Ten Things You Can Do This Summer To Prepare For Teaching In A 1:1 Classroom With Chromebooks

Has your district told you your students will bring Chromebooks with them to class in the fall? Are you eager to integrate this technology into instruction but unsure how? Here are ten things you can do this summer to hit the ground running in the fall, brought to you by a teacher who has been in your shoes.

1. Ask your administration for a Chromebook to use this summer.

You want to know the Chromebook user experience before school starts. What better way to learn than by doing? This teacher loves Chromebooks in the classroom for many reasons. You will too, especially if you understand the platform your students use. See if your administrators are willing to loan you the same model students will use in the fall. Use it for everything this summer and you will be prepared.

2. Become a Google Educator.

If you want to successfully use Google Apps for Education (GAFE) in classroom instruction, you need to be proficient in them. Go through Google for Education’s process to earn Google Educator certification. The process involves online modules and five $15 (as of Summer 2014) tests. Author’s Note (6/28/15): This process has just changed. Please have a look at Google’s new options and see what works for you. Going through the modules will make you more than proficient in Google Apps. Taking and passing the exams will earn you a Google Educator certificate, a nice asset for your CV.

 3. Upload your files to Google Drive.

This is essential for you to work with your students in a 1:1 classroom. After the Google Educator modules, you should be able to easily upload folders to Google Drive. Or, you can watch this video about doing it with a Windows computer:

Or this one about doing it with a Mac:

 

4. Get to know Google Classroom.

First, watch this video introducing Google Classroom. Imagine the possibilities. Get excited!

Then, read up about Google Classroom and how to use it to do transformative things such as seamlessly include absent and home-bound students in your class.

5. Learn from the experts.

There is so much great content about integrating technology into the classroom. It can be overwhelming. Start small by following these eight experts on Twitter and reading their blogs regularly. If starting a Twitter account seems overwhelming, read Alice Keeler’s blog post about signing up for Twitter. Here are my favorite education technology experts. Their names hyperlink to their blogs.

6. Digitize your print documents.

Do this during the summer to save time during the school year. Once a print document is digitized, it can be altered and, hence, improved.

7. Convert your multiple choice assessments to paperless Google Forms your students can answer on their Chromebooks.

My visual tutorial will guide you through this process. Doing this during the summer will save you untold time at the photocopier and ScanTron machine during the school year. If you are curious about grading, read my grading tutorial, but it will not be necessary until you give your first multiple choice assessment.

Author’s Note (12/3/15): The visual tutorial linked above will work for you if you are working with the old Google Forms. If you are working with the new Google Forms, please read this post to get acquainted. 

8. Use TEDEd to change the way video is used in instruction.

Rather than have the whole class watch a projected video, you can add short-answer and multiple choice assessment questions, discussion prompts and links to further resources to any YouTube video. Make a list of your favorite YouTube videos used in instruction, and make them into powerful instructional tools with YouTube this summer. Students can work with videos at their own pace on their Chromebooks and you can use TEDEd’s tools to assess understanding.

Author’s Note (12/3/15): EdPuzzle is also a great tool for engaging students with video. Additionally, please read my Five Strategies for Using Video in the Classroom

9. Use PDFSplit to break up large curricular PDFs into smaller documents.

Instead of printing the pages of the PDF you want your students to read and scanning them, use PDFSplit to make original quality PDFs of the exact pages you want students to read. PDFSplit connects to your Google Drive to access your PDF. It makes a new file with only the pages you specify. Students then read beautiful PDFs on their Chromebooks, not scans of photocopies.

10. Join Google Plus education technology communities.

This will serve as another great source for education technology information. Just like with education technology experts on Twitter, start small. Here are four great communities to join:

Teaching in a 1:1 classroom with Chromebooks reignited my passion for education. I hope it does for you too! If you would like to talk more about successful technology integration in the 1:1 classroom, please comment below or send me a tweet at @edtechtom.

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Why This Teacher Loves Chromebooks

Remember when consumers and schools had two computer choices: PCs and Macs? Both came with significant negatives. For PCs, it was computers that frequently crashed or froze. For Macs, is was price. Many schools now use the iPad for 1:1 classrooms. It still has a high cost and lacks a good keyboard. At last, a new solution is here.

The Chromebook outdoes PCs for affordability while being sleek and stylish like a Mac. Like the Mac I had at a previous teaching job, my Chromebook performs very well and does not crash. My students and I are loving our Chromebooks.

My district is using Chromebooks with eighth and ninth grade students this year as a pilot program. I am so fortunate two-thirds of my classes are with eighth and ninth grade. I hope the district makes the entire middle and high schools 1:1 with Chromebooks next school year.

How Chromebooks are Different for the User

Here are two slides I have used to explain the unique features of Chromebooks to my colleagues.  These are not the most beautiful slides; I used them to go over this topic quickly before a longer discussion on 1:1 classroom management.

Screenshot 2014-10-09 at 9.46.14 AM

Screenshot 2014-10-09 at 9.46.49 AM

Why My Students and I Love Them

Let me list the reasons:

  • The quick boot-up time. Please, Google, do not change this. Please do not switch to Android. The Chrome OS has no applications save for the Chrome browser, a calculator, and a camera. I often have students close their Chromebooks for class discussion. Students are right back where they left off upon re-opening them.
  • Automatic log-in to Google Apps for Education. Using a COW or a computer lab meant that students would boot up the computer, log in to the computer and then log in to Google Apps for Education. All this took some time. Chromebooks change this process to one essentially instant step. Once a student has logged in, they can click icons for GMail, Google Drive, Google Classroom and Google Calendar and arrive instantly.
  • Great battery life. I have been using a school-issued HP Chromebook since July. During the summer I worked with it all day. By the end of the day there was a good deal of battery life remaining. This included a lot of use of video and music too. Students at my school leave their Chromebooks on chargers in their homerooms overnight. Battery life has not been an issue for them.
  • The keyboard. My school-issued HP Chromebook has a nice keyboard. I much prefer my students use it than type on an iPad or an iPad add-on keyboard.
  • The screen! My school-issued HP Chromebook has a beautiful wide HD screen. YouTube HD videos look stunning.

My One Concern

As you can tell, I love the Chromebook. There is one concern I have with it: the touchpad. The touchpad requires two fingers next to each other to right click. I have been doing this since July and have not mastered it. I plug a mouse into the Chromebook to be as productive as possible. If you have students with motor issues, I highly recommend pairing mice with their Chromebooks.

The Chromebook touchpad is also very sensitive. When they started using Chromebooks in the classroom, some of my students would inadvertently click “submit” on Google Forms I used for assessment when they did not mean to. My work-around for that has been to make every question in my forms a required question.

Set each Google Form question to required and sensitive touchpads won't be a problem.

Set each Google Form question to required so sensitive touchpads won’t be a problem.

The Ideal 1:1 Solution

That issue aside, Chromebooks are the ideal solution for 1:1 classrooms. They are more affordable than iPads and PCs without the crashes and clunky-ness of  PCs. They are cheaper than iPads with a better keyboard and seamless integration with Google Apps for Education. The Chromebook is an efficient, powerful machine. I have a feeling it will become a big part of education, personal and business computing in the next few years.