Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Chromebooks (cont.)

I feel really honoured by the views, positive feedback, +1s and shares of my last blogpost :) 
The lovely +Alyx Gillett asked some really good questions so I thought I share them and my answers with you here:

"I'd be really interested in the ways teachers in your cluster are using them in teaching and learning, as well as your thoughts on comparisons to an iPad?"

The best people to answer this question are probably the teachers themselves (e.g. +Diane Henderson and +Tracey Simeon). How they use the devices in class depends on the age of the students, the teacher and on the context. Generally speaking, the devices have pretty much replaced exercise books (y4-6/8). The schools use GAFE and Teacher Dashboard, and the students have most of their work in their Google Drive. Currently they are running parent courses in preparation for Chromebooks to be sent home.

Comparing iPads and Chromebooks, I believe different Digital Technologies have different purposes, and +Allanah King blogged about this topic just last month here.

If I look at how I personally use both of them, I can tell you I take my iPad mini with me everywhere in my handbag, and I take videos, photos, use apps (play my Smurf Village lol), I can type stuff up etc. I pull my Chromebook out when I know I have more typing to do. It is lightweight, still fits in a bigger handbag, boots up in seconds etc.

In a school environment with shared devices, iPads can be shared by up to say 4 people collaborating on a project / and app, and in my mind a Chromebook is more directed at one person at a time entering text, working on a programme etc. (not saying that you couldn't collaborate with that). In this situation, if you want individual students' work accessible to just them, a Chromebook is certainly easier as when they log in with their account and are straight in their Drive etc., and you can quite easily set Chromebooks up in a COW like system. That's where iPads are more of a personal device in my mind, because you have to go into the individual app (e.g. Drive) to change to your personal account.
So different devices for different purposes, and in my ideal classroom I personally would like to have a mixture to cater for many needs :)

"Any Chromebook essentials you'd suggest?"

In regards to accessories, these are some of the thing I regard as useful:

  • Covers: I got myself an iPearl cover (e.g. because I didn't want the plastic surface of my Samsung Chromebook to scratch. I have a couple of sleeves to put it into, one from the GAFE summit, one I made myself - this allows me to keep charger etc. all together.The cluster purchased hard cover sleeves for each Chromebook so they can go back and forth between school and home more safely. Only problem with that is that all cases are black, so they had to come up with ways to mark them so students can tell them apart (I went through the cupboard once to find my boy's - it was the bottom one out of 28 lol).
  • Headphones: Like with other 1:1 devices, I suggest every student has their own
    headphones (to keep the noise level for the classroom acceptable...). Check if your Chromebook has combined mic & headphone (same as for iPads).
  • Mouse: My 9y old son asked me to buy him a mouse for his Chromebook. I would have liked to get him a colour one so he can tell it apart from the others but it appears there are few 'cable' mice nowadays, and for students like him I don't think it's a great idea to have a wireless mouse (just another small item that can be lost) so a cheap Logitech mouse it was.
Connecting to a projector

As teachers we often display work on the projector or a screen. As my Chromebook only has HDMI output and many of the schools I work with still have their VGA projectors, I bought an HDMI to VGA adapter. Unfortunately the model I bought doesn't have external power and my Chromebook itself can't power it (however, I have can use the adapter with my Apple TV) - something worth checking out.

I also bought a Chromecast when they first came out (ordered from the US, now available in NZ e.g. check here), attach that to a screen (HDMI again, also wifi) and you can set it up to mirror from your Chromebook to the screen. Recently further development have come out, Chromecast now also casts all apps on my Nexus tablet, and there was talk some other features might come in, too (limiting who can mirror to the Chromecast - the bane of many teachers who have a different classes iPad show up on their Apple TV...)

Please keep the questions coming, I will go looking for the answers when I don't know them :)

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