Friday, January 13, 2017

First Steps With Shared Chromebooks

Earlier this week I received an email from a reader who had just received Chromebooks to use in his classroom, but not enough Chromebooks that every student has his or her own. He had some questions about how to get started using the Chromebooks in his classroom. Those questions and my answers appear below.

What are the initial things/steps I should do first?
Since your students will be sharing Chromebooks you will need to decide if you are going to have students use the Chromebooks as guests or if you are going to let them create profiles on the Chromebooks that they use.

Using a Chromebook as a guest means that nothing will be saved on the Chromebook with regards to downloads and personal settings such as background images or specific app log-ins. It's important to note that students can still log into their personal Google Drive or Chrome accounts while in guest mode. It just won't let them save log-in information or downloads. Directions for using guest mode can be found here.

Using a Chromebook while logged into an account will let students save preferences and downloads. You can have multiple students use the same Chromebook and each will have his or her own log-on information. It's important to remind students to log-out when they are done using the Chromebook. If a student doesn't log-out, the next student to use that Chromebook will have access to the previous user's information. Learn more about adding multiple accounts to a Chromebook on this help page.

For the first steps in using any Chromebook whether shared or not, consult this help page.

What are the necessary things I should be doing with these?
That is kind of a broad question, but I'll take it to mean "necessary things beyond initial set-up." In that case I'll offer that you should be planning to do activities that go beyond the basics of web browsing, word processing, and simple game play. You might start planning a summative video project in which students show what they know. I have list of Chromebook-friendly video tools. I also have an on-demand webinar about planning video projects.

To get the most out of Chromebooks, like any other computing device that you introduce into your classroom, you need to take some time to list the ways that you would like to see them used then look for the apps that can help your students do that.

Any must have apps?
Aside from the standard G Suite for Education tools, the apps that I most often recommend are Google Keep, Nimbus Screenshot,, Twisted Wave, and Task Timer.

Google Keep is great for making to-do lists, setting reminders, and bookmarking websites.

Nimbus Screenshot is a fantastic tool for taking screenshots and or making screencast videos on a Chromebook. I've found the quality of Nimbus Screenshot videos to be better than those of the more well-known Screencastify. is a good tool for students to use to take notes while watching YouTube videos.

Twisted Wave is a free tool for creating audio recordings that can be saved directly to a student's Google Drive account.

Task Timer is just a simple timer tool that students can use to track the time they spend on a task or to set a time limit for an activity.

Any recommendations on how I should use these in my every day math and science classroom?
If you have touchscreen Chromebooks like the Acer R11 or Acer R14, you might start using Google Drawings or Google Forms with the g(math) Add-on so that your students can complete math and science problems while showing you their work and submitting it through Google Classroom. You might also use the Chromebooks as data collection and analysis tools. Google Forms and Spreadsheets can help students see data in a variety of visualizations.

Take a look at using Scratch to teach your students some programming skills. More importantly, they'll learn a bit about logic and sequencing through the process of using Scratch. MIT's App Inventor will let your students develop and test Android apps on their Chromebooks.

You can learn lots of ways to use Chromebooks in your classroom during the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp this July.