Think Different Tim Cook: 10 Reasons Chromebooks Are Winning…And It Has Nothing To Do With Testing

Apple CEO Tim Cook calls Chrome devices “test machines” – Buzzfeed Photo

On Wednesday in a Buzzfeed interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook called Chromebooks “test machines” and cited Google’s take over of the education market as primarily a result of schools just buying hardware for standardized assessments.

There is no denying that recent mass purchases from school districts have been in response to needing more equipment for tests that have moved from paper to web browser. What is in question is why schools are choosing Chromebooks over Macs and iPads. Cook sells educational leaders and teachers short when he implies that testing is all that went into the decision making and all that is being done with the products once they reach schools.

Now, don’t write me off as a hater. Heck, one of the proudest recognitions I have received is that of being named an Apple Distinguished Educator. I am a huge Apple advocate and I truly believe that Cupertino builds the most durable and best designed products in the tech world. For a long long time Apple won the classroom because its stuff “just worked” and it still does. The six-year-old  Macbooks I teach with just hum along. The three-year-old cart of HPs…don’t.  The iPad has opened worlds previously un-explorable to people with disabilities. Apple has done great things in the classroom and I still believe schools need a number of Macs or iPads around for tasks Chrome devices can’t. I am just not convinced anymore that Apple products are the only solution.

Here Mr. Cook are 10 reasons why educators are choosing Chrome devices over Apple products…and they don’t have anything to do with testing.

  1. The Reality of Classroom Technology Integration – “We create products that are whole solutions for people — that allow kids to learn how to create and engage on a different level,” Cook stated in the and he’s correct. iMovie, Keynote, Pages, Final Cut Pro, Motion, and other high level apps are the staples when it comes to kids creating high level content. The only problem for Apple is that the vast majority of students and teachers don’t learn and teach constantly at this level. As great as all of these Apple tools are, right or wrong, they have taken a support role to the tools students and teachers use most.The SAMR framework discusses how teachers use tech at varied levels between basic “substitution” and creating previously inconceivable activities in a level defined as “redefinition”. The Apple stuff excels in the hands of teachers who have mastered ways of getting to redefinition but the vast majority of educators are somewhere in the middle and most of the learning tasks they ask students to do with technology doesn’t require the high end apps.
  2. Price – Chrome devices continue to drop in price to the point where schools can buy five Chromebooks with touchscreens for the price of one Macbook. It’s hard to justify the extra cost if the job can be done with a solid device at a fraction of the money. I just bought a fully functioning Chrome computer in the $85 Chromebit. $85! Yes it requires me to connect it to an HDMI display and I have to supply the keyboard and mouse but that price point alone makes it wildly affordable for a number of functions around a school.
  3. They Just Work – It is still the number one reason I always choose Apple stuff over Windows stuff and I was very suspect of the Chrome products when they first hit the market. Aside from getting used to the layout of where everything is on these devices my experience has been that the simplicity of the Chrome “just works” as well. With less operating system there are less hassles.
  4. Ease of Management – Managing a cart of iPads is incredibly time consuming and not something most classroom teachers are entrusted to do. Apple has put out a series of management solutions but none have been the silver bullet that actually make life easier for teachers. With Chrome there is virtually no management because when a kid logs in with their Google Apps for Education account, all of their stuff is available.
  5. Google Apps – No, the free suite won’t let you make your documents as cute as Word or Pages will, but with a little skill you and your kids can get darn close. Cute isn’t deal closer on GAFE though. Storage is unlimited for schools and with a little foresight educators can help kids set up portfolios that will follow them all of the way through high school. No one will ever lose their work due to a dead laptop battery because Google saves every few seconds. Plus, it’s just automatically already set up with every Google account. Yes, Apple offers a version of its iWork suite online for free and it can do a lot but space is limited and the sharing options aren’t close to what GAFE does. What is really cool though is that if you want to use the online versions of iLife you can do it on a Chromebook.
  6. Collaboration – The whole game changed way back in the day when Google bought Writely from an upstart called Upstartle. Simply being able to edit something simultaneously ten years ago was groundbreaking. Google has used the last decade to further enhance the collaborative capabilities. Apple is bringing that to iLife but are essentially playing catch up. The collaboration built into a Google Apps/Chrome environment helps teachers better communicate with students and provide useful feedback. The same is true with students communicating and collaborating better with each other.
  7. Google Classroom – From its introduction teachers have been flocking to the free learning management system. As it evolves and becomes more stable it is becoming the go-to, even by die hard Edmodo and Schoology users. What is the big deal? See all six of the previous reasons. Seriously, you can apply all of them. As a classroom teacher, paper was my Achilles heel. In Classroom it’s all digital and the interface shows who has completed work and who hasn’t. Once it’s turned in, it’s locked until the teacher grades and returns it. Apple offers iTunes U which is a beautiful way to present content and develop courses that don’t rely on Internet connectivity but they only run on an Apple device. Classroom works everywhere.
  8. Access Everywhere – Speaking working everywhere, students and teachers can access the work they started on the Chrome device at school anywhere they can find a web browser with an Internet connection. It is something kids have come to take completely for granted. Ubiquitous access is their normal. A perfect example was when we were making book report trailers on iMovie and my students all wanted to know how they could find their work when they got home so they could continue working. They were put off when I told them it was only available on the one device they’d been using.
  9. Open To Innovation – Google Apps has evolved at light speed because of the way individuals can create add-ons. Doctopus and Goobric are examples of innovation created by a user that have made the product better fit teacher needs. This isn’t just in Docs either. There are a ton of new Chrome apps being developed that bring a lot of the creativity and depth of exploration to the Chrome browser.  Apple obviously innovates all of the time too but doesn’t adapt as fast as Google because the innovation all takes place within Apple.
  10. Big Yet Nimble – Lebron James and Cam Newton are special athletes because they are big yet have uncharacteristic speed. Google Chrome and the devices that run it are a lot like that. Google is massive with unlimited resources to support its products yet has retained a simplicity that makes stuff work at the highest level of efficiency. There is no reason to expect that won’t continue to be the case.

Ultimately schools have to find the platforms and devices that work best for their needs. I always have a Mac nearby because I use so many levels of its functionality. My students don’t always need the firepower and Google is picking up a lot of believers in educators who see all of the benefits Chrome devices can deliver at a fraction of the cost.

I understand and appreciate Tim Cook’s passion for giving educators and learners amazing stuff but if Chrome devices are just “test machines”, he needs to Think Different. 

Lego’s Build With Chrome Is Incredibly Simple, Incredibly Addictive

Check out buildwithchrome.com and make awesome stuff right within your Chrome browser. There is a lot to explore here but what I love about using it with my elementary students is that is an intuitive builder that doesn’t bring in all of the distractions at the main Lego site does.

There are three basic sections and one can get lost for hours in each. The “Builder” section is just that, a 32×32 base plate and a big supply (They do run out) of 21 brick shapes in 10 colors . The “Build Academy” is a set of tutorial challenges hosted by characters from The Lego Movie that gradually build in difficulty and teach advanced techniques.Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 2.39.20 PM

 

 

My favorite part though is in the “Explore the World of Builds” feature where through the magic of Google Maps a user when signed into their G+ account can stake claim to and build on literally any corner of the Earth they would like. So far I have rebuilt the swimming pool I spent most Arizona summer days in, have started work on a football stadium and spent way too much time on a late Friday Night/Saturday Morning resurrecting the greatest off-campus house ever, The Asylum, on its former corner on  the Hillsdale College campus. Yes, that is an ugly yellow couch out in front along the sidewalk. Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 2.53.33 PM

I have been a big fan of the Minecraft in the Classroom movement and some of the great ways teachers have kids show learning on the building/gaming platform. There have always seemed to be a number of setup hassles I didn’t feel like tackling like setting up a server and getting student accounts set up. For me, this is way easier. There is far more familiarity for kids and myself with Legos all you have to do is go find some area where no one has built and take it over to start building the castle from Hamlet or the Great Hall from Beowulf.  All builds have links and anyone who is exploring the builds can find you and your students’ creations.

Build With Chrome also works on the mobile Chrome browser. Maybe I just have fat and stubby fingers but it is much more difficult than the computer version.

Chirp for Chrome is Huge Convenience for Teachers

Chirp has proven itself to be incredibly helpful to teachers who want to send content or links to students using iPads or Android devices. Now with a free install, teachers can send content from their Chrome browser to devices running the app. This opens a whole world of convenience in that data doesn’t have to be moved to a teacher device before it can be sent to students.

Check out Chirp’s blog post below on this development and its plans to soon make Chirp be able to send data in the other direction, from mobile devices back to Chrome.

Chirp for Chrome is out!.

Happy Easter Egg! Hidden T-Rex Adventure in Chrome

Here is another great reason to have children. They teach you cool stuff they learn from their friends at school. We’re not talking a new way to spit or armpit farts here. We’re talking an Easter egg hidden in Google Chrome. My daughter came home from sixth grade with this little nugget today.

If you have ever lost wifi while browsing in Chrome you have likely encountered this critter and message.

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Next time, tap your space bar and you will find yourself in a ridiculously simple and ridiculously addictive video game. It’s a great way to pass the time until wifi comes back.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 9.14.49 PMOf course you don’t have to wait for the Internet to go down. Just turn off your wifi and hit reload on this page. You will connect to nothing and soon be jumping cactus and neglecting whatever it was you were supposed to be doing in the first place.

I am going on record right now that I won’t be held responsible for the amount of time you waste on this little trick. But like John Lennon said, “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

 

Chrome Extension Pic2Pixlr Cuts the Workflow

I use Pixlr a lot for photo editing and design. I have always appreciated the ability to open images to edit by pasting in their URLs. That process is a lot quicker once you install the Chrome extension Pic2Pixlr.

Now instead of having to open Pixlr editor in a separate tab and then pasting in an address of an online image, all I have to do now is right-click that image and get the “Open with pic2pixlr” option. From there I can left click on the general editor or designer apps Pixlr-O-matic or Pixlr Express.

Find Pic2Pixlr in the Chrome Web Store.

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