Friday, November 21, 2014

The Chromebook learning curve

Initially, my students' response to the Chromebooks was mixed.  Some were excited about the opportunity to use new and unfamiliar technology.  Others wanted nothing more than to have their iPads back in their hands.

But after two days of using Chromebooks, just about all of my students are team on Team Chromebook.  That's not so say that novelty or peer influence isn't a significant variable affecting students' present attitudes.  I'm sure that it is.  This transition, and pretty much universal shift in opinion, is significant though.  That's what this post is about.

The Chromebook is different than anything my students have seen before.  It's not a tablet or mobile device.  It's not a laptop or netbook.  There is no server or locally stored files and programs.   The touchpad and keyboard navigation isn't completely foreign, but it's different enough to be just a bit confusing and a little bit weird.

Initially, I thought that I would just allow students to figure out how to navigate their Cromebooks as they used them...sort of like I did when we started out with iPads. But, in a last minute decision, I decided against that approach.  Not all the features of the device are easily learned through tinkering and intuition, and students would also want to play around with this new technology.  I decided to postpone the lesson I had planned (which involved students using the devices for some web research), and have students do an activity that would give them the opportunity to learn how to use their Chromebooks.

That Chromebook 101 activity was a scavenger hunt that I modified from this one I found on the web.  I tweaked the original to better fit with how I envisioned using the device with my class.  I'd like to shake the hand of whoever made it because it's awesome.  It introduces students to the navigational features of the Chromebook, the capacities of Google Drive, and...importantly, it guides students in playing around with the one feature they are most interested in using: tweaking their profile picture and background.

When I completed the activity, it took me about 20 minutes.  I figured an hour for my students, since they were completely new to Chromebooks and they could work in groups.  It ended up taking two hours, but it was two hours very well spent because it enabled both the students and I to quickly work through the initial learning curve and gain a sense of control over these new devices as well as a sense of the cool stuff that can be accomplished through them.