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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Best Device for Us


My district is contemplating a move to 1:1 computing, where each student would have a device.  In going to workshop and conference sessions on 1:1, the most challenging question seems to be which device is best.  At MHS, we have narrowed the choice down to iPads or Chromebooks.  Android tablets were not considered because we are a Mac district, and netbooks were quickly dismissed because of battery life and the Network Engineer’s dislike of them. 

A Chromebook right out of the box.
At WEMTA, I attended a session by Rushton Hurley where he said that the best device is the one that does what one needs it to do.  In our use of the devices, here are what our teachers and students have found: The Chromebook is easy to use, the battery is long lasting, and it has a physical keyboard.  However, everything needs to be done in the cloud.  If there is a slow connection, it can be frustrating to type and create because of the delays.  The iPad has an easy interface for users, especially young students. There so many apps that allow for creation that are easy to use after a short tutorial.  However, the expense of really good apps quickly accumulates and dealing with VPP is challenging.  The iPads are somewhat fragile, and ours have easily scratched in a lab environment.  The iPads are meant to be a personal device and trying to use them for more than that becomes a nightmare.  MHS will be using the Google Apps for Education suite next year, and one can only create and edit a Google Doc and Google Spreadsheet on an iPad; this is very limiting.  For those reasons, Marshall will most likely chose to give students Chromebooks in grades 7-12.  Students in grades K-6 will probably have more access to iPads. 
Nicole, the first student to use a Chromebook.
 Through the library, I purchased 4 Chromebooks to let students use.  I established an overnight check out procedure and policy to give students more access at home, which has become very successful.  Students have really taken to the Chromebooks.  They like how fast they start.  So much of their work is in the cloud, that the Chromebook allows them to accomplish it. 

There are still many questions of how to implement the Chromebooks.  How to give access to students without WiFi at home, what is the best professional development for teachers, what type of insurance should students acquire, and the list continues.  Yet, this will give students access and teachers the freedom to expand projects and stop fighting over labs.   There are still many decisions that need to be made, but one hurdle has been crossed by choosing Chromebooks.