Monday, April 27, 2015

A look at the future of textbooks

Today I was able to attend four textbook presentations put on by our district with 5 other teachers from my school. What did all the presentations have in common? Everything was shifted to an online environment. Students could log in at home and see videos for problems in the book, see step by step instructions for the solutions, and one even had an online chat service for students to contact if stuck. A few even had some sort of program that kept track of what students understood and what they needed remediation on.  Most of them also had some sort of LMS, like Google Classroom or Edmodo.  That will be interesting to work with.

Everything is shifting to online, which made even it more ironic when the internet went down district wide for about 2-3 hours this morning.  Clearly, devices like Chromebooks are going to stick around for awhile.  One publisher had Desmos & Geogebra activities built into the online book, sounds familiar. Students log in and interact with the lessons.  They all seem to have a self-discovery portion built into it and the teacher fills in the holes.  This is how I have been trying to do it 2nd semester.

So from a teacher standpoint, do you need a pc to use all the materials or can Chrome OS handle it?  I mentioned before how more and more publishers were moving to online test generators and today confirmed it.  All of the publishers already had online test generators, except Pearson's version of ExamView, but they said they were in the process of shifting it over.  So no disks to install, no textbook software that you need to having running, everything was browser based.  No more trying to find a disk or installing it at home, always ready online.  Some mentioned you could write and give the test online and get reports, like Socrative, but I have used one before and it was messy, so unless it gets cleaned up, I will be sticking with Socrative.

This really reinforces my belief about shifting to Chrome OS. It is obvious things are changing and need a full blown Windows pc isn't necessary for the general teacher anymore.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Windows is still Windows

Everyone is looking to make a "Chromebook killer" laptop and lately, Microsoft has been pushing to make less expensive laptops to directly compete with Chrome OS in schools. On the surface it seems like a good idea. Most schools are comfortable with Windows and some might want to continue using Windows machines since everything is in place from a technical standpoint. And let's face it, it is a full OS that can install programs on it and has more flexibility. But is it worth it to go to a cheaper Windows laptop over a Chrome OS device?  Once again this is a factual post no opinions here.  This is a look at Windows devices for student use, not for teachers/administrators.  Although, I am pretty open about that as well.

Don't get me wrong I like Windows.  I have a Windows PC running at my house as my htpc streaming shows and using Windows Media Center to watch and record TV. I have Windows 10 technical preview running as well. It look nice and does bring some additions to Windows, but that isn't coming til summer. 

Windows is still Windows. Windows still slows down over time because of the amount of files it accumulates over the life of the machine. Windows will keep certain programs running in the background, so that when you open the program it will load faster.  By keeping those programs running in the background, your machine is using more RAM. Open up the App Data folder on most Windows machines and you will probably be shocked at the size of the folder.  After a few years from all the files it has saved, the folder is gigabytes in size. You can always reformat them or reimage them, but that takes time, sometimes a week or more.

Although Chrome OS is a relatively young operating system, it does seem to buck the trend of slowing down. People who received the first Chromebooks in 2011 are still using them. Part of the reason is that Chrome OS is basically a glorified browser. It has one job to do and it does it well. It doesn't need top of the line specs to do its job.

Windows is still Windows. Although 8.1 & 10 aren't the resource hogs of the past, you will still want to run it on decent hardware. Usually, people are looking for an i3 processor with at least 4 GB of RAM. Well, most of the Windows machines geared towards education have 2 GB of RAM and an older Baytrail processor. That is the bare minimum needed to run Windows. After you install some programs you will quickly see that those 2 GB aren't going to be enough to do simple tasks quickly. Eventually, there will be a delay in opening a program and it actually being able to use it because of the older processor.

Once again since Chrome OS runs everything in a browser, you don't need high end specs.  The latest celeron processor and 2 GB of ram is more than enough.

Windows is still Windows. It is easy to install malware and malicious programs on the machines. It is easier to accidentally download a file that can absolutely wreck havoc on your machine. Since you can't install programs on Chrome OS, the chances of obtaining malware decreases exponentially.

Windows is still Windows. How many times have you gone to shut down your device and an update keeps spinning for minutes?  How long does it take to restart a machine and get it back to the desktop? How many times has a device froze as you are trying to open a program? When you are doing a lesson, you don't have time to deal with machines needing to restart or freezing.  If there are any issues with Chrome, wifi, trackpad, etc., just restart it.  Chrome OS devices start in under 10 seconds and you are on the desktop.

In the end, schools will be lured in by the cheaper cost versus a traditional laptop or even a Chromebook. But the price doesn't match the functionality. You can run GAFE on both machines, but coming from someone who has used both, GAFE works better in Chrome OS, as it should. The entire OS is built around the browser. Just like Internet Explorer (and Spartan) work better in Windows.

Windows is useful for certain things, but mass education devices isn't one of them.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Chromebook Challenge Week 2 Update

Another week done and another week of fast reliable computing.  A quick update to my Pixlr problem. I wrote a test at home this week and I had zero trouble at all connecting and editing photos in the Pixlr app. It was so nice to edit and save as a new picture and it just create it in my Google Drive for me. I can now officially say it is a setting on the school's network that blocks it there. While at work I simply downloaded some blank templates of triangles and worked them out that way.  The other paint app I used just wasn't as good, Pixlr is clearly the best.

I had to write a practice test this week and I use ExamView test generator.  Unfortunately, it isn't available as an app.  Now this is a concern brought up by some teachers that use ExamView. I told there are two options, 1) textbook companies are starting to put their test generators online because of the success of Chrome OS and 2) you can use Chrome Remote Desktop, which is what I did.  I connected to my laptop via Chrome's Remote Desktop app and I had my pc running on my Chromebook and it ran smooth. If test generators don't appear online, you could set up a few old pcs per department that is made just for certain legacy apps that aren't available on Chrome OS yet. Give the teachers the codes to connect and let them do their thing. This is apparently how some Chrome OS only schools have kept teachers using their SMARTBoards.  So I made my test and uploaded it to my Drive in about 7-10 minutes.

The second test I wrote from was home.  Logged into and started a new test.  All my images are on my Google Drive so they were right there as well.  Any edits were done seamlessly in Pixlr.  Before if I wrote a test I would have to make sure I brought the file home, make sure I had Office or had installed the test generator on my home pc.  Not anymore.

Some of the other basic computing functions were tested this week, had to print out some tests and grades. All done successfully via Google Cloud Print.  I decided to convert a bunch of my old Word & Excel files to Docs & Sheets and I was shocked at how well they were post-conversion.  Bullets, formatting, etc. all looked like I was editing in Word. I read that Google is now 95% accurate on conversions and it shows.

One more separate, but positive note, we were giving a Performance Task and a teacher created it with Google Sheets versus PowerPoint.  This is the first time I can remember someone in our department defaulting to Google Apps. I am hopeful that this trend will continue.  Our teachers are sitting on useful technology, but they have their blinders up and do't want to look at it.  I wish every teacher would try to live from a Chromebook for a week and see the difference.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

10 Reasons Why I think our next device should be a Chromebox

So the more I have become invested in Google Apps & Chrome OS, I feel confident in saying that I think that the next device our school buys the teachers be Chromeboxes.  Here is my list of reasons why.  Most of these are facts.  I hate lists that operate on opinions and feelings.

1. The first and most obvious reason is the cost. A full Chromebox with mouse & keyboard with 4gb of Ram is only $215. You can add a 17-19 inch monitor for about $100 more.  So you would be looking at a full desktop for under $350. Our current laptop is an HP Probook.  The updated version starts at $660.  So as you can see you would be getting 2 Chromebox systems for every HP Laptop.  Plus the keyboards have a numeric pad.  Teachers need to input numbers quickly for grades and the keyboard on a laptop isn't made for that.

2. A Chromebox has less chance of breaking.  Let's face it, in any laptop you have a lot of parts that can fail.  Keyboard, track pad, or monitor.  More than a few teachers have had to hook up an external monitor to their laptop because the wiring wore out from opening and closing the laptop lid.  So much that it caused the screen on the laptop to not show at all.  With a desktop you have the computer.  Keyboard, mouse, & monitor are all separate.

3.  One of the reasons we went to a laptop after years of desktops was because if we had a meeting that required us to have a computer, we could bring our laptop.  Our school has close to (if not more than) 500 Chromebooks on our campus.  If we needed a device for a meeting, the administrators could bring a cart to the meeting and just have us sign into the Chromebook & everything would be there. Chrome OS would allow us to take all of our settings, extensions, and files where ever we go.

4. Chrome OS is faster than Windows. Time is important to teachers.  When we have to look up grades or search for a file we want to do it now.  We don't want to open the browser and wait 2 minutes for it to open, then wait even longer to go to the site. Chrome starts in 8 seconds from completely powered off. Ever search for a file in Windows? Takes a long time, in Chrome OS it takes seconds.

5. Chrome OS is more secure than Windows. Since everything is sandboxed in the browser, it is nearly impossible to get any kind of virus or malware on the machine. I have cleared off tons of malware programs from teachers computers this year.  Google has offered millions to hackers to do just that & so far, nothing.  If something does get on the machine, doubtful, you can also factory reset it with Powerwash and be back up in running in minutes. Try reformatting/reimaging a pc and see how long that takes.

6. Google Apps for Education. True we have access to GAFE now, but most teachers don't use them.  It would be like someone buying a brand new Jaguar and all they use it for is to listen to the radio.  GAFE are powerful tools that need to be used more.  No more "let me email this file to you", just share it.  No more "I can't find the file" search for it and get results immediately.

Best part of GAFE is the unlimited storage available to educators. No worries about running out of data, ever.

7. Teachers would have access to their files at home or anywhere, and be able to edit them anywhere.  I remember needing to have Office at home so I could edit files at home.  That is a thing of the past. As long as you have a Chrome browser running on a device, you can edit all your documents at home. Teachers could even work together on editing a document from two totally different locations.

8. We would be using the same OS as the students.  With over 500 Chromebooks on campus, our students are becoming familiar with Chrome OS it would be beneficial if teachers used the same OS to help them out if they get stuck. Teachers could talk about the app list instead of "the thing like a start menu on my computer".

9. The learning curve is minimal compared to Windows 8.1 or Windows 10. This might be an opinio, but one that is shared with most IT people.  I have 8.1 & a technical preview of 10 running on my pcs. There is a definite learning curve to go from 7 to either of those OS's.  8.1 has Modern UI & traditional desktop. Windows 10 cleans it up a lot, but it still isn't 7.

Chrome OS is simple because it is just a browser. Everyone has experience with a browser, so if there is a learning curve it isn't as challenging as the new OS's coming from Windows.

10. Even though you can't install programs, you have access to 1,000's of web-based apps. Most everything now is done through a browser. Our grade book is browser based. With GAFE, all of our old Office files can be edited on Google Drive & we have access to Google's versions of Office, that are more than capable of doing their jobs.

More and more companies are making their traditional programs available as web based programs because of the success of Chrome OS.  Adobe Photoshop is coming to Chrome OS in the coming weeks. Even test generators are coming. Publisher Pearson has an online test generator that is available now, with more publishers sure to follow.

So those are my reasons.  Don't know if anyone has more to add or refute, but feel free to comment below.

After posting this to some different forums, Stephen Gale an IT director for a Colorado school district added in some more information on the backend/behind the scenes that we teachers don't normally see.

Test Setup and Administration is about 1/10th of what it is with a Active Directory setup. It's more reliable too.  
There is no longer a need for End Point Authentication (No more LDAP server or any true Server on campus). We push out SSIDs through Google's Admin Console to student/staff devices. Staff connected to our Staff SSID (64-random character password) get a faster connection (and slightly less restrictive) than someone on our Guest network which is where non-Chromebook staff are currently joining.  
Since all services that would be provided a traditional server are outsourced to Google for free, we no longer have to maintain Servers (we have 4 physical servers (2 Mac, 2 HP) which cost between $5000 and $9000 each) We don't need to buy new servers, so that money can go into more devices or Infrastructure upgrades. No more MSVL (Microsoft charging us $8,000 every 3 years through CDW-G).

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Re-Scale Project Revisited

I used to have another blog before this one and I still get emails about my Geometry Re-scale project. I love sharing this project, but the old blog got overran with spam comments so I will re-post it word for word here and also link in the handouts I use at the end of the post.

And now a post from 2011;
What is this? An actual Geometry lesson being posted here? Yes it is. 
This is a project that I saw during my time as a student teacher at Claremont High School. I saw a big box of soda and asked what it was and the teacher told me her Geometry students re-scaled an object to help with understanding similar figures.
So when I was on my own and we did the chapter on similar figures/polygons, I remembered her project. The great thing is that we finished the chapter right before Christmas break, so I thought they could take those two weeks to do it. It worked out great and I have been doing it for 7 years now.
The directions are pretty simple. Take an object and determine a scale factor for the project. Then re-size it, smaller or larger. Most go with larger because it looks better. The other thing is that there can be no computer graphics used or you can't get full credit. I want to see some hand drawn artwork. There is also a question sheet for the project, which is very easy to do. There is one question that asks about the perimeter to make the connection that the perimeter will be proportional to the scale factor.
I should take more pictures of my projects because as I was looking through these I realized I don't have a lot photographed and that's a shame because they are really well done.
My first year's best project. I still have it and it is still holding up well. The other side had a straw, it was lost in one of my moves. The top even had that little foil covering the hole, but some student poked it out.
Giant air-freshener I received this year. What makes it great is that the student sprayed it with a pine scent to make it smell like a real car air-freshener. Plus side, my room smells better.Probably my two favorite projects. The one on the left was done 5 years ago. I can't remember what the scale factor is on it, but at the time it was the most detailed project I had ever received. The back is awesome. So fast forward to this year and I have her little brother in my class. I tell him it would be cool to have another Mike & Ike box the same size. So he does the tropical flavor. He used the exact same method his sister used, which involved getting the original box opened up and transferred to graphite paper. I always thought they used a transparency and overhead, but apparently not. So what makes this ever cooler? The bar code on the back actually scans. We used those bar code apps on smart phones and it found the product. Pretty cool.
By the way, on the edge of the original Mike & Ike is a big Hersey's chocolate bar. It is painted like the others and usually fools most people. They think it is a huge chocolate bar. And yes, that is Yoda in between. He is like a magic 8-ball, ask him a question, squeeze his hand and he gives you an answer.Last but not least is the one project that gets the most attention. I had a student rescale a pencil 10x's bigger. Everyone thinks I bought it. I keep it hanging above my desk now. There is writing on the other side that matches up with the original pencil as well. The metal tip for the eraser is an old can of soup. The eraser is starting to peel off now and I need to re-glue it. The tip was broke by the custodians one summer. I was moving rooms and left it in another teachers room. When we came back 3 weeks later it was moved into the corner from cleaning the carpets. The tip was broken. I glued it back on, but you can see the crack still. Pisses me off.I have a bunch more that I really like, a Cup of Noodles box, a Jello Box that was made from all construction paper...amazing job actually. I probably have kept 10-15 projects over 7 years. I keep more than that each year, but most rotate through from year to year. This year I had a student enlarge a Rubik's Cube that one direction. I am sure it is a matter of time before I get one that moves both ways. 
If you are wondering how I am able to keep them, I bargain with the students to "buy" them off of them for extra credit points. It gives them an opportunity to practice their bargaining skills. I like to watch them take pride in their work and give their reasons why their project is worth so many points. I have had some students say no thanks to the extra credit and they keep it because of all the hard work they put into it. And I respect those students for holding their ground no matter what I try to offer.
I will try to get some more pictures of my projects later.
And I have continued to do it like this every year still. The artistic students love it and some dread it. I wasn't sure if it would survive the transition to Common Core, but I think I am keeping it around.

Re-scale Rubric
Re-scale Questions

Friday, April 17, 2015

Chromebook Challenge: Week 1 Update

So I am one week into my Chromebook Challenge and for the most part it has been a smooth transition.  Printing has been fine and so has grades/roll/etc.  I am still impressed with the speeds of Chromebooks and have had up to 10 tabs open & split screen and have never noticed a delay.  And remember this is on an Acer c720.

Now it hasn't been all rainbows.  When I wrote up my initial post, I mentioned how my one concern was that our site privileges would be the same as students.  With that being said, I am unable to edit photos using Pixlr.  I have used Pixlr in my Google Drive on my desktop computer, so I know it isn't Pixlr.  But everytime I try and open a picture on my Chromebook with Pixlr, it loads to 93% and never moves again.  I am certain this is due to our districts restrictions for the login.

I have 2 possible workarounds.  The first is to just download the files I need and store them on the hard drive.  Once they are on the hard drive, Pixlr can open them right away.  Any site restriction our district has in place is gone because it is local.  The other option is to use another paint app called Photo Paint.  It does basic photo editing.  It doesn't automatically save them to your Google Drive either so that is also a hassle.

The other thing that I have noticed, once again due to our district's settings, is that our machines are made to totally erase everything on the hard drive when the Chromebooks are turned off.  So any files I downloaded are gone.  Also all my settings are gone as well.  I have to reset my Outlook Notifier app each time and other things like that.

Those problems are all related to our district's settings on the Chromebooks.  I am sure that if I got my own Chromebook that those settings wouldn't be in place for teacher's.  I am still impressed with the speed and overall usefulness of the Chromebook & Chrome OS.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Chromebook Challenge: Day 1

Well I am officially off to the races. I don't plan on posting daily updates as my journey continues, but I felt the first day would be a special day.

First takeaway, I didn't miss Windows one bit. I have installed Windows 10 Technical Preview on my pc (dual boot of course) and as much as I like seeing the new Windows, I didn't need it at all. Thanks to the Outlook Web App Notifier, emails came into my Chromebook faster than my tablet.

Second takeaway, speed. Like coaches say "speed kills" and on a computer it is very true. During my conference period this morning I did 2 sections of notes for my classes, which included using pdf files and the new extension I found, Fireshot. I was quickly able to take screenshots I needed and insert them into the notes. The notes also included a few Geogebra activities and I had to search for them. On my old pc, Geogebra took minutes to load, on my Chromebook it was seconds.  Afterwards, I was able to upload the notes to my classes on Google Classroom and post the assignment as well.  On top of all that, I was also able to update my gradebooks. It included opening up my Socrative Reports folder in my Drive and going split screen, then adjusting the point value.  And I don't have a numeric keypad either.

All of this was done in about 45 minutes. Speed kills.

One adjustment, I will probably connect my mouse to the Chromebook. The track pad & keyboard are fine on the Chromebook, but a mouse will make things...faster.

I don't see any issues with my Chromebook Challenge, but I will update it at least weekly. I will probably also post weekly apps & extensions I use with a video attached.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Chromebook Challenge: Set-up

So as I am getting ready for the challenge in a few days, I figured I would explain my apps/extensions I would be using and what I plan on doing with the Chromebook.  I won't be using a newer Chromebook, the Acer c720, which is a solid device.  Even though it runs an older generation processor, dual core, it will be no problem. Reviews say you can open up about 15 tabs easily.

So daily uses; roll & grades are done through Aeries, a web based program, so no issues there. In fact, for putting in grades I have defaulted to my Chromebook more and more over the past few weeks because of the speed.  Notes are done using a combination of Google Docs and my Note 10.1 tablet. I first type in my notes into a Google Doc and share it with the students via Google Classroom. When I put together my notes for the students, I sometimes use examples from a pdf version of their workbook.  To select the problems I want, I simply take a snap shot with Adobe Reader's built in tool. Drive' version doesn't have that, so I will be using Capture Webpage Screenshot. This will allow me to take snapshots of anything in the page, including pdfs, and save them as jpegs for the notes.  If I need to edit a picture I will go ahead and use Pixlr. I might look for something that doesn't have as many features, but for now it will be fine.  After I do the notes on my tablet in class I upload the hand written notes to Google Classroom as a pdf file. I can do this through my tablet or I can use an ftp server from my tablet to the Chromebook.

Tests & quizzes are administered through Socrative, a web based testing site that I have been using since September.  Since it is a website, accessing it on a Chromebook will be like accessing it on any browser.

Printing will be done via Google Cloud Print. I have my work Google account set up and can already print via my Chromebook. I will need to have my pc on because it needs to run through the computer. Our HP & Konica printers do allow for Google Cloud print without a pc, but they are not turned on.  The new Samsung ones don't but there are adapters which can convert them. So for now, the computer has to be on.

Our district uses Outlook for mail and they have a web based site I can use. I like to be notified when new emails arrive, whether I am on my tablet or computer. With Outlook Web Access Notifier I will be notified when a new email comes in.  I can click on it to go to the email right away or wait til later because there will be a number count on the extension in the corner.

Of course most of our campus still lives with Microsoft Office and I might have to do some editing with some documents and for that I have installed Office Editing for Docs, Sheets, & Slides. I did a tutorial video showing how great of an extension this is and know it will come in handy.

So as you can see I'm not expecting any issues and I think that I have a lot of the potential issues taken care of.  The only possible problem I can see right now is having certain sites being blocked. The Chromebooks all have the same access. Being a teacher doesn't give us access to anymore sites like being on our computer log in does. Maybe that will change in time, but that could be an issue.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How I use Chromebooks daily in my Geometry classes

So as I am gearing up for my Chromebook Challenge, I figured I would go ahead and share how I use Chromebooks daily in my Geometry classes. When I started I couldn't find any information how to use them daily, so maybe you will find it useful.  I have also included links to some tutorial videos I have put together.

So everyday I go ahead and type out some pre-notes (note template) for the days lesson. I leave spaces for the students to type in definitions or properties. I also try to find something on Geogebra that relates to the lesson. I upload to Google Classroom for the students to make a copy of. The benefit is that the students now have a permanent copy of the notes for the day. Here is a sample of notes that the students get. As you can see, they have space to type in their notes and there is a Geogebra activity for them to do. This particular activity had them investigating the relationship between arcs and angles. 

I also put all the sample problems for them as well. I leave plenty of space for them to work them out as well.  They can open the equation editor and work them out that way or use the picture to copy it down into their paper notes.

Students also have access to their textbooks online, so no more "I forgot my book." After the lesson is done, they open up their text book online and start their homework.

Every week we have a quiz on They have the app on their Chromebooks, so they open and are ready to go in about a minute. If they forget their calculators, I have them use the Chromebook calculator and have them dock it on the screen. The Chromebook calculator was recently updated to include all the functions of a basic scientific calculator. Their quizzes and tests are returned within a day via Google Drive. Socrative creates individual PDF reports for each student. All I do is share them on Google Drive and they can see what they got right and wrong.

At the end of a chapter, we do some sort of extended response/performance task. We use Google Docs to have the students work in small groups to collaborate together on the assignment. When we first did this type of activity they were amazed to be working in the same document at the same time. Now it is second nature to them.

When I first started using Chromebooks I was afraid it would be difficult to use them on a regular basis.  After 8 months of using them I can't see teaching geometry without them. Having students able to access Geogebra or other interactive apps helps the students understand better. Some were hesitant at the beginning, but now everyone seems to have adapted to it. It is a routine for them to come in and grab their Chromebook.

Next year, I will probably take a day to show the students how to use Chromebooks, like key board shortcuts, docking apps, and using split screens.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Paperless longer a dream?

I have been in education for 12 years and there has always been this dream of a paperless classroom. A classroom where students come in and use some sort of electronic device to communicate and demonstrate what they know.  As we entered the 21st century more and more educators wondered if that was a possibility. And I have to tell you that I think we are right there and the ability to have a paperless classroom is no longer a dream but a reality.

Now paperless doesn't mean students will never write again. Paperless eliminates the collecting and passing back of papers. I teach math and want to see the steps of the problem being worked out. So students can work it out and either scan it to their drive with Google Drive's mobile app or take a picture of it with their webcam on the Chromebook (thanks Alice).

So what do we need to have this paperless classroom? Well, hopefully your school is enrolled with Google Apps for Education (GAFE). GAFE will do a majority of your heavy lifting when it comes to this transition.  So here is my list of how to go paperless;

A solid WiFi network infrastructure: let's face it, you can have all the tech in the world, but without a solid internet connection you are dead in the water.

A class set of devices (with about 3-5 extras): you can't go paperless if you aren't using some device all the time. Extras are their in case batteries die or something else. I have had 37 Chromebooks all year and battery issues are the only reason to pull and extra. If there is an issue with something on the Chromebook itself, a hard reset clears it.

Google Drive (Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, & Forms): here is the big one. Your students have access to online versions of Word, Excel, & PowerPoint. All of them are more than capable of doing the job of their Microsoft counter-part. And on top of that you have Drawings & Forms. Drawings is similar to MS Paint, but Forms is something not available for free. Teachers can quickly gather information from students and have it sorted and analyzed automatically.  Never worry about running out of storage either. Google announced that all GAFE accounts would have unlimited storage for their Drive. Students can collaborate on Docs, Sheets & Slides together at the same time. And you the teacher can look at the revision history to see who did what. Students can also share items with you and vice versa,  but for that Google created something better.

Google Classroom:  Google Classroom was announced almost a year ago and it has changed the way classes are run. With Classroom, teachers can easily post notes, announcements, links to materials (sites or videos), or homework assignments. Everything is done behind the scenes automatically. If you add an assignment, Google will automatically add the folder to your Google Drive keeping everything organized for you.

Google Keep:  So part of a paperless classroom would also include getting students to shift away from "reminder binders" and use something like Google Keep. Students can take notes in Keep, set reminders, to do lists, and more. Reminders can be set for date & time or location based. With the last update users can now share Keep notes with others. So imagine if you had 3 students working on a group project, they could set up a to do list and assign each person jobs. When they finish they would cross it off and the other group members could see where everyone was. As a teach, have them. share it with you so that you can see where everyone is.  Of course to be paperless, we would have to eliminate paper tests. Socrative is a free online test site that allows teachers to make tests/quizzes for their classes. There are options for multiple choice (with more than one right answer), True/False, and short answer. For the short answer, it could be one word or a a few sentences. Socrative will grade it all for you in real-time too. For the short answer, it needs to match word for word or leave it blank for you to grade later. Tests/quizzes can be returned via Google Drive as well.

Textbook w/online version:  last but not least the textbook. How many times have we had students raise their hand and ask to go to their locker because they forgot their book? Most textbook companies offer an online version of their book. Spend a few minutes and get everyone logged in so they never have that excuse again.

Extras: As I mentioned at the top having a GAFE account makes this easy. In addition to Drive and Classroom, you also have access to Calendar and Sites. Use Calendar to create a class calendar for students to access to see upcoming test, assignments, or projects. Use Sites to create a class website in conjecture with Classroom. Or use it to have students create and online portfolio of their assignments throughout the year.

So as you can see a paperless classroom is possible. There will be a learning curve for everyone involved, but the pay off seems pretty awesome.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Why the challenge?

Chrome OS is becoming more and more popular. In fact, the past few weeks have seen a ton of new Chrome OS devices. From a pair of new $150 Chromebooks, a Chromebook that rotates 360 degrees to a tablet, and even a Chrome OS stick called a Chromebit. Just plug it into an HDMI port and you have Chrome OS. And of course let's not forget the Chromeboxes, which are Chrome OS' version of a desktop and the Chromebase which is their all-in-one machine.

The best part of Chrome OS is the cost. With Chromebooks available for as little as $150, Chromeboxes for around $200, Chromebases for around $300, and the new Chromebit, rumored to be $99, you can understand the excitement. Usually there is a sacrifice for cheaper products, but with Chrome OS, there really isn't. Most run with an Intel Celeron chip and 2 GB of Ram. Hardly enough for a Windows or a Mac machine, but Chrome OS doesn't need much to run smoothly.

So I was browsing through some Chromebooks and saw this Acer model. I thought to myself "that would be a great machine to have at work, instead of my current laptop". I posted it on twitter about is possibly replacing a laptop and an old colleague replied that it is also a lot cheaper. And that is when I decided to do this challenge.

For the rest of the school year, about 6-7 weeks, I am ditching my laptop and going to use a Chromebook in its place. I don't use many Windows programs. Our laptops are about 4 years old and slowing down. I find myself using a Chromebook most of the time already because it is so much faster to use, but for this I will take out my laptop and lock it up.

Imagine the cost savings if a school went with Chromebooks instead of laptops. You could probably get 2 Chromebooks for every laptop you bought. If you want to use a desktop all the time (GLC or Administrator), get a Chromebox. Would there be a learning curve? Yes, but that curve is so little now. Besides, will that curve be any different than teaching teachers about Windows 8.1 or Windows 10?

Teachers are always adapting. New schedules, special bell schedules for state testing, new standards, or whatever new comes up. Teachers adapt. But more than anything, when it comes to technology, they want something fast and reliable. Imagine no more "I lost everything on my laptop" or "I have a loner laptop, but it doesn't have my programs on it" or "this thing is sooo slow today". With Chrome OS if something happens to you device, your loner device would have everything your normal device has. That is the beauty of Chrome OS. Once you log into a Chrome OS device, within seconds everything is personalized to the way you set it up.  Imagine not having to worry about your computer working or waiting for it to work. Think of the time saved that you could now focus in on student instruction and lessons.

I will post updates on this challenge and let you know what I could and couldn't do.  Am I advocating that our school get Chromebooks instead of laptops when the time comes to replace them? Absolutely not. That isn't my decision to make. I am doing this for myself and for anyone else who considers doing it.