Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Getting Started with Twitter for Canvas

Welcome to Twitter4Canvas! I created this site in order to share what I have learned about using Twitter as a content stream for my classes and, in particular, how to make that Twitter content stream appear inside the Canvas LMS.

Twitter in Canvas. Just to get a quick sense of what that is like, take a look at this sample page, which shows the Twitter feed from my class Twitter account embedded in a Canvas page: Twitter in Canvas.

Why Twitter widgets? To see why you would want to use a real Twitter widget as opposed to the Canvas Twitter app, look at this comparison: Canvas app versus Twitter widget. The Canvas Twitter app displays no media: no  images, no video. Without that media content, Twitter loses a lot of its power and appeal.

So, if you would like to learn how to harness the power of a real Twitter widget inside your Canvas course, this site will give you the information you need to create your own Twitter widgets and display them in Canvas. I'm also glad to share my Ready-to-Use Widgets; for those, all you need to know how to do is copy-and-paste. :-)

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Iframes for Javascripts. The problem you face in using Twitter widgets is that Twitter widgets are javascripts. For security reasons, you have to put any script inside an iframe to use it in a Canvas page. That's actually easy to do, and in this workshop I will walk you through that process step by step. You will learn how to create a Twitter widget that you save as a Canvas file (sample), and then you will learn how to embed that Canvas file inside a Canvas page (sample).

Ready-to-use widgets. It's also possible to host a Twitter widget in your own webspace (OU faculty, students, and staff all have their own webspace thanks to the OU Create program, for example). If you host the widget in your own webspace, you can then share it with others. So, you might take a minute to look at the Gallery of Ready-to-Use Widgets that I am hosting in my webspace and see if there is anything useful to you. If you are interested in using any of those ready-to-use widgets, you don't even need to do this workshop: just copy and paste the iframe snippet into your Canvas course page — that's all!

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Twitter4Canvas Workshop

Below you will find a step-by-step guide to creating your own Twitter widgets and displaying them in a Canvas course page. No knowledge of Canvas or Twitter is assumed.

If you are already an experienced Twitter and Canvas user, the only steps you will need below are Step 5 Create Widget - Step 6 Create File - Step 7 Create Page.

You will start by creating a new Canvas course space that you can use for this workshop along with any other Canvas experiments you want to try.

Even if you are already using Canvas, you might find some useful new tips here. For example, do you know about Canvas course cards with images? It's a great way to help students recognize your course at a glance when they look at their Canvas Dashboard.

If you are already using Twitter, you can create a new Twitter account for this workshop, focusing on content you want to share with your students. If you have not used Twitter before, don't worry: the instructions include step-by-step information about creating an account and also about how to start using Twitter to find and share content that will be useful to your students.

If you are already a Twitter user, you will probably find all of this familiar already; if you are new to Twitter, I hope you will have fun learning about how Twitter can be used to discover and then share links, images, and videos with your students.

There are lots of different kinds of Twitter widgets you can create; in this step, you will create a widget that displays the tweets from your class Twitter account.

To use your widget in a Canvas page, you first have to publish it as a Canvas file, using a simple text editor and saving the widget as an html type of file.

And now you will learn about iframe, the magical bit of coding that will allow your Twitter widget to run in your own webspace with the results displaying in real time inside Canvas.

The Canvas content space is very constrained, but you can use table layout in order to gain a bit more control. I've provided some copy-and-paste table formatting you can use so that this will work even if you are not familiar with any of the details of HTML.

For this step you will learn about Twitter hashtags and lists (they are both incredibly powerful features to help you find good Twitter content), and then you will be able to create one more Twitter widget based on either a hashtag or a list.

For this final activity, you will practice what you learned so far by creating a new type of Twitter widget using a hashtag search or a list, and then displaying that widget in Canvas with the layout of your choice.

Congratulations: you are now a Twitter4Canvas expert!

Keep on learning. As you have probably noticed, this website is actually a blog, so I'll be blogging here occasionally too, sharing information about my own use of Twitter and useful Twitter materials, and I have another blog — CanvasLIVE Playground — where I am sharing other tips and tricks like how to embed other kinds of widgets and live content tools inside a Canvas course. I also blog about Canvas and about teaching here: Teaching with Canvas.

Sharing your story. If you have a Twitter story to tell, let me know! I would be really glad to learn more about the different ways people are using Twitter in their classes, and of course let me know if you are using Twitter widgets in your Canvas space. So far, I heard from Michelle Pacansky-Brock at CSU CI... who else is out there?

Contact me. I hope you can find what you need here, and please contact me with any questions or suggestions. I'm glad to help if I can! You can email me at or you can ping me at my Twitter account, @OnlineCrsLady. I'm also at the Canvas Community if you use that space. Plus you can leave comments at this blog.

So now... start exploring, everybody! And take some advice from a growth mindset cat: energy spent exploring is energy well spent. :-)