It’s taken a good year, but my staff now use Chromebooks with their children as a first preference. Given the choice they put Chromebooks ahead of our other devices.
We have 30 chromebooks in a Lapsafe charging trolley and 30 Windows PCs in an ICT suite. The teachers know the PCs – they’re what we’ve used for years – they’re comfortable with them. But the Chromebooks are now more convenient.
The 8 second start up means very little lesson time is lost at start up. Even if the odd device does not connect to the wifi first time, a restart takes 10 seconds – and now we have an open Meraki network around the school, devices connect 99% of the time.
The portability of the Chromebook means that they work really well in normal classrooms. Teachers can use them in the room where they are most comfortable.
Google Apps makes a big difference too. Being able to produce work in Google Docs, share ideas in Google Groups and output best work to Blogger means the Chromebooks are really versatile, productive devices.
But what summed it up for me was last week when a teaching assistant was acting as a cover supervisor for a teacher who was absent. This particular lady is not the most confident with technology, saw the plan the teacher had left for her and I gave her the choice – ICT suite or Chromebooks.
“I’d prefer to use the Chromebooks,” she said.
First of all you’ve got to have a purpose for mobile technology. As I previously stated, my purpose is threefold: use, danger and expense. But behind all that is the belief that the the ideal device for mobile learning is the brain and the best thing to educate the brain of a child is a learned adult.
So with that as a given, how have we gone about it? Well, in five steps:
- You need some technology that works. Something that the children can access on any device and use productively. We chose Google Apps and used it for a year before looking into any mobile devices. We have also used Education City and are looking at changing our MIS system to an entirely cloud-based one called Aspen.
- You need to try some mobile devices. It’s no good allowing this to happen if the staff haven’t used them at all. We got some Chromebooks into school and have recently been trialling some iPads courtesy of XMA.
- You need to send some devices home. I called this SOOD – Send Our Own Devices. It’s a bit different from BYOD because it involves us as a school sending some devices home. I think this is an important step because it shows families that you trust them and allows you to try out a small test group of children and see what happens when they have a device with them 24/7. If we could afford it, I’d love to go SOOD for our whole school, but we don’t have the budget.
- You need to beef up your wifi. We got a system called Meraki which is cloud-based and allows me to monitor what happens on the network. I’ve setup a free open network for students using this. Ideally this would not have a proxy filter system as changing a proxy on a device can be a bit of a fiddle, but I don’t have that luxury at the moment – I still have to teach the children how to input for a proxy in school and a direct internet connection at home.
- You need to make it easy for your families to buy devices. There are various schemes out there, but we’re about to go for a system called All Learn by XMA – they setup a monthly payment portal for parents, insure the devices against breakage and insure the school against non-payment – it’s a win-win!
Now, I’m not going to lie here. We’ve only got to step 4 in my school. The rubber is going to really hit the road with Step 5 over the next six months – I’ll let you know how it goes…