We caught up with Kapa‘a Middle School teacher Thomas “Logan” Newbill recently and asked if he would share his thoughts on Google Chromebook in the classroom.
In April, 2014, Logan launched this program in his seventh and eighth grade Science and Social Studies classrooms. As mobile devices become increasingly useful and portable in various applications, we thought this information might be of particular interest to anyone considering how to use mobile devices in the classroom.
As always, please let us know if you have any questions or need additional information. If we don’t know the answer to a question, we’re happy to research answers for you. It helps us to keep learning too!
What attracted you to the Chromebooks over other types of devices (i.e., laptop computers, tablets, etc.)?
TN: The Chromebooks were attractive for a couple of reasons: they had such a low price that I could achieve a 1:1 student:computer ratio; and the Chromebooks were said to have a very fast start up time, simple access to the internet and Google docs, decent durability, and a convenient management system.
Have you discovered any downsides to using Chromebooks in class?
TN: There have not been many downsides. The Chromebooks come in many colors. Mine are white and they get dirty really quickly, so I would suggest a darker color.
What was the learning curve like with the Chromebooks, both for you and your students?
TN: For me, the learning curve was more with the management system Hapara than Chromebooks. Luckily, Hapara had great customer assistance. The Chromebooks are very, very simple to use and pretty much have no learning curve for the students.
What would you say has been the best aspect of having these devices in class?
TN: The best thing has been that they are so quick and reliable in connecting to the internet that I can have 36 computers running at once and not feel much delay. They start up in about 5 seconds, and the battery never lasts less than a school day.
What about the worst aspect? What would you change or reconsider?
TN: I would not get the white ones!
Tell us a little about how you utilize the classroom management features of the Chromebook eco-system.
TN: Combined with Hapara, I issued each student an account with an email address. They log into the computer with this and all activity is tracked. I can see screen shots of each logged-in student and also see what tabs are open and review recent activity. I can block websites, limit access to certain apps and other things like themes and wallpaper. Basically, I can make it so students aren’t able to make any permanent changes to the computers and have few options to waste time.
Have you had difficulties integrating the devices into your school’s network/computing environment?
TN: I didn’t even need help setting these up! I just connected them all to the WIFI in my room, and they connect automatically now.
What guidance would you offer a teacher who might be considering bringing Chromebooks into their classroom?
TN: I would highly recommend Chromebooks. I mostly use Google Apps and some other Chrome apps. I have students create design plans in Google Drawings, create animated comic strips in Google Slides, collect and display data with Google Sheets, and write all written assignments in Google Docs. When combined with Google’s free service, Google Classroom, I can create assignments, set due dates, mark grades, and give feedback all in one place without exchanging one piece of paper. The STEM applications are endless, and they have allowed me to have a much higher level of creativity with my curriculum while also staying very organized.
What guidance would you offer a teacher who was unsure about how to integrate these devices into their lessons?
TN: All you need is a purchased domain, a management program like Hapara, and use of the free service Google Classroom. Each has many tutorial videos and personal help to get you started and solve problems.
What feedback have you received from students about the Chromebooks?
TN: They love them!
Anything else you’d like to add for the teachers and STEM community members?
TN: These computers really make it easy to work in the “technology” aspect of STEM. The rest follows so easy when you can plan knowing you have full access to any online resource, especially Google Apps. The new HP Chromebook 14 only costs around $299 as well.