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:

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.

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 display great 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 softchalk.

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 mibile devices.