As today is Valentines’s day, I thought It seemed like a good day to share the unlikely device “love in” that I’m currently experiencing.
In terms of a whole school approach, combining products from the two companies in school might seem like a lot of hassle. However, there is a strong educational value in offering learners a range of computing platforms (Sorry 1:1 Schools!). They also offer staff great collaboration and storage options.
Currently, for me at least, a mix of iPads and Chromebooks is the way forward. Of course I love my Macbook, but for school, the iPad/Chromebook combo cuts it. There are so many benefits beyond just the devices. There are clear benefits for children transitioning into high school in terms of menu driven processes and keyboard skills. There are also clear benefits for communication and collaboration for the teaching staff.
After using Chromebooks with Google Apps for Education along side iPads since the summer these are the highlights…
- Unlimited storage for each learner and member of staff
- syncing of calendars both whole school and staff teams
- booking out resources via the calendar
- easy/secure sharing of files/data
- real time collaboration for teachers and learners on documents
- standardised email addresses (that we control*)
- watching children learn enjoy how to use a physical keyboard
- seeing the gradually evolving possibilities of more collaborative learning
- not ever having to update anything in terms of OS or Apps!
- easily connecting to work created on iPads and vice versa
- the small footprint the IOS apps require compared to Apple’s Pages Keynote and Numbers** see image below
- the way iOS GAFE apps work, for example logging out of google Classroom logs out all the other Google apps. This is very helpful at the end of a lesson.
- how easy it is for small non-technical schools to roll this out
*Having complete control of all the school email accounts means that passwords can be set in seconds for both learners and staff. New email addresses can be set up for example a specific email address for events.
Having said that I think Slack is simply the best way for teachers to communicate and this has killed a lot of time wasting emails!
The iPad and the Chromebook are different animals. Whilst they might both have a camera and microphone, editing a video or making music on a Chromebook is not a great experience. Conversely creating a complex spreadsheet on an iPad is not a great experience. So this is all about choosing the best tools for the job in hand. An experience that we want all our learners to develop.
We no longer use school servers, external hard drives and USB drives. The back bone that makes this all work is Google Apps for Education.
Google Apps for Education are used extensively in the USA and and International Schools. It is a very cost effective approach to developing your school’s cloud based technology. It is safe, secure and far more accessible to teachers and students than the traditional school server.
Google Apps for Education are the same Google Apps, Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms that we can all access for free, but once the school has signed up to Google Apps For Education, the suite then includes Google Classroom and this is the key to why this works so well.
Google classroom enables teachers to share documents with ease and track student activity in real time. Collaborative writing and group activities are easy to implement. The learning curve is not at all steep.
The screen shot (above) of a demonstration project where the teacher has shared one newspaper template with the whole class, Each class member automatically receives their own version of the file and can edit it. The teacher can see everything in real time on their Mac, PC, Chromebook, or iPad and check the progress of each student.
The browsing/searching experience though is very fast. My £180 Chromebook surfs the net quicker than my are expensive Macbook Pro.
The iPad and Chromebook are easily connected though Google Drive. You can save all the great iPad content to your Google drive and then continue working on any device at home or at school. You can of course, use Google Classroom, Google Drive and Docs, Slides and Sheets on an iPad. The amount of space taken up is interesting**.
As you can see it is possible to install on an iPad, Google Slides, Docs, Sheets and Drive and use less space than Apple’s Pages app. As many of us are using 16Gb iPads this is really quite important. Google Slides compared to Keynote feels somewhat utilitarian. It isn’t as much fun but then it is more collaborative and can be shared co-authored easily.
The other really important factor is the ease of set up and on-going maintenance of Chromebooks. Because everything is managed through the Chrome browser, there are no updates. When you log in you get the latest version of everything. With iPads there are times when we all get caught out with an app or iOS update that is required. One very impressive aspect of GAFE on the iPad is how when a student logs out of a Google app on the iPad, it simultaneously logs out of all other Google apps. This is especially helpful when using shared devices at the end of a lesson.
For me it’s not about which device is the best. They are different animals. The Chromebook is designed as cost effective web based collaboration tool. The iPad is the choice for many schools for content creation so being able to combine the two and more importantly move files easily between devices has to be the best way forward.