Learning Activities in #Chromebook Classrooms

Read the first half of this conversation, Plurality of Diversity

Earlier this month, Tim Holt challenged Chris Lehmann's assertion that Chromebooks can do 90% of what students in K-12 public schools need a computing device to do. While I do not seek to become an apologist for any device, I would like to point out the following facts, much in the same way I did in response to iPad nay-sayers, Banishing the Winter of Digital Discontent.
Imagine a school where students don't learn programming.Imagine a school where no desktop publishing occurs.Imagine a school where advanced image editing is not taught.Imagine a school where video editing, manipulation, remixing has no place.Imagine a school where student digital products are limited to what an iPad can do. Imagine a school incapable of taking the STAAR or other test online. 
I'm a fan of BYOD and a fairly enthusiastic iPad user, but I don't want to lose the power of the desktop or laptop. We might go to portable labs if we can't afford 1:1, but don't take power computing out of the mix for students.
In that blog entry, I share a list of the uses technology might be put to in a classroom. I'd like to propose we clarify what "list" of activities we actually expect students to be engaged in using technology in the classroom. That way, we will know beyond a shadow of a doubt--within the scope of this conversation where that list will change as expectations do--whether a device can be used for "90%" or 100% of them.

If we adapt the list in my iPad blog entry, here are some of the activities--and I invite you to add more in the comments.

Aside: ""Apologetics" is derived from the Greek root word apologia. In ancient Greece it referred to a formal defense of a belief, an explanation or argument for one’s philosophy or religion. The word occurs several times in the New Testament, including sections of the Gospels, seeking to persuade unbelievers of the truth claims of the Church, especially the unique nature of the person and work of Jesus Christ." (Source: IgnatiusInsight.com)This whole discussion of what's the best tech for classrooms reminds me of apologetics.

This list, obviously, doesn't include everything students can do with computers. Rather, the list serves as a foundation from which a rich variety of activities may flow from, unfettered by a device's technical constraints. The workflows certainly differ from device to device, but that's OK.

Students must be able to...

  1. "code" or program.
  2. engage in desktop publishing.
  3. use GoogleApps for Education tools.**
  4. engage in advanced image editing.
  5. do video recording, editing and remixing.
  6. complete Pearson compatible state assessments*
  7. complete drill-n-practice and/or tutorial programs like the TexasSuccess program activities (e.g. iStation, Think Through Math), as well as others like Scholastic Math and Reading Intervention Programs, Adobe Flash-heavy projects*, etc.
  8. create a variety of rich multimedia products using multiple media-rich web sites and/or apps
  9. participate in video/audio-enhanced conferencing using web-based or app-based tools (e.g. Skype, Google Hangout, Adobe Connect, etc.).
  10. Provides on-board or easy access to cloud storage to facilitate saving and sharing with others.
Note: Items with a single asterisk * cannot currently be done on either the iPad OR Chromebook, making both of these devices unsuitable as computer lab replacements. Simply, we must continue to invest in computer labs until vendors like Pearson (and others) support assessments and HTML5. Items with a double asterisk ** are only partially workable on iPads. Also, districts that are GoogleApps for Education (GAFE) would certainly find Chromebooks and traditional devices to do much of what they want, if not all.
I don't know about you, but if I had to score a technology--and really, of what use is that except to be cognizant of its potential in classrooms/labs--or device using the list of items above, it is clear to me that the following could be argued:
  • iPads would score 7 out of 10 possible points. 
  • Chromebooks would score 8 out of 10 possible points, and I'd probably argue 8.5 points given that WeVideo app isn't all that heavenly for video editing/remixing...
  • Traditional desktops, laptops--whether they were running Windows, Mac--would score 10 out of 10 points.
  • Linux-based laptops/desktops (not Chromebook) would score 9 out of 10 points (e.g. State assessment). For you Linux doubters: 
    • OpenShot video editor is easy and awesome. 
    • Google Hangouts works great
It shouldn't be unexpected that these devices could also end up in teachers' hands as their most frequently used device (FUD...(smile)). As a result, whatever device should also be able to handle the district's gradebook program (e.g. TxGradebook, Gradespeed).

"But most teachers or admins don't even use 90% of the functionality of the technology they have access to," I have heard budget-conscious leadership observe. "We end up buying this expensive device that gets obsolete so that the person carrying it around can have the 'latest' device."

While we could add more criteria to this list, but to be frank, if I had a teacher taking advantage of at-a-distance creation,  communication, and collaboration now possible through ANY of these technologies, then that would be phenomenal.

And, I must also point out that these tools are actively evolving on iPads AND Chromebooks. Of course, these tools are already mature on traditional platforms like laptops, desktops.

One aspect that this blog entry does not consider is ease of workflows. Consider this perspective:
I teach in a 1:1 iPad classroom, and I asked to pilot 1:1 Chromebooks for the next school year.
Truthfully, it wasn't an easy choice to make.  Secretly, I tried to squelch my nagging desire to do more with my students.  After all, I loved teaching with iPads, and I'm proud of all the work, creativity, and fun that came out of using them. Besides, iPads are cool.
But I had to be truthful.  I had to be creative to use the iPad as a creation tool, and I had to find workarounds.  And there were things my students just couldn't do on them.
Read More 

Some would argue that the workflow you must take to get something done--especially video-editing--is MORE important than the totality of what a device can do. For example, it's easy as pie to record audio and process it on some devices, but not others. But "easy as pie" differs from device to device and the user's definition. We can't equate popularity of a device in schools (e.g. iPads) with ease of workflows. I've seen many iPads purchased that are discarded or used for only watching media.

As I've said before, I have no doubt I can make any device do what I want it to...but will other educators that are less technology-invested be willing to make the effort?

You know, they should be. Teaching and learning without technology is like trying to make empanadas  without relying on picante sauce to engage the taste buds. You can get the crust right, the meat almost right, but...who cares?

What would be on YOUR list of 90%?

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


Tim said…
First thing in your list: Avoid vendor lock in.
Third thing on your list: "Must use Google Apps"

Avoid vendor lock-in means avoid exclusively using one vendor over another in a classroom. If the iPad works great for Music, use it. If you want to write a story about the choir/band performance, that allows for collaborative editing, then use GoogleApps.

We live in a world of big vendors and learning to be comfortable with each is its own learning experience.

Tim Holt said…
Okay, a post responding to this one: http://holtthink.tumblr.com/post/72267673721

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