Canvas: the Next Step for Hawken

Since the inception of mandatory school computers for students in grades 6th through 12th, Hawken’s technology has become increasingly advanced, as it attempts to make things easier for both faculty and students. As computers became a bigger part of the student life, HawkNet was created to organize homework, resources, and schedules online. However, as HawkNet grew older, teachers and students realized that it was not adequately meeting their needs. Canvas has recently been introduced to replace HawkNet. This newer program is an education platform that allows a student to look at their assignments, see their live grades, and stay up to date with schoolwork. Generating mixed reviews from students and teachers, this new website is now being utilized in nearly every course at Hawken.

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When Canvas was first introduced, there were mixed responses among the community. Many students liked the new format and its innovative technology which enabled students to add up scores to see what one’s grade might be after an assignment and keep things organized. Jack Seasholtz, a junior at Hawken, talked about how he initially he was not in favor of the transition because of his familiarity with HawkNet, but is now accustomed to it and its content. While he does not have a preference for either Canvas or HawkNet, he believes both hold valuable resources for schoolwork: “I like how I can see my grades, [my teacher’s] assignments are organized on a calendar, all files for each class are organized, and I like the personalization options, specifically the purple color scheme.” However, he found flaws that inhibit his ability to be organized. He believes that Hawknet is equally advantageous as Canvas, as it provides him with school news, his daily schedule, his assignments, and other community resources. Jack hopes that one day in the near future, the technology department will be able to merge the best features of each program to create an ideal medium for accessing school information. Another Hawken student, senior Ava Levin held strong opinions about the two sites. Ava believes that while HawkNet was an ideal place for teachers to post assignments and could be used as a virtual planner, Canvas is the better option for Hawken overall. Because of the innovative technology Canvas has, the community can better use the internet to find files. In addition, she appreciates the ability to see live updates to her grades in classes in order to track her progress throughout the year. The ability to have everything in one place allows Ava to be organized and transparent, both of which are important to her. Lastly, Ava believes that with the ability to color code certain classes, it is easier to see the classes in which she has homework. However, while the calendar may have positive aspects, she believes that it could be improved by allowing her to check off assignments as completed once she finishes them.

The switch to this new technology was the result of careful considerations about how the new system would interact with the current atmosphere of the school. Mr. Wooley, the Chief Technology Officer at Hawken, was a key faculty member in deciding whether Canvas was the best fit for Hawken. According to Mr. Wooley, switching to Canvas had been a three-year process that began with a small group of teachers to try it out in their classes. When a need for a full-featured learning management system for the faculty started to become a problem, it became crucial that an alternative to HawkNet was found. Mr. Wooley is a strong advocate for Canvas, stating how, “Canvas has better tools for collaborating online, better learning analytics, a built-in system for peer review, a built-in portfolio system, and more. It was a designed to be a learning system from its beginning, where HawkNet was designed as a communication portal that happened to grow some learning management features over time.” Through Mr. Wooley’s expertise and the need for something innovative and manageable, Canvas has now officially become Hawken’s education platform, while HawkNet will continue to be a communication hub. Mr. Wooley reassures the community about potential problems with Canvas, stating, “In my view it is worth this compromise to pick up the many robust new features that Canvas offers. Our highest priority is learning, so we have put that above a few conveniences.”

While Hawken students continue to grow academically, new technology is meant to be a tool rather than a burden. As the year continues on, it is the hope that Canvas can become a foundation of resources and education so that the life for both students and teachers is improved.