If you don’t use the technology…

I spent some time this afternoon researching Chromebooks in music education–and most of the search engines pull up my own articles about the Chromebook and how I feel it is lacking for music education.  That’s a little disconcerting, because I certainly don’t see myself as the world’s leading expert in integrating Chromebooks in music education.  I really want to be proven wrong!

One of the sites I tripped upon featured a Chromebook apologist (I’d typically call myself an iPad apologist) whose main complaint about iPads was that administrators were choosing the iPad based upon trends from other schools.  He also complained how principals attended conferences and pulled out iPads, and simply took notes typing into the iPad’s “Notes” application, one finger at a time.  Meanwhile, he sat at the same conferences, able to type sixty words per minute on his keyboard equipped Chromebook.  Legitimately, these were the basis of his anti-iPad stance.

I want to make this clear–you need to have a game plan if you are adopting iPads for your school; they won’t work wonders by themselves.  There may be schools that would make better use of Chromebooks, particularly if the focus of their integration will be typing papers, searching the web, and creating presentations.  If you are choosing the iPad for these purposes–you are choosing the wrong device.

What I am passionate about is people using the technology at hand in their teaching–and whenever possible with their students.  My preference for music education is the iPad because of what it can do (endless options).  But if you have Chromebooks, MacBooks, or even “just” an interactive white board in your classroom, you need to be able to use those devices.  In many cases, you may even be evaluated on your ability to integrate that technology in your room, even if the technology isn’t the best for music education.

Put another way, I have a number of former students that sold their iPad as they went to college.  Why?  Because they felt they needed a device that allowed them to type notes (for most of them, the solution was a MacBook or MacBook Air, so it wasn’t an anti-Apple thing).  I took a lot of notes in college (and through 2.5 graduate degrees), and there wasn’t a single class where typing would have been an advantage.  I think there is greater power in taking notes by hand, drawing illustrations as necessary–and even doodling to stay awake!  As a music major (most of my students are not), I also needed to draw music notation by hand.  I find that Notability is my increasing app of choice (as much as I love Noteshelf) because of its ability to open PDF files (including blank staff paper). [I’m hoping that Noteshelf will finally add this when they update their app for iOS 7].  Once you’ve created your notes, you can even upload them to Evernote where they become searchable.  That would have been incredibly powerful when I went to college (I was a junior twenty years ago).

Using the iPad for handwritten notes far outweighs typed notes, in my opinion (you can type if you need to).  And don’t forget about the ability to simply take a picture of a presentation slide or a whiteboard, and to insert that into your notes (most laptops do not have rear cameras).

So…what I want to say is that if you aren’t using the technology in the creative ways that the technology can be used–regardless of platform–you might as well just use paper and pencil.  My goal is to help you avoid that and to help you find practical ways to integrate that technology in your teaching, regardless of what technology you use or are forced to use.

iPads and Chromebooks in 1:1 Deployments?

This evening, Erin Klein, a technology integration specialist I follow on Twitter (@KleinErin) posted this tweet, which is a link to THE JOURNAL and an article by Leila Meyer who discusses using both iPads and Chromebooks in a 1:1 deployment.

I find myself completely at odds with the article, having purchased both devices. Meyer’s article is based around two core beliefs:

1. iPads are better suited for younger students and subjects like math

2. Chromebooks are better suited for older students and subjects like English (i.e. kids write so much they need a keyboard–“Kids gotta type!”).

Let me summarize a few thoughts:

  1. This approach ignores the many classes in which a Chromebook is basically useless (including music)
  2. This approach believes that the number one role of a computer in secondary education is to write papers (this is NOT technology integration).
  3. This approach believes that Google Docs are robust apps that are ideal for writing those papers (There are benefits and drawbacks to Google Docs)
  4. This approach believes that other hardware features of the iPad are not necessary in secondary education (Cameras for iMovie and so on, not to mention the wide variety of apps)

I own a Chromebook.  I am writing this blog post on a Chromebook.  I think it is an ideal machine, particularly in school media centers, where the purpose of computers has been for research, writing, and making PowerPoints.  But the Chromebook is so limited as a browser-based system that its strengths lie only on the S (substitution) and A (augmentation) levels of the SAMR technology integration model.  It just isn’t a device that allows for higher level technology integration. And, for the most part, the only people that are buying Chromebooks are schools and individual users who just need a web browser…everyone else is buying iPads these days…quite literally everyone else.  So there is a chance that Google will eventually abandon these devices, as they have other services in the past.

Now, if a school wishes to use a combination of iPads and MacBooks, or iPads and Windows PCs…I’m fine with that and can see the argument about how the Mac/PC better prepares them for the business world (although businesses are buying plenty of iPads, too).  But I’d still argue that notebook computers are very hard to integrate into all subjects.  But to honestly say that iPads should be used in elementary and Chromebooks should be used in Secondary is really limiting what you can do with technology at the secondary level.

Okay…so that keyboard on the Chromebook helped your student write a ten page paper (how many ten page papers do you think your student writes in high school anyway?), but have you seen the interface and resulting documents from Google Docs?  Can you cite things to your school’s standards with Google Docs?  Furthermore, how is that 4 hour battery holding up in class?

And show me the creative projects your students are doing, such as videos (iMovie), musical compositions (GarageBand or Notion), or some of the interesting presentations they have created (Keynote, Haiku Deck, or Scrollshow).  How about the great notetaking apps where students can type notes, draw, or write notes by hand (Notability, Noteshelf)?

Do you see where I am going with this?

The answer, in my brain, is to go with iPad Minis at the elementary level (smaller users, smaller hands) and iPads at the secondary level, and let students buy their own keyboard case (there are several wonderful ones on the market) instead.

The other hidden aspect of the Chromebook implementation is the cost savings.  Chromebooks can be purchased for around $200, whereas you really don’t want anything less than a 32GB iPad these days…at $429 (32GB Mini) to $599 (32GB iPad 4).  You can buy two Chomebooks for every iPad, and sometimes four Chromebooks for every MacBook.  Schoosl typically donm’t buy bargain Windows PCs, either…they buy school units with extended warranties starting around $1000 as well…once again, making it 4 Chromebooks for every Windows notebook.  Add a keyboard case to the iPad, and the financial argument even goes further.

So…the question schools ask: is this device (iPad, notebook, etc.) worth two to four times more than the Chromebook?  If they answer no, they feel the creative and multipurpose nature of the iPad is not worth the cost–and chances are, they are not invested in technology integration, just technology substitution–making a better typewriter.

Should you mix devices in a 1:1?  Maybe, but certainly not in the combination of iPads for elementary and Chromebooks for secondary.

What would I suggest?

  1. iPads in the hands of all students, 1:1 (iPad Minis in elementary, iPads in secondary)
  2. Students provide keyboards if needed.
  3. Chromebooks in the media center, replacing old desktop computers
  4. MacBook labs for specific subjects needing specific notebook programs
  5. Teachers should have both a Macbook (for iBooks Author alone) and an iPad

This model is more expensive than 1:1 Chromebook, and slightly more expensive than 1:1 iPad, but significantly less expensive than 1:1 MacBook or Windows PC deployment.

If you have noticed, I have not discussed Android tablets, as the article is dismissive of that platform.  That would be an article for another time.

HDMI Out with the Google Chromebook

I am using–having purchased it for myself–the $249 Google Chomebook made by Samsung, the same general device being purchased by schools for 1:1 implementation.

I do not believe that the Chromebook is the answer for SAMR models of tech integration, particularly when it comes to the M (modification) and R (redefinition) levels of that model.  However, if you are looking for a device as a substitute for traditional computer use in education (papers, research, presentations), it is a fitting device.

The Google Chromebook comes with HDMI out only, which is problematic for many schools, as schools will often fail to purchase projectors with HDMI capability–yes, even in 2013.  Most projectors come with HDMI output…but there are still models that do not have that feature.  Furthermore, most schools are not wired for HDMI, so a VGA cable connection is run to the projector from a mounted point on the wall.  So, even if you have an HDMI equipped projector, you will still need to convert HDMI to VGA.

I remembered to bring in my Kanex ATV Pro to school today, which is a small adapter that converts Apple TV output to a VGA plus audio (1/8″ stereo mini plug) connection, which costs around $65.  One of the best parts about the Kanex is that it does not require an additional power connection to covert the Apple TV’s signal from HDMI to VGA.

I thought I would try that device with the Chromebook.  It did not work.  I still had an older, powered HDMI to VGA convertor in the choir room (about $100 on Amazon), and it did project the Chomebook’s HDMI output to the screen.  Audio does appear to run throught the HDMI port (this is standard, however, on my 2008 MacBook, audio does not go out via the HDMI dongle, but does with later models of MacBooks).

So..you can convert the HDMI signal, you just can’t do so with the small, unpowered Kanex ATV Pro.

I also had to reboot the Chromebook to get it to start “automatically” projecting via the HDMI port (it apparently isn’t hot swappable).  And when I did get the Chromebook running both the device’s screen and HDMI output, the Chromebook would not allow me to mirror the displays, as they have to share the same resolution (to mirror, you have to hit the CTRL and Maximize Windows keys).

I know a lot of users like to have a secondary montior that isn’t mirrored–I just happen to be one of those people that prefers my “presentation” screen to mirror my monitor (a default change in Office for Mac 2011, by the way, where PowerPoint prefers to present in presentation mode for the presenter and in PowerPoint mode for the class–easy enough to fix, but complicated enough that you have to show teachers how to avoid this (if they wish to…and most of them do).

So…in summary:

1) Yes, obviously, you can get HDMI out from a Chromebook

2) The Chromebook HDMI out will not mirror your screen unless you match resolutions (otherwise, you just have a second desktop)

3) If you want to connect to VGA, you will need a more expensive powered HDMI to VGA converter

4) You may need to restart your Chromebook to get the HDMI output working

5) Audio comes out of the HDMI port on the Chromebook

Just some more thoughts on the Google Chromebook

I’m back writing on my Google Chromebook again…without a doubt, it is easier to type on the Chomebook than it is on my iPad–unless, of course, I use my iPad Keyfolio from Zagg.  I suppose I could dictate to my iPad via the Siri functionality (I don’t think it is actually called Siri on the iPad), and I’m not sure there is voice recognition on the Chromebook.

As I use the Chromebook, I keep coming back to the basic question: Is this the ideal device for education, or are traditional notebook computers or a tablet the answer?

Ultimately, the answer is that the Chromebook isn’t “the device” for education, but I can see it as a potential solution for some things in education.

Although there are exceptions, the majority of computer use that I see in schools is connected to research (web), writing (papers), and creating presentations.   There is also the added aspect of testing (computer labs are used for computer-based testing).

The Chromebook can definitely be used for research, writing, and presentations…and with its Flash capacity, it should also be good for most testing.  As there is no Java on the Chromebook, some testing services may not work, just as some online services such as Minecraft will not work.

I have a colleague who doesn’t like Rueben Puentedura’s SAMR model, but I think it is generally true.  I see how a Chromebook can easily be used as Substitution or even Augmentation; but Modification and Redefinition may be harder to achieve on the device.  I can see how this device could easily be integrated into English, Science, and History.  Using the Chromebook in math would be more difficult–and I’ve already mentioned how this device isn’t geared for “non-core” courses, such as music, art, physical education, technical education, or Family & Consumer Science.

A traditional notebook computer is also a more difficult thing to integrate in the “non-core,” and the iPad may not run the specific software needed by science and engineering courses like Project Lead the Way (which doesn’t mean that it will always lack that ability).  Chromebooks, of course, also lack that ability to run Windows/Mac software.  I am not mentioning Android tablets as most of them are widescreen, and lack many of the specialized apps that exist for the iPad in education (particularly in “non-core” areas).

I think the best solution for a school is two-fold (and again, this is my opinion).  I think the best personal device for students is an iPad, perhaps with a keyboard case, and then to encourage the school to have carts of MacBooks for those specialty areas in education that need to run specific software.

Chromebooks would be a great fit in a school media center, where teachers bring students to do research.  But then again, if every student had an iPad, would you need the Chromebook?

Don’t get me wrong–the Chromebook is a great device (particularly if you plugged into the Google world) and we won’t be returning this device.  It is hard to believe that this device..including a keyboard, video camera, and various parts, is only $250.  It certainly isn’t the best device for music education–but it would make a wonderful second (or third) device in a family.