The Year-Long Chromebook Challenge


By: David Stiner

G Suite has revolutionized education for last few years and Chromebooks have given schools the ability to deliver G Suite to the masses. Have you been part of this revolution? Have you had problems with teaching with Chromebooks? Have you been teaching in front of class where students have Chromebooks and you don’t? Did problems occur? Why take the year-long Chromebook Challenge? This is what will be discussed today.

How did it Start?

At the end of the 2015-2016 school year I got my first Chrome cart. While trying to fumble my way into introducing Chromebooks and G Suite to my students, I noticed they had a lot of questions and troubleshooting issues. Granted Chromebooks we're new to me as well, however, I didn’t have one. So, as I tried to help them I was trying to explain everything using a Windows PC. Well that did not work. Totally didn’t OS systems. This made me think I need a teacher chromebook that I can take home and learn the ends and outs. So I begged and pleaded with my IT coordinator and he got me a Chromebook to pilot as a teacher computer. I decided that day when I get this Chromebook I am going to learn everything I can to help my kids. Then came the 2016-2017 school year where I decided to challenge myself in using a Chromebook as my sole teacher computer. Boy can I tell you it was a challenge. 

What came first

When I first started using the Chromebook it was easy to get use too. If you know Google Chrome from your Windows PC then you can maneuver a Chromebook. However the more I used it the more I started to discover different aspects to the machine. These aspects came about different troubleshooting issues I had to discover when a student accidentally used certain combinations of keys. The ones that really had me in a frenzy was the accessibility features. I have seen screen magnifier and high contrast mode. I had to find my way to learn how to solve the issue quickly. The one aspect that helped me was to learn shortcuts. If you press Ctrl+alt+? you will be able to find all the shortcuts that Chromebooks have, which is around 50 different shortcuts. (The Geek Stuff has a good list all the shortcuts.) However there are only some key ones that you need to know.

Shortcut

Shortcut
Description
Alt+backspace
Delete
Alt+search
Caps lock
Ctrl+5th Key (full screen key)
Mirror Monitor
Ctrl+6th key (switch Windows key)
Take Screenshot
Crtl+shift+6th key
Partial Screenshot

More Investigation

The more I worked on the chromebook the more I had to find ways to do the same thing I could do on a PC. The biggest solution I found where extensions and add-ons. 

Extensions

There are a couple extensions that I absolutely love that really brought my adventure to life. The first one is url shortener called goo.gl. Since, I was using only G Suite and had to share documents in presentations this url shortener was a real lifesaver. Here is how the url looks: https://goo.gl/GCxvnq. The link will get you the web store to download the extension.

The second extension that I couldn't live without was Crafty Text. This extension displays text in a large font. It is great when a student ask you for a spelling or even directions. Below is how it works.


Add-ons

I found a couple add-ons I could not live without in my adventure. The first add-on comes from Google Doc called Avery label maker. There are two ways to use this add-on. One you open up the Avery label maker and a new document opens up and shows you how to use is. From there you can just put what you want on your label and a full document of that one creation will be created.

The second way is the merge data from a Google Sheets. This one has come in handy for many things. I use it to make login cards for my students. It was easy to merge the data. Watch the video below to see how Avery Merge for Google Docs works.


From the video you can see you have few templates to choose from. My personal favorite is the name badge templates. They are great for login cards. The only disadvantage to this label maker is there are only a few templates you can choose from. They do not have a return address template or others that you might want. However, if you are using it for basic use it is great.

The second add-on I like is formMule. This add-on is an email merge that has become life blood in my school when I started using it. This video will give you an idea what formMule is.


What I do with this add-on is two-fold. I set this up at our school to communicate with teachers on how students are doing in our non-intentional learner club. We call this club Cougar Club. Teachers use a Google Forms to have a student come to the club that is either not finished with in class work or that intentionally does not do the work. Once the form is submitted it is connected to a Google Sheet.

Then we use formMule to keep communication with the teacher. We give the teacher feedback and based on that feedback we use a certain type of template.

In conclusion Chromebooks have become the new norm in education. We as teachers need to get used to using Chromebooks to help our students succeed. As discussed above I took a year long challenge where I only used a Chromebook. It was an eye opening experience and it was extremely beneficial when it came to help my student with their Chromebooks.

In that year I discovered Chrome extension and G Suite add-ons that really helped with getting around using a PC. So, I have two questions for you: Are you ready to make the plunge to use just a Chromebook for a year? Are you ready to be challenged? Today, I challenge you to take the year-long Chromebook challenge.