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Create with Chrome: 6 Ways to Encourage Student Creativity

By | In the Classroom

Are your students creating with Chrome?

Guest Post: John Sowash

Consuming information is much easier than creating. That’s why watching TV is so much easier than writing a script for a TV show.

A recent report by GoGuardian suggests that most classroom Chromebook usage is focused on learning games, flashcards, and watching videos. While these activities aren’t inherently bad, they aren’t terribly inspiring or creative and don’t help students develop important 21st-century skills.  

The act of creating something is one of the most powerful ways to internalize learning. That’s why teachers are so smart – we are creating things all the time!

Here are six ways that you can encourage student creativity with Chromebooks.

Tell a Story or Teach a Lesson

Video is the dominant form of communication today. Few students are motivated by the idea of writing a paper or creating a poster board project, but would be excited to create a video.

Here are three ways you can create with video in your classroom outstanding video tools that you can with a Chromebook

1. Screencast Tutorial

A screencast is a video that displays activity on your computer screen. Screencasting is a great way for students to share a presentation or demonstrate a math skill.

Screencastify is my favorite tool for recording screencasts on a Chromebook. It’s free to use!

2. Stop Motion Animation 

Stop motion is one of the simplest forms of video. This is an example that my students created using nothing more than a white-board and a camera.

ClapMotion is a free Chrome App specifically designed for creating stop-motion videos. Just point your webcam and clap your hands to take a picture!

3. Video Stories

 Everyone loves a good story. Capturing a story on video makes it easy to share. Storytelling with video requires excellent writing skills, editorial decisions, collaboration, and a good dose of problem solving. These projects take longer to develop, but result in rich learning.

WeVideo is the most full-featured tool for creating professional looking video projects. They have a free version you can use today.

For younger students I recommend Adobe Spark; Spark videos are super easy to create and share. The example below was created by my kids.

Design Something to Share

I was in middle school when my family got our first home computer (Gateway 3000). I spent hours using various “desktop publishing” tools like MS Publisher and Printmaster Gold. Doing graphic design with Google Drive is pretty limited (if we are being honest). Here are some Chromebook compatible tools that will help fill the void.

Thomas Jefferson

4. Trading Cards

I grew up collecting baseball cards. Kids “these days” collect Pokemon cards. Everyone loves collecting and trading cards, why not make your own?

Ask students to create a “deck” of the five most important figures of the Civil War, or the most powerful Greek Gods, or the most important scientists of the 19th century. The decision making process of selecting the individuals and their contribution is the value of this assignment.

Canva is a great tool for projects like this. I recommend using the “announcement” template which is what I used to create this trading card of Thomas Jefferson.

5. Infographic 

The intersection of data and design is an interesting space. Asking students to collect data create a visually engaging display to showcase the data requires all kinds of important math, analytical, and creative skills. Infographics engage both the left and right side of your brain.

Piktochart is a tool for creating infographics. Like this one created by Sarah from Hovr.

6. 3D Designs

You CAN create and model in 3D on a Chromebook! Even if you don’t have a 3D printer, you can still challenge your students to create a 3D model to solve a real-world problem.

Reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen? Have your students use a tool like Lego Builder to design a structure to survive the cold winter months.

Teaching Geometry? Have your students build a sculpture using Tinkercad. You can even send it to a 3D printer to bring your art to life!

Don’t just use the Chromebooks in your classroom to consume information, use them to create! Hopefully these six ideas have sparked your imagination and given you some inspiration for what you can do in your classroom. 

If you have Chromebooks in your classroom I think you will enjoy my free online course “Developing your Chromebook Classroom.” It’s full of practical ideas and suggestions for teaching with Chromebooks.

 

John Sowash

John Sowash is an experienced classroom teacher, former school administrator, author of The Chromebook Classroom. You can connect with John via his blog (electriceducator.com) or Twitter (@jrsowash).

 

5 Brillinar Chromebook Storage Solutions to Banish the Mess - Chromebook HQ

5 Brilliant Chromebook Storage Solutions to Banish the Mess

By | How-To, In the Classroom | No Comments

With the increasing popularity of Chromebooks in the classroom, Chromebook storage solutions and Chromebook charging carts have become important for schools and small businesses. Managing cables, devices, and power hubs can easily lead to an unsightly tangle of wires. No teacher wants to deal with that.

disorganized cables

Photo credit: Pedro Vera https://www.flickr.com/photos/pvera/

Chromebooks have revolutionized IT for classrooms and small businesses. With their functional ease, portability, and low cost, they’ve become a go-to solution for IT managers. One major driver of Google’s success in education is the Google approach to user interface, which Just Works The First Time. When you’re teaching toddlers (or veteran teachers) to use computers, that simplicity goes a long way toward driving enthusiastic adoption.

5 Chromebook Storage and Charging Solutions

Below you’ll find a collection of options for your chromebook charging solutions and chromebook storage needs. There’s a full range of options, from deluxe to totally DIY.

#1 Store Them in One Place

A permanent office / classroom charging cabinet is certainly an option. These models by Luxor [affiliate link] are permanent solutions designed to be hard-wired and mounted in one location. These popular cabinets by lockncharge have capacities ranging from six chromebooks up to forty.

Each cabinet not only stores your Chromebooks – it charges them as well! This is a perfect option for a small business or school library where individuals are checking Chromebooks out one at a time, and they’re not traveling very far.

Some schools require more portability. They would have to lock down a cabinet and then have to dismount it at the end of the school year. Read on for more mobile options.

#2 Put Them on the Road

A rolling chromebook charging solution is the typical solution for most schools. These are usuallchq-charge-cartsy built a bit sturdier, since they have to endure travel. Essentially, these are metal charging cabinets mounted on large casters, designed to roll the hallways of a school or business delivering chromebooks to various locations.

You can easily find chromebook charging carts with capacities up to thirty chromebooks [affiliate link]. However, these can also be expensive. It’s not at all difficult to find a solid charging cart, if you’re ready to throw $1500 at the problem. Some schools have found difficulty here; it’s pretty easy to sell a school board on the necessity of technology, but talking them into spending four figures on rolling cabinets is a trickier proposition. That leads us to our next option.

#3 Hack it Yourself

Next, let’s look at some DIY chromebook cabinets options. These are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in the educational sector, as teachers–known for their creativity–are beginning to solve their storage and charging problems on their own.

The Tips and Tricks Teacher Blog has a simple tutorial for making your own chromebook charging cabinet from common supplies and a cheap IKEA cabinet.  The model displayed here holds up to sixteen chromebooks, and it costs significantly less than similar commercial models on Amazon. Two of these babies could hold Chromebooks for a large class.

#4 Build Your Own Cart

If you manage multiple classrooms, you could also make a DIY chromebook rolling cart. It does require some basic carpentry skills and at least a small budget for lumber and supplies. This Instructables link provides detailed instructions on how to make your own, step-by-step.

Or, if your school has an old projector cart and a few camera bags lying around, you could do what this brilliant librarian did to clear the clutter in his space. One public school used a similar approach with a slightly larger media cart and a few plastic totes and boxes.

#5 The “Genius Chromebook Storage” Award

Finally, my favorite: dish racks. That’s right: teachers with limited space and budgets have taken to using simple dish racks as a viable chromebooks storage solution. Economical in terms of both cost and space, this is easily the most ingenious method I’ve seen of managing chromebook storage and charging needs. It’s a solution so simple it actually made me giggle when I saw it.

Those are a few Chromebook storage solutions that should help you regardless of your budget or particular situation.

What’s Your Chromebook Storage Solution?

I’m always on the lookout for innovative uses of chromebooks and ingenious ways to get them into the classroom. If you have a link to a similar project, drop the link in the comments. And remember to share this article so everyone can share the goodness!

Chromebooks for education changed everything

Chromebooks for Education Changed Everything

By | In the Classroom, Making the Switch | No Comments

In 2011, Google (being Google) disrupted the entire laptop and tablet marketplace with the debut of the first Chromebooks. The new devices operated on the same simple premise as all other Google products: things should be dead simple for the average consumer to use. It didn’t take long for the machines to find their way into the classroom once teachers realized they could leverage the low cost of Chromebooks for education.

Not every classroom has them yet, but Chromebooks are gaining popularity for use in the home to do homework. College students love them, too. Let’s look at why.

Why Chromebooks Are So Popular

Five years after their creation, the Chromebook experiment is officially a success. Chromebooks for education now account for more than half of all classroom devices. More than seven million devices were sold last year.

This trend is primarily driven by four factors. First they are tremendously affordable, with the average Chromebook costing less than $230.

Second, their design is simple, so anyone familiar with Google products can jump right in with no learning curve.

Third, they are super portable; not just the device itself, but the data. If a Chromebook dies, you just retrieve everything quickly and painlessly from the cloud.

And finally, they are easy to manage. Teachers and school tech officers can:

  • limit and monitor usage,
  • push apps to hundreds of devices with a single button, and
  • set up multiple user groups with varying levels of permissions.

Chromebooks for education

From a parental perspective, Chromebooks make it easier to help students out at home. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Windows person or an Apple person – everybody who’s conscious in America has at least a passing familiarity with the Google ecosystem. That knowledge bridges the tech gap between you and your child when they ask for help.

 

What to look for in a Chromebook for a student

Want to know how to pick the best Chromebook for school? Whether you’re a school IT worker responsible for hundreds of devices or a parent looking for a single Chromebook for your child to use at school, there are a few simple principles to remember as your shop.

Price: The cheapest Chromebooks on the market start as low as $149; on the upper end, you can spend well over $500 if you choose. Obviously, each price point comes with its own set of technical parameters; most purchases in the education space (IT managers and parents) spend under $300 per single device.

Ruggedness and Spill Protection: Just because you can easily replace a Chromebook doesn’t mean you necessarily want to. More expensive devices are obviously hardier pieces of equipment, with increasingly rugged casings, keyboards, and touchpads.

App Store Compatibility: A revolutionary announcement in the world of Chromebooks for education came just this month, as Google announced it would bring the Android App Store to devices running the Chrome OS. The first slate will include over forty different Chromebooks, with more to follow. This exponentially increases the number of apps available for each device, making Chromebook devotees even happier.

Weight: Some devices weigh as little as two pounds or less; the largest we reviewed was the Dell 3120, which came in at 2.75 pounds, nearly a full pound heavier than the closest competitor. This may be a particular concern for younger children, since you may want to minimize the amount of gear they have to haul around in their backpack each day.

battery

Battery Life: It doesn’t matter how portable the device is if you’re constantly hunting an open plug to charge it; Chromebooks generally run off a single Li-ion battery, and have excellent battery life, but there’s still a wide spread from 8 hours at the bottom to more than 14 hours for top-shelf devices.

Storage: This may not be a concern for most users, as the entire Chromebooks concept is built around the notion that everything will be saved to your Google account in the cloud; that’s what makes Chromebooks so portable. However, you may still want to store some documents on the actual computer, and of course you’ll need storage space for any apps you plan to install on the device.  Chromebooks come with storage ranging from 16-32 GB (not counting the possibility of external storage), so make sure you take that into consideration.

Screen Size: Chromebooks released in the past two years have screen sizes ranging from 11.6 inches to 15.6 inches. The smaller devices will serve most student well; however, students engaged in more visual pursuits, such as art or graphic design, may need the larger screens to adequately complete tasks.

Why Chromebooks Work So Well With Students

We’ve already covered some of that above, but there are a few more reasons. With a Chromebook, it is literally impossible for a student to lose an assignment. Even if they leave their computer at home, they can log in to their account from any other Chromebook and retrieve it within five minutes.

As a parent, you can feel secure about the time your child spends with the Chromebook because it has parental controls built in. There are also third party parental control apps that work on it.

And, as we mentioned above, they are so much more affordable. For the cost of an iPad, you can buy a Chromebook, accidentally destroy that Chromebook, and buy a completely new Chromebook. (This method is obviously not recommended – I’m just pointing out the drastic difference in price.)

chromebooks for kids

Kids forget things constantly, and Chromebooks are easy to borrow. A student who needs to complete an assignment on another computer simply logs into their Google account. Whatever work they complete on the new computer will be waiting on them when they get back to their machine. That means there’s no need for complicated hard-drive sharing software or annual fees.

Finally: Chromebooks have keyboards. This is perhaps the single greatest thing separating them from their Apple competitors. Anyone who types well knows that it is much more efficient than writing by hand, as it enables words to appear on screen as fast as you can think them. This is simply not possible using a touchscreen device. Further, since keyboards in the business world aren’t going away anytime soon, Chromebooks actually prepare students for a business environment more thoroughly than their touchscreen-only competitors.

The Best Chromebooks for Students Under $250

I arrived at this list by looking for the highest rated, most popular Chromebooks on Amazon. All of these models are current (please let me know in the comments if you notice that’s no longer true). I own and love the Dell 11.

Note: I have looked for the best price between Amazon and Best Buy at the time of publication. Please comparison shop your favorite retailers for the best current price. The product links below are affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you purchase. It doesn’t affect the price you pay for the item.

  1. ASUS C201:  The C201 is an adequate option. However, its 1.8 Ghz processor is a slight step down from the best options available, and it has the smallest screen size as well (11.6 inches). With a 13-hour battery life, it comes in near the top of the stack on that front. It features one HDMI and two USB ports, which are pretty standard. This is the best middle-of-the-road option.
  2. Samsung Chromebook 3 XE500C13-K02US: This model starts around 200 bucks, making it slightly more affordable than its ASUS competitor above. At this price, you give up a little battery life (down to 11 hours); however, you pick up a spill-resistant design and a slightly improved 2.16 Ghz processor. In addition to the HDMI port, this model features 1 USB 2.0 port and 1 USB 3.0 port (which is designed for newer, faster connections). This is the best option for young children, in my opinion.
  3. Dell Chromebook 11: This is the most expensive model I reviewed, but it’s still a truly affordable laptop. It’s slightly heavier than some lower-end models. However, that additional weight comes from sturdier materials and a greatly improved casing. The spill-resistant keyboard may end up paying for itself, tool. This model’s keyboard is much more responsive than the others, and simply feels more solid. However, it’s possible your student may not care about–or even notice–that fact, particularly if they are very young and just learning to type.  The Dell has the standard HDMI and USB ports described above. It also has a port for a removable SD card, adding to the portability of files stored on the device. This is best for power users and older students.
  4. HP Chromebook 11 G4: This is the cheapest device reviewed, and it definitely feels cheaper to the touch when compared to the Dell reviewed above. It has the same number of USB and HDMI ports, but it only has 2GB of available RAM, which could lead to performance issues. In its favor, it also has the card media reader.  That being said, none of the negatives would matter to a young student, so this is the best option based solely on affordability.
  5. Acer Chromebook CB3-131-C3SZ: The second cheapest, the Acer also comes with only 2GB available RAM.  Added to that, it comes with a mere 2 USB ports (one 2.0, one 3.0) However, this model does have an HDMI port and a card reader, keeping it competitive. Battery life on this device is rated at 9 hours, but the charger is well-designed and minimal. The aluminum clamshell, however, simply doesn’t feel like it could stand up to the rigors imposed by a young child. I would skip this one.

You are going to love whatever Chromebook you buy

My job is to pick one, I know. The Dell is the best for adults and older students, while the Samsung is the best option for young children. The HP is the best option if money is the only criterion.

But in the end, I literally don’t know a single person who has given a Chromebook a shot and come away anything other than amazed at the simplicity of concept, minimal design, and magical experience. There’s simply something about logging in to a brand new computer for the first time, and having your entire Google account show up ten seconds later, that boggles the mind.

Chromebook accessories to take to college

4 Essential Chromebook Accessories to Take to College

By | Accessories, In the Classroom | No Comments

Do you have everything you need for your dorm room desk? By now you already have your Chromebook for school picked out, hopefully. But you’ll need a few things to make the most of it.

1. Portable Speakers

The first thing I unpack when I move is a speaker. It’s just way more fun to get settled while jamming to my favorite playlist.

Note: If you find the information on this site useful, please consider supporting my efforts to provide relevant, up-to-date information by purchasing through the product links on this page. The product will not cost you anything extra, but I might receive a little cash to support the operation of this site.

Jawbone Jambox

When I first heard the Jawbone Jambox, I couldn’t believe the music filling my apartment building’s gym was coming from that small box. The Jambox comes in decent colors, too.

JBL Flip 3 Splashproof

If you want to take your speaker outside, or if you’re worried about party fouls, spend the extra 25 bucks to get a water resistant speaker.

2. Keyboard and Mouse Combo

Logitech Wireless Keyboard/Mouse Combo

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Deny it now, but it’s going to happen. You’ll be writing a paper at 3am and wishing you had a comfortable keyboard. Might as well get a keyboard/mouse combo for playing games, right?

3. External Hard Drive

You’ll want to bring your music and photos with you, and that’s going to take some extra disk space, since Chromebooks come with 16 or 32GB. Not to mention, it’s good to have a backup of your school papers other than Google Drive.

LaCie’s ruggedized mini-USB 3.0 drive holds 1TB and can stand up to rough handling. It’s the best bang for your buck right now, but there’s only 11 left available with Prime right now.

4. Headset

Hangouts makes it easy to stay in touch with friends and family back home. Most college students have roommates, and most roommates don’t want to hear your conversation with Mom. Get a headset to make it easier to hear and be heard over the sound of your roommate playing Call of Duty.

The Logitech ClearChat Comfort covers both ears and has noise cancelling. There’s no software to install, so it works on any laptop and operating system.

Check out my top pick for wireless headsets.

Other Chromebook/Laptop Accessories to Consider

You’ll probably have a super-fast internet connection, so you can use a high-def camera if your Chromebook doesn’t have one.

If you want to use more than two USB devices, a USB hub makes it quicker to switch. Remember to protect your computer with a surge protector, too.

Now you know all the tech accessories you’ll need for your Chromebook at school. Have fun and remember to call your mother.

Parental controls for chromebook

Do Chromebooks Have Parental Controls?

By | How-To, In the Classroom | No Comments

As a parent, do you face the constant question of how much online supervision your kids need? On one hand, I recognize that learning to use tech effectively and independently is crucial to their future. On the other hand, it’s pretty terrifying to consider all the ways their devices could expose them to corners of the internet I’d prefer they not see. Thankfully, a suite of Chromebook parental controls and third-party apps makes the task of protecting your kids online seamless and simple. Let’s walk through how to set it up.

See why Chromebooks are the best laptops for kids.

Chromebook Parental Controls: Drop-Dead Simple

Like everything Google makes, Chromebooks just work, simply and efficiently. And because everything on a Chromebook flows through the Chrome browser, it’s simple to manage.  However, there is one very important note up front: for any of this to work, you’ll need to make sure you turn off “Allow Guest Browsing” on your Chromebooks. Otherwise, anyone can sit down and use the guest account to avoid logging in, which defeats the whole purpose.

Set up Kids as “Supervised Users”

Now, you’ll need to register the Chromebook with a parent’s email address. This will establish them as the administrator for all family accounts. From there, adding accounts for kids is simple. Each child should be set up as a “supervised user” underneath the parent’s account. This enables the master account (the parent) to control the child’s access and review what they’ve been up to on the Chromebook.  

This video will guide you through setting up supervised users. 

Two notes: first, make sure you are aware that supervised users can see the administrator’s bookmarks and favorites in the browser, unless you take advantage of the “Exit and Childlock” option when logging out of your account each time. Google has provided a step-by-step guide.

Second, be aware that supervised accounts operate underneath the master account’s email address, which means they won’t have an email address of their own, and they won’t be able to create Google Documents, Sheets, or Slides under an individual account; everything will get dumped into the supervisor’s account.

Review Online Activity

Supervised users are unable to delete their browsing history; this means the parent always has the capability to review exactly what’s been done online – no worries about a child trying to cover their tracks after the fact. This is an especially valuable tool as kids get older and more curious.

Restrict Access to Explicit Content

Parents can allow or block any website for any supervised user. Additionally, supervised users can be configured to only browse the internet using Safesearch, a Google tool which prevents explicit text or images from showing up in search results.  

You can also set up parental control on YouTube videos.

Prevent Installation of Apps

Supervised users cannot install apps to their account; they are limited to browsing the web, which means if they need to create a document for school, they’ll have to browse to the Google Docs online site rather than using the device’s native app.

Potential Issues with Chromebook Parental Controls

Safesearch seems to be too aggressive, blocking a great deal of content that older students might need for school; however, if it’s turned off, you obviously don’t have time to individually blacklist every questionable website one-by-one. Some parents dodge this issue by choosing instead to only allow certain sites, handpicking the portions of the internet their child can access.  

Additionally, supervised users can’t install Google apps to their account at all. This means that any apps your child may need for school will have to be loaded onto the parental account, and the child will have to log in through your account to use the app, which is obviously a complicated solution.

Third-Party Solutions

If you prefer not to set up a supervised account, but you would like to control specific aspects of your child’s Internet use on the Chromebook, there are some apps to help. They are available on the Chrome web store.

These third-party solutions provide cloud filtering for all users on the Chromebook, supervised user or not. Multiple third-party services such as Mobicip, Metacert, and Blocksi are now available as alternatives to the pre-loaded Chromebook parental controls.

Blocksi Web Filter: This extension has both free and paid versions. The free version includes a host of features like:

  • Web filtering across 79 rated categories (adult, security, malware, etc.) and 45 million rated websites
  • YouTube content filtering across 20 categories
  • YouTube channel filtering
  • Black & White Lists
  • Limited time use, for e.g. homework access

Blocksi Lite: This extension blocks adult content and access to porn website

Parental Control and Web Filter from Metacert: This extension offers multiple settings for both, adults and children. Options for children include:

  • Filters and blocks search results that are inappropriate for a young audience
  • Removes XXX images and videos from search results
  • Blocks Tumblr pages with adult content
  • Blocks Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts with adult content

In addition to this setting, the Metacert filter offers a setting for very young kids that allows parents to add specific websites and create white lists for safe and controlled browsing.

StayFocusd is a Chrome extension that you can install to keep your teen on task, especially if you want to allow limited access to social media and other websites without completely restricting access. This extension allows you to set a time limit for websites you choose. Once the limit has been exhausted, StayFocusd restricts access for the rest of the day.

Conclusion: Chromebook Parental Controls Are There, But Not Perfect Yet

It’s not clear yet if Google will improve the native parental controls on their Chromebook products. They might simply allow the third-party app market to solve it for them. In either event, my family’s experience with Chromebooks has been phenomenal. For very young children, Safesearch is sufficient to keep them protected while they do young-child things: watch videos, play silly games, and visit educational sites. For older kids, we rely on Blocksi to handle our cloud filtering, so we don’t have to lean on Safesearch.

In my family, the benefits far outweigh the concerns, primarily due to the low cost and the portability of accounts. When my daughter pours orange juice all over the Chromebook, nothing is lost except the minimal cost of the device. The entire family’s data is sitting there when we log in to the replacement device.  

Questions or comments about Chromebook parental controls? Speak up below!