Friday, September 4, 2015

New School Year - Chromebook Tips!

The new school year is underway and all the Chromebooks have been distributed to 7th and 8th grade students! Mr. Carroll and I presented training this week to highlight key aspects of the Acceptable Use Policy. Students were reminded that the Chromebook is a Hillsborough School District purchased device loaned out to students for academic purposes. This year we are working hard to send out the message to students that activities other than school work are not allowed on these devices. Especially in class, there will be a consistent message from all teachers that off-task usage will elicit consequences.

Online gaming was an issue that created distractions last year, so this year we are working hard to send the message to all students that online gaming on the Chromebooks will not be tolerated. We have blocked as many of the common online gaming sites and students were told that all online games - blocked or unblocked - are against the rules. If students want to play games at home, most families have many other options for doing so - laptop or desktop computers, gaming stations, cell phones, etc. These other options for gaming are usually covered under household rules and families have set up limitations for gaming at home. Please let me know if you are having a problem with your student gaming on their Chromebook, we can investigate online activity and come up with a behavior plan that will help you manage Chromebook usage at home.

We want all parents to see and believe in the value that Chromebooks add to students' learning experience and join in with the teachers and the district to make this a positive experience for everyone.

Mr. Carroll and I reviewed the insurance program offered and how to best protect the Chromebook. You can do three things:

1. Purchase the insurance - this is a great deal and you will wish you had it when your student comes home with a cracked Chromebook!

2. Your student needs a Lunch Recess Storage Plan! Urge them to store the Chromebook in their locker or leave it in their 3rd or 4th period class during lunch. The WORST thing they can do is to put their Chromebook in their backpack and go out to play on the blacktop.

3. Purchase a good case. This will protect the Chromebook and prevent damage. Here are three options that we like for the 7th and 8th grade Chromebooks:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Educating and Parenting in the 21st Century!

Sorry I have not posted much lately but here is something that all parents might find useful, interesting and worth thinking about. I recently had a parent email me to find out if YouTube could be blocked on the student Chromebooks. Here is my response:

Dear Parent,

I am assuming you are having some issues at home with your student on YouTube when he is supposed to be doing something productive. I can completely relate to this issue because I have two daughters in the 6th and 9th grade and it is a daily problem for my wife and I.

YouTube has a vast resource of great educational video content and its use in school increases every year as more and more is added. Yes, the teachers do use these resources in their classrooms and do often ask students to view video content on YouTube at home for homework. There are websites and apps now that allow teachers to take YT videos and add stopping points, questions, discussions… so this is an extremely powerful teaching tool!

From the beginning, HCSD has decided to leave YouTube accessible for our teachers and students; I am thankful for this. Less progressive districts have not made this choice and are limiting their students and teachers educational experience. There are so many resources out there now that if your child does not have access to YT – he will find another resource to watch videos he wants to see. This also does not consider all the other devices in a modern home where YT is not blocked – cell phones, itouch, ipads, laptop and desktop computers. This is just world we live in.

Some things we do at my house are:

1. Know the passwords to email, google, cell phones and check history and email/chat discussions – my kids know this and we let them know we are aware of what they are doing online.

2. Have a check in time – all devices are checked in at night. My 6th grader is not allowed on her Chromebook in the morning and gets her itouch after her morning duties and her room is clean!

3. Our philosophy is – if the grades are good then we don’t worry too much. If the grades are not good we tighten the access to their devices. This has worked so far.

I know some families who put a timer on their Internet router and at a certain time it goes off – no access at night – for anyone in the family.

This is a huge parenting issue and we are the first parents who have to figure out how to deal with this amazingly huge resource and distraction called the Internet.

I feel your pain! It is a new world and not anything like how we grew up. I hope the above points help you to put this into perspective and offers some ideas for your family.

Mr. Hager

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Eighth Grade Science Aviation Unit

Eighth grade science teachers, Amanda Siegel and Stephanie Newblanc decided to do something different with the Flyoffs this year. They have been learning about Design Thinking and decided to integrate what they learned into the 8th grade aviation unit.

Using students' Chromebooks and the teacher dashboard application Hapara, the teachers shared out design process logs and assigned students to work in small groups to build a custom plane and document their learning. Students recorded brainstorming, prototyping, design inspiration, daily process logs, flight logs, and goals for their next steps. They used their Chromebooks to collaborate on this research and documentation and the teachers were able to track each group's progress through shared documents. Mrs. Siegel and Mrs. Newblanc found that the students were fully engaged with their learning during this project. They were able to work together to troubleshoot issues and solve problems and the Chromebooks allowed ease of access to research information, assignment documentation and ongoing teacher feedback that help direct their learning experience.

Friday, December 19, 2014

7th Grade Social Studies Chinese Cuisine Cooking Show

Using Chromebooks this week in 7th grade, Social Studies teachers Audrey Fairchild and Ariana Dumpis had students create cooking show videos using online app WeVideo. They are currently studying Chinese culture and this assignment directed the students to research a traditional dish of Chinese cuisine and its origin. Students also had to research various cooking show formats to get an idea of how to communicate these ideas using this medium.

Working in small groups students used their Chromebooks to do research, write scripts and organize their production. They also had to communicate and organize the group to determine what they needed for the project and to schedule a meeting place to film the cooking. Students used cell phones to film the cooking and then uploaded the video clips to WeVideo using their Chromebooks.

Students collected video and still images and edited them together in WeVideo. They added text and themes to add a professional touch. When they were finished, they published their video to Google Drive and shared it with their teacher. They also were required to share a Google Doc with their recipe and cooking directions. Below are a few examples.

Chinese Sticky Cakes: Cailin and Jossie
Kung Pao Chicken: Amelia, Sydney and Kate

Bubble Tea and Scallion Pancakes: Nur, Erin, Charlotte

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tech Tip of the Week - December 15

Holiday Shopping? A Chromebook case is a great gift and investment!

Over the past month I have been talking to many students who have purchased their own Chromebook case and would like to pass on that information and some of my thoughts about cases. I think investing in a case for your student is a good idea for two reasons:
  1. More Protection: These devices are being carried around along with books, binders, pencil cases, backpacks, etc. and in the hands of middle school students juggling all of these items is challenging. All it takes is one slip and the Chromebook might fall to the ground and be damaged. So far, the most common damage we have seen is cracked screens and corner damage. This is usually caused by dropping or pressure applied to the top that will often crack the screen. A nice case will give you added protection.
  2. Personalization: A case will also allow your student to identify their Chromebook more easily and it will stand out in a stack of Chromebooks.
I have seen four different case designs. All of them have their pluses and minuses which I will detail below. This information is taken from my experience and is my opinion - I do not have hard evidence to back up these claims; this is my gut feeling from my knowledge of middle schoolers and their handling of these devices.

The Dell Chromebook 11 has an 11" screen and measures 11 5/8" x 8" x 3/4".

Hard Plastic Clip On
  • Pros: Very sleek, form fitting, you can use it without taking it out of the case, most have a transparent cover so you can see any stickers or labels on the front, lots of different colors.
  • Cons: No padding, I am not sure how much shock absorption you get with a clip on case, also there is not much protection against pressure to top. There are not many to choose from.  I have seen some students use this type of case along with the soft case for double protection!
  • Brands: iPearl

Soft Case
  • Pros: There are a lot to choose from in this category, these cases come in lots of colors and patterns, they usually have good padding and shock absorption - especially on the top and bottom, usually fits very nice, it is form fitting and small in size.
  • Cons: Corners are not well protected. If it gets dropped on the corner there may be some damage, doesn't protect from top pressure screen breakage.
  • Brands: Evecase, Runetz, Kamor, amCase, CaseLogic and many more

Hard Case
  • Pros: The most protection available in a case. Will protect from drops and pressure damage.
  • Cons: Large size, not many available, most expensive
  • Brands: Thule

Hybrid Case
  • Pros: A good combo of the soft and hard type that includes pros from both.
  • Cons: The only minus I can see is that it is not form fitting and is a bit bigger than the soft case.
  • Brands: Drive Logic

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tech Tip of the Week - December 8th

My Chromebook is acting weird, frozen, not working… what do I do?

Chrome Updates: Google often updates Chrome and will indicate that with an arrow icon on the bottom corner of the Chromebooks. There will also be an orange hamburger icon up at the top right corner of your browser when you need to update. If you see this icon has turned orange click on it and update. It will only take a few seconds.

Power Cycling: This term is just a fancy tech way of saying restart your computer! Restarting your computer will fix 80% of the common problems and this is true for Chromebooks as well. If your Chromebook is dead and you cannot get it to do anything, it is probably frozen. Hold down the power button for about 10 seconds or so until it powers down. Then after waiting a few seconds hit the power button again and it should start up.

Here is a video to show you about this:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Chromebook Printing

Here is a video tutorial about printing on you Chromebook:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tech Tip of the Week - Dec 1

Printing on Your Chromebook!

Since the Chromebook is a cloud-based device and you cannot load printer software on it, Google has had to come up with some various printing options. You have ways to print from your Chromebook:

1. We have three school printers hooked up to the cloud – the black and white library printer, the black and white Lab22 printer and the color printer in Lab22. All student Chromebooks can print to these printers. Please use this function responsibly - if you print to one of these printers make sure you go and pick up your papers. We waste a lot of paper and ink every year from students who print and do not pick up.

2. Log onto another computer and print. You can log on to any computer that is connected to a printer with your district GAFE account and print out your work.

3. Set up your home computer to share your printer to the cloud. Follow these steps:
a. Log on to your computer at home with your GAFE account
b. Go into Chrome settings
c. Then “Advanced settings” at the bottom
d. Scroll down to “Google Cloud Print”
e. Click the Manage button
f. From this screen you can share your printer to the cloud

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tech Tip of the Week - November 24

Google Drive Offline! Although the Chromebook is an online, cloud-based device, Google Drive documents are available offline! This means that if your home wifi router is down, the electricity goes out, or you want your student to work on their homework in the car as you run errands… students CAN ACCESS Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides when they are not connected to wifi. Students can even make new documents when disconnected. The next time the Chromebook connects to wifi - Google will synchronize Drive documents to the cloud!

To make sure this is happening - select “Experience the New Drive” from the settings menu in Google Drive.experience-the-new-google-drive.png

Crocker’s Chromebook Education Program

After the final Chromebook was distributed a couple weeks ago we started our program to communicate various tips and skills students need to know when using this new learning tool. We will communicate these educational snippets in various ways, including:
  1. On the HTV News program we will frequently offer a short Tech Tip of the Day that will discuss current issues we are seeing and reminders about how to best use and protect the devices. 
  2. Every Monday for at least the next few months we will announce the Chromebook Tip of the Week. This will be offered as an email to staff, will be covered on HTV News and we will also email this out to parents every Monday. These weekly tips will cover best practices, basic tech skills, “did you know that…”, and other bits of information that will be useful for all students. Teachers will cover the Weekly Tech Tip in their classes during the week so that there is a consistent message to all students about this technology information.
  3. In addition, we will post this information on The Crocker TechConnect blog which will archive all of these Weekly Tech Tips and information about the 1:World Initiative.