Some thoughts on a developing workflow – Google #Classroom and #GAFE

Some thoughts on a developing workflow – Google #Classroom and #GAFE

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It is nearly the end of my first term at my new school and Google Classroom and other apps are fully embedded in my subject for years 7 – 13. I thought it was a good time to reflect on some of the successes and issues still to be resolved in my workflow using Google Apps for Education.

Keeping in touch

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Given the large number of students I teach and the fact I’m usually split across two campuses each day it’s important that I’m easily reachable by students if they need to ask a question about class or homework. Younger year groups are, I’ve found, much happier to communicate by public or private Classroom comment whereas older students still prefer face-to-face communication. Perhaps this is linked to the KS3 work on Digital Citizenship this term.

I found that successful communication relies not only on the teacher and student checking their email regularly but also directed use of notifications within Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, etc. For example I wondered why students did not respond when I shared PDF files of their commented class tests and, of course, it is because they do not check their Google Drive regularly for updated content. After discussing this with my senior students we decided to try a “notifications” Google Doc where I could post a message linking to a new file. I realise I could post a message on Google Classroom but this would (a) not be specific to the student and (b) fill the timeline. It’s a real shame Google Docs does not allow posting of comments onto non-Google Apps files but I might have to check out this documentation to see if I can write a script to send out notifications in future.

Note that I am not using email directly, but instead relying on notifications that students receive via email. This allows me to keep track of the feedback given in the student document. If I can’t comment directly in the document I use Notability to annotate and then share the file back to the student via Google Drive.

I’m happy with the return functionality in Google Classroom as it allows me to communicate the grade and any feedback to my students however students are still having an issue with Turn In / Hand In – instead alternating between this and Sharing the document with the class teacher. I’m testing out a mechanism where the homework is contained within a Google Form and successful completion of the form (as long as you set it so it cannot be edited once complete) forces Classroom to mark the assignment as complete.

Sharing class tasks

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I love using Classroom as a way of keeping student submissions together but wish I could hide a post from the timeline or mark it as reviewed. My standard is to mark all homework tasks as “Homework x: …” so that students can differentiate between what is due to be submitted from home and what is to be accessed and completed in class. I also would like to be able to override a student Turn In status if they have not completed the task or, if they hand it in using a different mechanism, change the status for them.

I’m also developing the way students access information related to their class task. Initially I used Google Classroom to store all files associated with the task but – and this might be due to slow Internet connections – the assignment task does not always display all files linked with it. Over the weekend I created some assignments in Google Slides and have embedded a link to the information sheet into the slideshow, just to see if this makes any difference.

Recently due to days out of school I have left printed copies of work for some students. These are later digitised using a photocopier that scans to PDF before emailing the documents to me. I would like to further automate this process to move the documents from my email into a specific folder in Google Drive for marking.

Organising feedback

I work on a no paper system wherever possible and this includes providing students with feedback. It is not practical given the number of workbooks I would have to move between campuses. Marking paper submissions on location is near impossible given the tight transit times between classes.

When students fill in Google Forms they have the option to have a copy of their responses sent to them. However this doesn’t include any feedback from the class teacher. My aim is to work on a mechanism to automatically convert Google Form submissions to individual Google Docs so that I can provide feedback back to the students and use the direct notification process (+emailaddress) to highlight this to them.

I would also like to know that students have taken the time to regularly reflect on the feedback given from all tasks. At the moment I’m speaking to students in class about their work in general based upon my observations of their homework, classwork or assessment tasks but would like to be able to have more information from the student in advance of these discussions without having to create separate Google Forms for each task.

This reflection journal would be updated by the student after receiving feedback from the teacher. They would include a link to any reference document e.g. homework or class test, a summary of the feedback given, and their reflections on what can be done in order to improve. I’d also like to be able to access these files from a central list – perhaps a Google Sheet – which can detect and colour code journals which have been updated since the last time I accessed the list.

I’d welcome any comments on the above workflow or clever suggestions of scripts or plugins that would simplify any of the processes!

#Google #Classroom for building Digital Citizenship

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Thanks to Pixabay.com: image link

The term has started here in Milan and I want to have a safe area for students to collaborate and comment and develop the way they respond to other users on the Internet before we move on to other, more public, mediums.

I decided to use Google Classroom because the school is already signed up to GAFE – mainly for email purposes, but they are also keen to develop their use of Drive and other apps available to them.

I thought about setting up individual groups for each class – for example I teach 3 year 8 and 3 year 9 classes. In the end I decided to keep it simple and created one per year group. Why? I wanted dialogue across the 3 classes and felt that, as the students were still all within the same school, I could easily monitor and react to any misuse of the site.

The school are also keen to use Classroom for issuing homework tasks (must investigate Charlie Love’s calendar script for broadcasting this from a central calendar) so I delivered an introductory demo to staff just a few days after starting work at the school! The SMT are also keen to have an overview of groups across the school – this would be useful for parent meetings certainly.

Some students are already embracing the communication aspect. After a few garbled “test” posts (which I quickly deleted) all was quiet until Saturday morning when one student asked a question about the homework task. Usually it would be left to me to respond but, before I had a chance, two other students in the same year had replied in order to help. The conversation continued until the first student understood fully and I took the chance to thank his peers for their help.

Today there were a few posts from another student who was having difficulty with another of the logic problems in the homework. I was happy to see the student who had received help on the previous day was first to respond with a detailed description of the mechanics of the problem (without giving away the answer!).

I’m hopeful that this helpful dialogue will continue but feel that, as well as an acknowledgement message from me in the group, the assistance given by the students should be recognised through the merit system that exists in the physical classroom. I’m looking forward to visiting their form classes tomorrow with the merit slips and hope it sets them up for a great week.

I think that by consistently applying the set behaviour system (for good and bad) in both the physical and virtual areas of the school community we might begin to dismantle the idea some hold that the Internet is somewhere you can say and do what you like without fear of being identified or punished. And if we can do that by highlighting the moments where students have taken the time to respond respectfully and helpfully, so much the better.

Transferring ownership in #Google Drive #GAFE

In a few days I will be leaving my current school and want to ensure that the work I have curated, created and shared via Google Drive over the past four years does not disappear into the digital ether.

A few weeks ago I began to investigate how to backup Google Apps for Education emails, drive files, photos, etc and discovered Google Takeout. It’s a neat service that worked in the background to create 2GB segments of my work which could be downloaded. It worked really well: converting Google Docs, Sheets and Slides into Microsoft Office compatible files, extracting email into an MBOX readable format. I may not need to use all the files and the emails are purely for reference but I felt a lot better having a non-cloud backup, just in case.

Transferring ownership is very easy as long as you have the email address of someone within the same GAFE organisation. The most efficient method is to use the GAFE admin console which is the only way to transfer ALL files to another user quickly.

However it isn’t quite as quick and easy as you might think: The alternative is to transfer ownership of each file individually! For someone who has kept three or four folders for each of the “strands” of my role – Computing Teacher, eLearning Coordinator, CAS Aberdeen hub chair, Form teacher, etc. there doesn’t appear to be any easy fix via the Admin console – unless there was only one person taking over all of the folders (there isn’t). Transferring ownership of a parent folder does not automatically transfer ownership of all other files and, once my account is deleted, the files are removed from the folder owned by the new user.

There is a simple solution to this – keep files related to departments in dummy department accounts e.g. computingdept and elearning for example. This means that, when personnel changes happen, it is a simple matter of removing the share from the old user and then sharing the folder with their replacement.

You will have to remember to create all files while logged in as the department account too – otherwise the GAFE admin console is still required to transfer ownership from the user to the department account.

Heather Dowd’s video below explains clearly how to go through the process of transferring folders and files to another user and makes use of a dummy “curriculum” account too:

Here are other elements you might have to consider:

  1. Remember to transfer ownership of Google Sites, G+ communities and YouTube channels as well!
  2. Should you deactivate any live Google Forms before transferring ownership?
  3. What happens to comments created by a user who is then deleted from the GAFE system?
  4. Is this something that can be scripted and run by GAFE Administrators prior to a user leaving the domain?
  5. Is Google Takeout a suitable option for students who have built up a lot of data over the course of their time at the school? Should there be a data retention policy so that storage is cleared every few years?
  6. Should you keep your sub-folders to a minimum in order to reduce the time required to transfer ownership? (I know I’m regretting being organised now!)
#GAFE Google Mail Tip – Filtering out calendar RSVPs

#GAFE Google Mail Tip – Filtering out calendar RSVPs

Email invites and responses can very quickly clog up your inbox. The following guide explains how to redirect or archive some of these. Be careful (if adapting this filter) not to accidentally filter out the invitations from others!

In Google Mail type the following in the search bar:

(subject:”declined:” OR subject:(“accepted:”) OR subject:(“maybe:”)) has:attachment invite.ics

Then click on the drop-down arrow to the right of the search box and select “Create filter with this search”

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Tick or make a selection in the appropriate boxes and then click on “Create filter”.

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All future email invitation responses will be filtered according to your settings.

To fork or not to fork: Should there be only one way to share digital resources in a school?

Image by Chris Pluta, CC0

My current school is in the midst of a digital revolution thanks to the 1:1 iPad rollout and Google Apps for Education installation. There are so many options open to staff and students with regards to sharing the digital resources they have curated or created and while this is great for choice and accessibility it can also become a mess of misconceptions, policy conflicts and training needs.

During the pilot with our S3 students I’ve been deliberately hands-off and encouraged experimentation within departments. In January I launched a more formal option (not policy) where teachers were given a structure to work with in Google Drive where they could receive or view work created by students in their class. I’ve received very few comments at all about it but know that more and more subject areas are using Google Drive for sharing resources and receiving student work back. Other options are still being used (and I think it is important to allow this to continue) but I want to provide staff, students and parents with a baseline – a method that can be easily implemented in classrooms but that can also be built upon or adapted with the consensus of individual classes (and by that I mean both students and teachers).

Digital is an abstract medium for many and asking staff or students to suddenly begin to utilise this way of working over and above all others can cause confusion, hit confidence and increase resistance towards future workflow changes. Experimentation followed by discussion on the pros and cons of different systems can help build a more robust workflow that is more immediately useful to a larger number of individuals within the school. I am confident that the discussion to come in the next few weeks will become strong foundations for policy that has been created from the bottom up and is based upon experience rather than sales pitch. However I have a concern that one way of sharing digital resources is not best for all and, very like the variety of subject areas and specialisms in the education system, the standard policy will need to be forked (to use GitHub terminology) to suit other areas.

Perhaps using GitHub is a way forward for school or educational authority policies? The system offers clarity, accountability, accessibility and flexibility. I’d be interested to hear if other schools are allowing departments to remix standard policies (with permission of course) to best suit the educational needs of the student and – like Christopher Ritter – use a service like GitHub to record and approve the changes.