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.

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