Creating and Collaborating in The Cloud with Chromebooks

This is a guest post that is cross-posted on the K12 Blueprint Blog by @IntelK12EDU.

Chromebooks have taken the education world by storm over the last few years. They’re affordable, easily portable, and give our students access to the world. In a short time they’ve become, in my opinion, the biggest no-brainer in education. So, what does this mean for our students? What can students actually do on a Chromebook?

Bringing our students to the cloud

Our world is online now – we bank, shop, socialize, and work in the cloud. Chromebooks are made for this. They give us a secure, well performing portal to the world. If your school district is already using Google Apps for Education, the integration of Chromebooks is seamless. Isn’t this what we want for technology to become in school – practically invisible and as commonplace as pencil and paper? One of the best things about Chromebooks/Google Apps for Education I’ve said for a long time is that they do a great job at getting out of the way of student learning. We now have our Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Keep, Google Drive, and any other favorite web based right at our fingertips across all types of devices. We (teachers and students) no longer have to be bound by just one operating system or type of device. Schools must begin leveraging these tools to bring students into the world of working in the cloud, communicating, collaborating, and creating on the web.

We can’t afford not to give our students this type of access – at school and at home. Don’t leave it up to high school, college, or the workplace to give our students their first experience of working in the cloud. Students of all ages can access loads of grade-level appropriate content on a Chromebook. The Chrome Webstore has an entire section of educational apps or you can head over to Google Play for Education where teachers and parents can find educational apps for Chromebooks that have all already been vetted by teachers. Google Play for Education is a great spot for teachers to go too if they want to send an app to their entire class easily.

Yes, you can create on a Chromebook

I remember this debate well when Chromebooks were first making their entrance into K-12 education – students can’t create anything when you can’t even install software on a Chromebook. Or another – they become a paperweight if you’re not connected to the web. Neither of these claims are true. Software that once had to be installed via a CD-Rom (remember those?) is now accessible via the web and can be used via Chrome the same way it would if it were installed on a more traditional platform. Students can create and edit video projects, edit photos, build 3d models and print them, publish presentations, code, and create music all from their Chromebook.

Google has done a great job at making it easy to work on Google Drive files and Gmail even if you’re without an internet connection. While you’re connected to the web, you go into your Drive settings, check a box, and bang you’re done – you’re able to edit Docs, Sheets, and Slides files offline. Next time you’re connected everything gets back in sync with the cloud.

Management made easy

Whether a school has ten or ten thousand, Chromebooks can be managed easily from a web-based console. From an instructional standpoint one of the best things we did for our elementary students was push out a standard set of apps to students in each grade level via the management dashboard. It gave a “standard load” of educational apps and tools to each student in each grade. Students could still of course add any other apps they or their teacher wanted. The Google Apps dashboard also allows for security measures and other important settings to be in place across all devices (or just for particular groups of students and staff) without having to physically touch a single Chromebook.

Choices, choices, choices

More and more big name tech giants are producing their own line of Chromebooks. When the Chromebook initially came out they might not have been up to par on the technical side, however, they can now be found with specs that rival other competitors. Once Chromebooks came out with Intel processors and other powerful features, it significantly changed the game for personal computing because you can get a powerful device much more affordably. The New York Times even posted an article recently about how Chromebooks are gaining significantly in education over other platforms.

Great resources out there to help

I stand by what I said earlier, if you’re in a school or a district that already uses Google Apps for Education, then the Chromebook is your device. If you’re in a place where your school is trying to make a decision of one device over another my biggest advice is to take your time making this very important decision. When my district did this one of the most beneficial things we did was listen to our students; ask them what they wanted in a device. Make the time to do this. Reach out to other educators on social media because there are loads of fantastic people that have paved the road for you and they’re willing to share best practices. Or send an email to a neighboring district to set up a meeting or a Google Hangout to ask questions and engage in conversation. One of the best by-products of technology is its ability to connect us to other brilliant people. We’re truly better together.

 

Google Drive Tip: Using ‘Locate in My Drive’ in Shared With Me

I created this quick screencast as a way to help those that are organizing files and folders that have been shared with them in their Google Drive. I hope you find it helpful. Enjoy!

“Sandbox Time” – The Style of PD Teachers Deserve

This morning I worked with some teachers at an area school around the topic of Google Sites with a little YouTube and other Google Apps for Education topics sprinkled in. It was straightforward for me, something I’ve done a lot and rather enjoy doing – teaching teachers and administrators about Google Apps for Education. Speaking to the power of connectedness and rethinking what teaching and learning should look like in 2015. After a comment I received from a teacher when the workshop was over, I finally decided to blog about my style of facilitating professional development. I feel kind of silly blogging about it because it seems rather obvious to incorporate “sandbox time” into adult learning, however, I’m discovering it’s not so obvious to other PD facilitators.

What is “sandbox time”? Simply put, it’s giving the group time to play. Time to explore, talk, and get comfortable. Time to discover and create new ideas.

sand castle
https://www.flickr.com/people/sis/

Teachers love to learn about new tech tools. All of us in the edtech world do. We want to (or should want to) stay on top of the latest and greatest; to explore new ideas for teaching and learning with technology. If we really want teachers to move forward, however, we should be sticking to the old adage of “less is more”. As long as you’re moving yourself forward professionally, who cares if it’s only 1 or 2 things that you get really good at? I’d rather be really comfortable with just one or two things, yet we still see sessions at conferences and workshops titled, “60 ____ in 60 minutes” and so on. This is something I remind teachers often – don’t get hung up on how fast or how much you’re moving forward, the point is to move forward!

Back to “sandbox time”. I format my workshops with this component being the most important part in my opinion. I share a little bit, give sandbox time, share a little more to build upon what we did earlier, then more “sandbox time”. Kind of like shampoo directions except it’s for facilitating professional development. One more than one occasion I have had a teacher come and say to me afterwards (as I did today) how much they appreciated me formatting the learning experience this way. The thought I usually have to myself around this is something like, “Why would I make you listen to me talk for 3 hours nonstop and cram as much down your throats as possible?!”. This isn’t an acceptable format for learning; for teachers or students.

If you’re providing professional learning opportunities to teachers and you want the learning to be meaningful and increase teacher comfort, especially around technology integration, try incorporating “sandbox time” into your next conference session or workshop! Teachers will feel more comfortable applying their learning and they’ll appreciate the departure from the routine ‘sit and get’ method!