Chromebooks Vs. iPads in a 1:1 Scenario in 6th Grade?
Spring has sprung and it's time for change! So our debate up here in Rye, NH is which tool would be better for a 1:1 scenario for 6th graders at our Junior High School?
Coming from Maine, I am all too familiar with 1:1 scenarios, as the state affords all 7th and 8th grade students and all teaching staff in the state's public institutions with a MacBook currently (which are no longer manufactured by Apple). So I know what a 1:1 scenario means from a student, teacher, administrator and IT personnel perspective. There are challenges, advantages and workflow issues that are bound to come up within the span of the program from setup to deployment, to rollout and to facilitation.
It has sparked many great conversations in the 12 years that I have taught in Maine, and has continued to inspire debates over what the best tool for schools truly are? It is, therefore, no surprise to me that Maine is looking to "shop" around for the best new device for staff and students in their public institutions this spring, while they get ready for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI 1:1 program in the state) refresh cycle due this summer. What is the best tool for education?
It's a question that I have often thought about, but teaching in Maine, I also knew that ultimately this big decision would be decided for me and I would support that decision. Now that I am in New Hampshire, however, there is no state 1:1 program, and yet in the district of Rye, we are getting very close to creating our own 1:1 environment. To be fair, at the junior high they have nearly had that scenario for quite some time using a combination of netbooks, laptops and two carts of iPads. It's not a true 1:1 environment by definition though, as all of the devices are shared.
We are about to change all that this Spring. As part of a pilot project, I went around to some classrooms with both an iPad and a Samsung Chromebook to gain a little knowledge about what the students were being asked to do in each of the classes here at Rye Junior High School. In my observations I found that 92% of the work could have been done on a Chromebook since every student starting in 6th grade receives a school Google Apps account.
Logging into the Chromebook is lightning quick (less then 5 seconds) as it does not need to authenticate to a local server, or even have an operating system that needs to load, but instead directly logs into the students' Google Apps accounts online. In this amount of time they can then get to the Internet, Google calendar, edit their Google Sites, browse a video on YouTube or create a document, spreadsheet, presentation, illustration or note card using Google Drive.
Now to be fair, there were times in my observations where the iPad could have done all of the same things, but we found that aside from the keyboard debate, students found Google apps to be much easier to manipulate on the Chromebook. We ran into issues with adding images and videos to Google Sites from the iPad that were not a problem on the Chromebook, and anything Flash based on the web would obviously not open on an iPad, even with the Flash browser apps Rover or Puffin installed on them.
Now, when it came to creating a multimedia project, or reinforcing some skills within an RtI block, students did prefer the iPads. Creating a movie using the iMovie app cannot get any simpler, and start to finish, planning to publishing can all be done on one device. It's a little trickier with the Chromebook, but it's getting there.
After my walk throughs and observations, I realized that on the average day-to-day basis here in Rye, especially with Google Apps already established in our school, the students would benefit from a 1:1 Chromebook scenario, and if we were lucky enough to have a couple carts of iPads (20 on each), we could still offer yet another tool for multimedia projects and reinforcement skills in RtI. We will have this scenario in a few short weeks.
I'm happy to announce that we are going to go ahead with the pilot program and implement a 1:1 scenario in our 6th grade starting this Spring. The model will change in that students will pick up their Chromebook at the beginning of the day, login and carry this device with them throughout the entire day, and then plug it back in to charge overnight before they head home (at least in the first year, and then we will re-evaluate bringing the devices home). This will give students the opportunity to personalize their device and yet offers them access 24/7 outside of the school since their work will now be saved to the Cloud and not to our school's local server.
I will still be observing classrooms throughout this pilot period (April to June 2013) and share my thoughts and aha moments with all of you as I find things that may be of interest to anyone debating the same options in their school. If the pilot is a success, the plan moving forward would be to allow these 6th grade students to continue to use these same devices next year in 7th grade, while we grow the program and once again fund 1:1 Chromebooks for the new 6th graders coming into the building. Following this plan, in two years every student in grades 6-8 at our junior high school would have their own Chromebook with them at all periods of the day, and still have access to iPads for projects.
As a side note, our teaching staff currently have MacBook Air laptops, which is a great tool for developing books using iBook Author and courses using iTunes University that students could engage in with the iPads. It also allows teachers to investigate Google Chrome extensions and web apps that the students in 6th grade may need to have installed on their Chromebooks to enhance their learning and make their work easier. It seems we may have found a pretty good balance between Google and Apple products here in Rye, but stay tuned for updates from our Google Chromebook 1:1 pilot.
New Teacher Links
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