Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Samsung Chromebook 3G

After my experience in South Carolina last week, I found this Samsung Chromebook on Craigslist and decided to buy it! (I know, I can't return it to Costco, but it seems like a good research tool...and my granddaughters would use it when I am through with it!) I am getting used to only having a web browser, and only using specific apps available through the Chrome Web Store. I am getting it set up with the tools I use on a regular basis, including Blogger (I'm writing this entry on it), and all of the Google Apps. I am teaching an online class this fall at Seattle Pacific University on "Issues and Advances in Educational Technology" and I am going to try to do the entire course with this device (or one of my other mobile devices). My primary research purpose is to see how this device works with normal classroom activities.

I can easily edit all of my Google Apps (Docs, Sites, Mail, etc.) with this device. I can't edit Sites with my iOS devices, and that is a very important tool for me, because my online course outlines are all in Google Sites. The keyboard is very comfortable to use, although I keep right-clicking (with two fingers). I am also testing the battery life, which should far exceed my Mac laptops. I haven't tried the 3G Verizon Wireless yet, but I am looking forward to being able to use the device during the rare times that I do not have wifi access with 100 MB free every month for two years (not a lot, but works in a pinch).

The man who sold it to me said that he added a 32 GB SD card for additional storage (it only has 16 GB--same as my iPad); but he said he rarely used it. With so many cloud-based options for document storage, I don't think that will be a problem for me. I was able to add a Dropbox extension and I hear rumors that Google might be resurrecting its GDrive, although Google Docs is nearly a universal document storage system.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mobile Devices for Student Use

Last week I facilitated a two-day workshop on implementing electronic portfolios using Google Apps for the Richland Two School District in Columbia, SC. The participants were teachers, building-level technology specialists, and district-level curriculum supervisors. We explored how they could use their new Google Apps adoption to support their emerging 1TWO1 computing program. They have been very proactive in implementing technology in their schools, along with other educational initiatives, such as Schlechty's Working on the Work model of student engagement. We also worked on building a district-wide and school-based implementation plan for integrating electronic portfolios to support student learning.

One of the most interesting activities that I observed on my last morning, before flying home, was a meeting with high school and middle school administrators, to look at a variety of Mobile Device Options. They had the following devices on display: Apple iPad, Lenovo Android Tablet (with keyboard), Samsung and Asus Chromebooks, and Lenovo Laptop Thin Client (Windows Thin PC). A group of teachers identified the priorities for these devices (on a scale 1-5):
  • Internet research/browsing [4.8]
  • Long battery life [4.8]
  • Easy to set up (teacher) [4.7]
  • USB port and/or card reader [4.3]
  • Flash sites (videos, games, etc.) [4.2]
  • Google Docs collaboration [4.2]
  • Google Sites (e-portfolios) [4.2]
  • Web 2.0 sites (Glogster, Wordle, Prezi, Wall Wisher, Voice Thread...) [4.2]
  • Content management and creation (Blackboard, Edmodo, etc.) [4.2]
  • Apps [3.8]
  • Games/simulation [3.4]
  • Notetaking (word processing) [3.3]
  • Video editing [3.3]
  • Video conferencing (Skype, etc.) [3.3]
  • Podcasting [3.2]
  • Reading e-textbooks and e-books [2.8]
There were other requirements that they assessed, without ratings: Multimedia (video, audio, files); Notetaking (handwriting recognition); MAP testing possible using VDI;  Presentation design (Google Docs or free resources); Office productivity; Photo editing. As they looked at each of the four devices, and how well each one could meet those required features, the scores were very interesting: Chromebooks and Lenovo Laptop Thin Client were virtually tied in the lead, with Android tablet next and Apple iPad last. I borrowed an Asus Chromebook for an evening, and I was able to do everything I wanted to do on GoogleApps, or any Internet-based activity. I'm now trying to find a Chromebook to push to its limits! It was obvious that the iPad scored lower because of its challenges with both Flash and Google Sites.

(Written while watching MSNBC's Education Nation...very different from last year. We heard from teachers this year! Great dialogue about the issues, and a great story from a 4th grade teacher including a homebound student in his classroom using Skype...and his students blog!)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Facebook Timeline - a life portfolio?

Last week, Facebook announced changes to the Profile, to include a Timeline that is a "friction-free" process for documenting our lives:

"Timeline is your collection of all the top photos, posts and apps that help tell your story. Learn more at http://www.facebook.com/about/timeline."

How soon before Facebook has all of the tools necessary to document our learning as well as our social graph?