Saturday, June 15, 2013

Next Step: ChromeBooks

Manaiakalani Schools ordered 700 Chromebooks for the start of the 2013 school year. These have been spread across 11 schools and bought by children 8 - 18 years of age. Most of the uptake of Chromebooks has been either from students recently enrolled in our schools or the youngest students entering a 1:1 class for the first time.  The remaining students in that age range are still using the ASUS eee (with Ubuntu OS) netbooks we first introduced in 2010. A handful have talked their parents into ‘upgrading’ to the latest device, but most are seeing out the 3 year purchase contract on their first device.

Hard to believe it is June and I have yet to post a reflection.  Enough to say it has been a very busy year so far!

I have blogged extensively about our move to 1:1 beginning with a post outlining the vision and many posts followed commenting on our experiences.
During 2012 we went through what has become an annual cycle of deciding what device to purchase for the Manaiakalani schools for the coming year.  Students are very much included in this decision making.  The outcome was a consensus that the time was right to move to Chromebooks and we were supported by the Asia Pacific team at Google to be the first schools in the OZ/NZ region to do a Chromebook rollout.

We chose the Samsung 500 (Wifi only) model.

Our experience
The out-of-box experience for our users (children and teachers) was delightful to witness.  That 8 minute boot, the ‘switch it on and it connects with the wifi and logs you into your account’, no fuss and start learning was such a pleasure to be part of.  The teachers and principals who have experienced other IT rollouts were extremely positive about the start up -  I include the wide-ranging device and OS types used by adults and students across our schools in this comparison.

And six months down the track, a check this week with teachers continues to report a very positive user experience.

We did have to get our heads around a different way of viewing technology and our digital learning environments. For example
  • We can’t load lots of desktop apps such as our much loved Hyperstudio! We need to find web hosted alternatives or Chromestore apps
  • We have 16 GB of storeage space on the device BUT 100GB in their Google Account. This actually means way less angst if the device requires a restore than with our previous models (kids who have downloaded way too many GBs of songs and movies resist a reimage!) but still requires a shift in thinking.

Adam Naor said at the recent Google Apps Community Event in Auckland, “The Internet is the platform for learning”, and this device choice has helped us all make the move to digital learning environments much smoother.

Because we were first off the block with this device, we did learn some lessons the hard way - through human error! The licensing and enrolment process this time round was different again from previous tech rollouts in our schools. We appreciated the support from the Google team (Inam, Adam and Suan) and our colleagues in the USA (including Donna Teuber, Technology Integration Coordinator at Richland School District Two).

As always, teachers and students have posted about their experiences, so check some of these out:

Room 14 at Pt England School

Tamaki College Years 9-13

Check out the parent's comments under this boy's post

Marilyn's delightful post - nine year old girl reports her out-of-box experience