Saturday, May 10, 2014

Google Classroom

Earlier this week, Google announced the upcoming release of Google Classroom. Details are sketchy so far, but it promises to do a lot of the tasks that have been arduous to do manually, and have been addressed by scripts like gClassFolders. Sharing folders, creating assignments, garnering feedback, and providing feedback.

I'm very excited. Within minutes of discovering the release, I signed up for an invitation to try it out. I'm eagerly awaiting the day when I get the chance to try it out for myself.
Image: OpenClipArt
But what will this mean for script developers like New Visions for Public Schools? Or for companies like Hapara? These tools have been developed to address these needs, and in my experience work quite well. Sure, using scripts can be more difficult than using the Teacher Dashboard, but then, I've always been interested in that kind of stuff.

I see this move as having both benefits and drawbacks. 

Until Google Classroom is released for all Google Apps for Education domains, I don't think it will gain a strong foothold. I've seen tools and technology unused or under-used because of the unavailability or poor quality of instruction available to educators. As a community who plans ahead, educators will likely take some time to get a feel for how the tools work before jumping in with both feet. And that's a good thing; we are tasked with developing learning environments that support and extend student understanding and nurtures curiosity. Frustration with new tools that don't work as expected can be more damaging than holding off until the tools are understood.

I'm an early adopter. I've always been enthusiastic to try out the newest toys, experiment with (and sometimes on) my class, and to learn from mistakes as I make them. I'm currently working on scripts that will tie Google Drive and Google Sites more closely, since I saw a need and felt that I could and should address it.

So within the new ecosystem of Google Classroom, where is the room for educator-innovators? In the Google+ Community for Apps Scripts for Education - Builders and Users+Andrew Stillman asked the following question: "How can Google, the non-profit orgs, districts, and teachers combine efforts to ensure this sharing can continue and be well-enough rewarded so that we can attract and retain talented contributors to this alternate model to the edtech startup incubator?"

I'm extremely curious to see what the future holds. There are currently 2 880 members in the G+ Community (at the time of writing), and I'm confident many of them are curious, too.

Will there be room to support this small-but-growing community of EdTech Innovators?

I hope so.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Transferring your Site out of your Domain

In the near future, my organization will be transferring Google accounts to a new domain. This will help streamline our organization, keep everyone within the same sphere (right now there is a division between faculty and administration), and mean that work that has been done within our domain needs to be migrated to the new accounts.
Migration can be a bit less chaotic than this.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

At the time of writing, Google Takeout currently supports 19 Google products, which will undoubtably help with the transition. LifeHacker has a good instruction manual for doing this (scroll down to the bottom to see how to use Takeout in particular).

However, Google Sites does not appear on the list. This could be a problem, since we have started a long-term project of using Sites to create digital portfolios for students.

Image: Flickr user Martin Lafrance
I have put together a short document outlining the process of transferring a Google Site outside of your domain. Please keep in mind that links to items hosted in Google Drive will probably need to be updated once you've migrated your Drive data to your new account. This is where keeping your stuff organized will really help. Use the settings options for each embedded item or linked item, and choose the version hosted by your new account to configure things properly.

Google Takeout can help your migration of Google Drive between accounts at different domains. This might be easier than trying to make copies of everything manually (in fact, I'm confident that it will be easier). Sites just requires a bit of manual manipulation, but it is certainly possible.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Getting rid of a virus in Chrome

Okay, I just wanted to get your attention with that title. It's not really a virus. Rather, it's unwanted pop-up ads put into Chrome browser by an extension or theme that I just couldn't seem to get rid of.

Here's the scenario: one of my students showed me that every time she opened Chrome browser, a bunch of pop-up ads cluttered up her screen. There were ads on both the left and right sides, and one at the bottom. There's nothing that irritates me in quite the same way as intrusive unwarranted pop-ups that are difficult to remove. There's just something about it that gets under my skin.

So I started investigating. If you right-click on anything in Chrome browser, you can choose to "inspect element." What that will do is show you some of the actual code that's going into what you're seeing. This turned out to be useful (and it wasn't the first thing I tried; it was the first thing that worked), since it showed me the source of the ads: something called Superfish. Apparently it can get worse that what my student was facing (I'll be sure to let her know just how lucky she was).
This fish is really not that super.

This is apparently something that gets piggybacked in on other Chrome extensions and themes. I had checked all of the student's enabled extensions and themes, and tried to remove all of them. Unfortunately, the theme causing the problems ended up being very persistent; it didn't want to be disabled, deleted, or tinkered with in any way.

I tried signing out. I tried deleting the Chrome preferences file (an old OS X trick that sometimes works). The problem is that Chrome associates your preferences with your profile, not with your computer. Okay, that's not really a problem - it's actually one of the things I love about Chrome. It just means that treating this the same way I'd try to treat a computer virus wouldn't work.

What ended up doing the trick was opening up the Chrome settings. At the bottom of the page, there's a link to show more advanced settings. Clicking on that reveals more options, and scrolling down to the bottom of that window reveals the magic button: "Reset browser settings." This warned me that I'd lose all my bookmarks and extensions (but that was kind of the point, so I didn't mind). I did it, then had my student sign back into Chrome once more.

But, lo and behold, it didn't lose all her bookmarks. It did disable all the extensions, but by this point I had gotten rid of everything, so that wasn't an issue. But it solved the problem! Hooray!

I hope if you face a similar situation, this bit of insight might help.