Moving Mountains

This past weekend has been fraught with dreams in which I was unable to control anything around me.  Having a background in psychology and an interest in dream interpretation, I took that to mean that I was internalizing a bunch of stress because I was locked out of my TodaysMeet account that I created using my GAFE credentials.  I previously posted my frustrations because this is not the first time that I have had to go WAY of out my way to get access to a technology tool that in all reality should be open.
And just to make things clear.  TodaysMeet was not blocked by my district’s firewall.  But I was unable to get the password reset email from TodaysMeet because we are unable to receive emails from outside of our domain.  
Because of my panicked emails which I sent to the Powers-that-Be, I started my day with a phone call from our Director of Technology who then spoke with “someone” in IS.  And within five minutes (I’m not exaggerating)…someone from IS called my room.  They wanted to see what was happening on my end.  
It was interesting to watch them work through all of the possible solutions to rectify my problem (we were screen-sharing).  But I know a little about technology, so I tried to troubleshoot things on my end before I sent the email last Friday.  I even troubleshooted this weekend on my home computer using my own network thinking that it was a district firewall issue.
And it was.  
It turns out that the password email I sent last Friday, prompted TodaysMeet to not accept my username/password combination even though I knew it was the right one.  The problem was that my GAFE account could not receive the password reset email from TodaysMeet because they are outside of our domain.
I asked if IS could somehow for one hour lift the ban on outside entities sending to my GAFE account so that I could see if TodaysMeet actually sent me a password reset email. I was told (by two very patient IS techs) that that kind of request needed to go up much higher than them.  They mentioned something about the Assistant Director of IT or even our Cabinet (we’re talking all of the Assistant Supts AND the Superintendent) being the only ones who could approve that kind of request.  
Geesh.  Things were getting serious.
I told the two IS techs that this was an expedited request because I needed the transcripts from my TodaysMeet classes for my CUE presentation.  I told them that it didn’t really matter if I could use my GAFE account ever again with TodaysMeet…I just needed the transcripts.  
They said they would try their best.
About 15 minutes later, my phone rang again.  It was the two techies from IS.  They asked me to check my GAFE email.  
My latest email was from TodaysMeet with a link to reset my password.
What?!?!
So, I immediately reset my password and logged in to my TodaysMeet account.  I finally had access to my transcripts.  I.mean.seriously.  Someone moved mountains for me.  And believe me when I say that I’m so very grateful.  
I have so many people to thank…starting with the two techies in IS (D+G), my principal, the Director of Technology, the Assistant Superintendent, and whomever gave the GREEN LIGHT to let an outside entity send an email to my GAFE account.  
All is right with the world again.
I’m pretty sure I’m going to sleep much better tonight. 

Foiled Again

My district is the perfect reason why you want your IT and IS departments to communicate.  One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing and doesn’t bother to figure how to work together to give our students and teachers the best learning opportunities possible.

To begin, my district doesn’t have a designated instructional technology department anymore.  We used to.  Before the whole technology revolution.  But when we needed it the most, it was quietly disbanded.  Instead, we have our IS department who are the gate-keepers to the outside world.  Everything that we want access to needs to be run through them.  We have to send them an email, cc our principal and then “someone” in IS will make the determination if that site is worthy to be unblocked.  I get that we need to have a firewall.  I also understand the need to have filters on our content…after all we are a K-12 district.

But here’s the frustration.  We are a GAFE district.  Hold your applause.  It took a few people FOREVER to convince IS (and perhaps our Powers-that-Be) that being a GAFE district would actually be a good thing for the learning process.  (This is not the blog post to go into the nitty-gritty, but let’s just say that THAT was an exercise in frustration.)

But I digress.

Here’s my frustration.  My district’s firewall blocks Twitter.  No biggie.  So do a lot of other districts.  So I found a tech tool that mimics Twitter but without the world-wide audience.  That I could deal with.  I teach middle school…I get it.  Enter TodaysMeet.  I’ve been using TodaysMeet for several years.  I mainly use it as a backchannel to gauge student understanding and learning.  I mostly used it when showing video clips so that all students had a voice.  I found a creative way to get students engaged in the learning process because they could see a live feed of their peer’s responses (enter #hashtags).  In TodaysMeet, I was able to keep transcripts for further review.

Last summer, during our week long PD session for my district, I introduced TodaysMeet as a backchannel for PD and also as a way for teachers to use it in their classrooms.  I received positive feedback from teachers because they saw this as an easy way to engage students in the learning process.

I shared my student work in TodaysMeet at several PD sessions that week.  I continued to tout the benefits of using TodaysMeet at workshops during the school year.  I even used transcripts from TodaysMeet in webinars and sessions that I presented to educators outside of my district.  In other words, I am a fan of TodaysMeet.

Then walked in reality.  I was unable to access transcripts when the TodaysMeet rooms closed.  But the solution was to purchase a subscription (at $5 a month) to have access to all transcripts basically in perpetuity.  I decided that that was the best option since I planned to use these transcripts to not only document student learning but also as something to share in future PD.

Did I mention that I’m presenting at CUE next week?  This is my second year and I’m so excited to share the hard work of my students.  Then came the blow.  I planned to use TodaysMeet yesterday with my students.  I went to set up the classrooms and I found that I couldn’t log in.  I figured, no biggie.  I’ll just have my password reset.  I waited for the email to arrive to my GAFE account.  Nothing.  I had the password reset email sent again.  Nothing.  Then it occurred to me…we cannot receive emails from outside of our domain.

Argh!

That prompted me to send an email to our Help Desk (the gate-keepers) tell them that I cannot access my TodaysMeet account because apparently our GAFE domain “does not support connecting a TodaysMeet account.”  But it used to.  So, really what it should have said was “Your GAFE domain NO LONGER supports connecting a TodaysMeet account.”  Did I mention that I have a paid subscription?  And that I’d been using my GAFE account with TodaysMeet since September?

Door closed.  Shut-out.

Oh, but I wasn’t done.  I sent the email to the Help Desk and received what was probably an auto-generated email with my ticket number and the message that someone would get to me as soon as it is possible.  Well, let me tell you…this isn’t my first time at the rodeo.  “As soon as it is possible” could mean several days or even weeks…believe me, I’ve been there.

I don’t have that kind of time.  CUE starts next Thursday.  I’m presenting Saturday.

I decided to email a couple of people who are higher up than the Help Desk.  My plea was that I’ve not only been using this tech tool all year, but that I have a paid subscription to something that I no longer have access to.  I can’t even cancel my paid subscription.  And perhaps more importantly, I need those transcripts as I planned to use them for my CUE presentation.  I mean…is this seriously happening to me right now?  (I didn’t write that last sentence in the email…)

Just when I think things are finally going in the right direction for my district (technology-wise), something like this happens.  But I’m not giving up.  I can’t.

But for the moment, I’m left waiting.

Mentally Taxed

Yesterday I introduced Google Classroom to my students.  It was hit or miss.  Mostly miss.  Students were able to log in.  But when accessing the assignment, it opened up for some but not others.  I deleted and reloaded the assignment on two occasions between periods to try to fix that issue.  But what happened is…is that some classes still had the non-working assignment, others had the new and improved one…and here’s the catch…Classroom then created a [template] in my Classroom folder of that assignment.  What.the.heck?

I was so frustrated with Classroom by the end of the day that I didn’t know what I was going to do today.  I posted a question in the G+Classroom community last night and received several responses over the past 24 hours.  This is what I love about educators…they are so willing to share their insight, experience, and suggestions.  =)

I thought today was going to be a new day.  I had made up my mind to use gClass folders because what I find to be the most powerful aspect about the whole Google suite is the collaborative portion.  Classroom pushes out assignments to each student, but I prefer to have them talking, working, arguing, corroborating…all skills of a historian.

It wasn’t that easy.  I changed the response destination for the GoogleForm entries (GAFE Sign-Ups).  And for the life of me, I couldn’t find the entries anywhere.  It was the weirdest thing.  Actually it was the most frustrating thing.  Good thing that my students are able to already work independently and problem-solve technical issues with their iPads.  Because I could not handle one more thing.

I solved the issue by creating a completely new GoogleForm.  Things started to go pretty smoothly by 4th period.  Students were logging in to Classroom via Chrome.  They were able to “Turn In” the assignment.  I could see their work in progress.  Life was good.

Until 5th period.

Google Classroom decided that it didn’t want to work.  We tried Chrome.  We tried Safari.  Google itself worked.  Just not Google Classroom.  I had maybe six students who were able to log in to work on the assignment.  The rest?  Well, bless their hearts.  They were so patient and sweet.  I was so proud of them.  Because in my head, I was losing it again.  It put me right back to Period 2 when NOTHING worked.  I had already taken something for my headache.  Did I mention that it was also in the high 90s?  And that I don’t have air-conditioning?  This is why I was so proud of my students.   We were melting…and GClassroom wasn’t helping the stress level…

And then 6th period started.  Classroom decided to play nice.  Students were logging in through Safari and Chrome.  They were completing the assignment, I was watching their progress in Drive.  Most were able to turn it in.  Life was finally back on track.

I can’t explain technology.  I can’t explain why it works during one period and not the next.  I don’t know why some students are unable to log in to the GAFE account even when selecting the “Add Account” option.  It’s weird.  It’s odd.  And it’s completely frustrating.

Having said all that…I’m not giving up.  I already ran the gClass script for my kiddoes.  The Spread of Islam (Movement) assignment had already been distributed to the appropriate Tables and Periods.  We just need technology to cut us some slack.  We’ve lost almost two days of instruction due to technical issues with Google and Google Classroom.  It’s time to get back on track.  Both with technology and our pacing.