What is a Chromebook?
The Google Chromebook is simply a web browser (Google Chrome) with a keyboard; there is no hard drive and it relies very heavily on an internet connection. It sounds like nothing special but it has two important qualities which make it a hot contender for classroom use.
Firstly, it is incredibly easy to use. So easy, in fact, that out of the 30 Chromebooks I have in my room, there are at least 20 that I have never had to even touch; the children set them up and use them seamlessly. A TA, who has struggled with using the Windows netbooks connected to the school network, is often seen using a Chromebook to check her email. The children are able to troubleshoot themselves and found their way around the simple interface at lightning speed.
Secondly, it is reliable and fast. Think back to the last time you used some form of technology in your classroom, especially if it was netbooks. How long did it take to get every child/device logged in and onto a web browser? 5 minutes? 10? Or, like some teachers in my school, a whopping 20 minutes before every child is ready for the learning? We've rigorously tested the Chromebooks around the school to find out whether they improve those times. Generally, they take about 18 seconds from turning them on to being able to surf the net and it has never taken more than 2 minutes for the whole class to get on the relevant activity for the lesson. As teachers, when so often we decide against using technology because of the fuss that comes with their use, that makes them ideal.
What are they good for?
Simply, they are great for anything you can do on the web. They cope well with Flash-based games and activities and are perfectly designed to work with Google Apps for Education (including Drive, Mail and Blogger).
To enhance our use of them, I created a WibKi page for the children to bookmark to their Google Chrome bookmarks bar. On our Vale4 Wibki are links to all the sites that they use on the Chromebooks. They get a practice of typing in addresses but for ease of access and speed, the Wibki is brilliant. I am the only one with the ability to edit the Wibki but all children can and do access it. They also email me with ideas for sites to add. Below is a list of sites we have tried and used with the Chromebooks:
- Manga High
- Language Nut
- Scratch Online
- Thinking Blocks @ MathPlayground
- BBC Dance Mat Typing
- The MathPlayground Thinking Blocks (pictured)
As a school already set up with Google Apps for Education and logins for all the children, we made incredible use of the Drive, Mail and Blogger apps. In Drive, we collaborated on documents and the children created their own which they shared with me. I was able to leave comments for them and they could respond or resolve them. They used the Mail app to keep in contact with me or for me to share quick messages or links and they wrote blog posts using the Blogger app to post to our Year 4 Vale blog.
What are their setbacks?
Honestly, I think there are far too many positives with the Chromebooks and I believe they are brilliant classroom tools. However they are not for everyone and there are plenty of activities which cannot be completed using them. If the children use programmes which are installed on your school network then you may struggle with Chromebooks. Thankfully, a lot of the computing programmes are moving online however some control programmes are installed and so would become unusable with Chromebooks. The same can be said for things like Maths Packs or installed games. Apart from that, the only other negative point would be that they don't seem as sturdy as the old netbooks however I can't comment on how easy they are to break as ours are still fully in tact and have not needed to survive any trauma - we look after them.
Overall, after four weeks of Chromebooks, I am incredibly impressed with them. I can see the huge potential for them to enhance the whole primary curriculum which allowing teachers to deliver the new computing objectives with ease. The children adore them, some have even persuaded parents to purchase them one for home. Other members of staff have oo-ed and arrr-ed at their speed and the apparent ease of use as they have entered my classroom and observed activities. This school in the US has had them for longer and have carefully considered their use across middle and high schools. Their post is well worth a read if you are considering Chromebooks or other devices. This post is also worth a read as it considers device purchases across the USA http://m.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/08/whats-the-best-device-for-interactive-learning/375567/ We trialed the Chromebooks using the company Getech, who were absolutely fabulous through the whole experience and very competitive on a range of Chromebook manufacturer prices. If you would like to find out more, tweet your question to @MrsPTeach