6 reasons why Chromebooks are the device of the moment

What makes Chromebooks popular, and will they outlast their buzz?

google-devicesAs the familiar refrain goes, “It’s not about the device,” but even so schools need to choose one to advance their digital instruction goals. And by all accounts, Chromebooks are the device of the moment, with 2.5 million shipped to schools in the first half of this year alone. There’s no doubt they’re trendy, but is there any deeper reasons for the sales surge beyond appearance and affordability? Recently, I joined host Larry Jacobs and Google Certified Innovator and trainer Chris Scott for an episode of Education Talk Radio in which we talked through these issues at length and came up with a handful of reasons for the Chromebook’s trendsetting status. Here’s the CliffsNotes of that discussion, but be sure to check out the full conversation available online.

Google’s name has staying power. We’ve been Googling for more than a decade by this point, and with the near ubiquity of Google Apps for Education in the nation’s classrooms, educators and students feel comfortable with the Google ecosystem. Branding helps, but at the end of the day, educators do realize that Google is just the conduit for students to advance their learning, not the first and last steps.

Chromebooks have some surface-level advantages. First, they’re cheap, with models often starting around $200. And while the cheaper cost can mean lower quality, it also means cheap replacement parts, too. IT management is simple — and there are few horror stories equaling what schools went through with iPads. They’re easy to share among students, and at a time when online high-stakes testing is still very much a part of the conversation, Chromebooks have the all-important built-in keyboard. None of these things necessarily makes the Chromebook the ideal or superior device for education, but they certainly don’t hurt.…Read More

Do online charter schools measure up?

A three-part research study indicates that online charter school performance may be underwhelming

online-charter-schoolsNew research offers evidence that online charter schools post weaker academic performance and struggle more to maintain student engagement than their conventional brick-and-mortar peers.

The National Study of Online Charter Schools, released Oct. 27, analyzed online charter school operations, policy environments, and their impacts on student achievements.

The three-volume study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, and the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, describes the achievement effects of online charter schools.…Read More

These 3 policy areas could help principals become more effective

New report details how state policymakers can help strengthen, support principals

principals-policyWhile school principals are often low priorities on state education policy agendas, a handful of states have taken steps to strengthen the role principals play in schools, according to a new report commissioned by the Wallace Foundation.

After analyzing how principals are supported and prioritized in a number of states, Paul Manna, professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary and the report’s author, suggests that those states’ actions focus on three areas in policymaking.

1. State leaders can move principals higher on policy agendas. Teachers typically have the larger share of agendas and professional development investments, according to the report. But when principals are elevated in state policy agendas, it can strengthen other state education efforts. “Numerous state education policy initiatives developed during the last two decades depend heavily on excellent principals for their success,” the report notes.…Read More

A helpline for schools tackling cyberbullying

Pilot program lets schools tap into a helpline with close ties to Twitter and Facebook

cyberbullying-socialWith a reported 55 percent of all teens on social media witnessing outright bullying via that medium, and with 95 percent of those youngsters who witnessed bullying on social media choosing to simply ignore the behavior, K-12 districts are growing increasingly concerned about the impact that such activities can have on their students.

This concern is warranted according to the advocacy site NoBullying.com, which reports that just one of out of every six parents are even aware of the scope and intensity involved with cyber bullying and that the victims are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and to consider suicide as a result.

Anne Collier, founder and president of nonprofit Net Family News, wants to get K-12 districts in California — and eventually nationwide — involved with the anti-bullying movement as it pertains to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Collier, who is co-creator of the recently-launched iCanHelpline.org, teamed up with #iCANHELP to develop a social media helpline for schools.…Read More

8 ways schools can become truly Future Ready

Advice for districts seeking to become better at digital teaching and learning

future-readyBeing Future Ready is about more than just signing a pledge or attending an event. It’s about taking measurable, sometimes scary, steps toward a digital future that is still very much uncertain, according to speakers at a recent ISTE panel discussion on the topic, “Is Your District Future Ready?

The Future Ready effort, championed by the Department of Education and the Alliance for Excellent Education, hopes to permanently intertwine digital connectivity and learning in schools by getting administrators to think more broadly (and critically) about technology, PD, and the curriculum they use.

The backbone of the project is a short pledge superintendents take confirming their commitment to enlightened digital learning and advocacy (about 2,000 superintendents have signed it so far). There are also related regional summits that delve into how schools and districts can achieve Future Ready aims, such as empowering teachers, closing the digital divide, or supporting community efforts.…Read More

Mystery Skype Calls Connect Your Classroom to The World

Mystery Skype calls are a great way to connect with the world

skype-mystery[Ed. note: Katrina Keene will give a related session on Mystery Skype at ISTE 2015 on Monday June 29.]

For centuries, schools have sat in silos. Teachers and students were capable of communicating only with those inside their own buildings. It was at one time not only unattainable, but unthinkable to collaborate and communicate with outside classrooms. The technology for these types of interactions had not yet been introduced to education—and even if they were, cost and practicality were barriers to implementation.

I have been an active user of “video conferencing” since the early 90’s, when this type of technology was usually seen in large businesses or colleges that were fortunate to have the funds to provide the equipment to make use of such a progressive form of communication.…Read More