Tag-Archive for ◊ chromebooks ◊

Setting up Chromebooks – Part 2
Saturday, October 18th, 2014 | Author:

Following on from Part 1 where I talked about the physical setting up, this post will talk look at the Google Apps Dashboard and the settings that are currently available. Be  aware, this is Google. They change regularly. If it changes a lot, I will update this guide.

First off, you will need to login to your Google Apps Dashboard – www.google.com/a/yourdomainname.co.uk for example.

You will see an icon for Device Management. If this is not there, click More Controls at the bottom to bring it up.

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Then you will see Mobile and Chrome. Next to each, there are links to Devices (takes you to Devices below, Settings (takes you to Device Settings) and Shipments (takes you to Advanced\Shipments).  For this guide I am looking at the Chromebook setup rather than the Mobile one. I haven’t used the Mobile pages on Google Apps yet so I’m not sure how they work.

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Clicking Chrome will show this screen:

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The top number on this page shows the amount of active users within the last 7 days. Below I’ll try to explain each page of the menus is for and what it can do. I will also say which options we have turned on or off and which we have left. Obviously you can choose your own settings, but this is what we have done. If the settings aren’t mentioned below (there are a lot) then we have left them alone. I have tried to just mention the main ones.

 

Screen Shot 10-18-14 at 04.22 PM

This page gives you the choice of various options for the users within your domain. You can choose a default wallpaper for example.

>>>>Pre-installed Apps and Extensions – Chrome has apps. Lots of them in fact. Now there is a way of managing some of these by pre-installing them onto the devices. Simply click Manage and then search for apps to install onto every chromebook.

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>>>>Security – We have chosen to never lock the screen when it is idle and to disallow incognito mode but these are minor things for us. We also don’t save the browser history either. We have prevented users from proceeding to malicious sites and allowed sites to detect users’ geolocation just to prevent sites from asking! I’m not sure if this is the best option, but it stopped a few errant pop-ups.

>>>>Startup – We have added the Home button to all chromebooks. This makes it much easier to get to the school website, especially for younger children. We have also set the Homepage URL. We have a page setup – www.ridersschools.co.uk/children – that has links to various tools that we use so it’s easier to get to that and then navigate to other stuff. We have also set the Chromebooks to load that page and the Google homepage on startup. That covers most things that we the children will use.

>>>>URL Blocking – There is the option to block URLs from being accessed but our filtering does this anyway, so we have left this blank.

>>>>Bookmark Bar – We have enabled this to make it easier for students.

 

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We haven’t changed anything on here as every user logs in to access the Chromebook so the settings on the menu above will apply.

 

 

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>>>>Guest Mode – We have allowed this just in case there is ever an issue logging on (usually an incorrect username or password but so far no-one has needed it.

>>>>Power Management – We have told the devices to remain on if they are on the sign-in screen. We found that this was easier than trying to figure out if the device was off or asleep.

>>>>Auto Update Settings – We have set the Chromebooks to auto-update and these are scattered over a 14day period. This means, unlike Windows, updates will happen slowly rather than trying to update everything all at once. To be honest, we have yet to notice an update cause a problem. When an update gets downloaded, it is installed the next time the machine is turned off and on again. Easy.

>>>>Time Zone – We have set the time zone. It was confusing the children when it was on US time 🙂

 

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This is where you can add your wireless settings so that the Chromebooks will automatically join the network. Click Add Wi-Fi, add the name, password, proxy settings etc and then save. The Chromebooks will now find the Wifi automatically. Adding the Wi-Fi here means that if you change the Wi-Fi password for example, you just need to tell the Chromebooks one rather than having to do it manually on every device.

 

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This shows you the serial numbers for all of the devices that you have enrolled within your domain. It also shows if the device has been provisioned, when it was enrolled and by which user. There is also a notification of how many licenses you own and have used.

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Errr…this page seems to show all of the other menus..but in one place. Not sure why it is there. There might be additional options, but they are not obvious! Ok, so shipments is on there. But that’s it.

 

So that is how we have set-up our Chromebooks. If you have any ideas for improving this, or you think I have missed a setting that is vital or if you have any questions then please add them in the comments below and I will amend this post accordingly.

 

 

Setting up Chromebooks – Part 1
Saturday, October 18th, 2014 | Author:

As mentioned in a previous post, we have just purchased over 100 Chromebooks. These have been a winner so far and the feedback has been fantastic. I have had questions via Twitter asking how we manage them and what you get for the Chrome Management License fee (it costs £19). So I thought I would write a post explaining the chromebook setup process.

Please Note: This post assumes that you are using Google Apps within your school. This is pretty cheap (under £10 a year and a few hours setup time) and will help to organise everything you do with Google and the Chromebooks. There are many posts on the index page about Google Apps or contact me if you want some help.

 

After the chromebooks are unboxed and charged, the first step is to turn them on by lifting the lid. They will look for the WiFi and you can then connect, add proxy settings and choose language etc.

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Once connected, the Chromebook will search for the latest version of Chrome and for any updates.

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Once that is done, there is the option to sign-in. This is the crucial step. If you sign-in here, the Chromebook will not be attached to your domain meaning that it will act as a standalone device rather than one you can control and manage. So press CTRL ALT E to get to the enterprise login screen instead.

Here’s a bit more info from Google if you need it.

Regular login screen: 2014-09-29 16.34.29

Enterprise enrolment screen:  2014-09-29 16.34.35

 

From here, login as any user within your domain. I always use an admin account, but I don’t think you need to. It’s just that my account is admin, so it makes sense to login as me rather than someone else.

 

The Chromebook will “enrol” on to your domain. This takes around 30seconds, depending on Wifi signal.

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Success! It found your domain and when you look on your management dashboard, this device will be there.

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You will now be presented by a login screen and if you look at the bottom, it says that the device is now managed by ridersapps.co.uk (our school domain).

 

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You can now log in as any user within your domain and it will pick up the settings you have assigned. Deciding which settings to assign is all explained in this post here.

ICT in my school Part 2
Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 | Author:

Following on from my last post where I talked about our ICT journey and where we had come from, this post will discuss our approach to Chromebooks.

I have had a Chromebook at home, as well as desktop PCs, for about 3 years. I must say that it was a freebie for doing some stuff for Google, I’m not sure if I’d have bought it myself. Over the past few years it has lived under the living room coffee table and is always there should we need to do something quickly. It turns on in seconds and the internet is there.

For those that haven’t seen them, Chromebooks are devices that look like “normal” laptops, but rely very much on the internet to access anything and to work properly. Yes, you can do some things offline, but you wouldn’t. I tried to do some work on the train once and ended up opening a glorified post-it note app and then copying the text out later when I had WiFi.  If you can guarantee internet signal, then you’re onto a winner. I’m sure the offline side has got better recently, I’ve just not needed it since.

The devices run the Chrome operating system, turn on in around 10 seconds and then to log-in, you simply enter your Google login. They generally last 6-7 hours and can be charged in around an hour too.

In school, we have 60 Toshiba touchscreen laptops and I am not a fan of them. The pad for the mouse is sooooo sensitive it ends up getting turned off so that the children use the touchscreen instead. This provides issues now and again, but some teachers seem to like them. My issue was that I wanted lots of devices across the school so that we could really ramp up the opportunities for the children. I had used Chromebooks before, I’d borrowed some from C-Learning in my previous school and seen how easy they were to manage. If they ever go wrong, you wipe them and factory reset them within 10minutes. I’ve only ever had 1 device get that bad. So after all the positives, I took the plunge and ordered 60 Chromebooks and 3 trolleys to put them in.

As I said earlier, when logging in to the Chromebooks, there is the question of signing in with a Google Apps account. We now all have those through Google Apps so the pupils can be switched on and logged in within a minute. One thing to be aware of is that there is the option of paying £19 per Chromebook to purchase a Chrome management license. This adds your Chromebook to your Google Apps domain and gives you control. Think of it like a regular server managing your laptops. I can control the WiFi, proxy, power settings, default homepage and much more from one control panel rather than from each device. The console also manages updates. Ours are set to update over the course of a week so all devices don’t update at the same time and slow own the bandwidth. I wouldn’t consider buying Chromebooks for school without the £19 license!

In school, we have started to dabble with Google Apps. I mean I have used it in previous schools and I am a Google Certified Trainer, but with so many other things happening at school, this is a slow, measured approach. We started with giving everyone access to the calendar which despite being in place for almost a year, has only taken off this term. We have now given all pupils a Google email and will start using other tools soon. A few classes have been using Google Docs and children are excited by the collaboration opportunities that it provides.

So, what are the downsides so far?

  • Publisher – People always want an alternative to Publisher
  • Printing – Our Sharp printers don’t like the Chromebooks – For the few times we will print, the children can share the document with teachers who have a Windows desktop and we can print from there
  • Everything is online. Our laptops have links on the desktop so that pupils can access certain tools and websites. We have had to be more creative with how we do that. I have a solution and that’s for another blog post!
  • It takes longer to  type the login e.g. iaddison@ridersapps.co.uk than it does to type iaddison to logon to the Windows machines. But the extra 30seconds here is saved as the machine is on in 10 seconds.

We have had them in school since the start of September and so far it is all going well. They are used for simple thing so far, but that will change as we begin to show staff the possibilities.

Oh, did I mention the price? The Samsung Chromebooks we bought were £168 including the license. Bargain. (We actually just managed to buy 45 more Chromebooks that were on offer at £134 each)

If you are looking to purchase Chromebooks, I would suggest talking to C-Learning. As far as I am aware, they are the only company that will lend out Chromebooks for users to test for free (although I must also point out that I run training courses for them too from time to time)

The next step after chromebooks involved looking for tablet devices. That blog post is here.

A Chromebook Trial
Friday, January 04th, 2013 | Author:

Recently we have managed to get a class set of 32 Chromebooks to trial in our school. These were acquired through Ian Nairn at C-Learning (http://c-learning.net/) and are free to schools for a few weeks. We got ours two weeks before Christmas so we’re half-way through so far and I thought it would make sense to give a quick update of what we’ve been doing.  This post will attempt to cover an explanation of Chromebooks, how to manage them and then how to use them.

What is a Chromebook?

Firstly, let me explain a bit about the Chromebooks. These are laptop-sized devices that work mainly online. Their sole purpose is to use the tools available on the internet but there are a few that will work offline too. They work using apps and these can be installed in seconds.

So this means that apps have a few different meanings:

Phone – an app is a small piece of software that you install on your phone such as Angry Birds

Chrome/Chromebooks – an app is a small piece of software that you install into your web browser, but these aren’t linked to your phone, even if you have a Google-powered Android phone

Google Apps – This is the name given to the suite of tools comprising of Sites, Docs, Mail etc.

 

Confused? It does make sense after a while, honest.

 

 

In essence, the Chromebook doesn’t have a hard drive to install Windows on and there’s no Microsoft Office, instead it uses Google’s Chrome Operating System (OS) and it boots up in around ten seconds. I was once using one of these in a hotel, it took longer for the hotel TV to switch on then it did for the Chromebook, but anyway…

Managing the devices

Once loaded, you log-in using a Google account and you’re then online. Every child in my school has a Google account because we use Google Apps, but these devices all come with one shared account anyway, so you don’t even need to make a new one. Obviously with a shared account comes shared email and stuff so, so the preference would be for an account per child.

Also if you are using Google Apps, there is a management panel which gives you extra power over the device. One thing that you can set it the homepage when they load. We found it difficult once logged in as we were just given Google.co.uk as the starting page. My children wanted the school website, with their familiar link page, so we added this via the management panel.

So the children can get from powered-off to the school website in around a minute. This is great, as with our netbooks this time was around 5 minutes. Logging-off takes about 5 seconds compared to the 5 minutes with netbooks.

What about actually using them?

The children loved them. We tried loads of different tools straight away such as Bug Club, Purple Mash, BrainPOP and anything else we can think of. We found that Wordle didn’t work as there seems to be an issue with Java, but Flash works fine.

In a normal lesson, the netbooks are brilliant and I love them. I can get them switched on while I am doing the input and then by the time I’ve finished, they are ready to use. But with the Chromebooks, I am now using them in short sessions. For example we have a 25minute Guided Reading slot and the Chromebooks have been used every time for Bug Club or as a writing opportunity using the 100 Word Challenge. The instant-on is great. The battery also lasts for 8 hours and they charge in around 90 minutes too.

What about cost?

The devices we have are the more expensive ones, but I went to PC World and looked and found some for £229 each. Even with £20 for the management per device, this is still under £250 for a great bit of kit. That is also without trying to haggle or ask for discount too. Also, it includes VAT. Note that the cheaper Acer ones are different, they do have a hard-drive, and also less battery time.

That’s the great thing about technology at the moment, instead of being sold some obscure “made-for-schools” laptop or generic Dell/HP PC from a company, we can just pop to PC World and try them for ourselves. When we bought our Blackberry I spent an hour there testing it with everything I could think of and I did the same with the Chromebook, spending around half an hour fiddling and playing.

and the drawbacks?

There are some negatives to using Chromebooks. They are reliant on the web. You need a good wireless with a decent network behind it. We have that so it isn’t an issue. There are some tools that I would miss if I went 100% Chromebooks. We wouldn’t be able to use 2DIY or 2Create a Super Story, you would lose tools such as Scratch (although that is going online soon), Kodu and tools for movie-editing. But think about your curriculum, how much of it could be done on a device like this and how much needs a “proper” laptop/PC? If I bought a set of Chromebooks and they were used solely for research, Google Docs/sites and tools like Prezi and Popplet, I think I would be happy. These are all tools we use already, but the Chromebooks would make it easier.

There isn’t an option to connect them to the network so they won’t be accessing any shared drives or anything, so saving is all done in the cloud. We also haven’t managed to get them connected to a printer, but then I also haven’t tried that hard either.

We also haven’t tried these with Key Stage 1 yet, mainly because we got them in the CRAZY Christmas period…so we will try that next week.

For more on Chromebooks, check @frogphilp’s post here – As he says, they can be a little dull. Everything just works and at the end of the day, isn’t that what you want in school? Technology that works seamlessly and with minimal staff training? I’d rather spend time training staff how to use Google Docs than how to use the equipment in front of them. Here is another post from Guy Shearer.

We still have two weeks of playing to go, but so far? I love them.

(Edit: This article talks about the Chromebook being the biggest selling laptop on Amazon US over Christmas 2012 and some reasons why this has happened.)

Category: blogposts, Hardware  | Tags:  | 9 Comments