Do you have chrome books in your school? They’re those lightweight thin laptops that cost almost nothing and are taking the ed world by storm. When asked, teachers don’t say, ‘I got a set of computers for my classroom’. It’s always, ‘I got Chromebooks’ much as they’d say ‘iPads’ to mean a digital device that’s more exciting, useful, and cutting edge than the boring old desktops.
Before I talk about what’s to like and not like about a Chromebook, let’s look at what it is. In the education world, there used to be a battle between two types of desktop computers: Macs vs. PCs. They both did the same things, but in hugely different ways. And from that difference grew an avid love/hate among their devotees (especially Mac users).
Today, ‘desktop computers’ are only one of the digital devices in the education toolkit. Consider iPads with their focus on the visual, ease of use, engagement of users. Then Chromebooks arrived–able to do ‘most’ of what ‘most’ students need–but it must be through the Cloud.
That gives educators three options (desktops, iPads, Chromebooks) as they select tools to deliver education. The challenge is to understand the differences between these options and select based on personal criteria. That includes classroom needs, infrastructure, and–yes–money. What gives the most service for the least investment?
In this last, I think the debate is settled: Chromebooks win every measure of value for dollar.
I am thrilled to have Jamie Hill as my guest writer today. She’s a stay-at-home mom who loves technology and blogging and brings a fascinating perspective to the conversation about tablets and younger children. Enjoy!
There are few things parents focus on more than the education of their children. The debates can seem overwhelming: whether there should be more or less homework, how big the class sizes should be, how much freedom or creative learning should be encouraged within the classroom, and what parents should or shouldn’t do at home. It’s the last one that can keep us up at night…what more can we do to prepare our kids for their educational careers and beyond?
If you are a parent who wants to do that extra bit, recognizing what educational tools are available and affordable – especially in this digital information age – is step one. New technology, such as tablets designed for kids, has allowed parents to equip their children with educational toys that have the potential to both teach and entertain. There are well-reviewed kid’s tablets like the Amazon Kindle Fire, Fuhu Nabi, and Google Android, but a current favorite tablet for kids starting primary education is called the LeapFrog LeapPad2 Power Green.
This device seems to strike the right balance of the style of the iPad and more old fashioned toys. Its chunky and rugged feel suits little hands and parents I know are happy it’s durable enough to handle multiple droppings. Because this type of tablet is built to prolong battery life, it can be really useful on long or short journeys. When you’re trying to keep kids entertained during the more boring outings, such as a trip to the supermarket during rush hour, a bag-sized tablet is a handy thing to have around.
I get a lot of questions from readers about affordable document cameras. They’re hard to come by, but I think I found one–HUE HD…
Students are used to digital cameras, phone cameras, and the ones that come with laptops and iPads, but not a colorful camera-with-built-in-microphone that has a friendly-looking bubble head (my students put eyes on ours) that can be twisted any direction. The Hue HD webcam was an instant success in my classroom. The body is sturdy and the gooseneck that connects the camera to the weighted base is rigid enough it stays in place even when flexed. And, the USB cable that connects the camera to the computer is long–six feet-giving lots of range for creative work.
Every Friday, I share a website or app that I’ve heard about, checked into, and/or gotten excited to use. This one is an all-in-one textbook provider. I love any website that makes necessary chores easier–and this one does. If you’ve never heard of Chegg, ask your college-age children or relatives. Or look for the orange boxes in college dorms. Everyone in higher education knows about Chegg.
As webmaster and an active tech teacher, I am sometimes asked to review products for my readers. Since[caption id="attachment_6635" align="alignright" width="145"] Luna’s simplified document camera Photo credit: Learning Resource’s website[/caption]
I don’t work for the company doing the asking and receive no compensation (other than the product), I am able to provide an unbiased review of my experiences and conclusions based on the 400 students I teach.
Recently, I had the opportunity to review Learning Resource’s Luna™ Interactive Projection Camera. I don’t have a document camera in my classroom and there are times when I would trade all the chocolate in my snack drawer for the ability to share a 3D object or picture with students. So, when Learning Resource’s marketing group asked, I quickly agreed. The box arrived containing the projection camera, a CD with the Easi-View software, and a few pages of documentation (very very brief).
The projection camera is a lightweight, gooseneck contraption exactly like the inset shows. It has a sturdy base that includes a snapshot button, a light and the microphone, and a wide head that holds the camera. I wanted to test the intuitiveness of installation so rather than read the directions, I just jumped in. The cord was obviously for a USB port, so I popped that into my computer, loaded the CD and started. Easy-view installed quickly with no hitches. Here’s a screen shot:
My school was in the middle of accreditation (which went well), so I didn’t have a lot of time to play. I decided to experiment as the need arose. In most cases, the process was easy to figure out, and worked as I hoped it would. Here’s a run down of how I used the Luna during the first two weeks:
One of the benes of being webmaster for Ask a Tech Teacher is I get to review products for tech ed companies. Recently, I was asked to review a digital microphone called Easi-speak USB recorder from Learning Resources. I’ve been looking for an easy-to-use microphone for little ones as young as kindergarten that will inspire them to relax, communicate, and be themselves despite the intimidation of being taped. Easi-speak is an MP3 recorder in the shape of a microphone–a great way to make it user-friendly and intuitive to young children. It says it’s appropriate for children age four and up, but I was doubtful. I’ve read lots of reviews of products that claimed that kid-friendly mantle, but couldn’t deliver.
Right out of the box, Easy-speak appeared to be that sort of fun-and-easy educational tool that would meet its promises. It is colorful with bright, obvious buttons, the type that intrigue kindergartners and are intuitive enough for the more precocious of my second graders to figure out on their own. (I like guiding rather than lecturing. For me, it’s a more effective method of teaching.)
The mic is chubby, easy to hold for young hands, with a bright silver top that makes children want to speak into it. I like that the mic comes with a necklace to hang it around the neck, and the USB port cover is attached to the mic so it won’t disappear. It seems Learning Resources understands a child’s curiosity and propensity for distraction.
Here’s something else I love–the mic requires no batteries. You charge it using the USB port of your computer. The port, though, abuts to the microphone, which means it gets too fat to fit into a USB port if your bank of USB ports are (like mine) chock full of other peripherals (iPad, camera, USB drive, printer, etc.) and thus won’t allow the wideness of the mic to fit. Learning Resources solves that by providing an adapter which works wonderfully.
Here are some of the projects we used it on: (more…)