Thought on Chromebooks

There has been much talk about the place about how Chromebooks are overtaking iPads in the classroom. Maybe they are. And maybe they do have advantages, such as:

  • cheaper hardware
  • easy to set up and manage
  • multiple users per device
  • works nicely with Google Apps
  • data all in the cloud
  • etc…

However, everything is done through a web browser.  Which to me sounds like a very depressing way to go.

The Wonderful WWW has been transformative (thanks Tim), but displaying everything using a web browser is really rather limiting in the end.  Hypertext Markup Language is not the same as a proper operating system with proper apps.  Which is what you get with iPad.  Which means you can do cool stuff like:

  • make videos
  • do green screen
  • draw with your finger
  • have a proper mail client
  • have 3D animations
  • etc….

Now, obviously all the best iPad apps make use of the Internet to make the experience better.  But making us of http:// isn’t the same as using .html.

Let me use our VLE (run using moodle) as an example.  It runs off a web server, which means it can be accessed anywhere in the world on any platform that has a web browser.  But the downside is that it’s a horrible and clunky experience.  Adding a calendar entry on an iPad versus on a Moodle page is like comparing something easy to something unpleasant.  We use a SIMS plugin so we can enter assessment data and take registers, but the user experience is horrible.  Admittedly, using SIMS on a PC isn’t all that wonderful, but at least it’s a native experience.  A web page isn’t native for anyone.

Which is why I’m thinking that we might need to look at the SIMS Teacher app.  It doesn’t do anything more than what Moodle can, but it potentially does it in a more pleasant way…

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Bye-bye SMARTboards

Having unplugged and uninstalled ourselves from the SMART ecosystem, embracing instead mirrored iPads and Explain Everything, one problem still remained: having a surface to write on! Using a stylus (or finger) on an iPad is ok as far as it goes, but for properly modelling good handwriting to a class you need to be able to write on a large surface.

In many ways, the ideal scenario is . This gives you a crisp digital surface and a really good physical writing surface. However, at my school there just isn’t the space for both in our classrooms. In a new building, we experimented with putting dry-wipe paint on one of the walls and then pointing an HD projector at it too. Writing anywhere on a wall is cool, but having the ability to include digital content is handy too.

So, in order to roll this out across the school, we decided to install special where the SMARTboard surface was before. These boards are designed to be projected onto so you don’t get as much glare as a normal shiny whiteboard, but you can still write on them. We kept using the existing 4:3 VGA projectors, but the boards could also fit a 16:9 HD projected image for when we upgrade in the future.

The installation went down very well with teachers. One of the consequences has been seeing less use of the projector for when it’s not really necessary. Having a decent writing surface to teach with is actually really rather lovely.