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Chromebook Event: About the tool...Notes

It didn't recognize my camera on the USB, but the memory slot worked!
On January 30, I attended a Google Chromebook event at the University of Minnesota.
The presenters, Jaime Casap and Dana Nguyen talked about the "paradigm shift" that the Chromebook represents. Here are some of my notes. For today's session, I was using a Samsung device. Jaime noted that as new manufacturers start developing Chromebooks, they will continue to have a screen, keyboard, and camera. This device had 2 USB 2.0 ports, a 4-1 memory card slot, and a mini-VGA port. Note: This post is not an endorsement of the product, just my notes on the presentation!
  • Boot in 8 seconds (They are working on it to be faster!)
  • 8 hour battery
  • Wi-Fi w/ optional 3G
  • Everything in the Cloud
  • Management is easier, as Web based console for users
  • Automatic Updating
  • Integrated Security
  • 3 Year extended warranty
  • After 3 years, schools get new devices, plus get to keep the old...

The Web has come a LONG Way! Not that long ago, the connections we had at work were better than we have at home! (CyberMonday evolved because of that.)
Today, you can "Hangout" with people anywhere, Read eBooks, Learn from watching video, and collaborate on projects.
Today, we don't learn with a manual, we watch Youtube, or ask friends on social networks. 
Today, we use devices to create content, not just consume. (Read: Take that, Apple!) Teacher Web creation and collaboration is evident by Web pages, Moodle Courses, Screencasts, assessments, presentations, etc.
The Google folks argue that Budget, Management and Scalability get in the way of devices being ubiquitous. Obviously, if your district is already using Apps for Education, there are certain benefits.

The device was designed to take advantage of how the Web is now.

  • Web Based Management
  • Customized from the cloud
  • Security Built-In (No Malware)
  • Forever Fresh
  • Web Based Management
  • Customized from the cloud
  • Security Built-In
  • Forever Fresh
Management Console is built in to the Google Apps for Education Domain Management. When districts purchase Chromebooks, the Chrome OS settings are added to the domain. Different settings can be set up by school/organizations within the domain.
Proxy settings can be set up that work either at school, or can be set up at home. The policies are stored in the cloud as opposed to the device, at the account level. Screens can automatically be locked on idle. The policies can be set as low as 30 minutes to as high as 24 hours. 
You can also customize so that certain pages always load on start-up!
Devices must connect to the Web in order to "ping the server" and be updated.
For 1:1 programs, you can set up devices so that only the assigned user can log-in. 

The management console has been updated a few times, and is continually being improved based on user input. 

Pricing for the Wi-Fi only device with 1 year purchase is $449, with a 3 year subscription it's $20/month. For the management console, there is an additional $5/month cost per device after the first year.
For the Wi-Fi plus 3G, it's $519 for 1 year purchase, or $23/month with the 3 year subscription.
Schools can get a cart and cloud printer with the first 30 you purchase.

After 3 years, what happens to the management console? Google says that they will give a 6 month warning notice when the OS will no longer be supported.

They finished their presentation with a video that showed how one student's experience with the device.

Next, Nguyen showed some features of Chrome, such as enabling "Instant" for faster searching, adding other search engines such as Amazon, Wikipedia and Youtube with shortcuts for searching. On a chromebook, you can highlight text and use a "2 finger click" to search in a new tab! 
You can also "Bookmark all tabs" if you want to save tabs that are open. 
She flew through a wide variety of great shortcut features, like "Pinning Tabs", the new calculator feature in the "Omnibox." 
Finally, she showed us the translate tool, which she claims is now "80% Accurate!" and "20 Things I

A question from the audience asked whether 1:1 programs can handle Docs if the student doesn't have Internet access. Casap said that one option is to give students w/o access a 3G device.

We then went into a Hangout with Richland School District in North Carolina, where they will be implementing a 1:1 program with 19,000 Chromebooks! They are going from 200mb to 500 mb bandwidth, and they have 26,000 students. We also talked with Leyden School District, who have implemented Chromebooks and are very pleased with their implementation. Easy, equal access for everyone is essential!
It was a good discussion about "making the device disappear" and other Best practice for a 1:1 initiative. Bryan Weinert, the Technology Director pointed out that since so much is via the Web, and the Chromebook was designed as a Web tool, that it feels like a perfect fit. They are also looking at "OpenClass" as a potential Learning Management System. Right now, 80% of students have Internet access, but they are not providing devices/access for students without.

Casap asked them to discuss the Professional Development issues with Chromebook implementation. The folks in North Carolina focused on blended learning opportunities for staff in cloud based options. Weinert, met with his staff for 30 minutes, showed them how the lock worked on the cart, how to log in and off, and that was about it. Instead, they've focused on Google Apps, Web 2.0 tools and good instructional design for how they can use the tools in the classroom. He did say that the management console is essential to the instructional process. Mainly so they can run the device through district proxies for filtering, manage apps/extentions, and provide a safe environment for their students.

Offline syncing works with Gmail and calendar, but it's currently only view only in Docs. 
The "ScratchPad" app can do basic word processing and sync. 

Aside from struggling a bit with the trackpad, as an experienced Chrome user, I felt fairly comfortable using the device. A fairly short learning curve. I think it's an interesting model, but I'm not sure some districts would consider $20/month/student "sustainable." Still if you consider that other 1:1 programs purchase devices with a similar lease, they may be close. Perhaps if districts can get their textbook cost down, it might become a viable learning tool.


BB said…
Hi Michael,

Interesting thoughts on the session. Did you also catch the presentation of Ericom AccessNow that is being used by Richland School District to access Windows applications and desktops from Chromebooks? This solution also supports Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives enabling students, staff and parents to access resources from any device, including home computers, iPads, etc. through a browser, because no client software is installed.
jenhegna said…
Thanks for the notes. Will you be implementing in Edina? I will be honest, living in a rural area - I am not sure that I am amazed by this device. 3G can be sporadic and unreliable and in Some areas 3g isn't even available.

Then it comes down to Wifi...

What is the primary factor, in your opinion, that would make someone choose a chromebook over a $500 tablet/laptop?
Unknown said…
I did see that, and I have 2 thoughts.
1) Is what I can do on Windows device THAT necessary?
2) How many virtual desktops would need to be available for 9000 users? Is this sustainable?

There are several things I like about the Chromebook.
1) The size is much better than the netbooks we have purchased for supplementary devices. I think the Wifi version would be sufficient, especially if Google gets the offline app option working well. I can see your concern about coverage in a rural environment.
2) Being an Apps for Edu district, it just works well!
3) In the refresh model, it seems like it could be sustainable, especially when you consider support.
BB said…
Many schools, after switching to web-based apps, have at least one Windows-based app that they still need access to. If you can provide access to these Windows apps through the browser then you facilitate the transition to Chromebooks.

Another interesting use-case is the need to support web apps that are not compatible with Chrome. For example, web apps that utilize Java applets. Students and staff can access those web apps by running Microsoft Internet Explorer running on a Windows host – a browser within a browser!

Determining sizing requirements for supporting 9,000 users, requires a better understanding of the particular environment. For example: how many users will be connected concurrently? (If they are being used in support of the daily lesson plan then you can have a scenario where all 9,000 users are accessing desktops simultaneously.) What type of applications will they be using? Will they be at a single location or spread in multiple locations? Many schools are running large implementations of virtual desktops for their students. One of the challenges for IT is in supporting client-based software for accessing those virtual desktops. It adds a layer of complexity and support, and also limits access to only school supported devices. Using a browser to access the desktop eliminates these issues.

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