I have now been using Google Chromebooks for 2 months after we completely redeveloped the IT infrastructure at school over the summer. I have been so impressed with them that I thought it important to share my experiences so far.
You can click here to read the background to our journey, I have kept it separate as this would end being to long (coming soon).
(Update: As I’m writing this, I realise there is so much to say so you may see some other posts with specific info on different aspects.)
After looking at a number of Chromebooks from different manufacturers, I decided on the Dell Chromebook 11 because it had a rubber seal around the outside making it a bit more child proof, it felt more robust and felt like it was well made, the cost was very attractive £175 per unit (you do need an £11 licence on top), but the main reason was it has a full size HDMI port which means you don’t need any adaptors when connecting to TV’s or screens. We ordered 120 which means all teaching staff have one and every KS2 class has a bank with more that can be booked out. For pupils they are perfect, in hindsight the staff could do with something a bit more powerful and larger.
As mentioned above at £175 (+£11 licence) per unit this makes the Chromebook the best value device around, hence why we purchased 120. There are more expensive Chromebooks but for primary aged pupils the Dell does everything it needs to.
Turning on and logging in
2 things that make the Chromebook ideal for the classroom. Firstly, it is always advertised that Chromebooks are quick to load up and that is exactly true, 10 seconds is all it takes and gets rid of the lengthy delays experienced with other devices, it allows for minimal delay in starting activities. Secondly, a relative new feature is the Google Apps for Education (GafE) domain that is being used (e.g charleswilliamsprimary.org) is automatically completed when logging in, meaning the pupil only has to enter their username which again makes it quick and easy. I have used firstname.lastname which is something all pupils remember.
As far as passwords are concerned, in year groups up to and including year 4, we have specified the password to avoid issues with having to reset them, in the future this may change but it works well at present. In years 5 & 6 the pupils choose their own password and this has proved ideal.
And the best part, once a pupil has logged on once, their username is remembered meaning all they have to enter is the password.
Once you have enrolled the device (Ctrl, Alt & E) then it appears in the admin console and is very easy to control, obviously knowledge of using Google Apps Admin console is required, but making custom wallpapers, sharing bookmarks etc is all done with a click of a button. I enrolled all pupil Chromebooks on a generic ‘pupil’ account and then pupils used their own login when they needed to.
Programs & Apps
This is where the Chromebook is make or break, being a Google product it comes with links to all the Google products, nothing is installed on the device as it is all accessed through the cloud. You can use it offline albeit with limited functionality.
Until recently the choice of apps on the Google Play Store was limited but as the popularity of the Chromebook increases the choice of apps is growing fast. Apps can be setup and distributed to users and organisations in a variety of ways and this is still an area I am learning about.
I have now worked out how to install a program for specific organisations. I set our school up with a number of different organisations (staff and year groups), this allows you to customise the experience for pupils. I installed a screen cast program for my year 6 which worked a treat, as soon as they logged in, it was there and ready to use.
Coming next: Collaboration