Category: Chromebook

Adopting a Chromebook

As I was preparing for “This Week in Ontario Edublogs”, I was checking out Jen Giffen’s blog and found a couple of interesting posts.  The one about Flipgrid, I’m using tomorrow.  I was also intrigued by her post “My Week on a Chromebook“.  In the post, she shared her experience using a Chromebook with her Mac.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t share with us what models of each that she uses in the comparison except that the Chromebook only has an 11 inch screen.

I’m somewhat in the same situation.  I have two aluminum computers that I use depending upon various things.  In my case, the computers are a MacBook Pro, 13 inch screen, mid-2012 and an Acer Chromebook R13.

It’s almost unfair to compare the two of them heads up since there’s a huge difference in price.  However, they’ve both found their way into my regular work routine.  I ended up with the Acer because I wanted a Chromebook but I also wanted a replacement for my aging iPad.  This machine opens and flips around so that its touchscreen is also the touchscreen running Android applications.

So, back I went to Jen’s post and here are my observations as well as a few more.

Keyboard Shortcuts
As with Jen, I’m a big shortcut user and, perhaps because I’m also versant on Linux and Windows, I don’t have a problem with this.  I just have to remember to use the CMD key instead of the CTRL key.  (or the Super key when I attach an external keyboard)

Quickly Flipping Between Accounts 
Yes, you can have two different Google accounts on the Chromebook, as well as a Microsoft account.  To give me a quick nudge as to which account I’m using, I use Gmail for my personal email and Inbox for my professional account.  I actually have two Windows for my two accounts with related tabs pinned in each window.

No Firefox
Since my Chromebook also runs Android, I have Firefox installed on that side.  Also, Opera and CLIQZ.  I find them really handy to test things when I’m not logged into an account to see if what I’m sharing is actually going to work.  The catch?  Because it’s Android, the default is to get the portable version of a website.

No iMessage
I’ve never used iMessage or even set it up on my Mac so I can’t comment.

Split screen
It’s a great feature but I seldom use it, opting instead to having two tabs or two windows with tabs.

Small Screen
We differ on this one.  The MacBook Pro is actually a smaller screen with lower resolution than the Chromebook with its 13 inch screen and full HD resolution.

I hate notifications.  Ooh, a squirrel.  But they seem to be a necessity of life.  I’m not sure there is any way to make them palatable.

This is always the major discussion that comes up when you talk Chromebooks.  I’m bad; I have so much installed on the MacBook Pro.  And, I really don’t use them much anymore (except a browser) because my Chromebook usage has generally got me using web alternatives.  To keep track, I have a “Portal” where I have quick links to everything.  I just replace the new page with my “Portal Page”.  A portion of it…


Glorified bookmarks or Application Launcher?

There does come a time when lack of Programs takes on a serious note.  Applications like database development still don’t have an equivalent in the Chromebook world.  A serious analysis of what you’re going to use a computer for will help determine choice.

Speed – or lack there of.
Everyone’s complaint!  The flag that I mentioned in my “My Week Ending” post makes all the difference in the world.  I hope that it gets moved to the stable release.  It’s the best hack ever.  I find that both computers take a beating from Tweetdeck as it tries to catch up with updates in each column.  I’ve switched to plain ol’ Twitter with bookmarks for each of the Ontario Educator lists and it’s made all the difference in the world.

There is a price to be paid for the extra processing speed on the MacBook Pro and that’s the heat that’s generated and the need for a fan to keep things cool.  The Chromebook doesn’t have a fan since one isn’t needed.

To Jen’s list, I would add:

From a construction point of view, the MacBook Pro has the better trackpad but using the Chromebook convinced me that I was using it all wrong.  I was actually pressing and clicking.  It was only after using the Chromebook and moving back to the Macintosh and just tapping or double tapping instead of clicking that I became a convert.  It’s easier on the wrist and the cursor stays put.

Battery Life
There’s absolutely no comparison here.  The Chromebook claims 11 hours or something for its battery.  Much as I like computers, I’ve never been on anything that long!  However, at a recent full day meeting, I had no problems going 8 hours and not scrambling for an outlet like everyone else.  The MacBook Pro gives only a small fraction of that.  It’s too bad since most of the time is spent in a browser.  Opera with its battery saver is the best at it.

Speaking of charging, the magnet connection on the MacBook Pro is so nice with the amber/green LED easily visible.  But, USB C charging has it beat hands down for speed.

Operating systems have got this wrong for years.  Putting a Dock or Shelf at the bottom of the screen takes up valuable reading space.  I learned from Ubuntu – put the Dock to the left of the screen and autohide it.  I put my Shelf there as well.  So much more space is available now.

I can’t fairly compare the resolution of the two computers.  They were probably both great in their original version but the lower resolution on the MacBook Pro is really noticeable.  You shouldn’t be able to see pixels.

It wasn’t an option on the MacBook Pro and there was a time that I thought it was just a dumb concept.  Now that I effectively have an Android tablet, I can truly be a finger person.  Even in Chrome OS mode too.

Consequently, I’ve become a collector of micro-fibre.

Long time Windows user here.  As such, I make lots of mistakes when I use the Macintosh and the Chromebook.  I still lust for a backspace on the Macintosh and the extra keys on the Chromebook make for some interesting things.  Who hasn’t had the Android launcher pop up at the dumbest time?  They both are mostly under control when I connect my external Logitech keyboard though.  Confused at first, I realize after using the Chromebook, that I never use Caps Lock anyway so I just stopped wishing for one.

External Monitor
When I work on documents that require double screens, I like my old NEC monitor.  It doesn’t have an HDMI connection so that rules out the Chromebook.  I have the bane of every MacBook Pro user.  I do have the ability to display SVGA but require a dongle to do it.  So, for those requirements, it’s MacBook Pro time.

There’s no comparison here.  The Chromebook is very light when compared to the MacBook Pro and especially with my even older Sony Vaio.  I think it’s a concern if you’re carrying things around in a backpack.  A roller bag, not so much.

Thanks for the original post, Jen.  It was therapeutic to respond to your points and to add my own!  How about you, reader?  Hopefully, you read Jen’s post first and then this one.  What have we missed?  What have we got wrong?  What’s the impact in the classroom?

Making decisions about purchases is always tough.  (at least for me)  Chromebooks hit the market with low end specifications and limitations but you can get units with heftier specifications.  It’s always important to take things for test drives to see if they’re going to suit your needs.


I’m in charge here

With the upgrade in the Google Chrome browser to version 64 (exactly Version 64.0.3282.119 here), there’s a feature that I’m going to be using quite a bit, methinks.

I’m an early riser and reader.  Unless I’m outrageously tired, I’m up and doing some morning reading around 5am. I’ve mentioned this before; I get a good hour before the dog rises and wants to begin his day.  But there can be moments when all these good intentions and planning go to waste.

I freely admit that it’s my fault and I could definitely do a workaround.  But the thought to do that only kicks in around here when I visit a website that automatically plays music or a video upon visiting it.  With planning, I could have muted my computer but I’ve always relied on scrambling to mute the tab once the sound starts to play.

In Chrome 64, it’s now possible to mute a site.  Just find the offending site and right click on the tab to get the popup menu.


Select Mute site and that’s that with the noise.  You’ll get a visual that the site is muted with a little muted speaker icon right in the tab.


Change your mind?  Right click on the muted tab and unmute it.


I know that people were excited when webpage standards allowed for auto play upon landing on a page.  It was done with good intentions.  However, over time, it’s become annoying and even intrusive.  I like the fact that I can now decide whether or not to allow an entire site to use/abuse me.  I suspect that it won’t be long before other browsers incorporate this feature.

Sometimes, it’s the little things.

Oh, and there are a lot of other things that came in version 64.  Read about them here.


A feature that went annoying

I have this problem, you see.  It’s annoying and made me 😡 after a while.  But I didn’t really worry too much about it at our 🏡 until it became too bad and interfered with my work.  A while back, I was really excited about this feature for the Chromebook 💻 .  I thought that it would be the most useful feature for me.

At the time, my keyboard was doing funky things for me.  In particular, the spacebar was working weirdly.  I thought that it was a setting on my 💻 and so started poking around and found this setting.

Screenshot 2017-12-18 at 06.54.45

Who doesn’t like auto-suggestion, particularly when you’re on your phone?  Chrome OS brought it to the Chromebook and it was really, really nice.  The blog post was here.  It saved me the embarrassment of speling mistakes.

Now, to the best of my recollection, things went off the rails last week.  Like a good Google minion, I always allow the updates to the Chrome OS when asked.  I was happy to do so until I started typing and you can see the results above!

Somehow, Chrome OS has this feature that certain words are automatically translated to emoji for you.  So, I type 🏡 (house) and I get the five letters replaced by an image of a 🏡 .

Now, at the beginning, it was kind of cute.  Then, as I started to write formal emails and documents, it became an annoyance.  Then, I became 😡 about it.  What’s a person to do?

You Google it, of course.  Or Bing it.  Or DuckDuckGo it.  Surprisingly, there were no answers.  Actually, the results were all about questions from people about how to actually make it happen.  The recommendations were basically to install a particular extension.  I looked through my list of installed extensions but I couldn’t find any of the culprits.  And, if I installed all the recommended extensions, I’d have nothing but extensions.  That’s not good.

Those that know me know that I don’t typically use emoji but do use the occasional <grin>.  I learned the language well in elementary school!  Old habits die hard.  I did find a workaround.  If I type 😡 but don’t want the emoji, I could just backspace once after it and the text would appear – angry – but that means breaking a stream of thought when the little ding lets you know that there was a substitution made.

So, I went 🔙 to the original post thinking that there was a toggle that was on by default.  That was frustrating and made me 😡 again because the menus that turned things on had changed.  After getting 😡 and angrier, I finally found the setting.  After having been exposed to this for a while, I realized that the action was similar to auto-correct.  It was just fixing spelling by replacing it with an emoji.

My first thought was that it was an Easter Egg or something hidden in the Canadian keyboard.  So, I shuffled between the three I have configured.

Screenshot 2017-12-18 at 07.07.20

The Emojis followed me wherever I went.  So, it wasn’t related to just one of them.

My solution – as you can see from the screen capture above, I had auto-correction set to “Aggressive”.  I ended up turning auto-correction off and I’m back to a regular typing setting.

I can type angry, back, house, computer all I want now and there’s no auto-correction to emoji.  This graduate from Mrs. Ball’s English class is back on track.

At least, I think that was the cause and effect.  The solution worked for me but I only have one Chromebook to try this theory out on.  If any reader is feeling a bit adventurous, could you try it and see if you can get auto-emoji working on your end?  I’m on the Beta channel for Chrome OS so that I can run Android apps.

Now, for the truth in blogging moment.  Having turned them off, I kind of miss them. I am now curious as to how many more of them there are.  Maybe I should just type random words and see if they change.

  • 🏡
  • 😡
  • 💻
  • 🔙
  • 📄
  • 🐭
  • 🌞
  • 🌚
  • 🚗
  • 🚲
  • 👶
  • 👨
  • 👩
  • 📩
  • 🐶
  • 😻
  • 🐦
  • 🐣
  • 🎾
  • 📺
  • 🔘
  • 🔑
  • 🔒
  • 🚗
  • 🚚
  • 🚲
  • 👫

Doug has too much time on his hands.


This Week in Ontario Edublogs

There’s nothing like the first snow of the year to bring out your inner-Husky.  Now, having grown up in the snow belt, I know that it’s heresy to call what we’re experiencing this morning as “snow” but it’s the sort of thing that gets students here up and checking to see if buses are running or delayed.  Teachers have already done that.

Nothing says more than “winter in Essex County” than walking past the school that we do every morning and seeing the caretaker out in a short-sleeved t-shirt sweeping snow off the sidewalk for students and staff.  Or, Santa Claus arriving by canoe.

If you want one last winter-ish activity for the Hour of Code, check this out.

No matter what the weather is like where you are, I hope that you can take a few moments to read some of the great blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers I ran across this week.

Preserve Our Language Project

When Stephen Hurley and I were discussing this on voicEd Radio, he noted that he hadn’t seen me this excited about something before.  It’s a true statement.  This is an awesome project and I found out about it by being tagged by Mike Filipetti last week during Follow Friday time.  I checked out the project and was just blown away.

So, here’s the deal.  When you get a new computer and set it up, chances are it will have an American English keyboard by default.  You can always change it for your preference.  I always opt for Canadian English.  I’ve also experimented personally with a Dvorak keyboard and it delivered as promised.  But, I dropped it for some reason.  I can recall a conversation with a French teacher who indicated that it was important for French students to see a French keyboard when they’re typing in that language.  Fair enough; that can be done easily enough.  Everyone should be able to keyboard in their language.

What if that language is Ojibway?  On my Macintosh, I’d be out of luck.  Scrolling to the Os reveals…


So, what excited me about this project was that one of the features that they’ve developed is an Ojibway keyboard and made it free to download.  Think it’s not a big deal?  Try this then – switch the keyboards in your class to another language like Persian or Polish and have the students come up with a workaround to be able to type in their own language.

I am excited about this project and some of the other things that you’ll find including videos.  Importantly, check out who all is involved with the project.

It’s a project worth following and please give them a little social media love by sharing this post.

5 ways to turn the ‘hour of code’ into the ‘year of learning’

This post, from Jim Cash, is timely for the end of Computer Science Education Week.  I hope that everyone had a chance to do at least an hour of coding with students.  I also hope that you’re asking yourself “What’s next?”

If you are, this post has some suggestions for moving forward.

I’ll share three with you here…

  • Learn to code by starting your own coding project
  • Think of coding as a literacy
  • Plan a design-thinking, project-based learning activity

You’ll have to click through and read Jim’s entire post to get all five.  His vision of coding as a literacy started an interesting discussion on Twitter.  Personally, I think that  if coding skills are going to become successful and valuable, it needs to be more than a literacy.  How about it becoming a fluency?

As the Hour of Code wraps up and people are thinking of great successes and next steps, ECOO is hoping to engage you in a Twitter chat next Tuesday evening at 8pm with the hashtag #ECOOchat.  I hope to see you there.

What EQAO Doesn’t Know

Just as Jim’s post was timely, this one from Peter Cameron is equally as timely given the Ministry of Education’s review of assessment and curriculum in the province.

This is a long post but well worth the read and to share with others.  Passionate educators will also pause to recognize all of the fallout from testing that certainly couldn’t have been predicted when EQAO was first introduced.

Peter’s post reminds us that there are more than score-buckets sitting in desks in Ontario classrooms.  They’re eager learners who have a whole year to demonstrate their learning in various ways for their teacher.  Yet, there comes that moment in time when they have a pre-determined about of time to write a test for someone else.

If this is deemed to be important, are we doing it properly?  I’d suggest that you forget the notion of the test when you read the post.  Put yourself in the position of the students that he describes.  Would you consider yourself fairly assessed?

Midterm Reflections: #BIT17, PD Day, Midterms, Student Feedback, and Tracking Observations

I had to smile when I read the title to this post from Amy Szerminska.  If I had that many concurrent thoughts, I would have broken it down into five different posts and schedule them for successive days.  There’s a whole week of blogging there!

It was confirming to read her observations of #BIT17 and the importance of connections. You know that Amy is not alone in her thoughts.  We’re more powerful educators when we make these connections.  Hopefully, school districts recognize this when an application is received to go to a conference.  Go beyond the title and what you have always thought about the host; think of the connections that go far beyond the conference.

What I really found interesting was the discussion around the Professional Development Day.  Embedded in the post is her presentation.


It’s a wonderful click through and those in the audience must really have appreciated the conversation that it would have generated.

Speaking of assessment, you have to love this student’s quote

“It’s weird but if I can negotiate my way to a good grade I don’t mind.”

LONDON GOOGLE SUMMIT: Presenting Google Classroom, Meet Entrepreneurship

In case you were wondering whether or not the Thames Valley District School Board was using Google or not, this presentation from Heidi Solway and Jason Bakker will give you a definitive answer.  I really do like it when presenters make their slide deck and other resources available for those who couldn’t attend to enjoy.

Ignite the passion in your classroom by developing your students into entrepreneurs through Project Based Learning (PBL). This project has students producing product, designing marketing, and handling sales at a Business Fair. We will share how to disseminate steps of the project via Google Classroom, having students manage their business in: Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, Drawings, and Classroom. We will also touch on how students might create advertising pieces using tools such as Garage Band, green screen with DoInk and/or iMovie, Please bring a Chromebook or laptop.

Of course, the folks at Google might take issue with the final statement and the use of the word “or”.

The slidedeck links to a thing popular with the Google crowd right now – Hyperdocs.  In this case, they are worksheets to support the concepts from the project.

For the Office 365 folks, a big project like this could easily be adapted to using the O365 tools.

Classrooms Should Be More Like Trains

A “quiet table” in a noisy classroom is rather like a smoking section in a restaurant. I understand that the noise doesn’t stop when it gets to the table (oh, for the ‘cone of silence’!!) Ideally I’d prefer a room where students could go and work quietly if needed. Putting a table in the hallway or some other quiet corner of the school is also a possibility, but obviously supervision and safety is a concern. At the very least, the “Quiet Work Table” shows students that if they need quiet, that’s acknowledged and addressed in some small way.

When I read this post from Andrew Campbell, I recognized how fortunate I was with my classroom setup.  At the time, I had the ability to organize my students according to activity.

The main classroom had tables with movable chairs and wonderfully, a carpeted floor.  Behind us was a room that was supposed to host a mini-computer that never arrived.  It had tiled floor (which was great to avoid the static electricity from the classroom) and more tables to hold our computers.  Behind that was supposed to be the computer operator’s office.  It turned into a seminar room for my class.   And, of course, we had a hallway for additional organization.  All of the rooms had huge windows so you could stand in one and see what was happening in all three.  For those who needed another level of isolation, I was not against the use of headphones.

I really was fortunate.  Andrew makes excellent points and it’s a reminder that the traditional school design never really takes all this into consideration – how are you making for quiet spaces in your classroom for those that want/need them?

OTF and the Professional Learning Ecosystem

If you’re not aware of everything that the Ontario Teachers’ Federation offers, you will be after reading this post from Brenda Sherry.

I think that I knew about all of the various pieces that she touches on in her post but I’d never seen them arranged all together at once.  Looked at this way, it really is impressive.

TLLP – The Teacher Learning and Leadership Program
OTF Connects – live webinars in the evenings
OTF Summer Institutes – 3 day summer sessions
Pedagogy B4 Technology Conference – 3 days of learning
TLLP – Provincial Knowledge Exchange
Teacher Learning Co-op (TLC) – Collaborative teams

Are you aware of these opportunities?  Read Brenda’s post and then head over to the OTF Learning Page.  Check the left sidebar for even more!

Whew!  Yet again, this is a wonderfully relevant and current look at things from Ontario Edubloggers.  We’re so fortunate to have these people sharing their thoughts with us.

Make sure to add all of the above to your list of accounts that you’re following.

If you’re blogging and not in the list of Ontario Edubloggers, please take a moment to visit and add your details.

What would you do?

If you haven’t, you really should read through this report.

Chromebook controversy: ‘Every parent should be concerned’ about web-enabled school laptops, parents say

As an educator, it’s probably pretty easy to immediately come to the conclusion that the parent is wrong or out of touch or something …  But it goes a little deeper than that and is another example of being careful of the message we send.

As educators, we think we know what is right and I suspect that we think that it’s intuitive that everyone would agree.  After all, who would argue that a computer with internet access that a student has for her/his educational career is not going to be appreciated by everyone?  Gift horses and all that.

It’s important to note that we’re only really hearing from one side as we work our way through this story.

The districts mentioned may well be ahead of the curve in these initiatives so there’s a great deal of learning to be done for other districts who may follow in the future.

So, what would you do?

Some of the things that come to my mind immediately:

  • explain the rationale and the expectations that should arise as a result of the initiative, including providing convincing research for success from pilot programs or other initiatives from other districts
  • explain, in detail, what the district’s plan is for educating students about how to use these technologies and the plan for developing competent digital citizens
  • have initial and then ongoing parent information nights to discuss the success and challenges of the program
  • have a discussion area where parents can express their concerns and see them addressed by board personnel
  • indicate ways that the technology can be used offline without being connected to the internet
  • compare and contrast the use of this technology to the way that students have traditionally used home computers, school computers after schools, or in other places like youth centres or public libraries.  In particular, what is the benefit of having a computer for their personal use, as it’s needed
  • considering the high visibility of public testing like EQAO, show the best of applications to support student learning in mathematics and literacy
  • explain any limitation that the technology might have compared to computers used in specific courses – computer science, graphic arts, videography
  • address concerns about using computers from one specific technology company
  • show the parents the two ways of using technology that I’ve always mentioned
    • use technology to do things differently
    • use technology to do different things (really work this one)
  • include a way for parents to opt out of the program if they just can’t buy into it

An initiative like this requires support and buy-in by all members in order to be successful.  It definitely requires the district to be on their best communication and partnership mode.

What more could be done?

What would you do?

Studying Mathematics and more

I had a conversation with a friend recently.  She’s going to have some Chromebooks come into her classroom and she was wondering where to start.  Of course, it would help if her district provided some resources and professional learning opportunities but that’s another topic for another day.  For now, she’s on her own it seems.

I asked her about support and the response was kind of disappointing – “they just assume that we know about stuff.”

I guess it was different in the past.  Applications would have been installed on the classroom devices and you just used them.  Someone else had made the judgment that they were worthy and appropriate.  It is different when you ask people to take a risk that that internet resource they found by themselves is going to do the deed for them.  I used to maintain a “Student Reference Portal” where I put together what I’d found and assessed as appropriate.

So, I passed along some of what I thought would be useful launching pads.  Mathematics was particulalry important to her so that was in my mind.

And then I started poking around.  After all, on the internet, things come and go.  I dropped into the Studyladder.  It’s an interesting collection of, not only Mathematics things, but many activities in other subject areas.


It appears to be rich with resources but, like all things, you need to get in and evaluate them to see if they are appropriate.

There are three levels of access and so you’ll need to see if there’s a fit.

As I sit back and reflect on this, it serves as a reminder that while we get excited about the latest 3D AI Coding Minecraft Makerspace craze, there are other people who are being dropped into their own area of discomfort.

They need support too.

Games with Blockly

Coders of all ages are going to like this!

We all hear about how students get engaged learning to code by programming their own games.  That can sometimes be a challenge for the student learning coder and/or the teacher trying to stay attuned to the best in coding and generating ideas.

So, check this out. – Blockly Games.


Pick a starting point and you’re off.

At the time of the screen capture, you’ll see that I had worked my way almost all the way through the Maze option on this computer.  (To be honest, I spent lots of time and enjoyed them all.  I hadn’t thought about blogging about it until later.)

The Maze option has 10 different levels and challenges.  As you would expect, they start pretty easy and then get challenging.

Here’s my solution for Level 9.


And, winner winner, chicken dinner.  Your congrats message lets you see the Javascript behind the code.


Just a warning before you click through and get started.  This is from experience.  This is really addicting.  And, I do have a solution for level 10 that’s reasonably priced.

Where I’d see immediate use of this…

  • with beginning student coders to learn the principles of a block coding environment
  • as an environment to get a coding club off to a great start
  • as part of an understanding of computational thinking
  • with teachers who are learning or refreshing their coding skills
  • with older students who already know some coding, as a start of year activity to get the coding juices flowing

Got an idea of your own?  Please add it to the comments below.