Saturday, October 10, 2020

Adventures in Remote Learning: Unmute and Tell Me Your Word

Me: Alrighty, Super Stars, who is ready to add some words to our O and N lists?

(Several hands shoot up into the air onscreen)

Me: Um, okay, ______, unmute and tell me your word.

Star: I have a letter O word.

Me: Awesome! Let me hear it.

Star: Oprah!

Me: Oprah! Yes, "Oprah" is an O word! And because it's the name of a person, we use an uppercase O at the beginning.

Star, interrupting: Uh, Mrs. Sommerville, I said "Oprah," NOT "Oprah."

Me: Ummm... what, honey?

Star: I SAID OPRAH, ****NOT**** OPRAH.

Me: Mmmmmm.... Are you talking about a person, a famous person?

Star: No, no, not a person. It's something you uh, you uh, you eat! (mumbling in the background).... I KNOW Dad, I *AM* explaining it to her!

Me: ... something you eat... do you mean OKRA?

Star: Yes! OPRAH! My dad fries it! (more mumbling in the background)

Me: Okay (writing).... o....k....r....a. Okra. Is that your word, honey?

Star: Uh, I don't know. I don't know how to spell yet.

And right in front of my Star's face a thumbs-up sign being made by an adult hand appeared on the screen.

And that, folks, is how word-list building is happening in this time of Zoom instruction and remote learning.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

BOY Assessment Truths

F-i-n-a-l-l-y nearing the end of our beginning-of-the-year assessments, one of my Stars logged on to her Zoom appointment today for her comprehensive math baseline. 

Full of addition, greater than/less than, a 100's chart, subtraction, geometry and oodles and oodles of counting, the questions can seem to go on forever. 

Before I shared my screen with her, I told her "Honey, some of the questions I'm going to ask you and some of the screens I'm going to show you are things you already know, and some of them you don't know because I haven't taught them yet. If you see something you don't know or that confuses you, just say 'skip it' and we'll go to the next screen, okay?" 

"Okay, Mrs. Sommerville. I'm ready" she replied.

Eleventy-billion questions later, my Star sighed "W-o-w, Mrs. Sommerville, you really haven't taught me a lot."

It's the twelfth day of kindergarten.


Saturday, August 29, 2020

How to Navigate to a Google Slides Assignment from Google Classroom on an iPad

 My colleagues and I have been swimming in Google training as well as tracking down other resources in preparation for utilizing Google Classroom with all grades this year, both in-person and remote.  As we try to create introductory lessons and activities to familiarize ourselves (and eventually, our students and their families) with how Google Classroom, Google Slides, Google Drive and other resources fit together as a single digital puzzle, we've come up against some surprises that frankly are stymying us for far too many hours of the day. 

The biggest problem?  Trying to figure out why the Google Classroom app on the student iPad adds a preview of an assigned Slides activity instead of just taking the student directly to Google Slides when s/he/they tap on the assignment link.  The preview doesn't appear on laptops or desktop computers, just the iPad.

On a student iPad, I tapped the Google Classroom icon:

There's the classroom header (I'm logged in as a student):

Here's the access point for the Classroom's menu (as indicated by the three horizontal lines):

... and here's the menu.  The menu has a different appearance on the laptop and desktop versions, by the way. 

(iPad menu view above, desktop menu view below)

But I digress.

As we continue on with the iPad navigation, we arrive at the home page, where the "Stream," "Classwork" and "People" tabs appear at the bottom.

Tapping "Classwork," we're taken to our assignments screen.  I've assigned myself a beginning sound identification activity.  I created the activity in Google Slides because I wanted to have some moving parts for students to manipulate.

After tapping "Letter Aa Beginning Sound Slide," the following screen pops up.  The yellow box with the white rectangular middle is the icon indicating that the activity is a Google Slide.  My name next to the yellow box indicates I'm the student.  The title of the activity appears next, followed by an "X."

I'm not sure why the "X" appears here, but I can tell you that it is ohhhhhhhhhhhh so tempting to tap.  Spoiler alert: if the "X" is tapped at this point, no pop-up message box appears asking if you're *really* certain that you'd like to remove or delete the activity.  There's no "cancel" button either.  The activity simply disappears.  Poof. Gone. Adios. 

I resisted the urge (the first time) to tap the "X" and instead made sure to tap the text:

... and it looks like we're being taken to Google Slides, though the icon isn't yellow on this transition screen.

But instead of being taken directly to the assigned Slide in Google Slides, this screen appears:

There's the activity I created. We can see the picture grid, and the instructions, and the five blue circles that I'd like students to drag over to the grid to mark the pictures that begin with the Aa sound.  Yes, the boy in the airplane could count though the pronunciation would be a little off, but I'd also like to see who might leave the fifth circle unmoved, likely because they've decided the illustration depicts "flying" or "a jet."

That's my story and I'm sticking to it, *wink*. 

However... this isn't the Slide.  It's more of a... preview?  In the upper right corner we can see a search icon, a writing icon, and an interesting looking square with an arrow embedded in the middle of it.  

Notice the square isn't rectangle-ish, nor is it yellow. 

If we tap the search icon, a search bar appears at the top:

It's okay to tap the "X" to exit the search.  No, really.  It's okay. Not like that other "X" we encountered earlier.  I promise.

If we tap the writing/pen icon:

... it becomes possible to write on the screen, but remember, this isn't the Slide.  It's the iPad preview, or whatever we're calling it, because this screen doesn't pop up on laptops or desktop computers.  Because of course it doesn't.

There are writing tools down at the bottom of the screen: 

The add-a-box feature allows the student to, uh, add a box (big surprise):

Goodness, someone is in desperate need of a manicure and a humongous vat of hand lotion.

The pen, marker, highlighter and eraser tools all do what you'd guess they would as well:

Remember that the curvy arrow icons indicate "undo" (backward) and "redo" (forward).  They're even handier than the eraser tool when you encounter them, in my opinion.

In this mode, the preview that has been written upon will be converted into a PDF, which still isn't the Slide with the moveable pieces that I assigned. The PDF will be added to the assignment screen where the student could turn it in while the actual Slide assignment remains unfinished:

But what about that square-shaped icon with the embedded arrow in it that appears in the iPad preview?

That box, my friends, despite NOT being yellow and not being Slide-shaped is the navigation tool that will take us away from this preview page and into the Google Slide assignment. 

Seriously. Tap on it.

VoilĂ .  The Slide.  Within Google Slides.  The pieces move.  

Students could simply press the iPad's home button (the black button on the device) when they're finished because Google autosaves.  But if they choose to navigate using the back button/arrow (you can see it next to my name), they may end up on a Google Slides homepage instead of back in their Classroom:

See the smaller back arrow at the very top of the screen, with the word "Classroom" next to it?  It appears both on the Slide activity page AND the Google Slides home page.  If a student taps that teeny tiny print instead of the larger back arrow next to their name, they'll be taken back to the iPad preview screen:

Tapping the "X" on the iPad preview screen will return the student to his/her/their Classwork assignments in Google Classroom.  


To summarize:

If our students are accessing Google Classroom using an iPad, and teachers have assigned a Google Slide activity, a "preview" of that assignment may appear instead of the Slide activity itself. I have no idea why.

Consider teaching students to navigate this-a-way:

Tap on the text of the assignment (don't touch the "X!"):

When the iPad preview image is displayed, ignore the search and writing tools and tap the square icon with the embedded arrow because it's the navigation tool that will take students into Google Slides :

Complete the activity:

When you're done, navigate back to Classroom, bypassing the Google Slides homepage, by tapping the teeny tiny text at the very top of the screen:

... and turn the assignment in by tapping the big black "turn in" button quickly, before you're tempted to tap that little "X" in the assignment's link.  Don't.  Tap.  The.  "X."

When you find yourself back on the iPad preview screen, it's okay to click on the *"X."  I know, I know... I'm thinking it too.

Assign some colleagues to be mock students in your Google Classroom so that you all can see what the platform display and navigation tools will look like from both the teacher and student views. And remember, if students access Google Classroom via a **laptop or desktop computer, they won't be interrupted by the iPad preview screen.

* I'm guessing that "Xs" to the RIGHT delete assignments, while "Xs" to the LEFT simply close them.  Can anyone verify this for me?

*Some families might have their students use a smaller tablet or smartphone to work on assignments.  I do not know what display differences may exist on those devices.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Student iPad View of Google Classroom: Kindergarten Edition

There's lots of preparation for the upcoming school year going on right now, and technology is at the forefront for me as one of my district's remote learning teachers.  Nothing beats being able to see content the way my Super Stars and their families will, so I appreciate that I was able to obtain an iPad formatted for kindergarteners prior to the first day of instruction.

I have no idea how other grade levels are rolling out their digital devices for students, but I thought it might be helpful to simply show what I've seen as I've navigated to Google Classroom as a mock kindergarten student using a student iPad.  Here... we... go!

I powered up the device, held it upright in the portrait position (not landscape) and found the Google Classroom icon:

After clicking on it, this screen appeared:

I made sure to leave the "Sign up for emails..." box UNCHECKED, tapped the "Get Started" rectangle and logged in using my mock-student Gmail credentials, not an email address issued by the district.  I was taken immediately to the Google Classroom I created (as a teacher) and had invited myself to join via email (as a student) with a "join code." This is the first step that parents will have to help students with.

It's too bad that the header/banner is grayed-out; I'm not entirely sure what the purpose might be behind the platform altering the image from how I created it.  Notice that you can see the photo that is linked to the Gmail account I'm using as a student in the upper right corner on this screen. I don't know what will appear in this space for students accessing Classroom with a district-provided account.

There are no buttons or tabs along the bottom of the screen except for a lone plus sign:

The plus sign in the bottom right corner provides a pop-up where "Join class" and "Create class" are options.  A student will need a class "join code" from any other teacher who invites him/her/them.  Tapping "Create class" produces another pop-up, though I'm unsure if I'm seeing it because I'm a mock student and not an actual student utilizing a district-provided account.  "Join class" would be the only option our students need.

Three little dots appear in the upper right corner of the header/banner:

Tapping the three dots produces a button prompt at the bottom of the screen that offers to "unenroll" you:

If a student clicks on this button accidentally (or not-so-accidentally), a pop-up message with links to either "cancel" or proceed with the choice to "unenroll" appears:

Talk about the OPPOSITE of "handy dandy" when it comes to four, five, and six-year-olds.  I didn't unenroll to see what would happen.  My guess would be that I, as a student, would need to be invited back to the Classroom with another join link provided by my teacher.  I don't know if the classwork I completed prior to unenrolling would be saved, or retrievable.

Moving on...

Tapping the class' name/title "Kindergarten Remote Learning" that appears within the grayed-out header/banner took me to a very similar looking screen, though this time neither my Gmail photograph nor the plus sign appeared while buttons for "Stream," "Classwork" and "People" did at the bottom.  This is the Google Classroom home page:

The message "No posts yet, but check back soon" indicates that I (as the teacher) haven't yet posted messages, announcements, photos, or assignments within Classroom.  It also indicates that I (as a student), haven't commented or shared content on this page, either. Posts by teachers and students will appear on this screen unless teachers adjust the permission settings which will prevent them from being published/shared.  This home or "stream" page can become congested rather quickly, full of text that many kindergarteners themselves won't be able to read. I don't plan on posting much here, and I will be toggling off the appropriate settings button so that every activity I assign won't appear here in an overwhelming list.  Perhaps this page is where I can post a daily learning plan as an announcement instead, and eventually, with lots of guidance and practice, students can respond to content, but my brain isn't ready to tackle that particular adventure just yet.

Clicking on the three horizontal bars in the upper left corner brings up this submenu:

Within this submenu, tapping: 

"Classes" takes me right back to my Kindergarten Remote Learning class.  If I'm enrolled in other classes, their headers/banners would show up so I could select the one I wanted to access.

"Calendar" produces this iTunes and web browser rabbit hole that kindergarteners don't need to fiddle with:

"To-do" takes students to the To-do page, where buttons/tabs appear at the top for work that is "Assigned," "Missing," and "Done." I haven't yet assigned grades to the activities I completed as a student, so I don't know if a "grades" column will be displayed for students.  Teeny tiny arrow up/arrow down buttons to the right of the list allow you to expand or collapse the categories that appear (assignments, or "this week," "next week," or "later:")

"Kindergarten Remote Learning," the name of my Classroom, takes me right back to the main page where the "Stream," "Classwork" and "People" buttons appear at the bottom. 

"Classroom folders" takes a student to their Google Drive via a web browser, where s/he/they will see the class folder.  Clicking on the titled folder opens it and displays all of the assignments/items shared by the teacher.  After only a few days, I imagine this can become a bit crazy to navigate, though the icons are easy to view.  I don't know that I'd ever tell a kindergartener to go into their Google Drive and start hunting and pecking, and I'm not sure parents will be able to avoid being overwhelmed by traveling along this route, either. Using the back arrows at the top of the screen only allows navigation within the browser, so students will have to click the "home" button on the iPad to leave the browser and then find the app icon to return to Google Classroom.

If subfolders aren't created and organized within the Classroom folder (my Classroom is named "Kindergarten Remote Learning"), the photo below shows what students and families will see. I have spent some time trying to create subfolders as a student within my Classroom folder on the iPad this weekend and frankly, I don't recommend it.  Perhaps older students can organize their Drives in a logical manner and with the help of their teachers, but kindergarten students and families may need to be told to simply ignore the Classroom Folder link in the Classroom submenu. Just view assignments using the To-do tab, and avoid the Drive. 

Everything pops up, and this screen is only one day's worth of activities that I've assigned. Remember:  students don't have to open up their Google Classroom's folder via Google Drive in order to access their assignments.  They can simply click on the "To-do" button in the submenu that appears on the Google Classroom homepage via the three horizontal bars in the upper left corner. I just wanted to show you the Google Drive rabbit hole that they (and parents) will encounter if they tap on the "Classroom folder" link in the Classroom's submenu.  

"Settings" opens up options such as "About" (the app's legalese), "Account Settings" (the Google user's info, sign-in and security, personal info/email and account preferences), "Default apps" that includes "get" buttons for other browsers and recommendations for other apps, "Report crashes," "Notifications," and "Google Usage ID," none of which I'd want kindergarteners fiddling with.

DO familiarize yourself with the "Account Settings" link though, because there's a "Remove account from this device" prompt at the bottom of the screen:

Tapping on the prompt produces this pop-up:

Goodness gracious.

Student access to settings and sending Google feedback aren't necessary for kindergarten.  Their parents will be the ones accessing the "Help" button, but there's quite a bit of info within that particular submenu that isn't applicable to parents or students, such as "Grade and give feedback," "Communicate with guardians," "G Suite administrators" and other "teachers only" information.  Goodness, the rabbit holes. 

Finally, when we're back on the Classroom homepage, where "Stream," "Classwork" and "People" buttons appear at the bottom, the "People" tab brings up a list of teachers and I'm assuming other classmates.  When I click on my (teacher) name, no pop-up window appears, so it doesn't seem to be a communication link.


As a reminder, I held the student iPad upright, in the portrait position for this navigation tour.  Holding the device in the landscape position simply shortens and widens the screen display.  No button, tab, or submenu locations change or have to be tracked down in some other place. 

Now that you've endured eye-strain and my overuse of "rabbit holes," "goodness gracious," and "fiddling," I'll save showing you how a Google Slide activity assigned in Classroom accessed by students via an iPad may confuse them with a preview of that activity in PDF form (that is also editable and submittable) rather than going directly into Slides itself for another blogpost.

Okie dokie, artichoke-y?