Chromebooks – they’re all about battery life

Last week pretty much all the work in Year 6 was done using Chromebooks.

Year 6 were documenting our school’s sports week, that we dubbed unofficially the Pagalympics. You can read about what happened at our school blog – – all the posts written there by children.

The idea of the week was that the rest of the school would engage in fun-filled workshops themed around the Olympics – some making puppets for the Olympic torch relay, which passed through Birmingham at the weekend, others making videos about the Olympic mascots, yet more taking part in a Decathlon – learning different events and competing against each other. Meanwhile, Year 6 were the journalists – it was there to job to find out what each group was doing, what the participants were learning and so on.

During the week the Year 6 children used the WordPress interface on the school’s self-hosted blog to write about what happened . They interviewed people about the events straight into Aviary – which contains a cloud-based audio editor. They uploaded audio into Audioboo and embedded this content into their posts. They took pictures, uploaded them to Picasa and embedded them into the blog. Somee made videos of what happened, which they edited in Camtasia.

Of these things only the video editing was done with no use of the Chromebooks. Everything else was done using Chromebooks in some way – using the Chromebooks internal microphone to record straight into Aviary or uploading pictures using the SD card slot.

The children learnt a lot from the week – one of the main things being the limitations of the current wifi system. The access points, scattered around the school would only allow three or four Chromebooks to get on with audio editing – anymore and the bandwidth would run out and nothing would happen. They also learned that they could only work so far onto the field before they couldn’t access the internet anymore. “You’ve got to write your blog this side of the big tree” one child told me.

That’s partly why I’m in the process of upgrading our wifi to a much faster system using Meraki – a cloud-based wifi management system that should increase the bandwidth of our access points by tenfold.

However the reason that the week worked above all was the battery life of the Chromebooks. It seems a minor consideration, but the fact that they last for 8 hours means that they last for a full school day –  a child can take a Chromebook in arm, walk about all over the school, use it whenever they notice something interesting and it never runs out.

I think this has got to be the overriding USP for primary schools with these kinds of devices, whether they be iPads, Android tablets, Chromebooks or whatever. They must last a full day. I know colleagues have had the same experience with iPads – whatever you make them do, they last all day and you just can’t beat that. All teachers know that one of the biggest drains on lesson time is sharpening the pencils – people develop all sorts of systems for it – monitors, electric sharpeners and the like – having sharpened pencils makes such a difference to lessons where drawing or writing happens. Similarly for tech-devices – having to charge them at dinner time is just a no go.

And that’s why, despite the fact that a newer, faster Chromebook is now out (the Samsung 550), I won’t be upgrading to that model, because it only guarantees 6 hours battery life. I can imagine that some places need them – maybe when you come on to doing cloud-based video editing or 3D modelling and you need the speed, but for my purposes, battery life is the winner.

So next time your looking for shiny mobile technology, make sure you keep the battery life in the back of your mind.

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