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Back to school with Chromebooks for Education

Posted by Adam Naor, Chromebooks for Education Business Operations

As summer vacation ends and students prepare for the year ahead, we want to share stories from the first three schools to hit the ground running with Chromebooks for Education. Chromebooks decrease wait times in the classroom with a super-fast bootup, protect against viruses with enhanced security, and regular updates from Google mean that Chromebooks actually get better over time, saving thousands of dollars on maintenance and software upgrades. We asked these three schools to share their stories about how they plan to use Chromebooks this year to make the collaborative classroom a reality.

Chromebooks in the classroom
Contributed by Peter Iles, principal, 7th & 8th grade teacher, and tech lead, Grace Lutheran School, Oshkosh, Wis.

As a small private school in central Wisconsin, Grace Lutheran has not always had the funds to provide students with access to modern technology. Our computer lab was at least seven years old but our budgets were limited, so we had a severe need for low-cost, updated technology. To be honest, we were failing our students in being capable and current with technology and trends.

This summer, we considered three options: a complete PC refresh, Windows loaner laptops, or a set of Chromebooks. The first two choices would cost tens of thousands up front not including additional license fees and time I don’t have to maintain a Windows server environment. Chromebooks were the obvious economical choice, but they also made the most sense from an instructional perspective since we use Google Apps for Education, which is well integrated with Chromebooks. In my English class, students do peer reviews in real-time in Google Docs and with Google Maps and Earth we can do real-world math problems, which is far more tangible than working out of a text book.

In all, 17 Chromebooks will be shared in a classroom throughout the day among 5th through 8th grade students. I’m also actively using the Chromebook web-based management console, which allows me to whitelist certain extensions and pre-install education applications on each student's machine. The web changes the way students interact. And really, we have to change the way we teach. Chromebooks open up the whole world of knowledge - and that is one of the best gifts any teacher can give a student.

Chromebooks as a 1:1 device for sixth graders
Contributed by Tina Heizman, Director of Information Technology, Merton Community School District, Merton, Wis.

I really believe in the power of technology to enhance learning. When our 110 sixth graders return to school in September, they will each receive their own Chromebook to keep and use until they graduate from eighth grade. They will be able to take them home and use the 3G capabilities if needed. With the implementation of the Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education, our goal is to increase critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity among students.

When we learned that the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction was finalizing their statewide agreement for Google Apps for Education, Chromebooks seemed like a perfect addition. Giving students Chromebooks will keep them productive and allow my department to focus on helping students and staff, instead of dealing with hardware issues. Three years ago we gave each student in 5th through 8th grades a netbook, but login times have slowed significantly and hardware fails. Students become impatient and prefer to use their cell phones, which we’d like them to avoid for network security reasons. With the Chromebooks’ 8-second boot-up time and an 8-hour battery students can access the information they need, when they need it, and work a whole school day on a single charge.

I used to spend my summer imaging new computers, but using the web-based management console to deploy web apps across all 110 Chromebooks took me less than one hour. My vision is to have the devices be part of the natural classroom environment, available when needed, so learning can be the focus. Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education can do that for us.

Chromebooks on PC carts and in the library
Contributed by Ced Paine, Director of Technology, The Fessenden School, West Newton, Mass.

Fessenden is an independent K-9 school with hundreds of students. My five-member IT team has their hands full with six laptop carts, a computer-stocked library and two busy computer labs. When Chromebooks were announced, I thought “this is perfect, this is what we need.” Keeping desktop software up to date is a bear. Fessenden can now be considered cutting edge and technology-forward.

This year Fessenden will add two carts full of Chromebooks that teachers can reserve using Google Calendar for their lessons. As for the students, they are learning to create and collaborate in new, exciting ways. Chromebooks and the web are what I consider the holy grail of educational tools. Kids don’t think of it as using technology; Google Docs is just a blank screen to start creating. Add in the ability to chat with a peer or their teacher while doing their homework presentation in a different town and the results are just amazing to watch unfold.

In addition to the Chromebook carts, students can borrow a Chromebook from the school library. Eventually, we would like all students in 5th through 9th grades to have their own Chromebook. I’m blown away by the creative ways students and teachers use web technology. There’s one project where throughout the year each group rewrites one chapter of a book using Google Docs. At the end, the entire class has re-written the book in their own words. The web allows the students to be the teachers.

How could you use Chromebooks in your school? Learn more about Chromebooks for Education on our website, or register to join our webinar on Tuesday, August 29 at 11:00 a.m. PDT.