Canvas for Parents : Accessing and Monitoring

Good afternoon!

Almost all students should now be logged into Canvas on their iPads. There are a few exceptions but we are working actively to remedy any issues on our end to ensure remaining issues are resolved.

I created the video below last year to show Jr. High and High School parents how to sign up for Canvas Parent as we used it for those levels last year. Now that we've gone Canvas school-wide I'm reposting it today with some new information so all parents can get signed up. 

When you get to the "Add Student" option in the app you need to supply your child's Academy email address (it follows a first.last@academyforgod.org pattern) and password.  The passwords per level are below:

Gen A - Focus: acadCanvas

Jr. High - acadStudent or acadStudents (try the other if one doesn't work)

High School - either acadCanvas (for first year students) or a password your child knows

The video is below.  Feel free to pause it and follow along or rewatch it, and please do email me at nate.cameron@academyforgod.org if you get stuck or need any further assistance.

iPad in the Summer Time

Summer has arrived, bringing the lamented cessation of normal class schedules and the use of the iPad in an academic setting. OF COURSE the students still want to use them...for selfies, messaging each other, playing their favorite networked games, reading, checking out that new app, or whatever else they may think of.

They're going to open up their iPad and find the App Store is still off, Safari is blocked, and maybe some other things missing (like iMessage or FaceTime). As parents you need to know we've done this on purpose so that the iPad doesn't become a wide open internet access tool now that school is out. We can, however, enable any of those apps that are blocked for your child, or open the iPad completely, but only at your request.

A student sending a Hangout to a teacher saying, "Please turn on Safari on my iPad," will not do the trick, nor will the student saying, "My mom/dad said it's okay for you to enable Safari on my iPad." 

If you want any of those apps (Safari, iMessage, FaceTime) on for your child(ren) you can email to me at nate.cameron@academyforgod.org stating which apps you want enabled. If you want the iPad clear of all Academy restrictions and blocks that's also fine but know that management of your child's iPad is on you as parents until they return to school. We hope in all this to continue partnering with you over the summer to ensure your children have a positive and safe experience with their iPads.

Thanks for reading and comment below or email with any questions.

Riding the Technological Learning Curve

As you know we've been using Mosyle Manager this semester to help manage the iPads both in the realm of App pushes and Restrictions management.  Overall this has been a positive experience but we recently encountered an issue we need your help with as parents. I'm going to explain what has been happening as clearly as I can.

Basically a teacher might enable Safari on a class's iPads for a class period because they need it for a particular exercise that they will closely monitor. When they do this it overrides the Safari block we keep on the iPads and allows Safari to be seen and used by those students by pushing a special profile to the devices.  When the class ends that profile is supposed to expire and the Safari block profile return to the device.  What can happen, however, is Mosyle attempts to push the Safari block back, but can't because the target iPad is either disconnected from wifi or locked with a passcode.  It can't get around passcodes 

What Mosyle then does in this scenario is persistently push the block profile to the device until it is both connected to wifi and unlocked because the user put in their passcode. If a student doesn't unlock their device for a long time, however, Mosyle's persistent request gets interpreted by Apple as spam and the profile gets stuck in a pending state. The result of this is Safari remaining enabled on iPads that fall into that category. IF the device doesn't have a passcode on it, however, the profile will hit the device when it's connected to wifi, whether that's at the Academy, your home, or Starbucks.

As always we are trying to get ahead of the potential issues stuck profiles can present.  To do so we are now requiring iPads to be passcode free at all times. This will allow the measures we’ve taken to protect your students' iPad experience work most effectively. We will be removing the passcodes during the Beginnings block on Monday morning and disabling the ability to add them back.  Teachers will be reminding their students about the importance of privacy and the necessity to get permission before using another student's iPad for any reason so that the students won't feel violated or vulnerable as a result of this change. This is something they already know but we will ensure it's enforced in light of this new change.

Finally, we want to ask for your further cooperation in this regard in a specific way.  If your child gets home and you see Safari enabled on their iPad and you know its not supposed to be, text 615.933.8766 immediately. Simply include your child's name and something like "Safari is on!" and I'll get it off as quickly as possible. Also go ahead and save that number as it's now the official Academy Tech Support line.  If you need to reach me quickly for any Academy Tech related needs you can text your questions or issues and I will get to them as soon as I can!

As always if you have any questions about the above feel free to email me at nate.cameron@academyforgod.org.

Apple's Newest iPad Aims for the Education Market

One of the tasks I am responsible for as the Technology Specialist at the Academy is to help you all as parents be informed about both the App aspects of the Academy and any info pertinent to the iPad as a manipulative.  The below isn't me attempting to advertise for Apple as much as its my attempt to make sure you're informed in case you're in the market for an iPad for your child.

If you're not a follower of technology news you may be unaware of Apple's most recent iPad offering. They've really upped their focus on education recently with an update Classroom app, a revamped class manager app (iTunes U), and a new iPad that is their most affordable yet.

The newest iPad is simply called "iPad," dropping the numbering sequence that was previously being used.  It's a 9.7 inch version that is much more affordable than Apple's other current offerings.  To give you a sense of what I'm talking about, you can purchase the new iPad in the 32 gig version for $329, whereas an iPad Mini 4 (the year old small version) currently costs $399.

The advantage to the new one is its size, as the bigger one is preferable for most students as they age towards the junior high and high school level (because it allows easier viewing of side by side apps and accommodates larger keyboard cases). To get into the techy details the new iPad has iPad Air 1 internals but with a faster processor and a much better screen. You can see the iPad HERE on Apple's Website.

I'm happy to see Apple narrowing their focus in this regard and wanted to make sure you as parents were aware of this option as it's a good one to consider if you're needing to upgrade a current iPad or needing to buy one for an incoming student.  As always I'm happy to answer any specific questions either through comments on this post or through email at nate.cameron@academyforgod.org.

Thanks for reading! 

When Technology Hiccups

We have had reports from several parents that certain “time-based” profiles on student devices have been recently failing to activate properly.  For example apps that are supposed to be hidden, except for a particular class time, are always available, or Safari is present despite a full-time block applied by the administration.

For the sake of clarity we do block Safari on all iPads full-time.  Teachers are able to override this block for a class period but the block returns when class is over.  Some of you also requested Safari be on at home for your children.  Obviously this doesn’t apply to you.

We have been in communication with Mosyle about this issue and they are working to remedy it presently.  In the meantime we are asking that you check your child(ren)’s iPad(s) when they get home and manually turn Safari off in the Restrictions Settings if you don’t want it on their iPad.

To do that:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select “General”
  3. Scroll to Restrictions
  4. Enter, or create a restrictions code
  5. Turn off Safari and back out of that menu

We will update you when this issue has been resolved and tested.

Finally I wanted to update you all on ScreenGuide (the parent app we initially announced when we migrated to this new system). Mosyle has stated that full compatibility between that app and our school management system will be rolled out in the Fall.

Thank you as always for working with us in protecting your children on their digital devices and feel free to email with any questions!

Let us Help You (Restrictions by You, Managed by Us)

Let me first give a general PSA concerning ScreenGuide:  Based on feedback from us, Mosyle (the company we're using for iPad management) has disabled the app for Academy Students temporarily in order to circumvent an issue.  Put simply, if you accidentally put the iPad in Time Out while the child is at school (which is easy to do in the interface) it locks it up during class time.  Further, if you turn off Safari or the App Store in ScreenGuide we can't get them on without a time consuming work around that disables ScreenGuide for your student anyways.  Mosyle is working with us (awesomely) so that what you enable on the iPads disables at school so that our settings take over.  If you're seeing issues with your Academy enrolled students in ScreenGuide that is why.  I will update you when its restored.

Beyond that, however, we've noticed several parents want to restrict their child's iPad beyond what we do during the day and beyond what ScreenGuide will allow.  If that is you, or even if it isn't, we are now offering to manage those restrictions for you.  Basically this is how it would work:

  1. Email me EXACTLY what restrictions you want on your child's iPad.
  2. I will create an "at home" profile containing those restrictions (specific to your child) and have it activate all day Saturday and Sunday, and from 8:30am till 3:15pm Monday thru Friday.
  3. The result will be our restrictions running during school hours and your restrictions running at home...seamlessly. 

This will help both of us.  I won't have to wipe your restrictions if a teacher wants their class to have access to Safari and you won't have to worry about the iPad not being secure when it comes home.

Also PLEASE look and see if YOU have licenses to Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Garageband, and iMovie if you have not already.  If you have them on YOUR account, sign in with it on your child’s iPad and install those!

I will be available this coming Thursday from 3:30 to 5pm in the A1 room (Mr. Aaseby and Mr. Duffy's homeroom) to further explain the above or to help you troubleshoot any tech issues you've encountered with the move to this system, or to answer questions you have about about iPad use at the Academy.  I want to be a resource to help you navigate your child's educational technology with ease and stay ahead of their ever increasing technological know-how.  If you plan to take advantage of this time please contact me via email letting me know what you will need help with.  Also be on the lookout for more tech troubleshooting opportunities as we are planning to offer these regularly this semester. 

If you need a reminder on how crucial you staying ahead of the technological curve is, take a look at this article by an Academy mom and regular article author on the G.O.D. main site.

Thanks as always for reading and feel free to reach out with any questions.

Screenguide For Parents

Let me start by saying thank you to all of you for your cooperation in migrating to the new iPad management system we've implemented this semester. Teachers are already reporting some great things they've been able to do since it's begun. At the time of this writing all iPads but Kindergarten and a few others have been migrated.  Any not done at this point are scheduled to be migrated Tuesday.

That being so it's time to update you on Screenguide (that blue kangaroo app icon on your kids' iPads). Screenguide is an app that works in conjunction with our new system to give you some more management of your childrens' devices at home.  

What kind of management? You can put the devices in "Time Out" for an interval of time you determine, or schedule "Bedtime" so the iPad will be stuck on the lockscreen and won't wake up until the time you set. Insert your own scenario but you can see how these two main features can be helpful. 

You also are able to enable and disable important restrictions (like hide adult apps or disable Safari) right from your own phone. 

You also have the option to pay monthly for a premium version that gives you some more control. You can read the distinctions here

Get started by downloading the Screenguide parent app from the iOS or Android app stores on your phone.  From there follow the instructions to setup an account and add your spouse and then your children's devices. If you get stuck email me and I'll be happy to assist you. 

Finally you may have received an email from your child's Lead Teacher asking you to install certain apps if you have a license for them already. I wanted to add a few apps to those lists. 

If you have licenses for: 

  • Pages
  • Keynote
  • Numbers
  • iMovie
  • Garageband
  • Minecraft

Please install them from your account once your child's iPad is put on our new system. You should have them (except Minecraft) if you activated a new iOS device anytime after September 1st, 2013. Check by signing into your account on your child's iPad (or looking on your phone) and navigating to the App Store. If you search for any of the Apple Apps listed above and there's no price on them you should be good to go on all 5 of them.  If you don't have licenses to any of these email your child's Lead Teacher letting them know and please copy me on the email. 

Thank you as always for reading and comment or email me with any questions.  

Using the Canvas For Parents App on iPhone

This particular blog entry is pointed at parents of Jr. High and High School Students.

There are times when you spend a long time figuring out workarounds for what software should do but doesn't. The "Navigating Canvas for a Parent" article I wrote on October 31st, and the accompanying video was one of those times.

There are also times when software providers, as if by some stroke of providence, update something that meets the very need you just found a workaround for.  Today is one of those times.

Canvas has updated their "Canvas Parent" app for iPhone and Android to support Observer (parent) accounts on the tier of Canvas we use.  This is great news for you as parents because it lets you see your student(s) and their academic progress in one central location.  I do a walkthrough of setting it up and its main screens in the video below.  As always feel free to contact me (or comment below) with any questions.

Commenting on Squarespace Blog Pages

Did you know you can interact with authors (teachers and staff in the case of the Academy) directly on our blog pages?  You can post responses and questions to this blog (the Tech one), the Lead Teacher Blogs, or any other blog on this website by logging in and posting.  The video below details how to do that.  Check it out and feel free to comment away any where you want to, and feel free to contact me (nate.cameron@academyforgod.org) with any questions you may have...or comment on this post!

Mastering the iPad (The Device, not the Software)

Broken Screens, Lost Class Time, and Cases

As the Tech Specialist for the Academy for GOD I daily run into varied lamentable issues.  “Mr. Cameron, my iPad opens apps by itself,” says one student.  “I think its been hacked by Russian spies,” says another.  Naturally curious I pick up the affected iPad and determine quickly that it's not Russian spies or anything software related.  The screen is cracked and the digitizer is exposed as the glass has fallen off that section.  I then explain to the student owning the cracked iPad that there’s nothing I can do about the problem except recommend the screen and digitizer get replaced….again.

There are certain students who have cracked their iPads a multitude of times.  This can cause technical issues as noted above, safety issues as broken edges of the screen glass are exposed, and class management issues in that the iPad’s performance being limited can negatively affect class activities.  Let’s also be honest, the time it takes a third party repair shop to fix a broken iPad is a series of days a student doesn’t have their primary manipulative at the Academy, making their participation as a student suffer and causing a financial strain on the family. 

Two days ago my oldest, Daniel, dropped his iPad as he was walking up the steps to our front door.  It fell and landed on the corner of the concrete step.  This would be screen death to most iPads, but not his.  It bounced off the corner and landed in the grass.  His Lifeproof case was a little scratched but his iPad remained unscathed and in full working order.  

“That’s a $100 case!” you may object.  Yes it is, but I know for a fact that it costs at least $75 to get his iPad screen repaired by Patrick (a contact I have referred several of you to for broken iPad repair) and at least $100 to get it fixed at standalone chain stores.  I personally feel like I should spend that money up front and not have to worry about him dropping his iPad and breaking it.  He will drop it, he’s a child. 

I’m not a salesman for Lifeproof.  There are several other brands that make tough cases that cover both the back of the iPad and the screen.  I recommend parents consider getting one for their kid’s iPad(s).  You could also read this blog article for alternatives but I recommend you find a tough case that protects both the back and the screen. This leads me to the second point I want to make in this blog post.

“Flippin” Those iPads

Again as the Tech Specialist I occasionally get tasked with finding apps that meet a real need that can be installed on all kid’s iPads.  Recently a request came for a voice recorder since Apple doesn’t supply one stock on iOS for iPad. My first instinct was to take an Apple App (since I know they don’t have ads and are safe) and try to make it work.  I downloaded Apple Music Memos on my own device and tested it to see if it would suffice for a voice recorder.  Indeed it would.  In my excitement I started installing it on some of the kids iPads only to discover that it is only available for devices on iOS 10 or above.  “Shoot,” I think, “this won’t work on at least a quarter of student iPads.”

As I mentioned a few months ago Apple dropped support for iOS updates on the iPad 2 and original iPad Mini. That means those devices can’t get that app.  Granted in this case I found a work around (an app called Just Press Record), but the reality is app developers aren’t going to keep building backwards compatibility for legacy hardware into apps. Daniel has several apps that keep crashing as a result of him having a legacy device. This will become an issue when school apps become those apps.

Most of us can’t afford to just go out and buy a new iPad that’s up to current standards. Something I've done for years with phones, iPads, and laptops is “flipped" them. If I pay attention to the market for resale I can gauge when it's a good time to snag a new device, sell the old one, and minimize my out of pocket costs. 

The caveat here is that devices need to be in optimal condition to get highest resale value. So the case I bought for Daniel's iPad not only circumvents the performance and safety issues caused by broken screens, it also lets me write "Excellent Condition" on the item's description whether I sell it on Craigslist or Facebook. At the writing of this post his iPad could fetch between $150 on the low end and $250 on the high. I could buy him a newer model for anywhere between $250 and $350 or get a brand new Mini 4 from Apple for $399. As you can see, flipping it (selling it and putting the money towards the cost of a new one) significantly lessens what I have to spend. 

Let me also say I know for a fact you can get more value for an old iPad selling it yourself instead of trading it in. 

I wanted to share this information with you all as I know many of you have multiple children in the Academy and that iPads present a significant cost. I hope this information begins to help you feel empowered to save some cash on upgrading them when necessary and gives you some things to consider in terms of case purchasing. At the Academy we really want to help you navigate the tech world in every way we can. As always feel free to ask questions in the comments or contact me directly at nate.cameron@academyforgod.org.  Thanks for reading!

Navigating Canvas as a Parent

This particular blog entry is pointed at parents of Junior High and High School Students.  In the video below I layout how to navigate Canvas as a Parent (technically called an Observer). To reiterate a couple of things that are "need to know:" It's best to access Canvas as a Parent/Observer through the web (an internet browser) rather than the app. This is true on the computer and phones as well.  You have many more options for seeing student data doing it that way.  The video covers the rest. Feel free to comment below or email me if you have any questions outside of what's addressed there.

Bye Classcharts, Hello Dojo

As of yesterday afternoon all parents should have received an invite to view their child's data in a new app we've implemented called ClassDojo. ClassDojo is a behavior tracker that we tested for a while alongside Classcharts which, as of this posting, is no longer in use by the Academy. We did this for a few reasons, the primary one being that ClassDojo is much easier for teachers to use as they can do it on their mobile phones live in class instead of having to wait until after as they did with Classcharts.  

You may have also noticed that ClassDojo has a nice "Instagram-like" feature that allows teachers to post photos and descriptions of what is happening in a particular course. This is a welcome change for us as it helps all of us show you what your children are doing at school in a new and more specific way.

I wanted to make sure you all were aware that there is an app available for your phone if you're using iOS or Android. Just click the corresponding link in the last sentence and log in with your account.  Also please note some parents have reported that they're prompted for a "parent code" when signing up for their parent account. If that happens to you please send an email to both your child's homeroom teacher and myself noting the issue and we'll resolve it quickly. If you have any other issues getting setup and logged in also feel free to contact me.  

Finally we hope you enjoy this app and thank you as always for cooperating with us as we continue to find the best apps to connect you with your child's school experience!

Google Hangouts: The Solution for iOS 10 iMessage Issues

As promised in the last post we did our due diligence as an administration and researched some options for replacing iMessage for students who chat with one another and parents/grandparents, etc who chat with them. We looked at everything from locking down iOS 10's iMessage features (which we couldn't do completely enough) to a school notification and chat app called Remind that many schools use for announcements (that was too much like a stripped down version of Edmodo) to WhatsApp (which was also a good option), but Hangouts won for a few reasons:

First, all students already have a login for it - their Academy email address. Secondly, it fits in well with the Google Apps we already use as part of our core app suite at the Academy. Finally, Hangouts is more of a 1 to 1 comparison with iMessage than the other options as it allows individual and group texting without all the other features of Remind and it doesn't have the keyboard that causes the problem I noted in the last post. The fact that it is cross platform as well (meaning it works on iOS, Android, and on computer browsers) factored in as some of you as parents have Android phones and couldn't communicate with your child's iPad before.  So we picked it!  

I created a walkthrough for installing it here:

To perform this install you will need to enable Installing Apps in the Restrictions settings of the iPad.  Kindly go back and disable it when finished.

As you heard we're now saying go ahead and update those iPads to iOS 10 (if you want to and if the iPad supports it) pending you install Google Hangouts and sign out of iMessage. We're asking you to do this as parents because you can do it for your children much more quickly than we can do it for all your children.

We're asking you complete this (install Hangouts and sign out of iMessage) before Wednesday Sept. 21. Beginning that day the stock Message app will be considered a "prohibited" app and be subject to the normal rules for apps on that list. We understand you can't remove it, but it must be signed out and moved to a folder out of immediate sight.

Finally, you'll need to download Hangouts for your phone if you previously talked to your children via iMessage. To grab it for iOS go HERE or for Android devices go HERE (if its not already on your phone). As I stated in the video I'm happy to make any tutorials for you as parents if that's something you request (just comment on this post).

While I would like to say this is THE permanent solution to the message problem I cannot.  Technology is always evolving.  Apple could enable restrictions for the iMessage keyboard or Google could follow Apple and make image and gif search available within Hangouts.  We can't predict any of that so what we (and by we I mean us as an administration and you as parents) do is ride the wave of technology to make sure what our kids are seeing and doing on the iPads continues to contribute to them becoming moral and ethical beings who can function in an increasingly technological world.

Thanks again for working with us on this issue and, as always, let me know if you have any questions about the above!

Important Info about iOS 10: 2 Things to Note

As you may or may not know tomorrow (September 13th) marks the public release of iOS 10. While there are several new features of the software that are improvements over iOS 9 there is one overarching security concern we as an administration have in regards to the update.  iOS 10 introduces a slew of new options for iMessage that are totally fun for adults to use. Examples of this are: animations to accompany messages (like balloons, confetti, lasers, fireworks, or a shooting star) to fly across the screen, text effects on message texts (like bouncing, swinging, invisible, or dropping words)...all things kids would love to use.  

Included with the named features, however are image, gif, and music searching features built into the iMessage keyboard. This means I could send you the latest Niki Minaj track, followed by a picture of her scantily clad, followed by a gif her dancing in her scantily clad....you get me, for example. I've also done some searching within the keyboard (as I've had the beta software installed for a few months) and found more inappropriate things than I'd like to mention with NO WAY to disable the results in the restrictions.

At this point the administration is requesting you hold off on updating to iOS 10 when it comes out tomorrow as we are in the process of exploring some alternative messaging solutions that would allow the students to continue messaging their classmates without this added possibility of exposure to damaging content.  This might mean manually disabling the update in the settings of your child's iPad. As always we like to stay on latest software releases but occasionally we need to hold off on updating for issues such as this one. We appreciate your cooperation in this endeavor. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at nate.cameron@academyforgod.org.  

If we see your child’s iPad is updated to iOS 10 we will be going into the settings and signing out of iMessage on their device.

Finally, Apple's list of supported devices for the iOS 10 update does not include the iPad 2 or the first generation iPad Mini. We are wanting to get a gauge on how many of our students this affects so we're asking that you as parents check your child(ren)'s iPads and fill out THIS FORM ONLY if their iPads match the following numbers. The numbers below will be visible on the back of the iPad in small letters.

iPad 2:
A1395 (Wi-Fi)
A1396 (GSM model)
A1397 (CDMA model)

iPad Mini (Original):
A1432 (Wi-Fi)
A1454 or A1455 (Wi-Fi + Cellular)

Thank you as always for your partnership in staying on top of our children's tech!
 

Academy Tech Blog Launch

Today marks the first of what will be at least a bi-weekly update for parents regarding need to know tech things at the Academy.  As stated in recent parent technology seminars it is imperative that you as parents take charge over the digital lives of your children in order to help ensure their safety, increase their knowledge of their devices, and preserve their innocence.  My hope with this blog is to help you tow that line by making sure you're aware of the apps your students have and how they work!

Today's featured video is one I made on setting up student email accounts on iPad.  The Academy email accounts we issue them are crucial for their notifications of shared docs and communication with fellow students and teachers, and even you, as they get older and progress in the program.  It's also the place they'll get reset instructions for passwords they forget and things like that.

Here I lay out a step by step demonstration of adding a mail account to iPad in the best manner possible.  If you're child's email isn't setup on their device yet you can follow along and make that happen.  If for some reason you don't know the password to their account and get stuck email me directly at nate.cameron@academyforgod.org with the password you'd like them to have and I'll reset it promptly so you can complete the sign in process!  I also encourage you to share student's email passwords with them if they're old enough to remember them.  That's one less you have to remember!