Friday, September 19, 2014

Chromebook Update

We are exactly one month in to our Chromebook 1:1 initiative at Norfolk Senior High. I cannot believe that one month ago today we passed out our first devices. So one month in, what have I learned?

Most kids are respectful of and careful with their device. But we still have had some kind of Chromebook damage almost daily. The screens are our biggest issue currently. Putting the Chromebook inside a book bag full of books really isn't a good idea. Fortunately, replacing a screen is a fairly simple fix. And if we have them on hand, turn around time is within a day. We do have around 1,200 devices deployed so one or two damaged per day is a pretty low rate.

Our system of students bringing damaged Chromebooks to the library for appraisal seems to be working fairly well. The ladies in the library have done a great job of being our first line of defense and diagnosing problems.

All of our Chromebooks are engraved:

And this engraving has come in handy. Fortunately we live in a city of honest people. One Chromebook was left at Dairy Queen and returned and another was brought to our Central Office. Without that engraving clearly marking the Chromebook, I think those Chromebooks would have been lost for good.

We used the Chromebooks for MAPs testing and it seemed to work fairly well. The issue wasn't with the device but more with the proctors. Many teachers were proctoring this exam for the first time. 

Our wireless network has held out with an additional 1,200 devices connected. We had been experiencing some drops in connectivity at specific times of the day both at the SH and at the JH where we are 1:1 with iPads. This has been diagnosed as a filter issue and we are currently working with LightSpeed to correct the problem.

We also experienced our first Google Drive outage this week. Now that teachers are reliant on Google Apps, especially Classroom, the outage although brief, was difficult for teachers and students. It is one thing to plan for a technology snow day but when it just happens unexpectedly it can really put a crimp in your day. Fortunately, most of our teachers are troopers and did other things while Drive wasn't working. As with most Google outages, it wasn't widespread and affected some of our accounts but not all of them. And it was resolved within a few hours. (Not sure if it is you or Google? Check the Apps Status Dashboard for information on service disruptions.)

Our teachers have been amazing. Lots are using Classroom. Others have set up Google Sites. At least one is using Nearpod. We have math teachers using Google Spreadsheets. Others have tried Kahoot. I heard from a middle school teacher yesterday who also happens to be a parent of a sophomore that her daughter is using her Chromebook every night for almost every class. I was thrilled to hear that!

I spent the entire day at the Middle School (MS) yesterday training on Chromebooks and Google Classroom. Last year we did a Chromebook pilot at the SH with ten carts of Chromebooks. Some of those carts have gone to the MS and others will be distributed to some of our elementary schools. The MS teachers are definitely excited about using the Chromebooks. So the use of Chromebooks will be almost district wide. 

It has been a fast and furious month. We have learned a lot and I'm sure we will continue to learn on this journey. It is an exciting time to be in education. We are very fortunate to have this opportunity. So I am definitely willing to go through some growing pains because I know this is the right thing to do for our students.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Chromebooks, Chromebooks and More Chromebooks!

I go to bed thinking about Chromebooks. I wake up thinking about Chromebooks. I go to work and deal with Chromebooks. Chromebooks have become my life lately! And I love the Chromebook, don't get me wrong. I just didn't realize they would be all consuming as we have gone 1:1 with Chromebooks.

This week I finally had time to breath and work on things not directly related to our 1:1 rollout. But I have worked on a few Chromebook issues this week that I thought I would share.

This first one actually happened last week but I didn't share it in my post. We offer both French and Spanish. These teachers obviously want their students to use the correct accent marks when using Docs, Slides, etc. So I was tasked with figuring out the best way to do this. I came across these sites and to use as a temporary solution. And for first year students, that might be all they need. The other options you have are to enable foreign keyboards on the Chromebook. But if students aren't familiar with foreign keyboard layouts, that is not going to be a good solution. So I finally came across this site that used the US international keyboard to create Spanish accent marks. And this site showed how to create French accent marks using the international keyboard. Creating a screencast of how to add the US international keyboard was a challenge as our Chromebooks are not powerful enough to create a good screencast. So I ended up taking screenshots and using Explain Everything (yep, the iOS app) to create this video to show students how to add the US international keyboard.

This week the band director came in and needed a way for students to use the Chromebook to record themselves playing their instruments. I had first pointed him to WeVideo. However, the free version of WeVideo only allows for a two minute record time. Most of the pieces the students needed to play last longer than two minutes. So we needed to find a better way to do this. I discovered this morning that you can use YouTube to record from your webcam. You just need a YouTube channel. Go to Upload and select Webcam Capture. Easy peasy! Here are the instructions for webcam recording in YouTube.

Google Classroom continues to be a big hit with my teachers. It is so simple and easy to use and saves so many steps. Even teachers who have been hesitant to get into document sharing with students have embraced Google Classroom for its ease of use. If you haven't seen Google Classroom yet, check out this webinar by my friends Lisa Pospishil and Corey Dahl for an overview.

Finally, today we are having our first Chromebook Health Check. Teachers will be physically examining the devices for any damage. Students who have damaged Chromebooks will report to the library and the library will assess the damage and determine what to do next. We hope to do this periodically to keep our Chromebooks nice and healthy!