Four Awesome Ways to Use a Chromebook in the Classroom

We know Chromebooks are fantastic for users who want simplicity, that Chromebooks make excellent travel companions, and that they are perfect for those who do a lot of their computing in the cloud – but what role can Chromebooks play in the education sector?

In January 2014 we learnt that Chromebooks now account for twenty percent of all United States school purchases of mobile computers. It’s an incredible turnaround when you consider that in 2012 Chromebooks represented less than one percent of the market – and their rapid explosion has undoubtedly worried long-time market leaders Apple and Microsoft.

Chromebooks in the classroom 640x426   Four Awesome Ways to Use a Chromebook in the Classroom

The reasons for this growth are clear; there’s the low price (roughly $250 per machine), the easy set up (around thirty seconds per student compared with twenty minutes on more traditional laptops), and Chromebooks have excellent in-built security against hackers and viruses.

Chromebooks do have limitations. Students who study design or engineering may need specialist software that is unavailable in a web only environment – but this problem can be easily solved by buying a small number of Macs or Windows machines that can specifically accommodate these needs.

All that said, let’s look at some cool things you can do with a Chromebook in the classroom…

1. Doctopus

Doctopus is an add-on script for Google Docs that allows teachers to send assignment prompts to each student in real time.

Google Docs can be a great timesaver for teachers, but it can pose problems when creating daily assignments for students in multiple classes. The Doctopus script enables users to create assignments in bulk whilst maintaining the same naming conventions – thus ensuring all students have their own copy of an assignment.

Doctopus is easy to set up – all you have to do is install it from the Script Gallery, found on the “Tools” menu within your spreadsheet. It first requires you to make a student roster and template before running the script through the ‘Script Gallery’ in Google Sheets. For a detailed step-by-step guide, watch Kevin Brookhouser’s excellent pair of videos below.

Doctopus users can also use a handy Chrome extension called Goobric to quickly mark these assignments. To see Goobric in action with Doctopus, check out the following video by Jay Atwood.

2. Hapara Teacher Dashboard

Another app to increase a teacher’s efficiency is the Hapara Teacher Dashboard. It allows users to get a real-time view of student activity across Google Docs, Sites, Blogger, Picasa, Gmail and Google Plus, as well as offering configurable class calendars.

The Hapara Teacher Dashboard app organises data by class and by student, and also creates a Google Drive folder for each group. This removes the need to share files such as homework assignments as students can simply drop the assignment into the right folder for each class.

The app is available through the Google Apps Marketplace and costs $4 per student/per year. Setup is simple and Hapara provide extensive support through their website. For more information, watch the video below.

3. Google Hangouts

Whilst many schools and businesses block access to Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites on grounds of lost productivity, Google Plus Hangouts can provide an excellent learning outlet for schools.

It allows students to connect with their teacher outside the classroom. The teacher can hold a regular session where they will always be online and available to video chat, meaning they can easily help with homework and other out-of-school projects. Video conferences also mean students who are absent from school can remotely access lessons by watching the lecture and then using Google Drive to submit tasks and activities.

Another key feature of Google Hangouts is the ability to invite a guest speaker directly into the classroom. This could be an expert in the field which students are currently studying, or something as simple as a parent or grandparent reading excerpts and sharing experiences.

Google hangout screenshot 640x329   Four Awesome Ways to Use a Chromebook in the Classroom

4. Google Moderator

Google Moderator is a Reddit-esque app that lets its users submit ideas, links, and comments which can then be up-voted or down-voted depending on the opinion of the audience. There’s a lot you can learn about Google Moderator, but it has changed a lot in the past few years.

In a classroom environment it lets a teacher engage their students by giving them an input on questions, suggestions and ideas for the upcoming classes, and also provides a route for teachers to gain feedback on classes that have already happened.

Additional Chromebook Benefits

The long battery life of Chromebooks means teachers can focus on teaching the class rather than worrying about power management issues, the fast boot times mean less time is wasted waiting for devices to be ready to use, and Google Drive’s automatic saving means there is no concerns about lost data or overwriting another student’s files.

Classroom Chromebooks

Whether or not you agree that Chromebooks are a perfect classroom accessory, it cannot be denied that in a world where typing skills and computer literacy are increasingly important, engaging children with computers at an early age will enable them to reap the benefits in later life.

By using a Chromebook students are learning to use a proper keyboard, web browser and mouse – skills that are underdeveloped by schools that use consumption-focused tablets.

What do you think? Are Chromebooks going to dominate the education sector, or will they be usurped by a device that is specifically targeted at schools? Do you already have a child in a school that uses Chromebooks, iPads, or traditional laptops? How does your child find the experience? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Credit: Kevin Jarrett via Flickr, Kevin Jarrett via Flickr

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

11 Comments -

Ed

If a school is set up with virtual machines hosted on servers, students can remote into these VMs to work with any Windows specific software that has no Chrome equivalent.

Combine remote Windows access with all the other benefits of Chromebooks in the classroom and it seems that Chromebooks can be a winning solution in schools.

Daniel Price

Ed – great idea – should have included that!!

Daniel

Harry

I wouldn’t trust putting this in classrooms. I would prefer roll out Windows RT devices.

Daniel Price

Hi Harry,

Curious to know why you wouldn’t trust them? Maybe it can be turned into an article…

Daniel

likefunbutnot

To Harry’s point:

Chrome plugins and apps are positively rife with malware and Chrome as a platform is miserable from a management standpoint. Yes, it’s relatively simple to quarantine user data in someone’s Google Drive or other cloud storage account, but for the duration of time between infection and factory reset of impacted machines, you’re opening up your local resources to who-the-hell-knows what.

I’m not entirely sold on Windows RT in the form of the Surface Tablet, but I’ve been recommending them as a solid real-world alternative to a crummy netbooks or chromebooks, simply because its capabilities more closely match the working environment of modern personal computers while its operating environment is relatively secure and simple to manage. I wish I could always find Surfaces for $250 instead of the $500 a new one costs, but that’s what refurbs and dealer clearance sales are for.

I’d many times over prefer to see a quality Android device to a Chromebook as well. At least Google has concepts of device management that apply to Android devices.

David B

The whole point of deploying chromebooks is its low cost combined with the fact that the data storage is essentially not tied to the machine itself. I don’t think you can get the same benefits by deploying Windows based machines, even lower-cost, stripped-down versions of those. And even if you used something like AD to centralize the data storage you’re still paying a ton of money in OS costs and CALs and in that case you might as well be giving students something that has local storage (and in that case, you might as well be deploying something like owncloud which does not need CALs). Sure it’s probably a better solution for universities and higher-learning institutions where students can afford to have those costs passed onto them, but I wouldnt recommend it for most classrooms unless your school had a good budget.

Mike H

I work at a college and we have students return their Chromebooks if possible for a refund.

Many of the publishers of textbook material are not compatible with Chromebooks. They limit support to PC’s and Mac’s and do not seem to be interested in adding the cost adding support for Chromebooks.

They are great for users with limited needs but all others should be careful that they don’t end up with something they can’t use for all of their needs.

Alana Morales, Author

As a middle school teacher who has had the chance to use Chromebooks in the classroom this year, I have to add – they are wonderful! True, they don’t have the functionality of a Windows machine, but GDocs is easy to use and manage. The affordability makes it worth changing over.

Daniel Price

Glad you like them Alana – any apps or tricks you’d recommend?

Daniel

KSJ

My 6th grader just finished a year where the only school supply we had to buy was a Chromebook. I asked her if anyone in her class would be happier without them. She said no one would want to give up their Chromebook.

MarPaps

In my school, we just have crazy expensive smartboards and we, the students, use pens and paper.