Tuesday, March 14, 2017

And the winner is....

...Chrome OS of course. Was there any doubt? The only reason I am writing this is because I realized that this blog was started 3 years ago to see if Chrome OS could replace Windows for me and it does. Heck I knew that 2 years and 10 months ago. Now this is a long post, but I felt it was a good time to sum it all up.

So before everyone starts telling me I hate Windows & Apple, let me clear some things up. First, I do hate Apple :-) note because they make junk. They make solid devices. I think they are over-priced, especially when they went to an Intel processor and still charged a ton. I also don't like the fact they lock down their devices so much. I like a little freedom and the ability to make it my own unique device. 

As far as Windows goes, back in 2012 I was a total Windows nut. I read all about the Windows 8 preview builds and was excited for what they were offering. I even went as far as to partition my hard drive and install the preview build on my work laptop. In fact, in 2012 this blog would have been called Windows 8 Challenge. It was exciting to see a new Windows. Add onto the fact they were promising one log in across all devices that would sync apps & data was mind blowing at the time. I couldn't imagine logging into a Windows tablet and having all my work apps & data there right away. I was such a Windows fan I was considering dumping my Android phone for a Windows 8 phone. 

At this time our work actually had a Chromebook on the campus, the Samsung Series 3. I remember looking at it thinking, it's just a browser. What can it do? It did boot fast, our laptops were taking minutes (5+ to boot), but web-based apps really weren't a thing in 2012. And all of the apps in the Chrome web store looked like links to websites. I was disappointed and kept my eyes on Windows 8. 

I never made the switch though. I saw that while Windows 8 was great for touch devices, on my work desktop it was difficult to operate with a mouse and keyboard, not impossible, but a lot of unnecessary clicks. And plus let's face it Windows is always going to be Windows

So when Windows 10 was getting hyped, I never looked into it. I installed it on my laptop, but that was at the beginning of my challenge and I couldn't deal with the long boot times, Cortana popping up randomly and Edge being a browser but not really cause it didn't work on some websites. 

Chrome OS delivered on all the promises of Windows 8. I can log into any Android phone, Chrome OS device or even a Chrome browser on Windows or Mac OS and have access to all of my files and settings. Flash drives are a thing of the past for me. Worrying about whether or not my file saved is a thing of the past. Chrome OS just works and it does it well. It doesn't run everything, but with Chrome Remote desktop you have access to your regular computer. My wife had a to use a specific program for her doctorate program and needed it for class. She didn't have it installed on her laptop because the program was for one computer only. So what did she do? Install CRD and use her computer through her HP Chromebook at school. 

Windows tried to downplay Chromebooks and Chrome OS, but now they see the gains, especially in the education market, and are trying to play catch up. Microsoft introduced One Drive, real-time collaborating on Word, Microsoft Quizzes, and Microsoft Classroom. Sound familiar? Google Drive, Docs, Google Form Quizzes, and Google Classroom. Microsoft is so busy playing catch up, that they aren't innovative. Google is still releasing new products to help out students & educators. 

Computers are changing. The need for super powerful computers with tons of storage aren't necessary anymore and wen-based apps are improving daily. Chrome OS can do everything I need from a computer and I would be willing to bet it would work for you too.

Friday, March 10, 2017


I just noticed it has been a long time since I have posted anything on this blog, so I thought I would update everyone on what has been happening.

  • I am still using Chrome OS exclusively. I have my site issued laptop, but it just sits next to my desk and doesn't even get powered on. I seriously wished we would have gone with some type of Chrome OS device for the staff, but I gave them reasons why and that's all I could do. At work, I have my Asus Chromebox and at home I use my Dell Chromebook 13. It is so nice to have everything just sitting there as soon as I log in. Nothing to take home, no worrying about forgetting something, it's just there when I log in.
  • My students still use their Chromebooks everyday. Having Chromebooks has really opened up and made me rethink the way I teach and assess. Honestly, I really want to get a class set of the Acer Spin 11 Chromebooks with the stylus support. Imagine being able to hand write in notes and have them at a moments notice. Add in the fact the recent integration of Google Keep into Google Docs and this is a no brainer.
  • Personally, I am looking closely at the Samsung Chromebook Pro. I have a Note Pro 12.2 that I use with my students to do notes on. But the Android version of Docs doesn't show up the same as they see. Also some of the formulas I use don't show. So using a Chromebook would mean I see what they see exactly. So I am probably going to sell the Dell Chromebook and use that to get the Samsung model.
  • Professionally, it is frustrating at times trying to convince people of the simplicity of Chrome OS & Google Apps for Education. I feel like I am at a point where it is more trouble to push something than to just give up. I have tried to implement various things within my department & the school and just get complaints. I showed the principal a Staff Resource shared document that had calendars, links, forms, and other things important to teachers. The idea is to cut back on emails with attachments. If you have one place for all the information, no need to search your inbox for it. Attachments of rosters would be gone because the rosters would be online and changed whenever the owners made changes. It started fine, but wasn't supported by admin and is dying a slow death. Moving my Geometry team to Google Calendar from the old paper pacing guide has been a mess too. I put links and attachments in the calendar and still get staff wanting email attachments. I created an online referral form for the staff to cut back on the paper referrals and it is sitting in limbo. Tried moving AP Applications to a Google Form to where the teacher would literally do nothing and it would flag who is in and who is out automatically, that is dead. They went with a Google Form that will still require the teacher to go through student by student. Frustrated beyond belief right now. I honestly don't know what to do and it is tiresome.

So that's where I am right now. Hopefully, I will get something posted before end of school. Maybe the next post will be about my new Chromebook.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Using the SAMR Model to Improve Learning with Technology

This is a guest post by my friends at GoGuardian. Special thanks to them for the post, especially Alex Wagner & Dan Russ. Thanks.
Using the SAMR Model to Improve Learning with Technology

SAMR is a way to understand the progression of technology adoption and usage in the classroom, and is a great way to think about how best to implement technology in your own classroom or district.
SAMR has four distinct, sequential stages: Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and finally, Redefinition. Each describes a different stage that, intentionally or unintentionally, most classrooms find themselves in when using technology. First conceptualized by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, the SAMR Model provides an outline that can help school districts maximize the benefit and return on investment from technology investment by encouraging them to take advantage of new approaches in pedagogy.

Explaining the SAMR Model

Let’s go over each of them in order, and use the student task of writing a persuasive essay and how different tools change the nature of the task:

Substitution is when a new technology, like a basic word processing device, is used in place of a pen and paper for writing a persuasive essay. Although writing and editing text is easier thanks to being able to replace text without having to manually erase anything, the student cannot use the word processor to add to or significantly modify the essay.

Augmentation occurs when an adopted technology, like Microsoft Word, allows students to more easily complete their persuasive essay than with a pen and paper. However, although students can use spell check, access a thesaurus, and see a word count to improve their essay, the nature of the task does not fundamentally change.

Modification is when new technology tools allow for the nature of the task itself to start changing. With the advent of Google Docs and other cloud-based word processing tools, students are now able to collaborate on the same essay in realtime, request feedback from teachers in the form of inline comments, and share documents instantly and globally.

Redefinition is the final stage of the SAMR Model, and occurs when tasks can include new and previously inconceivable components. For example, students could interview subjects for their persuasive essay over Google Hangouts or Skype and include the video in their essay, or build a 3d model of their subject’s village and show it to their teacher using a virtual reality (VR) headset like the Oculus Rift.

Why Is It important to Understand the SAMR Model for My School?

Simply put, it’s a question of not wasting money and squandering limited resources. If a science class continues to require students to write text-only research reports, and does not incorporate multimedia and live, multi-student collaboration tools, was it really worth investing in 1 to 1 laptops for each student instead of using a single computer lab? If classroom assignments -- and learning opportunities -- do not grow and change after spending hundreds of dollars on a device for each student, could that money have been spent better elsewhere?

The problem of squandered technological investments is not new to the 21st century, and did not even come with the advent of widespread personal computer adoption. In fact, this problem was understood as early as 1971:

The phrase, “technology and education” usually means inventing new gadgets to teach the same old stuff in a thinly disguised version of the same old way. Moreover, if the gadgets are computers, the same old teaching becomes incredibly more expensive and biased towards its dumbest parts, namely the kind of rote learning in which measurable results can be obtained by treating the children like pigeons in a skinner box.

Seymour Papert, from “Teaching Children Thinking”

That’s a great theory! How does it pan out in the real world?

Okay, I Get It -- Lessons Should Take Advantage of New Technology. How Have Schools Adapted?

In 2007, the Munich International School in Germany initiated a rollout of Apple devices for its students in a 1 to 1 program. The rollout included a series of workshops for students that were focused on not only good digital citizenship, but also what being a good digital citizen meant now that each student had their own laptop and ready access to the internet.

The Munich International School approached the challenge of their technology rollout with a revised version of an old adage: “Good things come to those who plan — not wait.” To help ensure an effective rollout and better learning opportunities for students, the school followed Dr. Puentedura’s SAMR Model carefully, arguing that “All educators involved in technology-rich learning environments understand the need to be clear with faculty about the expectations of technology use and learning.”

Each student at the school was asked to examine the internal and international migration patterns in the Americas during the early 20th century, and what influenced whether or not an individual might migrate. Students were tasked with creating a fictional, but plausible, person whom may have lived during this period, and to answer a question: what types of events would force such a person to leave their home?

Before Adopting New Technology

Before the initiation of the 1 to 1 device program, students presented their findings with an oral presentation, with some students using an overhead projector for images, and handing in a printed script to their teacher. While they may have substituted the use of an overhead projector to help improve their presentation, the nature of the assignment was essentially the same.

After the Adoption of a 1 to 1 Technology Policy: Using Technology to Redefine Learning

Teachers at the Munich International School radically redesigned the project, leveraging the unique advantages provided by a 1 to 1 technology policy. Although the goal of the project was similar — to create empathy for migrants in order to understand migratory movements — the actual project was dramatically different.

Now, students were tasked with the creation of a short digital story, of which they were the directors, producers, and actors. Instead of reciting a presentation in front of a classroom, students recorded video, added era-appropriate music, and used old images that “were able to invoke empathy for their story’s characters.” With the addition of multimedia and the ability to step into their character’s shoes, students “created a product that invoked in the viewer strong emotions."

“These powerful stories remain with us, and could not have been produced had it not been for the intentional user of the technology alongside a solid understanding of the learning outcomes of the unit of study (Redefinition in the SAMR model)."

So how does this apply to my school?

There is an important lesson to be learned here: that it is not enough to replace notebooks with laptops, or ink pens with Evernote. Teachers and administrators must constantly evolve their lesson plans, how they approach using technology, and what their educational goals are to produce successful and well-rounded students.

This quote from David Geurin summarizes SAMR nicely:


Further Reading & Learning about SAMR

10 ways to reach SAMR’s redefinition level, http://ditchthattextbook.com/2014/04/03/10-ways-to-reach-samrs-redefinition-level/. A collection of ideas to modify lesson plans to more fully take advantage of technology and the internet.
The SAMR model: engage in deep learning and authentic contexts, https://classroomconnections.eq.edu.au/topics/pages/2013/issue-7/samr-learning-technologies.aspx. A concise overview of the SAMR Model, with a different take on using word processors in the classroom.
SAMR Model Musings, http://blog.kathyschrock.net/2013/11/sarm-model-musings.html. Includes an interesting, non-technology based shift from regular note taking to sketchnoting.
SAMR - Belongs in a School Near You!, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/samr-belongs-school-near-you-lisa-marie-gonzales-ed-d-

What is the SAMR Model and what does it look like in schools?, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SC5ARwUkVQg&feature=youtu.be
SAMR in 120 seconds, https://youtu.be/us0w823KY0g

“A Learning Story from the Foothills of the Alps,” http://beta.aalf.org/cms/?page=Global%20Storybook-%20Munich

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Review Dell Chromebook 13 (i3 & touchscreen)

So here is a look at my 2nd high end model Chromebook I recently bought. I was really impressed with the HP Chromebook 13 and really thought of it as a real laptop replacement for teachers. The only concern that has come up since then is that it is so thin, could it be damaged easily? I don't know about that, but if that is your concern for a Chromebook and you still want high end, then the Dell 13 is probably for you.

It was made specifically for business users. And because of that the build is a little beefier. It feels more solid. Where as the HP was just a beautiful machine in terms of design, screen, and weight, the Dell 13 sacrifices some of that weight in favor of a more solid build. This thing can take a beating. It feels solid in the hands, but not too heavy. The keyboard is back-lit and spill resistant. And speaking of keyboards, man is this thing a pleasure to type on. I used to read reviews about great keyboards and it never really meant anything to me, but after typing on the Dell keyboard (and HP) a good keyboard goes a long way.

The top of the Chromebook has a sort of rubberized material on it that I am sure will hold up against scuffs and scratches. It also makes the laptop easier to hold onto and grip. The screen is gorgeous. Is it better than the HP? Probably not, but it definitely holds its own. Everything looks so good on it. Going split screen isn't a problem either as the 13.3 inch screen is plenty large for this mode.

It is definitely thicker than the HP Chromebook, but still thinner than my work laptop. Not to bash on Windows but when was turning on my new work laptop for pictures, it had one of those "we ran into some problems and need to restart your computer". Nice. 1 day old. 

Battery life is awesome as well. I have charged it one time and haven't needed to recharge it yet. Obviously I haven't done a lot of work on it, but still as of right now I have 81% battery left and 10 hours of time left. Amazing.

Oh yes, the elephant in the room...touchscreen. I went with a touchscreen model because as you know Android apps will soon make their way to Chrome OS and I thought touch might be helpful. Since I have had the laptop, I don't really find myself using touch that often. Part of that reason is that the trackpad is perfect. It is made of glass and responds perfectly to every touch. I have had or used about 9 laptops on my lifetime and this one is hands down the best. So in terms of keyboard and trackpad combo, I don't think I have ran across one that is this well put together. So touchscreen isn't a make or break. It is a nice addition, but as of right now, not a necessity.

So how to does the i3 compare to the m3 of the HP? Well on the Octane benchmark, the HP was around mid 22,000's - low 23,000s. The Dell's i3 is usually in the mid to high 19,000's. I have ran the test a few times and haven't seen it crack 20,000 yet. Am I saying it is slow? Definitely not. Still boots in under 8 seconds and flies on everything I throw at it. My i3 Chromebox scored in the 15,000s so it is definitely an improvement.

Overall, it is easily one of the best Chromebooks out there. If you were looking to buy one, I am sure you could get away with getting the Celeron version with no touch. Everything else is standard, keyboard/trackpad & screen are the same on every model. I am curious to see how the touch screen plays out, but definitely impressed and happy with this machine.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Review HP Chromebook 13 G1 (Core m3 model)

So I am not a high end type of person. I rarely splurge and usually try and find the cheapest way to do something. Which is why I surprised even myself when I ordered the new HP Chromebook 13. Even worse, it was the Core m3 model which runs even more than the Pentium model.

Now if you are reading this chances are that you have already read some reviews and maybe have seen some videos of the HP Chromebook 13 in action. I am hear to tell you, however good it looked in the videos or how good it sounded as you read the reviews...it is 1,000% times better. When I took it out of the box I was shocked at how light weight it was. Then I noticed how solid it felt. I have held quite a few Chromebooks and this one felt great. It definitely lives up to the hype of a premium build.

Opening it up I was greeted to a gorgeous display. Once again, I'm not normally a spec guy, just a gets the job done guy, but this thing shines. All models of this Chromebook come with a Quad HD screen and it shows. Colors are vibrant, images & text are sharp, and the 13.3 inch screen size is actually a decent size for work. When I went side by side on some windows, there was plenty of room to work with. That was probably the biggest surprise, I didn't think a 13.3 inch screen could split the screen enough to make it usable.

So how does it feel using it? Typing on it is great. Everything works like a charm and I have zero complaints. The Core m3 model flies when moving around. I have a lot of scripts and formatting in my Sheets and sometimes the c720 slows down, the HP ran through it like it was nothing. As I used it, it felt faster than my i3 Chromebox. When I ran the Google Octane test, my assumption was correct...and by a lot. My i3 Chromebox scored in the 15,000s-16,000s, the HP Core m3 was in the high 21,000s to low 23,000s. I can't imagine needing anymore power than what this thing has.

In my opinion the HP Chromebook definitely lives up to the hype. The build quality is great, the screen is great, and the speed is great. I think this would have been one heck of a laptop for teachers, even the Pentium version. I have seen those Octane scores in the same range as my i3 Chromebox.

The only drawback is the lack of touch, on any configuration of this Chromebook. Android Apps are making their way to Chrome OS and some might do better in a touch environment versus mouse. I'm not 100% sold on this because I have used Remix OS, Android in desktop form, and it works just as well with a mouse with no touch required. I am getting in the Dell i3 with touch, so I am curious as to how it compares to the HP Chromebook.

If you are looking for a higher end Chromebook that will make people think twice about what a Chromebook looks like then this is the Chromebook for you.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Learning Curve Part 3 - Apps & Extensions

As I mentioned in the last post, part of making a transition from one OS to a new one is making it as smooth as possible. Most people are going to be clicking around trying to open up programs or trying to figure out how to install programs. One of the benefits is that Chrome OS doesn't run any traditionally installed programs except the Chrome browser, because of this Chrome OS devices are faster and more secure. But people will want to have something that does something similar to traditional programs. That's where apps come in.

Most of the apps that run on Chrome OS are web apps. In other words, shortcuts to webpages that do the work. There are a few that run outside of the Chrome browser, but most of the more powerful ones are web based. Extensions for the Chrome browser are the other tools that will help make the transition go more smoothly. 

Once again in the second half of 2016, the entire Android Play Store will become available to Chrome OS. When that happens ever most of these suggestions won't be as necessary. Because there is a Photoshop app for Android. There are also better versions of Office on Android then on their Office web apps. It is something that will definitely need to be revisited once that happens. 

This list of apps and extensions will be what I have found to be useful for teachers. I am sure that others will come out in comments later.

  • Office 365 Mail Checker: a great extension if you are still locked into Outlook for emails. Notifies you with an email near the address bar and also one in the bottom tray. Chrome doesn't even need to be open to get the notification.
  • Checker Plus for Gmail: if you happen to have Gmail as your main email, this is a must. Another extension that allows you to get email notifications and even respond without having to open up Gmail. 
  • Cloud Convert: one of the best all around file converters out there. If you don't like the way Google Drive's built in converter works, you can always try this one. I usually use it to convert pdfs to jpgs. Also integrates well with Google Drive.
  • Pixlr: Doesn't need an introduction probably if you have researched Chromebooks before. Pixlr is a solid photo editor. It's not Photoshop, but if you need Photoshop on a regular basis you won't be buying a Chromebook.
  • Nimbus Screenshot: taking screenshots of pages is very important for educators. This used to belong to Snagit, but they are discontinuing their Chrome extension, but this one is just as good. Another good screenshot extension is Fireshot. I actually use them interchangeably. 
  • Save to Google Drive: an unknown extension that is a must when you transfer into Chrome OS. This extension allows you to save any page, picture, or document directly to your Google Drive with one click. 
  • Google Keep: This extension is useful if you have started using Google Keep. Similar to some of the other extensions like Share to Classroom or Save to Google Drive, this app takes any webpage that you are on and shares it to Google Keep. This is useful because if you are putting together resources for students, but want to look at them in more detail later, you can save them to Keep and have them waiting for you at a later time.
  • Share to Classroom: For teachers using Google Classroom, this extension adds a share button. When you see a website you want to share, just click it and it will go to the class you want to share it with.
  • PDF Escape: In a perfect world, pdfs would be naturally editable, but they aren't. If you were to search PDF editors on the chrome web store, most aren't that highly rated. It is difficult to edit a pdf file. PDF Escape is an app that does a very good job of allowing you to open and edit directly into the pdf and save it. There are a ton of PDF apps out there and this is probably my favorite.
  • HP Print for Chrome: talked about this in the printing post. A must if you have an HP printer.

Those are some of my must have apps to help make that transition from Windows to Chrome OS a lot smoother. If you have any other apps you want to share go ahead and list them below.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Learning Curve Part 2 - Printing

In part two of the learning curve series we will go ahead and look at the second biggest knock on Chromebooks, printing. Some people would say that printing from a Chromebook is the biggest issue, not Office. In the last post David Andrade brought up a good point. When Android apps make their way to Chrome OS in the second half of 2016, almost all these issues can easily be resolved. Most every printer comes with an Android app that allows for pretty simple printing. But Chrome OS devices last a long time. For example, every Chromebook on our campus won't get Android apps, neither will my Chromebox.

For most PCs installing a printer is pretty straight forward. In fact, most printers used to be installed via usb directly into the computer that used them. Nowadays, printers are generally set up as network printers, meaning you hook that printer up to a network and more than one device can print to it. And it is because of this shift in printer setup, the notion that Chrome OS is obsolete because you can't directly hook a printer up to it is almost null.

The first method that most people will look at is Google Cloud Print. When GCP was first rolled out it was difficult to set up. Most printers weren't set up to handle cloud printing. Early Chrome OS adopters probably had to set up Google Cloud Print on a Windows/Mac machine and keep it on as a printer server. Most printers are made now for Google Cloud Print. Set up is simple and painless. I recently bought a Samsung laser printer and it was completely set up without a computer. All I needed to do was plug it into our router.

If you need to set up a printer server through another machine our IT guy came up with a quick solution. He took an old laptop and installed the printers and put them on Google Cloud Print. Then he simply shared those printers with staff members. It allowed us to print to the machines and not have a laptop running 24/7 for the rare occasions we printed. 

If you happen to own an HP printer, they developed their own Chrome App, HERE. I talked about the HP printer app before, but I feel like some of the things are worth mentioning again. All you need to do is find the ip address of the printer. Type it in and you are done. The two printers near us are both HP and they haven't had an issue once. I set up this app on my two colleagues Chromeboxes and not one time have I heard them tell me they can't print. 

And that is what we want when switching to a new OS, a seamless transition. If staff is able to work like normal and not have to worry about things working, then they are more willing to fully buy into what they are using. 

Our campus also has copy machines that are set up on our network for direct printing as well, for class sets. It was always hit or miss on our laptops. Sometimes is would work, but most of the time it didn't. In fact, I know of a handful of teachers who have never printed directly to the copy machine. Something that you might not know is that if a printer is one the network it has an ip address. And when you type in that ip address you are taken to a webpage for that printer. Most printers have a way to directly print from that webpage. So that one teacher that could never print to the copying machine can now upload the file to print and send it to the copying machine. Also to note, these printer webpages have all the options that you can select on the actual copier. So if you want double sided & stapled, all you do it check the boxes and it will print.

So from this post it sounds like printing isn't a real issue anymore, and honestly it's not. When I started the Chromebook Challenge I had to keep my laptop on when I wanted to print because it was my server. This year? Don't need it. Chrome OS has come a long way in terms of printing. And I'm not sure if that is because of Google or the printer companies. Google Cloud Printing is still technically in beta even though it has been functional for years now.

Despite all the advances in printing, there are still a couple of things to be aware of. The options in the Chrome OS print screen aren't as detailed as a Windows print screen. Chrome OS basically gives you the option of what to print & how many copies. Also a lot of the success lies in the printer. Even though I have had zero problems with my personal Samsung laser printer, some people complain that the printer is always said to be offline. And keep in mind if your network printer isn't an HP, then you will have to set up a printer server on a Windows/Mac machine to run through, or use the solution we came up with and have one machine and share them out.