Sunday, March 8, 2015


Tell me, class, what do we know about pioneers? 
(which pioneers? ANY pioneers!

They had it rough! They had to start pretty much everything from scratch. They might not have had all the tools they needed to get the job done, but they improvised, and they made do. They might not have had the knowledge they needed to succeed, but they learned - often the hard way - and they overcame their difficulties! Was being a pioneer easy? No way! But the amount of knowledge and skills they learned and mastered was immense, and in the end they were better off for their efforts!!

Over the past few weeks, we've been trying new things with our devices (both new-to-us as a class and new-to-us as a school) and there has been a lot of frustration. When things weren't working, when the connection was flaky, when webpages wouldn't load, when we didn't know what to click, I kept having to tell my students: we are pioneers.

Our journey has not been easy...

With the receipt of a class set of tablets from ORION, suddenly everyone was connected. Our plans seemed fairly simple: get the students connected with Google accounts so we could do things like share photos through Picasa, use Google Drive efficiently, and blog about our Genius Hour progress using Blogspot. 

But there was something I kept forgetting about the difference between our "simple" plans and reality:

It took at least a day to get everyone registered on their own tablet and connected to the school network (which was originally blocking all the unknown devices).

It took at least a day of troubleshooting to get everyone successfully on Gmail, as many of my students had never had an email account.

It took three days to get Blogger/blogspot unblocked at our school.

It took a week between the school board then telling me that students shouldn't have their own Google accounts (they should have board Google accounts), providing me with the new account names and passwords, and our students actually being able to log in.

This was when most of the frustration set in: issues with initially logging in, classroom icons not appearing, mail icons taking you to external apps instead of back to Gmail, me not being able to see Blogger (but my students could?), browsers being already unsupported for GAFE... many students started giving up. When they got bored, the games came out, and it took a lot of convincing to get people back on track and actually trying things.

"Break it," I'd tell them. "Break Google. Click on anything you can find and figure out what it does."

But then things slowly started to change.

One pioneer changed his profile picture, and many others followed suit. Yay!

Two of our pioneers discovered that typing in "" will take you to where students could access my class, which got around us not being able to get to the Classroom icon. Hoorah!
Using the tablets during Genius Hour
A silly trial assignment posted within the Classroom environment had students helping each other out with how to "complete" it. Sigh of relief!
Using the tablets to connect to online resources to help learn.

We discovered that (default for Blogger blogs) is still blocked, but (which takes you to the same blog) is unblocked. Phew!

Blogging with the tablets 
I played too - customized the header for our Google Classroom, and tried sending emails to my students through the board accounts. There was lots of public trial and error on my part, as well as me continually walking around and asking "hey - how'd you do that??" 

Our class' cover page in Google Classroom

Now we move forward...

Now that we are all connected, we are moving forward at a great pace. Students are consistently using their tablets to connect to our online resources, create blogs for their projects, and reach collaborative documents through our virtual classroom.

Getting everything set up was a painful process, but the students now demonstrate great familiarity with the tablets, and are starting to create amazing things online (which I hope to be able to share soon). They demonstrated resilience and ingenuity, and they started turning to each other for help, which was wonderful to see. 

While we're done pioneering for the time being, I'm hoping the students will be a little more likely to take risks with new technology in the future - a skill that is very much transferable as they become 21st Century learners.


  1. Thanks for sharing the journey of moving your class to a connected learning environment Heather. You showed great perseverance in solving along the journey. I look forward to following along the learning journey of your class. ~Mark

    1. Thanks, Mark! I find it's much harder to blog about when things don't go smoothly, but it really helps the reflection process and it makes me realize what is also going well! These are pretty exciting times :)

  2. You are sharing about learning in a real context. I think that is a VERY important part of the process Heather. ~Mark

  3. Heather-
    I think that what you and your students are doing is very brave. You truly are all "pioneers" and I know that I will be learning from your experiences. You are modelling perseverance and this is extremely important. Perhaps the most important lessons of grit, determination and resilience are more valuable than the actual curriculum. I look forward to learning from your sharing.

    1. Thank you, Stacey! We are most certainly learning from our experiences, and hopefully helping to pave the way for other classes in the future. At the very least, I hope my students are more likely to try (clicking) different things in order to figure out something new :)


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