Google Docs: Embedding Tricks for Canvas (and other systems)

there’s the official way to publish google Docs, and it works with various degrees of success. Depending on the system, it may strip out width and height defaults, or other small details that make the content look good. I’d like to share some alternate methods.


This is Monday’s schedule for a course design bootcamp I help run, and here’s the HTML iframe embed code:

<iframe src="" width="100%" height="1200"></iframe>

Ignoring that, for this post in WordPress, I changed the width from 100%, (Canvas renders: “100%” nicely in a flexible width that looks good on computer and mobile devices. Here in WordPress, not so much; so I set a fixed width of 600).

Also note that it is not editable. I used Google’s “Publish to the Web” command to get this code. You should be able to click the How did I embed this Google document in Canvas? link within the embedded google Doc to see detailed instructions on how to do this.

Here is Tuesday’s schedule, and code:

<p><span>Schedule:&nbsp;</span><a id="" class="" title="Day 1: Empathize and Define (Monday, June 6)" href="/courses/7/pages/day-1-empathize-and-define-monday-june-6" target="" data-api-endpoint="" data-api-returntype="Page">Monday</a><span>, </span><a id="" class="" title="Day 2: Ideate and Design (Tuesday, June 7)" href="/courses/7/pages/day-2-ideate-and-design-tuesday-june-7" target="" data-api-endpoint="" data-api-returntype="Page">Tuesday</a><span>, </span><a id="" class="" title="Day 3: Build (Wednesday, June 8)" href="/courses/7/pages/day-3-build-wednesday-june-8" target="" data-api-endpoint="" data-api-returntype="Page">Wednesday</a><span>,</span><span> </span><a id="" class="" title="Day 4: Refine and Present (Thursday, June 9)" href="/courses/7/pages/day-4-refine-and-present-thursday-june-9" target="" data-api-endpoint="" data-api-returntype="Page">Thursday</a></p>
<p><iframe src="" width="100%" height="1200"></iframe></p>

Note that this one has editing/suggesting/commenting options. Again, the link How did I embed this differently? should give clear instructions on how to do this in Canvas.

There’s a nice post in the Canvas Community on this as well.

Google Forms as a Student Response System

I’m leading a workshop Wednesday, March 30 from 2-4:30 on how to do this and get other types of formative feedback. Sign up and come! Details here.

I’ve been figuring out how to use Google Forms as an alternative to costly student response systems (SRS, aka “clickers”). I presented on it at EDUCAUSE Connect in 2014 using Google Sites as a (clumsy) prototype that I had session participants access quickly with their devices at But I haven’t had the time to dig into it since then. Our university has recently chosen TopHat as a supported SRS, but many faculty are hesitant to make students buy another thing, so I challenged myself to create an easy-to-use (for faculty and students) “clicker” system. The goals:

  1. use existing LMS, which now feature easy-to-access mobile versions for students who just bring their mobile devices, but also support laptop and tablet users.
  2. easy enough for any faculty who is willing to use TopHat to use
  3. support a good variety of questions (this does not support the “heat map” style questions)
  4. show a good variety of responses “live” for the class.

I looked to Google Forms, but not Google Sites this time. Whereas Google Sites is still clumsy, Google Forms is as easy (or easier) than TopHat to create quick surveys for formative in-class feedback (for instructor and students), and it looks good on a mobile device or laptop. Desire2Learn and Canvas both work generally well for quick mobile access (students can get in, get to their course, and find a unit or class page quickly), so if I could embed surveys and results there, I figured it should be easy to use in class.

But embedding surveys in an LMS is not new or challenging. Embedding live results is. Google Forms used to allow this (see this video at 0:30 for a view of the now-extinct “Publish Analytics” link), but no longer does.

This is the form embedded as an iframe:


This should be the Google Form’s “Summary of Responses”embedded as an iframe (but does not appear to work):

The workaround is pretty simple, actually — to embed live results as a chart using all-Google products, you simply create a chart in the Google Sheet associated with the Form, and publish the form.This works in Canvas and D2L (and WordPress). Here’s an example of how that looks:

This video explains how to do that (pay attention at ~3:27 on)

If you don’t want such a finished look, or want to convey the data in more than one form, you can also put several on the sheet and embed that sheet, like this:

AwesomeTable also provided a solution.

This is AwesomeTable’s (free) “Live View”embedded as an iframe:

Communications Strategy — The Active Teaching Lab

Active Teaching Lab bannerWhile image is NOT everything, the presentation of a program is important in conveying what it’s really about. That’s why, in our communication plan, as in our sessions, we aim to be clear, playful, and branded.


We aim to make the language used in communications concise and clear, actively limiting unnecessary sentences and words. Because we understand the power of the visual, we will communicate with graphics as much and often as possible.


We know that learning is more effective when people are slightly, but not overly-stressed, so Active Teaching Lab sessions are designed to be safe and comfortable spaces. We add the stress needed to learn in pressuring participants to actually get hands-on with the tools and techniques presented. To minimize the fear of mistakes, we promote a playful and fearlessly experimental atmosphere (i.e. fearless sifting and winnowing). We model mistake-making in the facilitation of activities, and we’re never afraid to admit that we don’t (currently) know the answers to some of the trickier questions.

We strive to communicate an atmosphere of fearless playful experimentation through our communications. One currently popular archetype that expresses these things is Steampunk — the fearless tinkerer. Often paired and conflated with The Mad Scientist, these offer us many options for eye-catching and playful marketing images.

AT Lab Survey


Branding is important for pointing participants to other events held by the sponsoring organizations (e.g. “This was a great event! What else do you have for me?”) and for general recognition and praise (e.g. “I’ve been hearing great things about these ‘labs’ that AT does…”). Therefore, we use blurbs (with links to the websites of the sponsors when online) and logos when space permits.

We also recognize that branding is important for our speakers. They are working on promotion, on staying recognized in their field and to their peers. Since we cannot offer speakers a stipend, we strive both to make their experience as positive for them as possible, and to promote their expertise via pre-event marketing, and post-event accolades.

Siftr with Cathy Middlecamp

The Active Teaching Lab

I’ve been very lucky to be given the go ahead to turn this pilot into a program! We’re doing fun stuff again this semester!

Active Teaching Lab - Hands-onSponsored by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW Teaching Academy, the Active Teaching Lab provides a safe space and refreshments for structured explorations of the cool teaching tools and techniques that your peers are using to engage students and teach more effectively.

If you missed an event, each session page has a link to a video of the instructor sharing: 1) what they wanted; 2) what they tried; 3) what happened; and 4) what they’d do next time.

Spring 2016 Sessions

  • Feb 05 Canvas, with Catherine Arnott Smith from the School of Library and Information Studies. Session page
  • Feb 12  Online Platforms for Language Learning, with Andrew Irving from French. Session page
  • Feb 19 Design Thinking for Course Activities, with Pamela McGranahan & George Jura from Nursing. RSVP • Session page
  • Feb 26 Piazza with John Gillett from Statistics. RSVP • Session page
  • Mar 04 GoPro Cameras to improve student interviewing skills, with Kristen Pickett from Occupational Therapy. RSVP • Session page
  • Mar 11 Electronic Lab Notebooks, with John Puccinelli from Biomedical Engineering. RSVP • Session page
  • Mar 18 Workflow Visualization Toolkit, with Alan Hackbarth from UW Colleges. RSVP • Session page
  • Apr 01 OpenAuthor for WordPress eTexts, with Steel Wagstaff from Learning Support Services. RSVP • Session page
  • Apr 08 for Student-curated Collections, with Anna Andrzejewski from Art History. RSVP • Session page
  • Apr 15 for Assigning Annotations, with Jeremy Morris from Communication Arts. RSVP • Session page
  • Apr 22 TopHat for Student Learning and feedback, with Laurie Brachman from Marketing. RSVP • Session page
  • Apr 29 Timeline Software, with Bronwen Masemann from Library Science. RSVP • Session page
  • May 06 Google Drive for Course Docs, with Tanya Buckingham from Geography. RSVP • Session page

Past Labs — Fall 2015

  • 12.04.15: Blackboard Collaborate with David Feldstein & Yuyen Chang. Session Page.
  • 12.01.15: MakerSpaces with Catherine Stephens. Session Page.
  • 11:20.15: Skype (VideoConferencing) with Andrew Irving. Session Page.
  • 11.13.15: Flipping Lectures in CSCR with Aurelie Rakotondrafara. Session page.
  • 11.10.15: Course Design in Popplet with Margene Anderson. Session page.
  • 11.06.15: Google Maps with Colin Connors. Session page.
  • 11.03.15: Google Forms with John Martin. Session page.
  • 10.30.15: Flipped Learning Strategies with Lauren Rosen. Session page.
  • 10.27.15: Kaltura MediaSpace with Josh Harder. Session page.
  • 10.23.15: Photo-Mapping in Siftr with Margene Anderson. Session page.
  • 10.20.15: Critical Readers in CSCR with Cid Freitag, Dan LaValley & Emmanuel Contreras. Session page.
  • 10.13.15: Case Scenarios in CSCR with Margene Anderson, Dan LaValley & Emmanuel Contreras. Session page.
  • 10.16.15: Engagement Strategies in Moodle with Shiela Reaves & Jenny Chung. Session page.
  • 10.09.15: eTexts with Colin Connors. Session page.
  • 10.06.15: Adobe Captivate with Dan LaValley and Josh Harder. Session page.
  • 10.02.15: Twitter with Catalina Toma. Session page.
  • 09.29.15: Google Apps in D2L with John Martin. Session page.
  • 09.25.15: Google Docs with Tim Paustian. Session page.
  • 09.22.15: Course Design in D2L with Margene Anderson. Session page.
  • 09.18.15: Diigo with Duncan Carlsmith. Session page.

Past Labs — Spring 2015

The Active Teaching Lab is co-sponsored by the UW Teaching Academy, which hosts this page, and DoIT Academic Technology.

TA:AT logos

Designed [Learning] Experiences

legolandThis article, “Why Schools And Hospitals Should Be More Like Theme Parks” speaks to the call for the design of what Ellsworth calls processual paths through pedagogically charged learning environments (Ellsworth, 2005). While this author focuses on physically-designed space, I recommend reading as if it were describing a semester’s course schedule, or even an hour of class time. For example, this excerpt:


So what does a well-designed environment look like? Varied rhythms are key—you need enough to engage you but not so much you get exhausted or stressed out. Think about what guided one of the original “experience designers,” Frederick Law Olmsted, who created Central Park in New York City and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Olmsted had a knack for arranging natural scenery to create a sense of mystery and discovery, which drew people in and ushered them smoothly through a space. More than a century later, his work influences Disney parks, where the park architects mix “decompression zones” in with the attractions to let people rest before finding something new to explore. A careful observer may notice that the middle sections of many Disney buildings are fairly plain, saving the ornate details for the corners. It creates a kind of visual friction that draws your eye and sparks curiosity. It can be seen as a kind of greeble—the model maker’s trick of adding non-essential surface details—to add a bit of novelty and visual intrigue, and to keep you moving.

The magic of the Magic Kingdom, however is not in the guided experience, but in the mix of guided and self-directed experiences. Self-directed opportunities honor participants’ prior interests and knowledge. It gives them agency in the experience, and lets them set a pace that is right for them. A guided experience is a movie, or a ride that you’re strapped into. In schools we lecture, assign readings and videos, etc. These can be very entertaining, and can be very immersive. But more cognitive effect is realized when there’s greater interactivity.

As I’ve mentioned previously, Disney is starting to do this more in mixing rides and interactivity. As educators, that we allow this, and how we do this in courses is key. Again, while the physical layout and design is important (the main point of the article), I argue that we cannot and should not try to compete with Disney or companies whose business is experience design — we just can’t afford to do it well. What we should do is learn from them and employ the concepts of rhythm, guided learning, self-directed learning, reflection/decompression, etc. A creative mind and a cardboard box can be as educational and engaging as a million-dollar playhouse.

We are embodied beings. We experience the world with our senses. It is important that they be stimulated to learn. We are also independent and interdependent social beings, so that balance must be respected as well.

Heartland Ramblings

heartland JournalA Curious Intellect* Visits the Heartland

Once. There was big, beautiful, clever brain. It was a very curious brain, and traveled all over the world of ideas, from field to field, across seas of knowledge and mountains of data. It collected trophies and specimens and souvenirs from its travels. By studying these carefully, it unpacked many mysteries, and discovered significant systems that seemed to be foundational patterns underlying the secrets of the universe.

It was a happy brain.

But there was one continent that perplexed the brain. Heartland. On it, lived an unruly and irrational inhabitants whose culture did not seem to fit into any of the patterns or systems that the brain had examined. Naturally, this piqued the curiosity of the brain. Though irrational, the hearts were exceptionally beautiful beings that cast a soft ethereal light that warmed the world around them — and while the brain had a great admiration for beauty, and had seen many many beautiful things in its explorations, this beauty eclipsed everything. The brain needed to understand this much more.

The brain quickly encountered a difficulty. It could not figure out the language of the hearts. It was, however, a brain, and was industrious when inspired. So, it eventually, with much, much, much — oh my god so much — practice the brain began to recognize some of the patterns in the language. This pleased the brain to no end. The brain began to feel things that it had not felt before. It was tidal wave of new data to consider! The brain’s deep interest in the hearts as they spoke ushered in a sense of connection that the brain didn’t know exactly what to do with. The brain listened intently, and was very happy. Sensing that the brain felt a connection pleased the hearts as well, who, by their nature, sought to connect with others, and were intrigued by this curious stranger to their land who seemed so interested in their normal lives.

Over time, the brain developed more feelings, and managed to invent a clumsy but rudimentary algorithm to convert its own feelings into words the hearts recognized. The brain was very happy the hearts could finally understand it, and began to run all its feelings through the algorithm to finally share with the hearts how wonderful it felt, and how it wished it were easier to connect! The hearts were often confused by the odd and sometimes insulting syntax that the new speaker used, but we’re delighted by the effort and expected that they and the brain would soon become very close.

However, there was another thing. Just as there was light in the day, and darkness in the night, the brain noticed that the inhabitants experienced both lightness and darkness. While the light brought blinding joy and a tremendous glow that stirred something wonderful in him, there was also a terrible darkness in these beings. Though the brain sensed danger there, the brain was brave, and ventured forth to try to live among the inhabitants. They saw it meant no harm, and greeted it with such radiant beauty that the brain was smitten. And all went well for a time. The brain would feel warm, connected, and bathed in light. But then the brain would notice a darkness cross the faces of the those closest to it, and invariably, they would either pull away, or draw closer. And the closer they came to him, the more the darkness affected them, dimming their glow. Sometimes they would draw so close that their light was nearly extinguished, and they would cry out in anguish. This was as odd to them as it was to the brain. One at a time, a few with strong lights were so determined with the brain to figure it out, that they pushed closer and weaker, and closer and weaker — driven by the last flickers of their light, until they could stand no more. The brain noticed that the more beautifully brilliant the heart glowed, the more they got hurt as they drew close to him. This made him quite sad because those were the hearts he most admired, and most wanted to understand.

The brain was a brain. Therefore, it was not completely dumb. It recognized what the pattern was. But it was frustrated because it could not understand why the pattern was. It tried very hard to get close to the inhabitants who were willing to try with it. But, because it was a nice brain, even a kind brain, it began warning the inhabitants of the pattern. Sometimes the brain would see an exceptionally bright and beautiful light that it could not help but want to draw close. And the brain would love that light so much that it kept it at a safe distance in order to be able to continue enjoying its light.

One day, one of the hearts approached the brain with an idea to take a Heart language learning class, with an actual teacher. (Sort of an obvious idea in retrospect). The next thing the brain knew, it was in a room with ten strange but powerful hearts who had joined forces to help the brain discover what was happening. Together, the hearts’ lights could not be dimmed.

heart:brain yin:yangAnd the brain realized that at some time, farther back that its memory could recount, something had short circuited its pain receptors. It could not recount ever being significantly hurt. Of course, it wasn’t just pain receptors that were fried. The group pitched in and helped scrape the char off the circuits. They helped with some basic rewiring. With this new (forgotten?) information now known, the brain vowed that he would get back to work and refurbish all the circuits. He had begun.

(To be continued…)

* Curious, but not particularly bright.