Lessons from Chromebook Educators

Note: This blog entry originally published at TCEA’s TechNotes blog.

“Figure out which toys your friends can play with,” I remember my Mom saying to me before a sleepover with classmates. “And put the ones you don’t want to see damaged, lost, or stolen away.” It’s advice that I took to heart and shared with my own children before they had friends over. Here’s some advice you may want to consider before deploying Chromebooks in schools…or, consider leaving your “best practices” in the comments.

Best Practice #1 – Establish procedures before issuing Chromebooks.

Setting ground rules can certainly help you avoid trouble and heartache down the line. The advice is definitely worth taking when it comes to inviting students and staff to use any kind of device, even durable Chromebooks, in your classroom, library, or school. TCEA member Erin Laughlin (@MrsErinLaughlin) recommends that you consider your responses to questions like the ones below:
  • How will students be issued Chromebooks?
  • How should students be advised to transport Chromebooks?
  • What happens when there is a substitute teacher in the room? Will students be permitted to take advantage of the Chromebook?
  • What should be done when a Chromebook suffers damage?
In response to the last question, one teacher in Fairfield ISD during their Eagle Leadership Academy,pointed out that damage had occurred to a school-owned Chromebook issued to a student. “What did you do?” I asked, wondering if the student was to be forced to reimburse the district or forced to replace the device. “We made sure it wasn’t malicious and then just worked to get it fixed or replaced. No action was taken since this was an accident.” Erin also suggests having rules like these in place:
  • No food or drinks should be in sight when Chromebooks are out.
  • Carry Chromebooks with two hands at all times.
  • Do not get a Chromebook if teacher is out of the room.
  • Nothing should be on the desk except the Chromebook unless told otherwise.
  • Students should only be on websites assigned or approved by teacher.
  • Have students and parents sign a statement saying they will abide by the rules.
  • Have reasonable consequences for students who aren’t following the rules (taking away the Chromebook should be your last resort).
As you might imagine, some common-sense suggestions include assigning a student to be in charge of the Chromebooks, ensuring monitoring of issuance and receipt of devices by class members. Also, consider including a Google Form to let students report how a Chromebook was damaged. Another point to consider is to be sure to label your class Chromebooks so they will be easy to locate in case they leave your classroom. Finally, Kim from Fairfield ISD suggests that the teacher and students get in the habit of plugging in Chromebooks correctly so they are charged for the next group.

Best Practice #2 – Teach Chromebook basics along with digital citizenship.

“You can’t issue students devices until they’ve had digital citizenship lessons required by eRate.” And, of course, digital citizenship lessons also ensure that you can discuss important issues about caring for other people’s equipment. In my experience, students often take great care of equipment issued to them when there is a culture of care cultivated in the school as a whole. Keys aren’t ripped off keyboards in classrooms where the teacher makes every effort to care for his/her technology and assigns students the jobs of cable management, removing dust from devices, and cleaning keyboards/screens. Yet every device brings its own challenges, and Chromebooks are no different. Providing an overview of Chromebook and Google Apps tips ensure that students feel confident in using new technologies, rather than frustrated.

Best Practice #3 – Promote collaboration.

“My two favorite tools for a 1-to-1 classroom,” I shared at the recent Tots and Technology Conferences that took place in Galveston and Frisco this past summer, “include Nearpod.com and Seesaw.com.” Each of these provides critical tools that you need as a teacher to share your screen and presentations with students, as well as collect their work. Nearpod serves as a presentation and eyeball management tool for you, pushing your screen out to all student Chromebooks. Seesaw serves as a digital portfolio that collects students’ digital and physical work in one virtual space that is easily shared but manageable.
ChromebookNote: Scan the QR code shown right using the Seesaw app on your device of choice to get Seesaw Plus for free for 30 days!
Let’s quickly explore some other top tips for promoting collaboration:
  • Quiz tools: Other ways to engage students include quizzing tools like Quizizz.com and Kahoot.com. Quizizz allows students to login with their Google account, and all completed assignments are reported and available in Google Classroom.
  • Easy video assessment: Use tools like EdPuzzle and/or FlipGrid to take already existing videos from YouTube, Khan Academy, etc. or put your own online, then add your voice and questions to create an interactive video lesson. You’ll be able to see how many times your students watch your interactive video lessons, how many times they attempt a question, and the responses given.
  • Share web links with Google Tones: Facilitate the sharing of complex uniform resource locators (URLs) using Google Tone.
  • Take screenshots or record video screencasts: Use tools like the Nimbus Screenshot/Screencast extension for Google Chrome to quickly capture your screen for a flipped lesson or explanation.
  • Use Google Classroom to create a virtual classroom presence for students, blending in Google Calendar and YouTube videos to facilitate online learning.
  • Use badges in your classroom: TCEA member Joe Camacho (@CamachoEdTech) recommends setting up and issuing badges to celebrate student learning and sharing. Students can learn Google Apps tools such as Sites, Classroom, Forms, Docs, Drawings, and Slides, as well as other tools in use like DocHub, Flubaroo, Edpuzzle, Kahoot, Quizizz, creating screencasts, and Padlet.
Another neat tip for promoting collaboration and sharing comes from Erin Laughlin again. She suggests creating a “shark tank” in your classroom, having older students create products that are evaluated by younger students serving as “the sharks.” Older students pitch their solution to a problem using Google Hangouts, bridging the distance between their classroom at one campus and another. Of course, this activity can also be done at even greater distances. If that is of interest, consider the Connecting for a Cause website, where students create a Google Sites web presence that represents their cause.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Securing #Chromebooks Inexpensively #tecsig

Wondering how you might secure Chromebooks inexpensively in your classroom environment? As Chromebooks become more popular, securing them inexpensively becomes a higher priority, as this one Texas school district shared recently:

We are just getting started with a Chromebook deployment, and I am looking for lockable storage/charging cabinets that will hold at least 20 Chromebooks and allow them to charge overnight.  They don’t need wheels.  I just need a way to lock up and charge classroom sets of Chromebooks.  Do any of you have anything like this that you really like?  

One district shared that they make their own:

Other school districts included the following options:

  1. CDWG Laptop Cart – $695.25
    1. District Comment: “We love our carts and they are fairly inexpensive but sturdy. You have to order the surge protection separately, but access from the back of the cart is easy. We order them from CDWG. They hold 20 any type of device. They are compact.”
  2. Lock-n-Charge Cart – Request a quote
    1. District Comment: “Best thing I’ve seen. I’ve purchased a variety of sizes and they are wonderful.”
  3. Tripp-Lite – $1300
    1. District Comment: “Tripp-Lite has a product line a lockable charging stations.”

Of course, for 20 Chromebooks, I wonder why not use a 6-device capacity Copernicus TechTub from Troxell?

Copernicus’ Premium Tech Tub is easy to move around your facility, so it can go where you or your students go. Made of heat-resistant ABS plastic, it provides rugged yet lightweight storage with ventilation to keep devices cool. Holds up to six devices, depending on model (previous model only held five). Now supports more Chromebooks™ including the 11” models of the most popular brands – Dell, HP, Acer, Asus and Samsung. NEW Taller lid accommodates a wider range of Chromebooks™
NEW Adjustable dividers to accommodate up to six devices and cases.
NEW Cable management channel to keep cables organized, out of sight, and in-line with each device; Cable management for power strip cord (on back)
Internal six-outlet power strip (previous model had external mounted power)
Locking block and pin to lock tub to counters and tables
Two padlocks with the same keys

Troxell offers great pricing (one district reported $172) and well-worth it! That’s about $688 for 4 TechTubs, each holding 6 Chromebooks each…and we’re talking about popular 11-inch Chromebook models from Dell, etc.

My contact at Troxell is Trenton Brackley ((800) 352-7912 x6304; trenton.brackley@trox.com).

What solution would you recommend?

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Audio Editing Made Beautiful on #Chromebook

Ever had to do any audio editing on a Chromebook? I have, and the only client out there that worked well (like Audacity) costs TOO MUCH money. I won’t even mention the client since it is darn expensive and I have no doubt that many folks paid a lot for it…just a twisted pricing model!

Ok, that aside, what if you could edit audio files on a Chromebook at low-cost, or even better, no cost if you’re a school district or educational institution? What about if that solution could save straight to GoogleDrive? Interested?

= Group Licensing =
Very cheap (likely free) MP3 exporting for school districts, non-profits, and other groups that make this world a better place. Describe your group to us for details:

If you’re looking for something like that, then be sure to check out the Beautiful Audio Editor–which allows you to export MP3 audio for one-time fee of $3.18 (pay attention, ONE time fee). Earlier today, I recorded audio from a presentation at TCEA TECSIG–with the presenters’ support and permission–on my iPhone using Voice Record Pro, but didn’t have an easy way to make some edits to the file (ok, Voice Record Pro has built-in audio editing but I didn’t want to try to do it on my iPhone with Voice Record Pro or Hokusai).

Problem: How to edit pre-recorded audio on my Chromebook?

Note: This process ultimately failed with a 51 minute file but I retain high hopes for Beautiful Audio Editor. Step 3 is where it all went wrong!! Again, I think it’s the SIZE of the audio file. I was successful with smaller audio files.

The first step was to flip Voice Record Pro into a WiFi drive–which is a way to transfer files over wireless connection–so I could access the audio off my phone via my Chromebook:

Add caption

Before exporting the recorded file from Voice Record Pro, I converted it to MP3…a nice feature in Voice Record Pro! After doing this, I saved the file to my Chromebook.

Here’s what it looks like at the IMPORT audio stage:

Once that was done, I was able to listen to the audio and make adjustments (edit/cut) content, not unlike Audacity on a desktop/laptop computer.

Note that I did pay $3.18 to get the MP3 export feature, but it looks like WAV export format is available at no cost…and you could just convert that WAV file with web-based tools like Media.io or Online-Convert.com.

As you might imagine, I had high hopes that I would be able to save my 51 minute audio recording of collegial coaching presentation, but alas, it was not meant to be. This process DID work with smaller files, though.

Problems Encountered While Saving
Of course, I had hoped this solution would work perfectly. It did not FOR LARGE AUDIO files, but it did for short stuff (which may make it appropriate for Chromebook Education users!). As you can see, I was instructed to download the audioproject file but was unable to do so successfully, receiving the error Failed-No File.

CollegialCoaching_edited_mguhlin.audioprojectThe server could not find the file.

I next tried to save the edited audio file using WAV, MP3 or SAVE TO GOOGLEDRIVE options…notice what happens:

One second, the .WAV button appears, but the next (after clicking it), the button disappears!

Hmm…the same thing happened with the MP3 file, too.

So, SAVE to Google Drive failed as well. This left me with 51 minute audio-edited file with no way to save it!! As you can see, file generated is zero bytes long…so, no data.

I’m looking forward to the Beautiful Audio Editor folks fixing this!

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Transitioning from What to Why #iPad #Chromebook #edtech #simonsinek

“No matter how visionary or how brilliant,” shares Simon Sinek in his book, Start with Why, a great idea or a great product isn’t worth much if no one buys it.” Assuming Sinek is right, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to instructional technologists that this is why they are often ignored. The desire of instructional technologists are to share great technologies with teachers so as to revolutionize teaching and learning. But that approach doesn’t work…as Sinek says, “No one buys it.” 

“Have you seen this?” This comes across when discussing the latest awesome app, or device (e.g. Apple Watch, for example), or blog entry! Once you’re on the bandwagon of praising the latest, being a cheerleader or fan-girl/boy, you’re lost until you stop focusing on the latest and greatest technology.

“WHY did we start advocating technology in schools (WHAT) in the first place, and WHAT can we do about that with all instructional approaches and easy to use technologies available to us in schools today?”

A profound question. I remember why I started down this road. Do you?

When We Start with Why
“Do you have a lot of one device in your school or district? What would a transition plan look like? As others have suggested, starting with the device is problematic. Too many initiatives in schools have started with technology as the magic bullet…it’s not that the technology failed, but that we imagined that just having access to technology in the classroom would make a difference. We actually have to shift the culture and practices in classrooms, which means doing that at the District level, too.

Source: Simon Sinek, Start with Why

  1. Why – This is the core belief of the organization. It’s why it exists. To inspire, start with why.
  2. How – This is how the organization fulfills that core belief…action you take to get to why.
  3. What – This is what the company does to fulfill that core belief. The results of your actions (all you say or do). (Adapted from Source)

Since Simon Sinek’s Lead with Why has been making the rounds, what would that look like in education? I’m not sure since I’m still trying to wrap my head around the why, how, what approach (I’m slow, that’s why I blog…to try and figure things out).

  1. Why – We want to truly transform how children learn alone and together in a way that fundamentally changes how students learn in school. In fact, we want kids to learn and share across schools, transcending boundaries of time and space. They do it all the time while learning to play internet-based games together, why not in school?
    1. 2nd Draft: Human beings can learn and create alone, but when they collaborate, “Wow!” the result is exponential! 
    2. 3rd Draft: People do things on their own all the time. We want to help people work together to to learn, create, and share together…to achieve powerful results. Often, schools aren’t able to do that.
  2. How – We accomplish this by rethinking our learning activities, asking ourselves, how are we able to facilitate more effective learning alone and reflection time, enabling creative tools for students when they are working alone and designing collaborative learning experiences that fit together like extenders? My individual creations can be remixed as part of a collaborative creation process with others.
    1. 2nd Draft: With coaching strategies that model technology use, we can coach people to collaborate to be more creative and collaborative.
    2. 3rd Draft: We can use technologies designed to facilitate creation, collaboration and communication to help people be more creative and collaborative.
  3. What – We happen to use a variety of instructional approaches, but integral to each are mobile devices and web services that make individual to group, group to group collaborations easy to accomplish, and empower inter-disciplinary content creation.
    1. 2nd Draft: Whether it’s GoogleClassroom and GoogleApps, Chromebooks or iPads, we can empower people to create alone or together to achieve common goals.

Miguel’s Effort to Put It All Together: People do things on their own all the time. We want to help people work together to learn, create, and share. To support this, we will coach others to develop or find technologies designed to support active learning, creating and sharing. Mobile devices (e.g. iPads, Chromebooks, smartphones), web-based services (e.g. GoogleApps for Education) are only two of the tools we can use to make this possible.

I’m not sure that works, or even makes sense, but it’s a quick effort to make sense of Sinek’s ideas and apply them to educational technology. If you’ve seen someone else do it, I’d love to see what they did! Or, if you have suggestions, please drop them in the comments. Ok, so now that you know about start with why, let’s do it wrong.

When We Start with WHAT
In conversation with others, I asked what were some of the problems that we experienced with iPads, as well as what possibilities were enabled with Chromebooks. This was done purely for fun to tease a visiting Apple sales representative, but I have no doubt some will find it relevant. There is truth in this…”transition plan” for  iPad to Chromebook:

In this Transition Plan, you can see how iPads are an expensive proposition for schools. Let’s quickly review how:

  • iPads require a Mobile Device Management (MDM) that can be quite expensive, no matter which of the top providers you are using like JAMF Software’s Casper Suite or AirWatch (both GREAT products you need to be using if working with more than 30 iPads)
  • Expensive power cord replacement (which change periodically), as well as
  • Expensive display adapters to connect your Apple device to a digital projector/display
  • Individual cost of iPads can be quite high to get a quality model
  • Repairs costs can start at $180 and go up from there.
  • GSX Warranty process can be slow to navigate through
  • iTunes content is closed and proprietary, so you have to have an Apple device to get maximum benefit.
On the other hand, Chromebooks are now showing up with a wealth of options:

  • $200 price point that include remote management
  • No Mobile Device Management is needed
  • Repair costs are included in the pricing, and even with some Chromebooks that had the “wrong glue” included that resulted in screens peeling back, replacement is at no cost if within the warranty period
  • The whole Google for Education ecosystem is richer and more powerful for schools including Google Classroom, GoogleApps, Google Drive.
  • For some schools using Brightbytes’ Clarity, top needs identified include addressing multimedia, classroom management with technology, online writing, collaboration tools.
  • Keyboarding support, free apps
  • Science Peripherals and Probes (I just saw one that has everything you could ever need on it for $600)
However, let’s remember that while the facts and opinions in this blog entry resemble the truth, focusing on the device is problematic. We don’t want to make instructional decisions around technology. For me, technology sets up boundaries…simply, you do things the way the technology allows or not at all…or worse, you have to come up with different workflows to detour around “built-in technology roadblocks.”

Detour Example: When many of us wanted to share iPads in classrooms, we had to create generic email accounts for each device so that students could share their work products from one class period to another and/or take advantage of cloud storage. Now, a few years after launch in schools, Apple is moving to fundamentally change the technology so it supports rather than restricts sharing in classrooms.

Obviously, while this transition plan focuses on the device (e.g. iPad or Chromebook), the best transition plan isn’t about devices…rather, it’s about how we approach teaching and learning. In an ideal situation, we’re not going to have one type of device but devices that make learning alone and together possible, that facilitate collaboration and creation in ways that weren’t possible previously.

Golden Circle

In my ideal district, Ardent ISD, I would try to find the solution that provided the most bang for the buck in achieving why and how. Again, I’m not sure if I’ve understood Sinek’s work and applied it incorrectly. But it’s been fun exploring the ideas.

Ok, here’s another try:

We want to help people learn, create, and share in ways that transcend time and space. Coaching others to develop or find technologies designed to support active learning, creating and sharing. Mobile devices (e.g. iPads, Chromebooks, smartphones), web-based services (e.g. GoogleApps for Education) are only two of the ways we can use to make this possible. Are you ready to have experiences that redefine your learning? If yes, give us a call!

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

MyNotes: Nothing Stopping You Now – #Skype on #Chromebook

“You know,” shared a colleague going to Gabon, “I love Chromebook! I probably would have gotten a Chromebook if I could Skype on it! But I did get a good deal on my under $700 Lenovo laptop!” Ah, what a difference a few months makes.

Now, Skype works on Chromebooks! Using an Acer C720 Chromebook, I was able to easily follow the instructions outlined in this MakeUseOf.com article entitled, How to Install Skype on a Chromebook. (lots of screenshots there!).

The steps are fairly straightforward, but, of course, what follows are my notes:

1) Check to see if you’re running a 32bit or 64bit. To do that, just go to your Chrome settings and click About. You’ll be able to see fairly quickly…

2) Download and unzip the following two files:

Leave the unzipped files in your Downloads folder.

2) Turn on Developer Mode by going to the 3 horizontal bars in the top right corner of the screen then choosing MoreTools–>Extensions.

3) While still in Developer Mode, click on Load unpacked extension, choosing both the ARChon unzipped file (which will have a funky folder name unzipped), and the Skype unzipped file.

4) Go to Apps and select Skype to start it up.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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