I am a Google fan and have been using my own Chromebook for the past few years. Since buying my Chromebook, I have made the shift from PC to the cloud. All of my day to day work is done in one cloud based tool or another and I have been using Google apps for education with my students for past three years.
With the release of the new Samsung Chromebook, and the reports that Google are making a Quickoffice app for viewing and editing MS Office files in Chrome and Chrome OS, I decided to put in a bit for my college to buy some for the new term in September. However, before we purchased them, the company selling them on behalf of Google in the UK, C Learning, were very nice and have lent us 15 for the next 4-6 weeks to try out. I plan to write a post each week discussing our experiences with them.
The Chromebooks have landed
They arrived on Tuesday afternoon and I very excited to have them here. It took a day for them to transferred to my campus and into the room they would be in for the next 4-6 weeks. We decided it would be best to keep them in one room and have lecturers book that room to test them out with their students.
What are they?
On Wednesday afternoon, I brought all of the Chromebooks into the staff-room so the lecturers could have a play with them before they went into the classroom. They were met with mixed reactions. Some were keen on the idea as I had spoken about them and their benefits over standard laptops. Others thought that they would be a tablet and were questioning why we don’t just buy Ipads.
The Chromebook advocates in the room (a colleague and me) explained how they do not have any software to run which means no updates and no antivirus. We explained how students would be ready to work within 10 seconds of turning them on, which is a great improvement on our current Windows laptops that take up 5 minutes to login depending on whether they are running updates or can connect to the system. We also explained that due to the long battery life, they would not shut down during a lesson if they had been used in a number of lessons previously. We also started to experiment with some of the collaborative tools that our Google Apps for Education account has to offer. A number of lecturers commented on the inability to edit MS Office files as an issue as the majority of their resources were in this format, and it would take some time to convert years of resources over to the cloud. The Quickoffice apps news did help calm these fears. I did also explain that the aim would be to no longer use PC based documents due to the pedagogic benefits of the cloud based documents suit in Google Apps. As a result of this first meeting between staff and Chromebooks, it was decided to run a CPD training session next week for the staff detailing the pedagogical benefits of devices, so they will be able to make the most of them if they chose to try them out with their students.
“This Chromebook’s coming home with me”
I tested the Chromebooks out with my students on Thursday and Friday and received quite positive responses. The majority of them thought that they were quicker than the laptops we usually use. They thought they could access their classwork much easier and enjoyed using them more than the laptops. A number of students commented on how the wanted to take them home. One student, however, found it more difficult to use due to the mouse pad and no clear left and right click buttons. The two figure mouse tap for right click was also a challenge.
The content for the lessons was all stored on my college Google Apps accounts and I inserted links to it on our virtual learning environment (Blackboard) for the students to access in the lessons. This worked well. Especially as the Chromebooks opened all the content from Blackboard in a new tab and students weren’t downloading files and opening them in Word or Adobe and having multiple programs running and loosing track of what resource was in which piece of software. The Chromebooks provided one clear environment for the students to work in during the lessons, and as most of the resources were Google docs or share from the Google Docs account, students found it easy to access them and collaborate on them.
I though it was a very successful start to our Chromebook trial. The lecturers kept an open mind and did not rule them out immediately. The students seemed to be engaging with them well, and the lessons that I used them in were successful. After each session, I asked the students to comments on various aspects of their use. I will wait until the end of the trial before I publish their results.