Accessing Online School With Limited Internet Access

Distance Learning

Since we are all trying to work online during the COVID-19 school closures, I'm seeing a lot of questions about how students with limited internet access can get to what they need. Here are a few options to help with that before you give up. These will not cover every use case, but they will help some. This will help if your internet access is limited, or if it's intermittent (e.g., you can only get it if you drive to a school parking lot and download everything there).

This is not comprehensive, but it's a decent place to start.

Use a Different Browser or Browser Settings to Reduce Data Usage

Opera Turbo ScreenshotThis will help whether your connection is slow or you have a data cap. I used Opera as my primary browser for years, and both their desktop and Android versions have data usage optimizers. They have a tool called Opera Turbo that will reduce your data.

This works by using Opera's servers essentially as a VPN. There are security concerns with this of course (I talk about that in my tech guide for students on the VPN page), but the benefit is that they get the page you reqested, optimize it and shrink down the graphics and videos etc., and then pass it to you at a much smaller size.

Even if you don't have a smart phone, you can use Opera Mini for basic phones. It also has the data saving features.

If you don't want to use a different browser, Google Chrome has a "lite mode" that does essentially the same thing. Your iPhone/iPad also has a Low Data Mode that you can turn on that will stop apps from downloading things in the background.

Useful Links for reducing data usage:

Use an AdBlock Extension

Blokada ScreenshotIf you use Opera, it already has an ad blocking too. However, every other major browser has an adblock extension that you can use. It will reduce some web pages by over 80% - a huge amount of the data that your phone or computer downloads is linked to advertising, and not to what you are trying to access for school. The adblocker will make some pages harder to use and you might have to turn it off on a case by case basis (e.g., for news articles assigned by your teacher), but it will make the whole internet faster and slow down your data usage.

I've used AdBlockPlus and I use Blokada on my phone (an Android), which has the added benefit of blocking most ads in all of the apps that I use as well.

Useful links for adblocking:

Saving Pages for Offline Viewing

This will work for a limited number of cases if you have internet access intermittently. Most websites today are only useful because they're connected to a background database. For example, Canvas needs access to its database to do anything useful and allow you to turn in websites. However, if you're just looking to save copies of directions, or articles, or other static/non-video resources, you can use your browser's save function or an extension to handle it for you.

Extensions

This is the most convenient option. Some browsers have something like Pocket built in now, but if yours doesn't you can install it easily. Essentially, anything you save using the plugin will be stored on your device for offline viewing later. I personally have used Pocket, but there are many choices (some are listed below).

An added benefit of several of these tools is that they strip the page of all the unnecessary stuff; adds, navigation, menus, etc., all gone. All you have left is the content you needed in the first place.

Print as a PDF

This is not the most reliable option but it works in many cases. On most computers, you can print a page as a PDF and then save it somewhere on your computer. Check the PDF that was generated before you rely on it, though, as many websites use architectures that break this feature (e.g., you may end up with just a box with part of the article on one page, not the whole article you needed).

Manual Saving

Chrome, Firefox, and most others act the same way; if you go to the menu and select Save Page As... (or right click on the page and click Save as... on Chrome), you will be asked where on your computer you want to save the page. Make sure you have "web page, complete" selected.

Option two is a good, old-fashioned screenshot. Current versions of Firefox allow you to just press Ctrl + Shift + S and then choose what you want saved as an image.

Useful links for saving pages for offline viewing:

Call Your Provider for Access Upgrades

During the COVID-19 related school closures, a large number of internet providers (both traditional and mobile) are offering free upgrades, eliminated data caps, or discounted access, especially for students. Take a look at your local options and see who has the best options for you. Our school district has put together this page with some options here on the Kenai Peninsula.

That's it for now.

If you have any questions about any of this or have other options you'd like included, feel free to drop me a line.

APGOV & APUSH Exam Question Types

As of yet, we still do not know what the AP Exam question types will be. As a result, in my classes we will focus on wrapping up the content that will be covered on the exam and will also start preparing review materials in case the early test date is something you want to participate in.

Currently, the video lessons put out by AP are not coming from periods that are tested, but they are good for context and for concept application (among other things) for each of the exams. I still highly recommend you watch them, as they are free and of high quality.

I am watching the following two rows for my courses on the AP Updates for Schools Impacted by Coronavirus page.

You will have updates as soon as I do. Sorry for all of the stress.

In the meantime, find something relaxing to do. I teach history, so my first suggestion is going to be to find a nice documentary, sit down with a cup of coffee or tea or orange juice (whatever makes you happy), and just watch for a while.

APGOV & APUSH: News & Updates

Hello, AP Students. I hope you are well! I have a few pieces of information for you that will be of use.

  • Both AP Exams will be 45 minute long tests that consist of written response/free response questions. They have not yet published which formats of FRQ/LEQ/SAQ they will be including.
  • AP discussed having two testing dates - one very soon so that students who wanted to test before they forgot content could do so, and one closer to the original date. This may or may not happen. Dates will be published April 3rd.
  • APGOV is only going to be tested on Units 1-3. Please refer to the reading schedule for chapters. There were only two chapters left.
  • APUSH will only be tested on Units 1-7. We technically already finished reading for this but will begin review.
  • I filled out a form with the publisher of the AMSCO books. They said that they will be making available online versions of all of their books for free during the course of the emergency, which means that if you left your books at school, you aren't entirely doomed. We are currently trying to figure out how to get books (and possessions from your lockers) to you. (I personally would like to set up dead drops all over town and hide them places for an enrichment activity, but nobody will let me.)

If you'd like to read directly from the source, here's AP's announcement.

As far as your assignments for my class are concerned, I'm working on a weekly schedule that involves discussion boards, review activites, and heavy use of the AP Classroom quizzes that we have been using up to this point. You will receive details next week.

Free Review from AP

College Board is hosting online classes & review sessions on YouTube live. If you can make it, do. If you can't, watch the recordings. You can set a reminder if you go to the session before it starts.

Currently on the schedule are sessions that are not tested, but they will probably change that in future. I recommend you view these because they will be far higher quality than anything I can come up with.

APGOV

Date Time Lesson Topic
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 3−3:45 p.m. ET 5.1 Voting Rights and Models of Voting Behavior
Thursday, March 26, 2020 3−3:45 p.m. ET 5.2 Voter Turnout
Friday, March 27, 2020 3−3:45 p.m. ET 5.3 Political Parties

APUSH

Date Time Lesson Topic
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 11−11:45 a.m. ET 8.1 Contextualizing Period 8 
Thursday, March 26, 2020 11−11:45 a.m. ET 8.2 The Cold War from 1945 to 1980
Friday, March 27, 2020 11−11:45 a.m. ET 8.3 The Red Scare

I seriously encourage all of you, if you have time and have reviewed everything that will be tested, to just keep reading and studying. The free lectures/review sessions are across all subject areas, so if you have some time.... go watch an AP Euro session! All of the free sessions are listed here.

I will continue posting information here on my website, on my classroom page, and on Canvas announcements.

Stay healthy, stay safe, and let me know if you have any questions!

Changes to AP Exams

Keep Calm and Keep Your Distance

This year, due to the pandemic, the College Board has made some dramatic changes to the AP tests. They will now be abbreviated, 45 minute long exams that you are able to take at home.

Content Coverage:

AP US History: Units 1-7

AP US Government & Politics: Units 1-3

Since we reached these benchmarks in each of my classes, we will be reviewing this content for the rest of the year. They are also going to publish a schedule of review videos and lectures by AP teachers from all over the country.

Additionally, there will now be two testing dates. It appears one will be very soon and one will be closer to the original time in early may. They said they want to make sure that students have the option to test while the content is still fresh. Testing dates will be published to their website by April 3rd. I will also post an update here for you.

Once we have all the information, we will try to do a Google Hangouts or similar meeting or online discussion. I haven't decided which tools I'm going to use for everything while we are out, but I can tell you my goal is to keep it simple so you aren't getting 300 notifications from all kinds of different services and programs.

Hang in there, keep calm, and keep your distance!