5 Googly Tips for Using Drive in an iPad Classroom

What I’m Thinking About…

One of my English-teacher obsessions is getting student papers—now documents—organized before I go through them. This is akin to clearing off kitchen counters and doing the dishes before cooking a meal.  I can’t get started assigning or assessing student work until I have decent system in place.

This fall’s 1:1 iPad rollout prompted two big changes to my system. First, my students now have access to technology all the time, so we have gone pretty much paperless. Second, Google apps work differently on iPads than they do with Chromebooks. The student workflow has completely changed.

For this blog post, I’ve tried to narrow down the five most important things I’ve learned about getting organized with Google Drive when students are using iPads.

Getting Started

If you haven’t already done so, students should download Chrome, Drive, and Docs from the App Store. As I mentioned in a previous post, you have to download all Google Apps separately for use on the iPhone or iPad. Sadly, iPad users still can’t access the new Google Sites or Google Drawing. There isn’t an app for Google Forms, but you can access that using Chrome. I’ll talk about that workaround in another post.

Next, you have a decision to make: Do you want to use Google Classroom, or do you want to stick with the learning management system you already know and love? Google Classroom, while it has a few glitches on the iPad, mostly solves management issues like naming, organizing, and sharing Google Docs. I recommend taking the plunge. However, you absolutely do not need Google Classroom to have a manageable workflow in your classroom.

For teachers who are not using Google Classroom or for those who need some additonal tools, this post offers some ways for you to make sure you can find, view, and comment on student work in a timely manner. In my own teaching, I use Google Classroom for most assignments, but I still teach students the following systems. I want them to be independent users of technology—some classes will use Google Classroom but the vast majority won’t. If we want our students to be proficient users of digital technology, they need to understand how to name, organize and share files.

5 Tips for Using Google Drive with iPads

1) Use a Naming Protocol

Teach students a naming protocol for their files. I use this format: Period Last Name First Name Assignment (e.g., 4 Austen Jane Name Essay). Most students need repeated practice with this but they will get it eventually. Trust me, go slow and repeat yourself often.

The beauty of this format is you can use the search box in Drive to find assignments by the students name or assignment title. I often move all assignments shared with me into a special assignment folder. Then, I can organize the files by period and last name. This makes it faster to assess and add points to the grade book.

IPAD TEACHER TIP: Unlike on a computer or Chromebook, to rename a Doc on an iPad, you have to close the document. You can rename your Doc from Drive or from the Docs app, but not from the open document.

How to Rename a Doc (or Slide or Sheet) on an iPad:

  • From the open Doc, press the back arrow.

  • From Docs (or Drive), press the three horizontal dots and choose Rename.

  • Type the assignment title. My recommended format is Period Last Name First Name Assignment Title (e.g., 3 Dickens Charles Narrative).

2) Have Students Create and Share Subject Folders

Most teachers hate recieving email notifications every time their students share a document. No one likes to open an email inbox to find 165 or more emails. This is what happens to most secondary teachers every time they ask students to share Google Docs with them. My workaround has three steps:

First, students make subject folders in Google Drive.

  • To make a folder, open the Drive app and press the plus.

  • Choose folder and name the folder following a standard format, such as Period Subject Last Name First Name (e.g., 4 English Austen Jane).

  • Press Create.

Second, students share the folder with the teacher.

  • In Drive, press the three dots by the folder’s name.
  • Choose Add People.
  • Type the teacher’s email.

  • The default sharing is “can edit,” which is symbolized by a pencil icon. After typing the teacher’s email, press the “send” icon (looks like a paper airplane).
  • As a final step, check the sharing settings to make sure the teacher will see your work. Press the three dots next to the folder and choose Add People. If you shared correctly, you should see the teacher’s profile picture or icon on the lower left.

EXPERT TIP: Students, particularly younger ones, struggle with thist part. They often type the email address wrong, either by misspelling the teacher’s name or the email domain. If students promise they shared with you, but you don’t see the items in your Drive, most of the time, the email address is spelled wrong.

Third, teachers organize student folders by class period. This part is a little bit of work in the beginning of the year, but it will have big payouts later. Admittedly, moving folders and files is easier on a computer than it is on an iPad, but it is good for teachers to practice with student devices. In that spirit, here is how you organize student folders using an iPad.

  • First, in Drive, create folders for each of your class periods. Use a standard format such as this one: 1 English 2017-18, 2 English 2017-18, 3 English 2017-18, etc.
  • Once you have your class folders set up, go to the Shared with me section of Drive. To find it, press the three horizontal lines (upper left) and press Shared with me. You will see all of the folders that have been correctly shared with you.

  • Select the student folders you want. On an iPad, this means you press the grey folder icon (slowly) until it moves to the center-bottom part of the screen (see screenshot below). You can stack several folders at once, so I recommend working with one class period at a time. For example, select all of the folders labeled 1 English Last Name.

  • Next, press the Move icon (a folder with an arrow) and choose My Drive.
  • Open the folder for that class period (e.g., 1 English, 2 English, 3 English, etc.) and press Move Here.
  • Repeat this until all student folders are moved to your Drive.

EXPERT TIP: Getting all of the student folders usually takes a couple of attempts. The first time I go through my shared folders, I expect to have about an 80% success rate. I note the names of students who did not share successfully and follow through the next day. Usually they simply spelled my name wrong! I consider this a learning opportunity. Most students look at me blankly the first time I explain the problem because they truly don’t understand why it is so important to spell the email address correctly. I want them to understand that these kinds of details matter.

3) Teach Students to Create All Assignments from Their Subject Folders

Now that the subject folder has been shared with you, everything inside that folder is automatically shared with you. There is no need for students to share every single time. Plus, teachers can instantly see everything students are working on for that class.

My students need a lot of reminders to start English work in the English folder. This is slightly more complicated when working with iPads because students often start from Docs, not from Drive. I teach students to start from Drive and I model the following steps over and over and over.

How to Start a New Assignment in Google Drive:

  • Open Google Drive.
  • Open your English folder.
  • Press the plus (lower right).
  • Choose Google Docs (or Slides or Sheets).
  • Name the new document using our standard format: Period Last Name First Name Assignment Title
  • Press Create.

4) Organize Student Folders or Docs Before You Grade

In Drive, there are two ways to view your files: Grid view or List view. When it comes to grading student work, I find list view much easier to work with. To get to list view, press the grid in the upper right corner of Drive.

Now you can organize your folders (or files) by name.

  • On an iPad, press the blue Name button or press the AZ icon in the upper right corner.

  • If students followed the naming convention correctly, the folders or files within will be organized according to period number and last name. This makes it much easier to find what you are looking for and to go in the order of your grade book.

EXPERT TIP: If your students are like mine, some of them will not have put a space between the numbers and words. You can either fix it yourself, or even better, ask students to rename with the correct spacing. Again, I want students to understand details matter in writing and when working with technology.

5) Optional Time Saver: Have Students “Turn In” Assignments to a Google Form or Your Learning Management System

Now that the subject folders have been shared, you have access to everything inside those folders. However, it is somewhat annoying to go through each student’s folder one at a time in order to see a particular assignment.

One way to speed this up is to have students copy the link to the current assigmnment in order to “turn it in.” No matter where that link is pasted, you still have access to the assignment. The good part about having links turned in to one place is you can shuffle through the assignmnent without having to open individual student folders.

How to Copy a Link to “Turn In” Your Doc (or Slides or Sheets)

  • Open Google Drive.
  • Open the subject folder.
  • Find the assignment and press the three dots next to the title.
  • Slide Link sharing to On.
  • Press Copy link.

  • Paste the link where directed by the teacher. After you find the location, hold your finger to the blank field and choose Paste.

EXPERT TIP: Whether students are pasting the links to our learning management system or to a Google Form, I ask them to do a bit of reflection on the assignment they are turning in. After they paste the link, students must respond to following questions:

1) In your opinion, what did you do well on this assignment? What are you proud of?

2) What are you still working on? What are you confused about?

3) What kind of feedback do you want from me to help you improve?

My students need support writing reflective statements. They tend to start with this: “I did everything well. I’m confused about spelling. I want help with my spelling.” Not a lot of thought when into those statements. I usually model a few reflective statements and I ask students to look at the scoring guide or criteria chart for ideas on what they did well and what they need to work on. At the very least, the reflective statements are indicative of how students think of themselves as writers. If they have no idea about what they did well and what they need to work on, it probably means they have very little awareness of how writing works.

Closing Thoughts

When I first started teaching, I used a fair amount of instructional minutes teaching students how to format their papers and how to organize their binders and writer’s notebooks. Together, we learned how to write the school heading in the upper right corner, how to number pages in the notebook, and how to make sure papers were hole punched and placed in the correct sections of the binder. Now, all of this happens in Google Drive and Docs.

We often hear about how students are digital natives and, therefore, understand technology better than their teachers. I don’t find that statement to be true. My students usually need a lot of support when it comes to using technology for academic purposes. Yes, it takes time to teach this stuff, but I believe it is time well spent.

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