on any device on the planet. This is
the purpose of a pdf file. It preserves the format of the
doemument from which it was created: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_Document_Format - It was invented by Adobe. It stands for Portable Document Format.
It was proprietary, but since 2008, it became an open standard. There
are a wealth for PDF readers, editors,
and converters. The come in OpenSource, Free, or for minimal
cost. In addition to displaying pdf files perfectly, mobile
device display many other types of documents flawlessy. Saving a
file to PDF is
an option in almost all word processors. PDF files a actually a
standard for many types of written material in all "walks of life".
- SCRIBD is NOT a Canvas product. It is used by many millions
of users across the globe. Here is a link to SCRIBD 101: http://www.scribd.com/doc/28867978/Scribd-101-What-is-Scribd - These are the document formats supported: http://support.scribd.com/entries/25092-Which-document-formats-does-Scribd-support-
It works flawlessly and near instantaneously on all browsers on all systems (Windows, Apple, Unix).
Sometimes in Internet Explorer, the user may get a prompt asking if
they want to display mixed content. This is not a bug.
There is nothing wrong. But if you do not want that message, then
shut it off: http://bit.ly/18GdyH7
On a Windows machine, you may also ger a prompt for so many things you
do on the machine beacuse of your account control settings. Shut
this off: http://bit.ly/ZXENEe
The only slight issue with SCRIBD is that rendering a document the
first time may take some time (maybe). Their systems are used by more
that 60 million users around the world. The servers may be
overloaded. Once it is rendered, it knows this file has been
rendered, and the next time, by any user when this file comes up, it
is almost immediate.
- The feature in Canvas to link to a file is near flawless,
a powerful feature that is far more functional than how this feature is
implemented in other LMS applications. Just remember: when
you click on a linked file in Canvas, one can download the file; one
can view it in SCRIBD if it is a supported document; and one can Open
the file in a new window. When opening in a new window your
system will open the application
associated with that file (or ask if you want to download it).
This feature is certainly great if you want to display files...but it
works great if you want to give access to files that students need to
download (and are not displayable at all - like source code for a
programming class, or a photoshop template, or whatever). The download
of files, again, works flawlessly. Yet, to no surprise, folks do
struggle with downloading files. In particular, surprisingly,
some have no idea where to look for the file once it is
downloaded. And, of course, browsers sometimes display a pop-up
asking what one wants to do with the file. This is a standard
implementation of downloading files from anywhere. It is not
specific to any one application (like Canvas).
Canvas incorporates a wealth of powerful features. Sure
there are some bugs here and there...many of which are
insignificant...most of which have been or will be fixed. The key
is to understand these features, and the options. Then the goal
is to be empowered to use the features in the best way to deliver an
education to students. Of course there are published ways for
delivering best paractices in education. Canvas incorporates many
options to accomplishe this. However, because one does not
understand the options, or beacuse one is working with a improperly
configured computer, it is not an opportunity to shut off some poweful
features in the LMS.
- Important: always insure al the software on you computer is up to
date. This includes your browser softwre. As far as
browsers are concerned, it is adviseable to regualrly clear your cache
and browser history for functional reasons as well as for security reasons.
When do I use a Page, PDF, Word Processor Document, or just a file?
Pages in Canvas use the Rich Content Editor. This editor is used
throughout the LMS. It is a very simple editor. If one
knows html, one can do anything with this editor they want. In the Wiziwyg,
there are some limitations, and associated frustrations not to be
mentioned here. Yet if you know html, there is no problem.
Not all folks know html. In any event, it is called a Page.
It is not called an Epistle. It is great for a page of
information. If a more lengthy document is required, it is
probably not the best tool. Note doing a copy / paste from Word
works great...well better than it did in Angel. Yet, it is Word,
which does its own thing from the rest of the world. Sometimes it
is best to paste from Word, select the text, and click on the little
eraser in the Rich Content Editor which removes the "junk" html that
Word generates. Then one has to reformat the text within the Rich
content Editor. Of course this author believes in using Open Office, or
Libre Office for better Word processing results using tools that adhere to open standards.
Word Processing File (rtf, doc, docx, odt, and more) - These
in Canvas and display perfectly in SCRIBD. Of course the editing
capabilities are far more powerful than in the Rich Content
Editor. They display well on all mobile devices. But the
nature of these files is such that the formatting can be offset from
device to device...sometimes. Of course lectures can be displayed
just fine. The best usage is when students are provided with a
Word Processing Template to complete an assignment. It can be
downoaded, and the students can use their Word Processor to edit the
file (template) to complete the assignment. Of course, they can be used
to generate lectures formatted professionally. But probably the best,
to preserve the format, one should generate a pdf file from this
document (like many in the world do). Upload both files to the
LMS, but link to the pdf file. The word processing file is there
for editing purposes (even though one can edit a pdf file with ease
with the wealth of tools available to do this...but we will not go
there in this document).
PDFs were designed to be device independent. Once a pdf is
created, the format remains the same regardless where it is displayed
or printed. It never alters. That is what it was designed
to do. It was initially designed so that the origianl file (doc)
could not be altered. Now that pdf is an open standard, there are
a wealth of tools available (free and for cost) to create a pdf, edit a
pdf, convert to and from a pdf, display a pdf, and much more.
They work perfectly. SCRIBD specializes in the rendering of pdf
files to display on the screen. It works flawlessly. And of
course, what about the endless weatlh of artciles that are in pdf
format (the correct format). Certainly one can point to the link
where the URL resides. However, links break. Many a time
downloading the pdf and including in a course is the best
solution. Similarly, the best solution as afforded by canvas is
for students to download the pdf for their records which is the most
common practice. Certainly it works well to display it within
Canvas (SCRIBD). Fnally, a student can open the file in a
separate window which will Open the program for viewing PDF files
(Preview, Adobe Reader, other). What is even great in this day
and age, and very simple: Download the pdf to a dropbox
folder (or othe personal cloud service: Box, Google Drive, Sky Drive, etc). Install Dropbox on your IOS / Android Tablet /
Phone. Open the document on your mobile device which will display
it perfectly. Take it a step further: you can edit the document
on your tablet: http://bit.ly/12NrdY4 or annotate it: http://bit.ly/LPCy0r
The author of this article NEVER sits at a computer to view pdf files,
and absolutely never prints anything on paper. Many hundreds of these
files are read and manipulated on a mobile device with extensive use of
cloud storage services...where, by the way, shared folders can be
created that are shared with anyone in the world. The mobile
revolution is proliferating with no end in sight. Making use of
mobile devices for educational / personal / business purposes will
continue to proliferate as well. Though folks do it (for whatever reason), we do not want to encourage printing..this is 2013!
Just Plain Ole Real html files created to programs like
Dreamweaver. Of course tlinking to these files in Canvas works great as well. But, the
general pubic does not know html. Generating these files just for
straight text is probably not the best use of this type of file
especialy for the general content creator population. They know a word processor and pdf.
Other tools - of course, there are other tools to create stunning
lectures in the LMS. One such tool is SoftChalk (or SoftChalk
Cloud): http://softchalk.com. This is a powerful tool for
generating rich content for lectures. It is well integrated into
the LMS. Sofchalk cloud provides a link that can be placed into a
course. The rest is easy. It just dispays perfecty.
One can also download a softchalk creation, and insert the files into a
course, and link to the file. If one does not understand files
and folders, this would not be the right approcah.
And reagrdless of what one may think, not everyone understands files
and folders especially as it pertains to those associated with
I just downoaded iAnnotate for my ipad: ( http://www.branchfire.com/iannotate/
) This is a "killer" app with endless annotation features. It
integrates well with personal clud storage services. It is easy
to use. A full Android version is coming soon.
By the way, the Canvas SpeedGrader uses: Crocdoc, SCRIBD, or
Google preview. There is no escape from SCRIB, and there
shouldn't be. Again, this is 2013! To move forward, we have to use the
wealth of present and future tools especially those that pertain to