“The new Chromebooks are here!”
Many teachers will be saying that as their school transitions to Chromebooks for students or refreshes old Chromebooks. The new education model Chromebooks have touchscreens and convert to tablet mode. The combination of touch and Chrome OS is probably here to stay awhile. Lenovo has released a Chromebook with a screen students can literally draw on with a pencil. There is even a just-released Chromebook tablet. David Andrade breaks down the reasons why schools may switch from iPads to Chromebook tablets for elementary students in his blog post, New tablets for Education – comparing the new Acer Chromebook Tab 10 and the new Apple iPad.
This guide is meant to help educators get started using these new Chromebooks that have both touchscreens and keyboards. Everything referenced in this post until the very end is web-based and immediately accessible upon signing in to a Chromebook. The very end of this guide suggests some tools that are great but will require district Google administrators to enable the Google Play Store.
Before you do anything, even before reading this – beg, borrow, steal, cheat, lie, simply ask, or do whatever is necessary to get your hands on a new Chromebook the second it arrives in a district warehouse. Reading about apps and educational uses is great but nothing matches the experience of actually using the device.
On to the guide. Let’s start with sketching, jotting, and drawing on touchscreen Chromebooks.
Isn’t that straight up substitution?
Of course it is! “Substitution” has become a loaded dirty word in education. Even the most innovative teacher uses substitution in every lesson. Effective technology integration incorporates constant motion through different levels of SAMR. Jaclyn B. Stevens‘s SAMR swimming pool clearly illustrates this:
As Stevens says in this video, “Just as educators work across the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, the levels of the SAMR model must also be flexible and align to what students are doing in a classroom.”
Classrooms should be places where students always feel free to quickly jot or draw something to help them process and make connections. Research suggests drawing is the most effective way to learn! Or just doodle for brain breaks. For more on the benefits of drawing for learning, please read A Simple Way to Better Remember Things: Draw a Picture from The New York Times (1/6/19).
Annotating a website or PDF for a grade is rotten. However, getting messy annotating a website or adding content to a Google Jamboard Jam to process information, give feedback, or create a digital gallery walk is different. Use these tools to help kids get messy. Encourage it.
An example of this is sketchnoting. Sketchnoting is so beneficial for kids and adults. Sketchnotes are often created on iPads that are more expensive than Chromebooks with a paid app (Procreate). Why shouldn’t kids sketchnote on Chromebooks for free?
Before we address tools, May 2019 brings the news that PDF annotation is about to become native to Chromebooks as of Chrome OS 74. It includes a pen, highlighter, and eraser. The color palette and size options are identical to those options in Google Keep.
Speaking of Google Keep, that is our first tool for sketching, drawing, and jotting on a Chromebook.
Sketching/Drawing/Jotting/Tool #1: Google Keep
Google Keep is a great tool for drawing on images or creating sketches. This works in the Google Keep web app:
Google Keep is great for this purpose though it is not the most robust drawing tool. I lamented there was not another Google tool for drawing (don’t get me started about the misnamed Google Drawings) until I saw this tweet from Jessica Garrigan:
Sketching/Drawing/Jotting/Tool #2: Google AutoDraw
Google AutoDraw is much more than an auto draw tool. I created the image for this blog post in AutoDraw using a touchscreen Chromebook. Watch as I demo:
AutoDraw lacks the ability to save files. Create, download, and start with a blank slate next time. Let’s hope that changes soon. It also does not have an erase tool though it has an undo button and the ability to delete elements of a sketch by selecting and deleting. For more information about AutoDraw, read these two blog posts:
- Using Google AutoDraw for Sketchnotes, Infographics, Drawings, and More by Eric Curts
- Google’s AutoDraw: Creation Made Easier by Adam Schoenbart
Google Keep and AutoDraw do not let students sketch or annotate on top of websites. Enter the Web Paint Google Chrome extension.
Sketching/Drawing/Jotting Tool #3: Chrome Canvas
Discovered by Chrome Unboxed in December 2018, Chrome Canvas is a great Google tool for drawing. It saves images and lets students download as PNG files. I like it better than Google Keep for jotting on top of images. Additionally, each drawing tool has size and opacity sliders which are absent in Keep and AutoDraw. Users of Adobe suite mobile apps are familiar with these sliders. Check out this sketch of Gritty created by The Verge:
Watch as I demonstrate this great tool:
Sketching/Drawing/Jotting/Tool #4: (Annotating Websites Edition): The Web Paint Google Chrome Extension
The Web Paint Google Chrome extension is great for marking up websites.
Take advantage of this by using Web Paint with Google Keep to search the text on saved clippings from the web:
One drawback of Web Paint is it only works with what is on screen. There is no ability to scroll down the page. Robby Payne at Chrome Unboxed figured out that using Web Paint in conjunction with the FireShot extension allows for marking up an entire page and then saving it as a PDF.
Freeform Collaboration Tool: Google Jamboard
Google Jamboard is a drawing tool but its usefulness is elevated through collaboration. It is the perfect platform for student brainstorming. Google recently announced a streamlined web version of the great mobile Jamboard app. Watch as I demonstrate.
A Drawing for Assessment Tool: Formative
Formative, found at goformative.com, allows students to draw in an assignment. The applications for this, especially in Math, are innumerable. In this simple example, I draw in a formative (Formative’s name for assignments) I created asking students to explain the Schlieffen Plan.
In this example, I provided students with a map to draw on. Better yet, don’t provide the map! Students can insert images themselves. Or not. Let students determine how best they can depict a concept. I made a formative with two Schlieffen Plan questions – one with a map and one without. Feel free to make a copy for yourself.
Drag-and-Drop with Instant Feedback Tool – Quizlet
Dragging-and-dropping isn’t the highest level learning activity but at least Quizlet matching gives students instant feedback. Notice what happens when I choose the wrong answer and then the correct answer:
Writing by Hand on Touchscreen Convertible Chromebooks
This applies only to touchscreen Chromebooks that are convertible – meaning that can be used in stand, tent, and tablet form factors. Students can hand write in Google Docs, Slides, to enter a website URL, or basically anywhere they can input text.
Please note this does not work if a mouse is connected to the device. It works in tablet mode and if students enable the on-screen keyboard using Accessibility settings. Watch as I demonstrate.
September 2020 Update: Touchscreen Chromebooks now have handwriting recognition as part of their on-screen keyboard. This is like Jamboard’s handwriting recognition married to Autodraw. Watch as Chrome Unboxed demonstrates:
The web version of Google Earth is perfect for touchscreen Chromebooks. It’s not just for exploring and storytelling – Google has added a lot of educational content to Google Earth Voyager. Watch as I demonstrate in this YouTube playlist of 7 short videos:
Bring Touchscreen Chromebooks to the Next Level – Android Apps!
Web apps are great but the magic of touchscreen Chromebooks is found in the Google Play Store. Great apps for education productivity, creativity, and collaboration live there including my beloved free Google Jamboard app! Here are two blog posts where I review great Android apps for education on Chromebooks:
- Five Educational Android Apps for Chromebooks
- Five More Educational Android Apps for Chromebooks
- Another Five Educational Android Apps for Chromebooks
Email your district’s Google administrator to request enabling the Google Play Store in your district’s domain. Share with them this video by Allison Mollica which explains how admins enable Play Store access and this video by Thomas Rup and Eric Lawson which explains pushing Android apps to Chromebooks.
Keep Yourself in the Chromebook Loop
More important than any tool is staying up-to-date on what’s happening with Chrome OS and education. To do this:
- Follow the linked Twitter handles in this post. These educators share great resources for integrating technology in the classroom. Some of them are not Chromebook superfans like me. Great! Better to have a broader perspective.
- Stay up-to-date about Chrome OS updates with the aforementioned Chrome Unboxed website. The site is constantly publishing valuable updates and tips-and-tricks.
- My Education Chromebook Reviews YouTube playlist includes videos that demonstrate the pluses and minuses of each model and show them in action. I will add to the playlist as reviews for new devices are published.
I hope this guide is useful. To those of you already using touchscreen Chromebooks in the classroom, what did I miss? Please comment below or tweet me, @TomEMullaney. Thanks for reading.
Does your school, organization, or conference need professional development to help teachers make the most of Chromebooks? Have a look at some of my offerings and connect with me on Twitter.