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


  1. Hi Dorothy, It has definitely been exciting and quite special to share in this experience, especially with the students who are entering the 1:1 environment for the first time. It's a pioneering effort and we're learning lots from each other. Great to have the network of support from so many. Every week the students have something new they have discovered and are excited to share.
    Thought you might enjoy this blog post from Anna at Saint Patrick's School... was posted yesterday (Room 5 have been learning to schedule their posts)

    My Fantastic paragraph about Chromebooks

  2. I have never heard of a ChromeBook until your post! Interesting! Hopefully I will have the opportunity to use ChromeBooks in my future classroom. So exciting that there is such positive user experience.

  3. @Fiona Thanks for the link to Anna's blog. These kids telling their own story speak far more powerfully than an adult - especially when we know it is their only digital access and it is opening up their world to learning in a way never possible for Decile 1 kids.

  4. Thank you for including the video of the students of the 8 minute boot! The kids looks so excited to use a new device. The extra storage that Google Cloud provides removes some of the restrictions you would find in the classroom otherwise. Google seems to have been an invaluable partner in your school's transformation. How many years did it take to completely reach 1:1?

  5. Hi Lynn, We piloted 2 classes in 2010, then in 2011 went with all classes from 9 years of age and older.
    This year we are responding to a parent request to introduce tablets with the 5-7 year olds!
    So we have begun the Chromebook 1:1 from 8 years of age and are currently trialling two classes with iPads. It is going really well. Our original learners from 2010 are now in their 5th year of 1:1 and they remember no other life.


  6. Hi Dorothy, I think I managed to sneek in a little before you with Chromebooks rolling out a set of 45 chromebooks here in Wanganui in August 2012. Almost 2 years later the chromebooks are going well. There are no signs of them giving up. All of the batteries are holding out beautifully. Not one of them is failing to charge. I have had a couple damaged by students but the rest are going as well as their first day.

    My words of advice to schools going for chromebooks.
    1. In the management console space out updates to 14 days. Otherwise they all try to update at once. I found that out the hard way when 30 of them tried to update at the same time on an ADSL connection.

    2. Make sure your wireless access points can handle 30 chromebooks at once or you and your students are in for a world of disapointment. A lot of domestic ones can only handle around 5 clients. If money is short have a look at unifi access points. They handle a class set for a fairly cheap price. And are available in most cities.

    1. Hi Edward, thanks for sharing your experiences. It is really interesting to hear how it is going in another part of the country. We continue to enjoy our Chromebook experience, particularly with the offline apps available.
      We agree about the access points and anyone who comes to us asking gets told to get a commercial company (such as our partners, Fusion Networks) to do an audit and then install the best commercial grade APs etc you can. Use the money you save from no more printing and you can easily afford it.

      My experience in the management console has been the opposite to yours. We have hundreds of CBs in use and we were told to space upgrades out over 3 days. I have shortened it to over one day because we have no issues with APs or bandwidth.

      What our interchange means is that people need to audit their own local conditions and make decisions accordingly- not just do what the school down the road is doing :)
      Much as I love our CB experience I recently told a teacher that his principal did the wrong thing buying CBs!! This was after he told me a nightmarish tale of the principal buying a set at a discount sale in a local store and dropping them in his class and telling him to share with the class next door. No wifi in the classes and no management console and no provision for any kind of PLD or collegial support. Wrong device for that environment IMHO.

  7. Once we move more Wanganui schools to fibre updates wont be such an issue. Unfortunately, getting fibre here is quite a challenge. The early chromebooks ran a 300mb update when they first came out. I resorted to purchasing a pair of USB sticks and manually upgrading them (45). Thankfully I have never had to do it since.

    For schools who can't or wont spend a fortune on APs I have had some good experiences with Unifi access points from ubiquity. I won't say they are perfect but they do work well for a cheapie.

    And yes. Chromebooks are pretty much paperweights without good wireless in the classrooms (I know there's offline but its still pretty limiting). I'm still surprised at how many schools, even large ones who appear quite tech savvy try to run things with only a few cheap and nasty access points.