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.
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…
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.
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.
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.