Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip #3 - Choosing the Right Device

One of the great things about Natomas Charter School is that we have multiple types of student devices from which to choose for academic projects. Between computer labs, Chromebooks, and iPads we have tons of options for student work. However, the choices can also be a bit confusing. In the past few weeks I have received a number of emails or phone calls where teachers realized that maybe they chose the wrong tool for the job.

This post is an attempt to clear up some of that confusion. The tables below are not meant to be all-encompassing, but some of the considerations you might ponder when signing up for a particular cart or computer lab. However, as with any project I strongly encourage you to check out one device after school a few days before the unit begins just to make sure it does what you need it to.

iMacs (Computer Lab)

  • Full keyboard and large screen
  • Complete versions of MS Office, iMovie/Garageband, Adobe
  • Can use Google Earth
  • Students can easily access Google counts
  • Flash, Sliverlight, Java all work

  • Not Mobile
  • Limited Access
  • Have to take kids from your classroom
  • Digital projects (iMovie, Garageband) are stuck on that computer.


  • Physical keyboard and decent size screen
  • Can access any online tool or resource
  • Works very well with any Google Apps EDU tool (Gmail, Docs/Drive, Sites)
  • Work is not stored on the device - kids can access from any other Internet-connected computer
  • Flash animations and videos work well
  • No apps need to be purchased or installed
  • Easy to navigate - it's Google Chrome and nothing else.
  • Multiple carts available for check out (outside of SBAC testing).

  • No Java Support
  • Multimedia creation (video, audio, photography) can be challenging
  • Internet must be on to work properly
  • Can't install programs (it's Google Chrome and nothing else).



  • Mobile
  • Great for taking photos and shooting videos.
  • Multimedia Creation - iMovie for iPad is very similar to the computer-based version. Can also do stop-motion animation (Lego Movie Maker) and short photo shows (SonicPics).
  • Screencasting and Whiteboarding - ShowMe, Educreations
  • Text-Annotation Tools - Subtext app, iBooks App
  • Can access Google Drive and Gmail for limited editing and communications
  • Touch-Interface for apps that allow students to manipulate data and objects. 
  • Very small learning curve since many students have them at home.

  • No Java or Flash support
  • Digital projects live on the device (and are accessible by other students) until complete.
  • No physical keyboard, but this doesn't slow all kids down.
  • Not all Google tools work well or work the same as on the computer or Chromebook
  • Apps must be installed ahead of time and possibly purchased (one copy per device) if it is a paid app                                                                                                                                   

Monday, April 7, 2014

Chrome is the New Black

Okay, so I completely stole that title from Mark Hammons' session at the CUE conference. However, it is a great lead into all of the amazing things Chrome can do for you. It is important to realize too that Chrome is more than just the browser on your computer, it is also the basis for the Chromebook's operating system. Pretty much anything you can do in Chrome, you can also do on a Chromebook.

Previously, I have written about some great educational uses for Chrome including Desmos Graphing Calculator, Geogebra, and BioDigital and we even have an entire page on the NCS PD Portal dedicated to using Google Chrome. However, below are three things I find myself using all the time and are great places to being customizing Google Chrome for yourself. I would also highly, highly, highly recommend checking out my friend JR Ginex-Orinion's page of Chromando resources.

Boomerang for Gmail
This might be my most favorite Chrome tool. Boomerang allows you to schedule emails or set up an email so that it resends every few days until you get a response. I use this tool to send all of my regularly scheduled emails, such as the weekly PD schedule. This way I can create the email when I have time (usually Friday or Sunday afternoon) and make sure it sends at the correct time (Monday mornings).

Customizing Search Engines
In Chrome Settings I always saw the button for Manage Search Engines, but I thought it was just for setting your default - Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. I does SO MUCH MORE! What it actually does is allow you to customize the Omnibar, Google's fancy word for the small box where you type in web addresses or search terms. For example, I have my omnibar set up so that when I type GDrive followed by the Tab button it automatically searches Google Drive for any of the terms I type in the box next. This tutorial will show you how. One thing I did have to figure out with a bit of trial-and-error is that the trigger word (in my example GDrive) goes in the middle box.
There are quite a few Chrome tools you can use to make your YouTube experience better. For example, AdBlock prevents advertisements from showing before the video starts, QuietTube creates a new link to the video without any of the surrounding material, and Turn Off the Lights makes the video pop out from a page. However, my favorite tool is Ultimate YouTube Downloader that allows to you download and save a video in multiple formats.

...One Last One - Restore a Closed Tab!
Have you ever accidentally closed a tab and the realized you needed it? Chrome can save you. On a Mac just type Cmd+Shift+T and the tab will reopen to the site it previously held.

Give these a try. They will make your browsing experience better. Also, take a look at the Chrome page on the NCS PD Portal.