I had barely even snatched the Google Certified Teacher award pin in my sweaty hands when I quickly arranged with Google to trial some Samsung Chromebooks in our elementary school for the remainder of the school year. Unfortunately for us, that meant a mere three weeks as our last day is May 31st. But our students and teachers jumped at the chance and we took charge of 16 Samsung 303C12 Chromebooks. I also arranged to grab an extra one for myself and see if I could use it as my main working tool.
I was going to give them all to @Shaza33 ‘s Grade 3 class but they already had 6 Macbook Pros in their classroom so I just gave them 8 so they can be a 1:1 classroom. I gave 4 to a Grade 5 classroom, 3 to another Grade 3 classroom and 1 Chromebook to a single, enthusiastic, wannabe technology entrepreneur grade 5 girl (I knew she would write up an extensive report for me after the trial!). All the classes I gave the Chromebooks too had a strong track record over the year of utilizing Google Apps heavily.
I set up three Google Docs so that the students and teachers in each class could note down their experiences (good and bad) as they went along in the trial.
The two Grade 3 classes noted the following:
Grade 3 have been our busiest students this year in regards to using technology so they have opinions! There are some things which were easily remedied (things like no CAPS LOCK, no Command shortcuts like or Macs) but some points were salient. A recurring trend was the trackpad and its ways of not doing what you want it to do! I can confirm that the trackpad was not as responsive as a MacBook but in all fairness the MacBook trackpad is probably the best out there. On the plus side, as you can see, it was neat to be able to log in and have access to all your Google Apps straightaway; they also liked the small size. There are also comments that had to be clarified what they meant but, most of it was very meaningful.
We do a lot of video editing in Grade 3 and the Chromebook and Youtube editor is not the best solution just yet. To edit videos, we need to delve into Youtube and we don’t want to go down the road of having student channels in elementary schools. We also screencast regularly as a form of summative assessment and instructional videos, there are screencast apps out there but they only record the browser window. For now.
The Grade 5 class had this feedback to give:
Grade 5s were very excited to get the Chromebooks! Their feedback was a little more subdued! Sometimes I get sick of hearing about Minecraft (I never thought I would say that!). Same comments about trackpad but also the first to mention about printing (more about that later).
So on to my Grade 5 student who I knew would give me some solid and substantial feedback.
I’m not going to comment on that as it’s a pretty thorough review!
Wrapping It Up
Chromebooks were very useful to our classes. The lack of any real feedback regarding problems with usability was a good indication of how well the Chromebooks fitted in with the workflow of each classroom.
They have recently released the prices for the Samsung Chromebooks in Singapore at $449 SGD. With the cheapest Macbook Pro going for $1588, you can get 3 Chromebooks for 1 Macbook Pro. What does that mean to schools? In our school, each class from Grades 3-5 has 6 Macbook Pros in them at all times (classes within grades usually borrow from each other when more is needed). Would the Chromebook be a cheaper option to bump the computer: student ratio up a fair bit if the budget is not there for more Macbooks? From listening to other schools and from talking to students here, the Chromebook is deemed to be a “good second device” but if money is no object in schools (it isn’t in a lot of international schools) then what sort of future does the Chromebook have over more diverse and ” more added functionality” laptops?
In my opinion, the Chromebook is a very valuable tool to ponder if a school is wanting and relying on Google Apps to be a pivotal part in teaching and learning. In our school, I would like to think as a body we are getting to that point so Chromebooks are indeed one tool that we will be looking at extremely carefully in our vision for the next few years.