The journey to completion


As I start this next phase of my program, I will need to keep this quote in mind.  From this point on, it will be up to me to guide my path, my timeline & my progress.  Sure I will have a guide, but each and every day, writing something will be key.  I will need to figure out what works for me… it is an exciting time for sure.  When you start something, the goal seems so far off.

I am really looking forward to this next, most important step towards completion.

My project for this final course will be to complete my doctoral portfolio. As I reflect on my accomplishments, it is such an awesome feeling to see my work, to understand how my values and beliefs have shaped who I am as a learner and leader. I look forward to synthesizing the evidence of my scholarship, the depth and breadth of who I am, and reviewing my research interests, coursework examples and records of achievement.

Week Eight… with more practice this too shall make more sense

Did you get better at coding this time? Why or why not? Did you take what you learned from the feedback and make the codes more at a low inference? What was different?

During a practice of this last exercise, I focused on low inference coding.  I found that during my initial coding attempts I used too many key words but after a review of the last few class recordings, my attempts to focus more on low inference codes is beginning to take shape.  I have to keep reminding myself that low inference codes can be a short phrase or even much longer and be a sentence.  As I practice with these codes, I am continuously reminded to translate what is being said without adding any additional judgements or trying to interpret the contents.  I also need to remember that if my codes are brief, there will probably be a level of misinterpretation. As was noted in my recent emic coding exercise, my codes should be more specific in most instances. Dr. Warrens notes from the feedback …”Positive’ is pretty vague. What does it refer to? How is it different from “Positive Experience?” Low inference simply means you are describing things simply, but still descriptive enough that you could come back to it a couple of months later and know what it means and can explain it to your peer coders.”  This totally makes sense and since this was my codes, I have reviewed these codes and focused on this… descriptive enough, but simply put.    

Because I missed some of the group work, I have tried to code a few of the latest transcripts following the low inference code.  I think that working together in a group provides a better foundation for comparing the coding structure. I need more practice with this, but have continued to grow where I am in my understanding.  I think where I am today is due to some of the crucial pieces that I missed – I will attempt to connect and help to bridge my gaps by conversing with some students.  

As I started with in the beginning, I am really intrigued by this sort of coding – I see that this level of feedback can provide a deeper understanding and support the research. I think this sort of feedback in the research process develops over time as to how to code, the types of codes and the connections between the codes.  

Slowly… I am making progress with this… progress.  I know more than when I started and will continue to learn.

Week 6… I think my rehash needs more “rehashing”

Give me a reflection on what you have learned from your most recent and dangerous coding attempts. What are you happy with? What are you struggling with now that has not changed or changed for the worse? Is it about the method or the larger perspective with qualitative research?

I am struggling a bit, well maybe more than a bit.  I get the whole emic and etic piece, but I missed something — I missed one of the weeks of group work and I think it is why I am struggling a bit now.  It is like I am trying to build a bridge, but I don’t really know what the bridge looks like.  I know, this is research and I should let the codes speak for themselves.  Maybe that isn’t the right analogy… but basically, I think I get the coding piece, it is the application of the coding.  I can see themes, I can read the words and determine what I think is the right coding, but I feel like I am missing something.  I added this image to help me distinguish between emic and etic.  reality

I found an article this week that I think helps me “to build the bridge”.  The article “Project-based learning and student knowledge construction during asynchronous online discussion” helped me to see the parts that construct the whole.  It also helped me to review my original questions… I think I was just touching the surface as to what I really was asking.  My original questions:

ETIC:  My questions:  1) Does the integration of a chat feature in online learning help or hinder communicatory activities?  2) is there a level of peer to peer interaction that emerges through chat conversations.

I think a better question relating to peer-to-peer interactions could be asked as to the level of “application” of the interactions.  It seemed in the reviewing of the chat log, the answers were very simple and when looking at developing a higher level of discourse.  My original emic coding includes many different words that emerged, we seemed to be commenting on what the codes mean, but I am left to wonder “why”.  Unless I am missing something, I thought that in emic coding, there should be some sort of theme that emerges from the coding.  I think maybe that is my struggle.  I need to re-listen to the past classes.  I definitely need more practice with this.  I am pretty intrigued by it though because I think there is complexity to this type of research that supports the larger body of evidence vs. just a bunch of numbers.  I have recently read some quantitative research and found myself asking “why”?  Sure the numbers are there, but what does that really mean except I asked some questions and this how someone answers.  This type of research seems to paint a better picture as to the why and quite possibly how.

One observation that I have found in my own experience with online learning is that asking the right questions is important, but also allowing learners to construct knowledge through questing strategies.  Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000) proposed the idea of the student construction can follow 4 stages which lead to deep understanding of critical discourse.

Reflecting back to my codes and the content, I don’t see a level of asking why — it seems we are just asking questions, not raising the level of inquiry.  There are some triggers, possibly some exploration, but not sure about the dilemma… I am going to attempt to use that image — I think that it might support where I am now and where I need to be going.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (1999). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The internet and higher education2(2), 87-105.

Week Three – Coding… removing my bias

Still trying to figure out the whole emic/etic coding, but I see some trends happening.  This is really interesting if you dig down a bit — systemizing, organizing and even analyzing the content captured is a little challenging.   As I am coding out the transcripts it started to dawn on me an actually how hard this type of discourse analysis is on a researcher.  I am wondering if a research tries to focus on the numbers rather than the meaning of what is actually being said in fewer words?  I also wonder about the need to supplement the spoken words with observations to provide a deeper level of the context.  I look forward to digging deeper into CMDA and build out my knowledge.  

Back to emic/etic — listening back to the class and doing some re-reading of Herring and others, trying to formulate my own interpretation which I think will support my coding – Etic:  analysis of one who does not participate in the culture

Emic:  anaylysis of one who participates in the culture

To even go deeper this made sense to me:

“Non-linguistic examples may be found, e.g., in the colors. For instance:

  • In the etic perspective, the color ‘white’ is perceived as equal presence of light of all wave-lengths by every human eye.
  • In the emic perspective, it is the color of purity, festivity and joy in most occidental cultures. It is the color of mourning in Chinese culture.”

Week two – Getting started with an analysis…

How did your first quick analysis go? What was easy, what was not, and what you will do differently next time. Talk also about your particular research study from last week. Was what they did what you understood should be done?

My first analysis… hmmmm.  A couple of things that I had to fight off — I wanted to read more into the phrases and I also found myself questioning my selections… alot.  After a few selections, I decided that it was easier to just read the phrase for face value and look for a keyword or a theme.  By selecting this strategy, it helped me to quickly make selections rather than ponder over something.  I might not be in line with the other classmates, but this worked for me.  I think I will utilize this strategy again.  It will be interesting when we compare our results (other students).  

My study analyzed “politeness” and text-based sychronous interactions.  The research outlined what it describes as a linguistic phenomena net yet explored.  Strategies used for compensating for the lack of audio-visual information in computer-mediated communication. 

Week One – What is known or unknown… research & worldviews

What is my general worldview in terms of what I think can be known, why that is the case, and how we can best understand the world?

To say that one can truly understand the world might be an understatement.  Over the course of my lifetime the people, the activities, the interactions, the environment all influence my worldview.  Strangers I will never know impact how I interpret societal changes… some positive and others not that great.  I feel that I am fortunate in that strong family values provided the strongest aspect of where I think my worldview derives from and that is from the ethics that my parents instilled in me.  These ethics guide my actions and decisions every day.  I think these ethics are directly related to my character.  I remember attending my high school reunion and this guy I remembered made a really neat comment about me… I was alway the person who helped others, was concerned about others… he said “you were one of the people I hoped that would attend tonight”.  I don’t quite remember that exactly, but I am glad that my parents had instilled that level of ethics that has been with me into adulthood.  I hope that I have done as good of a job with my own kids.  I feel pretty confident that the cycle continues as my peers have made mention of how respectful my boys are and there is a level of trust I have with both of them and how they will always make the right decisions.

Although one might think that defining your own worldview is quite easy, for me it really is not.  My character is one that was developed early… who I am today isn’t really who I thought I would grow up to be.  I believe that things always happen for a reason and that who idea of right time/right place.  I often think about how my life would have been different had my husband not come home one day over 23 years ago and ask me how I felt about moving to East Texas.  I went back to school, began a career in education (not even remotely close to what I thought I would be doing).   Does technology impact where I am today with my worldview… for sure.  It is crazy to think about days without technology.  Why do things happen for reasons and how one connects their lives even with distances.  Do I understand the world?  Do I have questions?  Absolutely.  I have questions as to why things happen – there are things we probably won’t ever have the answers to.  Right now, my questions and worldview relate to tragedies that are happening with guns.  What causes someone to turn and think that killing someone is the thing to do.  I read something recently about gun control – I personally think it is a deeper problem, mental health is a bigger issue.

What is research to me? How does that compare with our in-class definition? How does that help me? How does that make things more difficult when I work with others

Research to me:  an investigation to seek out truth about a topic.  It is a comparison of the information looking for patterns, testing the truths, understanding more about a topic, seeking information that substantiates what you think you know but look for ways to stretch upon information and develop new understandings.  I think research is being inquisitive about topics in which you are passionate about and find information that makes you think, “huh, I didn’t know that or realize that and then search to seek out more about the topic”.

Research is also supported by processes in which you look for data which supports the ideals and not just generalized statements with no proof.  Research is also the stories with rich dialogues but with consistency which helps you understand why the topic is important or adds value to the growing pieces.

My topic is pretty comparable to our in-class definition.  Thinking about research is interesting as to how technology has changed the way one does research?  Does it get easier with the access?  I don’t think so.  I think you have to much more critical and review from a deeper lens — with access comes the tragedy of just including content because of the availability.



Week 12 – Social Media. Open Source Tools. My story.

What did you learn from your experience using social media and other open source tools? Should they be used for teaching and learning? Tell the story of what you learned…

Changing the way I learn and teach… how I look at the world through a different lens…how I research… how I leverage my interactions… how I extend my own beliefs and push me into deeper dialogues, but at the same time understanding that there is line to the interactions.. a blurred line.  I think that SM allows for one to self-reflect no matter who is the audience.  You put yourself out there and through a matter of clicks others reflect with you or maybe without you.  I am motivated by others, intrigued by others and sometimes infuriated by others.  Social media is tricky – specifically, twitter.  When you have 140 characters to represent your thoughts, your beliefs and try and capture the essence of what you are trying to say and on the flip side you have the ability to self-direct, choose your own learning and according to Vanwynsberghe &  Verdegem (2013), there is a public and private blur of the boundaries.  I kind of felt that way when following the directions for this weeks module, I had to link my twitter to my facebook account.  I try to achieve a separation of the two… I like to “try” and use twitter for professional ideas, sharing, connecting, developing my PLN and with facebook, I tend to use it to connect with my friends, many of whom are professional friends, but basically I started using facebook because my mother always asked me “are you in town or out of town”.  I had a “secret” code or way of indicating this without her having to even ask now.  When I connected the two, I kind of felt that blur of the boundaries.  Is that a bad thing?  Not really, it just felt like I had to try harder to keep the content on a different level.  Maybe it was just me… could facebook be used as an educational tool?  Sure, the very nature of what it is, indicates that it is allows for easy access, people can connect and ask quick questions – poll out, reach out for help, assistance for something… heck ask the experts.  Here is a perfect example — a friend is coming to Texas and needed recommendations for running trails, night life, etc.  Sure she could research google, yelp, travel advisor, but why not use primary sources?  Those who live in the area for the best recommendations?  What is wrong with that… nothing.  Could an educator do the same thing?  Absolutely… does it happen? Probably not.  In K-12, I am sure there are some sort of filtering that would interfere with that… I think there is still a fear.  We don’t get trained on how to use these tools (or at least we didn’t when I was still teaching) but rather take the easy road and just block the things that could provide us the best route to the best information.   It is funny… I posted this and then read a post… on Facebook of all things, from a K-12 teacher reminding them of an assignment that was due… hmmmmm.  I investigated this a bit further and it looked like only 8 students were reminded.  I guess because the other students are not on facebook?  I am intrigued and I know this teacher… I am going to ask.  

When I think of using SM, I think of this like the Big 6.  I used to teach this when researching.  One example (this was before twitter and I don’t think we even had FB yet) but trying to figure out going to the movie – this might not be the best or most relevant example anymore, because there is an app for that!  But prior to this, I might have to get the newspaper to figure this out… I could call the movie theater, but then I would have to look up the phone number, call, get the information, etc.  I think you get the idea.  

Is there a curve to this?  Absolutely!  I think sometimes teachers are just barely rounding the bend of this curve OR they want to, but then there is some guy at the head office that says… “Ummmmm, no”.  There needs to be a better way to understand why these tools are important and how to best approach them vs just not going there.  Professional development is definitely an option, but along side that is providing the experiences and digging into why these tools are beneficial.  I can teach you how to use the tools, but there is a whole other piece to the learning… application of the tools.  Let’s don’t get caught up with the tool and trying to fit it in.  It needs to be applicable and relevant and provide a deeper level of the learning.

Vanwynsberghe &  Verdegem (2013) also discuss the idea of active participation by the user and the traditional models that are no longer sustainable… we don’t have a classic “sender-message-receiver communication model”.  It is really an interchangeable communication model that is both mass and self-communication… interesting takeaway… you post something on twitter for the “masses” but really in essence you are self-communicating and then getting feedback – retweets, favorites, inquiries… and potentially a deeper & richer meaningful conversation to be had.  That is why I love it.

On that same thought: so good reading and pondering… exploring these ideas.

Vanwynsberghe, Hadewijch, and Pieter Verdegem. “Integrating social media in education.”CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 15.3 (2013). Literature Resource Center. Web. 21 Apr. 2014.


Week 13 – World of Warcraft… A Learning Experience?

What do you think the future of educational games are? Can we actual study them sufficiently to determine if they can actually impact learning? Why or why not? Are these things you feel are going to be beneficial or will there be a backlash?

Reflect on your experience in WoW. What was it as a learning experience? Good? Bad? What did you learn? How? Why? Be specific.

First off, I believe there is a place for educational games in classrooms.  Am I going to base my thoughts on my own experiences… and then tie in some research or deeper thoughts by others.

What I know:  I needed more.  Plain and Simple.  I could not get past some of the basic foundational principals of the game to think about how WoW could be used in a classroom.  I had to experience it and then think about it.  Sure, there is probably nothing wrong with this.  I am now reflecting on my experience… that is what this blog is about.  But here are the facts:  I needed…purpose, objectives, processes… these are all important or they should be — or maybe it is because I am an adult who doesn’t get these games?

Having not ever even gone into a World of Warcraft area, my first challenge:  what was my objective to the game.  Sure I knew it was virtual world, but that was it.  Doing what I think any good student would do — turned to my own resources:  I looked online for hints as to how to get started, what was a world, what is an avatar, quests and more… and then well I used my best resource – my son!  He doesn’t play World of Warcraft, but other online environments so we just talked and he transferred some of his own knowledge and we talked and well… I got it!  Sort of….

It is funny watching him play these games — I think this goes back to the initial question.  Can they impact learning?  I do think in some aspects it can – let me explain.  In “normal” day to day exchanges, my son is a very quiet learner.  He takes it all in.  He watches everything.  He won’t raise his hand in classes.  He is brilliant.  He does very well on tests without studying.  These worlds provide him a way to express his views without anyone “seeing” him.  I listen though… he is conducting very deep conversations, strategizing about his next move, working together to achieve a level, collaborating.  Is this learning… sure.   Will he best “tested” on this subject – never, but will these skills be important for a worker in the next phase of his life?  Absolutely.  He is very inquisitive, but on his terms.   Does the learning transfer?  Is my son a good problem solver… sure.  Does this make him a better student?  I am not so sure… I think he had the skills already.  He has always thought deeper, but never verbalized them unless in a small group setting.  Does this present a problem?  Only if the instructor allows it to become a problem.  Has it ever been a problem… sure it has.  I am sure the particular instructor who didn’t allow the type of learning that happens in a regular classroom setting, discussions, deeper thinking, would never venture into this type of learning experience.

Now transfer to me… I am a very different learner and these worlds… well here are some of my own observations.  I like a challenge.  I like the “social” aspect of these worlds, but as a learning experience… I was “challenged”.  From a constructivist learning theory, this article, An exploratory review of design principles in constructivist gaming learning environments (Rosario & Widmeyer, 2009) discusses “MMOGs would become an instrument to offer meaningful knowledge where students can learn, in a fun way, by doing. Additionally, constructivism can foster participation and collaboration among people through feedback from knowledge and experiences. Thus, a MMOG is the perfect place to create a visually interesting and appealing interface that supports both participation and collaboration.”

This is where I stand with learning with MMOGs.  It was interesting during the quests, as I didn’t really collaborate with anyone until I started achieving higher levels.  I guess my fighting expertise was found to be acceptable.  I was asked to join realm by another player.  If I didn’t have this assignment, I might have joined, but was warned that I would be moved into a new realm – personally, that scared me.  To this point, I knew what I was doing, could complete the quests, that appealed to me.  Another key piece to this and one that the article points out – learning principals that are prevalent and important to learning – as detailed in the designed principals for a Constructivist Gaming Learning Environment – as a few examples:

Principal 1 – Probing Principal:  Learners should be encouraged to engage in cycles of action, hypothesis building, and inquiry.  Related to my experiences of WoW – the specific quests had me engage and think about a specific direction to go and the outcome.  I am sure that at these initial levels, the hypothesis building is very basic.  My level of inquiry was very limited.

Principle 2 – Distributed Principle: Learners should find growth and knowledge in their interactions with other learners, technology, context, objects, and tools.  I think this goes back to the idea of collaboration.  As a learner when we collaborate, there should be some sense of accomplishment.  I don’t think it has to be a completed project, but the process of the learning is a valuable piece of the whole picture.  

There are others, but I am skipping to

Principle 11 – On-Demand and Just-in-Time Tutorial Principle: Game tutorials should aid players in learning the game mechanics and user interface while they are playing, exploring or interacting with the environment. This way, players will learn the game mechanics as well as the user interface while they are playing the game. 

I wonder if as adults, we are programmed to have the directions and not know how to learn while “playing”?  Have we been programmed to wait for directions as that is the way we were taught as obedient students?  I think back to me as a student and I can’t remember anything even remotely close to gaming – I know we didn’t have video games or even computers, but could the same principals have been used in face-to face type of scenarios.  Students have always developed hypotheses about things, explored and interacted with environments, and well love rewards.  I think that is a key piece of WoW.  I can’t deny it, but I loved the feeling of accomplishment when I completed a quest and was challenged to go to the next level.  As I reflect, I wish that a little more direction was given, maybe not the game itself, but I wish that I knew or could have known who my classmates were so that a little more collaboration could have taken place.  Could I have worked with someone I didn’t know?  Sure.  Is that scary to me.  YES.  How can I transfer that fear into something good?  Are these type of learning environments good for learning.  I think so.  In doing some research – there are those that disagree.  I think that it is fear.  Fear of the unknown.  Does fear interfere with learning?  Absolutely.  Do educators make choices about these types of environments because of their own fear?  I think so.  I am intrigued.  Take for example this blog…

There are some positive comments, but then there are the backlash comments.  An interesting point noted in the blog – “When I bring these to their other teachers, I am consistently told, ‘I don’t get anything like this from them,’” Sheehy said in reference to the writing her students produce. They write complex arguments because they are passionate about the game, the storyline, and the class. “When there is no passion you get dutiful, for the grade work,” she said.

“Assessment and gaming are so contradictory,” Sheehy said. “Gaming is almost like the scientific method. You get your quest, you form a hypothesis, you try it out, you encounter challenges and you draw conclusions.” She thinks that’s assessment enough and is wary that formally assessing students will take the fun and the passion out of what she considers to be a very effective education tool.

Another article linked within this article:

This is an interesting topic.  I wonder what my PLN thinks about these type of games as educational learning.  I am of the camp, that they do have a place.  I would love to explore this topic further.

Back to my original thoughts about this learning experience… Constructivism… making sense of my environment to construct deeper meaning.  Socially, do these experiences support a richer and deeper sense of learning?  There is another thought to games… drill and kill.  Do these support a deeper or richer experience?  I think there are probably teachers who agree with using games, but I am wondering if it really isn’t the game itself, but the elements of the game which is important to the learning experience?  What kinds of qualities do good game developers focus on?  Also, now there is that idea of gamification, but when I think about this term, I see leaderboards and that badge or reward at the end, plus there is that element of competition to be at the top of the board or receive the badge upon completion… do these badges cause one to forget about the intrinsic rewards?  What about the sense of completion based on motivation.  In my own experience, in World of Warcraft, I received weapons, copper, things that I could use to battle or escape.  Are they rewards… I think so, but not in the same sense as a leaderboard or badges.

Rosario, R. A. M., & Widmeyer, G. R. (2009). An exploratory review of design principles in constructivist gaming learning environments. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(3), 289-300.

Week 11 – Blog Week 12 – Open Source and Social Media… chasing the technology?

How useful do you find the open source tools and social media for learning? Is it your personal preference that drives this or the affordances? Would they be useful for others if you find it lacking? What would make them more useful?

I found this article to start my engine “thinking”.  As more and more educators are trying to reach their “customer” students whether or not they are in K-12 or higher ed, one particular phrase that struck me immediately is “Chasing the technology”.  Do we as educators think that we must jump on every train that stops at the station.  I think that sometimes educators do this without thinking about the ramifications, objectives or even what the problem the technology solves and is it truly “better” or do we think we need to use this new technology, just because it is…. well…. new?

Online Learning: Trends, Potential and Challenges

Is the trend to do this… chase the technology?  I liked the twitter aspect of this weeks plan, but I think overall, it is because… well I get it.  I like the short bursts of knowledge, the ability to read 140 characters and determine whether or not I want to digest it and do something with the knowledge or just read it and pass on by.  Does this work for everyone?  Definitely not.  Do you have to always read everything on Twitter… ummmmm – no, you can’t.  The way that I approach twitter work for me. Period.  Could someone else use my approach, for sure, but they need to figure out what works for them.  Do we put twitter or even facebook in the trend category – absolutely.  I still get the question about twitter… I can tell you what works for me, but in the chapter Scott/Wakefield describe Learning as Communicative Actions – described one thing that I think more people need to figure out… choosing to commit.  I didn’t choose to commit for about 4 months on Twitter.  I didn’t understand it. Period.  I finally chose to commit and wow… I have contributed to other people’s learning, had some interesting discussions (albeit short bursts), but these lead to deeper and richer investigations and I feel I would not found otherwise – I don’t have the time to spend hours upon hours to connect and learn.  I love that learning comes to me in short bursts and I can figure out for me, whether or not I want to expend the energy.  Are there times when the conversation isn’t exactly what I want to read?  Sure, but the beauty of twitter is to look for other followers with the same interests, commonalities or more.  Same thing with Facebook – I don’t necessarily “choose to commit” to FB, but it connects me to my family, my community happenings, even to people I have not seen in quite some time.  It is a like a window — I can choose to open it up or keep it close.  I can look through other people’s windows if they open them.  That is kind of weird to think about though… I guess there are those people who keep their windows open way too much (that is my own personal belief), but the beauty of FB is that I can do that…

Instructionally, I think it is a shame that an instructor won’t use or even offer the opportunity to explore a particular tool because they feel it isn’t sound or they don’t like it.  As I started out… even if it is a trend, if the goals and objectives of the instruction support the use, why should I as the instructional designer prohibit the use?  It is like me and math… it isn’t my greatest subject, nor am I excited about it, but I do it.  I have to facilitate sessions that incorporate some tools which are heavily math based… I don’t just pass over them or exclude them.  I embrace them, learn them even at a level which I can speak to reasonably and then let the others who are more passionate for the tools, drive the discussion.  What is wrong with that?

As far as open source tools which contribute to an even deeper/broader scope, I don’t think at this point, changing the dynamics or the flow of the “space” will change the outcome – yet.  As a community of learners, and even though online learning has been around now for a while, I don’t think we as designers and learners have totally embraced what can be with online learning.  We don’t totally understand what it means to collaborate, to share, to converse, to have a presence in an online environment.  I am not really talking Twitter or Facebook here, but LMS – Blackboard, Schoology, Canvas, Edmodo… an instructor or even the student needs to choose to commit.  What that looks like… it could be different for everyone, but there are some solid foundational elements.  As an instructional designer, finding the balance of what is good for the objectives vs what is just “fluff” could be a challenge if the right set of exeptations and the right tools are not thought about and placed in the right context.  With online learning and the use of these tools, I find it extremely detrimental to my own learning if the scope and sequence doesn’t make sense.  I don’t want to spend tons of time trying to figure out a sequence… and make sure the sequence works.  Putting content somewhere because it is “easy” for the instructor… not good.  I like canvas, but things are intertwined and connected.  I am not sure whether or not the LMS does this or it was just good pre-planning by the instructor.  It is like a flow map of objectives… I have to have a curriculum map of where I am and where do I want to be.  If I spend all of my time lost, no one gets anywhere.  Open source is great.  Chasing the technology for the sake of just using it – not so great.  Making sure I meet goals and objectives is a good thing and there are great tools that provide this.