Saturday Morning Musings: Chromebook Out of the Box

chromebookMy staff and family will not believe this but I actually bought myself a new toy this week (which goes with my two iPads, laptop, iPhone…you get the picture). I have a gadget problem.  The first part of getting help is admitting you have a problem, right?  I was surfing along on my Google Chrome app on my iPad and saw THE AD.  Acer Chomebook, $199! What is $200 dollars when working to solve the great education crisis?  Right? Okay, making excuses will not end my problem, but still……

First Impressions:  A good looking computer.  Plastic, not the metal alloys of my Dell XPS, but it seems durable.  I had to put the battery in out of the box (time elapsed: 5 seconds). I was pleasantly surprised to find the battery charged when I turned it on.  It immediately went into a download mode to update itself.  I honestly do not know how much time it took to do this as I walked away and came back sometime later (about 30 minutes) and the thing was ready to go.  I signed in with my Google account, synchronized Chrome and in under two minutes was using this thing just like my regular computer in my office.  Cold boot up time for writing this post?  38 seconds including typing in my Google password.

As a computer user, I use Google a lot.  I compose and use spreadsheets in Google Drive more than I use the Office 20?? suite on my desktop.  I find it convenient to get to all my “stuff” on whatever computer I am on.  Using a Chromebook fits my habits nicely.  You may not find it as useful if you are not a regular Google apps user.

It has a speaker, not a good one alas, but you can hook a better set of speakers to it.  I plugged it into our library speaker system (totally disrupting a class, but research sometimes is messy), and it sounded fine. I hooked it up to the library SmartBoard and projector.  It worked fine.  Not sure if you can use it with the Smart Notebook. Pretty sure there is no app for that.  Basically, I can use this thing for all my presentations. It has all the capabilities I need.

Drawbacks???  I am sure there are plenty.  You need to have an Internet connection.  There is an offline function for Google Drive.  I have not used it yet……  Battery life may be a concern?  I used it most of yesterday morning for taking notes at an building project meeting and the battery was 70% used after about 3 hours.  I was using Tweetdeck and doing some web-browsing while taking notes on a Google doc.

I am pleased to find so many apps for it.  Evernote, Edmodo, WordPress (I am writing this post using it (except for the picture which I uploaded from my iPhone) and many others.

At this point, I do think this could be used for a school-wide 1:1 deployment.  Might, dare I say, a better choice than iPads????  I am sure the honeymoon will end soon.  Till next time.

goofyIt has a camera with crazy filters.  What more could you ask for?

Mom, you really need to figure out how to find me using Ruzzle.  No one else will play me.

So What Has Changed Since I Started Blogging and Tweeting?

  • The first PHSprincipalBlog (changed to Director 4/1/2009) post was on 9/18/2007.       (332 posts overall)
  • I have been on Twitter for 4 years, 3 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 1 hour, 27 minutes, 23 seconds (Nov. 29, 2007) according to

My activity on my blog as well as on Twitter have diminished as of late. I still find an incredible amount of value/entertainment by engaging in the online discussions, I just find it harder to make time to write and send out 140 character tidbits.  My participation in these discussions has ebbed and flowed over the past four years and I am sure I will get more bursts of blogging energy.  As I contemplate these little facts, I am really surprised that I have been at it so long.  Time is passing at what seems like an ever increasing rate.  I would swear that every year I live gets shorter! One question that has surfaced in my mind of late is how have these “practices” changed me?  Changed our school?  Has there been a real value created for the teachers and students at PCHS?

Changes in my personal practice
  1. I have discovered a wide range of educational bloggers, created an RSS feed for my favorites, and read the ideas and thoughts of my favorites everyday.  I think carving out a part of my day to read about what others are doing in their schools has been one of the most productive changes I have made.  View my Google Reader feed.
  2. I have made presentations to administrators across the state about using social media to connect to one another and to inform their practice.  (an example)
  3. I use Youtube to inform my school community and Board of Education. (example)
  4. Attended ISTE 11 and met many educators who share similar passions about making public education stronger by using modern technology to engage and connect students. (Live From the Blogger Cafe)
  5. Committed myself to lead my staff by being a transparent learner.  I have been become a SMART certified trainer, a proficient user of Google apps, a regular user of Evernote and Diigo to catalogue Internet resources, as well as a Twitter and Facebook in the classroom proponent.
  6. Have been a regular user of an iPad and iPhone to make my daily work more efficient.

“So what?” You may ask.  Well, so what is what I say as well.  Because none of that means a thing to anybody but me.  If all I have done is taught my self how to use these tools then I have failed to lead.  I have failed to make much of a difference in the lives of students and the learning experiences they have a on a daily basis.

So what has changed at PCHS?  

  1. The first blog a PCHS was not mine, nor was the second, (both by our Librarian/Curriculum Specialist-Sarah Hill), but my act of accepting the challenge to blog (again by Ms. Hill) eventually led to a steady group of PCHS teacher bloggers.
  2. Not only have teachers started blogging a PCHS, we also have several groups of students that are blogging (here, and here, for example). By the way, they love to see that people from across the country and world visit their blogs!
  3. A small legion (is there such a thing?) of PCHS teachers have joined Twitter and occasionally they actually tweet something.  I know they lurk more than actively participate, but several are drinking from the fire hose of educational content that flows on Twitter. Our AP Literature class  has had #hashtag chats about the books they are reading and the teacher has used a Twitter back-channel to promote in-class discussion.
  4. Did I mention that some of our teachers are blogging?  Check out this top Art Blog by our own @DestinGirl73
  5. Our freshman English classes have done online-Shakespeare projects where students have created “Facebook-like” pages for the characters and have interacted with students from different sections virtually using different Web 2.0 tools.
  6. I think one of the best by-products of our experimentation with transparent learning has been our willingness to take risks.  This past fall we decided to do an all school thematic-project based learning unit where we turned off the bells, disregarded normal class grouping patterns and let the students and teacher work together to solve engaging problems…check out PumpkinPalooza2011!  We just did a presentation about this project to the Illinois High Schools Connections Conference!
  7. We have begun to see where subject areas and individual classes are beginning to “cross-pollinate”.  Chemistry classes and clothing classes are meeting together. Geometry classes and Consumer Science classes are finding common ground and are meeting together.  Art and English. Welding and Art. English and Science.  We may find that we can build high school co-credit classes where students can earn more that just a credit in one area, they may earn credit for (for example Geometry and Drafting) two classes at the same time.  The possibilities are being explored.  That is the most exciting thing.
  8. Students are meeting with human resources both virtually and in “real life” on a more regular basis.  We have had students visit local businesses and have had visitors to classrooms via the Internet as well conventionally.
We still have a lot of work to do, but I feel more strongly than ever before that we are willing to meet the challenges to make our learning environments relevant and engaging.  We have the unique opportunity to design and build a new school complex that will be both flexible and transparent and able to accommodate learning for today’s world and the challenges of tomorrow.


Parents at School Night–Monday, September 26, 2011

One of my guiding themes for this school year is to try to involve as many parents in our school as possible.  We talk about involving parents, but do our actions really look welcoming to those on the outside?  I think both parents and teachers can be somewhat intimidated by each other and the lack of communication is a detriment to the learning environment.  When parents are involved, students are more likely to be successful.   In order to bring more parents into the school, we are going to have a series of Parents at School Nights this year.  Our first occasion will be on Monday, September 26, at 7:00pm in the Fenton English Library.  The topic: Using the Internet to Keep Up With Your Student’s Academic Progress.  We have been allowing parental access into our student information system for five years now, but I believe we can use this avenue of communication to open more dialogue on the learning activities that occur here on a daily basis.  The session will be short and informative.  I want parents to know that using the parent portal is more than just looking at student grades.  It gives you the information you need to ask questions and inquire about the daily happenings in your student’s school day.  If you have the time, come join us.  If you do not, keep checking back here and on our Facebook page for our next scheduled Parents at School Night.