Chromebooks: faceless magnificence

It’s been some time since I added to my growing list of Chromebook posts.

 

Previously, in the Chromebook saga, a near-fatal flaw in Chrome Os had put the whole Chromebook experiment in jeopardy. Unable to get through the proxy server setup, the Chromebooks, all beautifully sparkling in their brand new charging trolley were a bit like a bank of door wedges – I might as well have bought ZX Spectrums – at least they’d have been a more wedge-like shape.

 

Many of my previous posts had me wrestling with complicated equipment such as paper clips and using interesting Star Trek-like phrases such as “I have now erased the stateful partition.” But the marvellous Matt from the Chrome Os support team in Mountain View got me back on track. In his laid-back Bay Area voice he explained, suggested, advised and encouraged until, with the help of a more updated version of Chrome Os, the Chromebooks starting working again.

 

And then what?

 

I was expecting the next problem. This is ICT you see – it never is completely straightforward. What would be the next barrier? The next obstacle? The next mountain to climb?

 

There hasn’t been one. All the Chromebooks work. Perfectly.

 

We take them into the classroom and give them to the students. The students use the Chromebooks in some or all their learning. Then we put them away again.

 

So the solution is even better than the Chromebooks working perfectly – it’s like they’re not there at all. There is no fuss about them. They have no charisma, no personality. They are faceless devices. They. Just. Work.

 

What that means is that the students can concentrate on using the software. So, during the last month students have:
  • used Worpress to blog (on the Chromebooks);
  • used Purple Mash to design 3D models (on the Chromebooks);
  • used Google Maps to embed photos of the school as part of the Switched on ICT scheme of work (on the Chromebooks);
  • used Google Docs to write stories (on the Chromebooks);
  • used Google spreadsheets to learn their times tables (on the Chromebooks);
  • used Khan Academy to practice maths skills (on the Chromebooks);
  • used Education City to practice phonics and literacy skills (on the Chromebooks);
  • used GoAnimate to make animations (on the Chromebooks);
  • used Aviary to create their own music (on the Chromebooks).
Some students even used Google Search to find out information for their topics…

 

Having had a bank of wireless Windows laptops in the past, Chromebooks have already proved to be better in the following 5 ways.
  1. The 8 second start up means that the only time wasted is distributing the Chromebooks to the students, whereas the laptops could take up to 2 minutes to boot up and access the network.
  2. No virus checker means that the Chromebooks work fast from the start, whereas the laptops would be slowed by for ten minutes by the inevitable start up of various Windows processes.
  3. An 8 hour battery life in the Chromebooks means that they only need to be charged over night, whereas the laptops would have to be charged during lunchtime to give afternoon users a chance.
  4. The light weight of the Chromebook means you can carry them around the classroom to show other people what you’ve been up to, whereas our laptops had been much heavier.
  5. The VGA adaptor that comes with every Chromebook has been really useful for showing what’s on the screen on the classroom projector. The laptops by contrast often did bizarre things when connecting to a projector.
There have been two small non-Chromebook related barriers. The first is that sometimes the children can’t log on because they don’t spell their names correctly. Or they forget their password. The second is that it has exposed the frailties of the school wifi network – for most of the above applications everything was fine, but for Aviary (online sound editing) the demands of thirty children all trying to create their own “Burial of the Pharoah” music was a bit too much for the sole wifi access point. Looks like Meraki could be the answer to that. Mercifully the 2 second shut down / 8 second start up (mentioned earlier) saved the day here – when a Chromebook got stuck trying to get through the access point, a quick re-start sorted it out.

 

In Chromebooks, it seems like we have found a device that enhances productivity – because you don’t really notice that its there. Instead of being a magnificent in-your-face piece of technical kit, Chromebooks are instead magnificently faceless, allowing all the fantastic software available online to come to the fore.