Google announced recently the new Chromebox, which is a compact form factor computing device running Chrome OS. While the Chromebooks are gaining popularity with schools, I am intrigued with the Chromebox at the price point of $329. With 4GB of RAM, dual-band WiFi, display output ports (HDMI, DVI, VGA), and 6 USB ports, it might be a sensible option for schools who want to leverage existing desktop infrastructure. Since monitors tend to last longer than your computing devices, using the Chromebox might be a cheaper option to replace your legacy desktops. It has more processing power and memory than the $349 Samsung Series 5 Chromebook. Obviously, you will need to move to a Google and cloud environment. But if that is not an issue, than replacing your desktops with Chromebox while recycling existing monitors, keyboards, and mice might just be the right budget solution for schools. Oh btw…it will surely decrease technical support issues for the IT department.
CNET gives it an Editor’s Rating of 3/5 stars. Here is the full review: Samsung Chromebox Series 3
Another in depth review of Chromebooks, Chromebox, and Chrome OS: Chrome OS Grows Up
From my previous post titled: Evolving Google Apps for Edu
Now that many classes, schools, and districts are using GA4E with their students, I find the next logical step for Google is to start partnering with educational software tools to provide a wider breadth of applications. It is a brilliant move! Google hooked us educators with a great web platform; and now they can leverage the user base to get these 3rd party companies to sell us products. I have always said, the education sector is the next big industry and technology is driving that business. Since GA4E is a simple and robust administrative platform, it will make it easy for technology administrators to bring in new education applications into their infrastructure without much overhead. If evolved strategically, GA4E can become the web platform for the next generation edtech initiatives. Can you imagine in the future, GA4E integrating with Learning Management Systems, SIS, virtual worlds, and online interactive education content? You would have to think Google had this in mind prior to launching a free Google Apps for Education…muahahah!
How Google+ contributes to the master plan?
Rather than relying on third party apps for social media, Google decided to launch their latest SM attempt with Google+. When I first signed into Google+ (thanks to @teachingwthsoul for the invite), my immediate reaction was Edmodo. It felt like Edmodo because of the groups (circles) to share certain information with. While Facebook does have this feature, it is built to be open and is a pain to manage lists. I realize Google+ is technically in beta mode, but they will need to add some core features that Edmodo provides to make it more manageable to tag, store and categorize information. Google has the user base to truly make Google+ an essential learning tool for education. By adding some education features to the platform, I can see it become the platform of choice for 21st century collaboration.
The driver to make Google+ the social media platform of choice is the soon to be integration with Google Apps for Education. I can only imagine the capabilities it would provide for teachers and students. Teachers can group students in circles and provide differentiated lessons, dialogue, and activities. It would definitely evolve the concept of literature circles and socratic seminars. If they build school and classroom management capabilities, Google+ on private GA4E domains can provide a safe and secure platform for students to collaborate and share information. If I was Edmodo, I would definitely keep my eye on Google+…
A few weeks ago, I started a new series of blog posts focused on five emerging technologies that have caught my interest. The list will contain a combination of technologies that can potentially impact the classroom, IT infrastructure, and gadgets we use everyday. Here is my second installment of the fabulous five technologies. To check out my original Fab 5 Tech, click here.
Google+ – There has been no other technology in recent weeks that compares to the hype Google+ is receiving, good and bad. It is the latest attempt from Google to enter the social media realm after failures with products such as Buzz, Wave, and Orkut. Can this be finally their sustaining social media strategy. From initial reviews, it has sparked a lot of positive interest. Of course, Facebook is closely watching and has announced new features like Skype with their service. I am still waiting for my invite…
Xirrus Wi-Fi Array XN16 – If you are looking to boost your classroom with some serious bandwidth, try installing a Xirrus Wi-Fi XN16 in your network. This unique AP has an embedded controller with integrated 16 access points. The access point can deliver up to 4.8Gbps of bandwidth covering a range of 125,000 sq ft. Talk about letting your student bring as many devices as they would like to the classroom.
Lytro Field Camera – If you thought cameras couldn’t evolve past megapixels and aperture, you haven’t seen what this new photo technology can do. Lytro is transforming light field technology and giving pictures an entirely new dimension. Imagine taking a picture with a particular focus, yet having the ability to refocus the shot way after the picture has been taken. That is how cool this technology is changing the game of taking pictures. You have to see it to believe it.
Kingston Wi-Drive – Frustrated that you didn’t purchase the iOS device with larger storage space. Not to worry, the Kingston Wi-Drive hopes to address this issue by offering a content server that links through wireless to your iOS device. You can buy up to 32GB of storage and store all your media from your iOS device all in the size of your pocket. Wait…I already have too many devices in my pockets, do I really have to carry another device.
Socrative – I had to put this one on my list simply because of its name…Socrative…Socratech, just had too! However, upon further investigation, it is actually a pretty valuable product for classroom teachers. With a plethora of web 2.0 tools available of teachers, how does this software differentiate? This web 2.0 tool focuses on features that give teachers simpler ways to garner student responses. Socrative gives teachers the ability to use exit tickets, quick quizzes, and team challenges in a fun educational game environment.
Google is planning to launch a $20/month CR-48 netbook package for students. If it is what I am reading on the web, the CR-48 netbook will include a 2 year contract of 100MB/month Verizon 3G service. So if you were to total the 2 years, you would get a 12.1 inch Atom processor with 2GB RAM netbook loaded with ChromeOS (instant web in 8 seconds) + 3G internet (100MB/month limitation) for about $480. For schools strapped with cash flow, this could be an intriguing option instead of purchasing a netbook up front without any 3G service. So instead of paying $400-$600 up front, a school can spread the cost over 2 years. With 30 Chromebooks at $20/month, the bill would be around $7200, versus purchasing a class set of netbooks up front, say around $600 (after taxes, shipping, and 3 year warranty), which will be roughly $18,000. You also have to provide a wireless infrastructure to support the devices, versus a limited 100MB/month 3G coverage. Many administrators will have to way the cost of owning the device versus leasing a device. If you purchased the equipment, you more than likely extend the life cycle of it another couple years. However, to provide an option for students to receive 3G service at that rate, it could potentially be the better option. Nevertheless, before we dive into any contracts, I would need to answer the following questions:
- What happens to the device after the two years? Does Google take it back?
- Could you lease the device for only 9-10 months and return it for the summer?
- Could the student or school purchase the device after the contract is up?
- What does the tech support policy look like from both Google and Verizon?
- What happens if a student goes over the 100MB/month cap? Is it automatically blocked?
- Is 100MB enough? Will there be options to upgrade?
- Can ERate be applied to the contract?
- What is the warranty on the device?
- Is the offer only for students, or could K12 faculty have this option?
- Will the CR-48 ship with new specs? Or will it still have the N455 Atom Processor?
- What are the student privacy policies on these contracts/equipment?
- Will Google be installing any tracking software on these devices?
- Will they offer a 4G version?
- How customizable will you allow the device to be? Will administrators or students be allowed to make system changes?
- In a K12 environment, will there be security and filtering capabilities built into the device?
- Will the contracts be managed individually, or centralized with school/district?
For a thorough review of the Google CR-48 netbook, check out Jason Bedell’s blog post: Review Google ChromeOS
Valuable Chromebook webinar hosted by @discostew: Chromebook Pilot Program
Here are also a few valuable articles written recently about the Chromebook:
- Google ‘Chromebook’ focuses on enterprise push – Computerworld
- Will Chromebooks for education be a good deal for schools? – RWW – Audrey Watters
- $20 Laptops for Student from Google: The Question to Ask – Cool Cat Teacher Blog
- Is Your School Ready for Google’s Chromebook for Education? – Audrey Watters
- Uh-Oh, Microsoft: Businesses, Schools Love Google Chromebooks – Wired
When I first was given an invitation to Gmail back in 2004, I was an avid Hotmail and Yahoo user. I was hesitant because I didn’t want to add a third personal email address, and I was quite comfortable with Hotmail as my primary email account. It was a slow transition, but intriguing features such as 1GB storage was unheard of and the conversation format was attractive. It wasn’t until 2005 when I fully embraced Gmail as my primary account, and I have never looked back.
And with the launch of Google Apps, my personal Gmail experience became a professional one as well. I converted my first school to Google Apps for Education back in 2008 and Gmail has been the backbone to school-wide conversions. Today, Gmail offers a wide variety of features beyond the traditional email web-based client of the past. Although I do not have to convince many about how powerful Gmail is as a communication platform, I still felt compelled to finally compile a list of features why Gmail trumps all.
My Gmail Key Features:
- Communication tools have evolved to include chat, group chat, video chat, SMS texting, status boards, Buzz, Google Talk, and Google Voice. Calling from your browser Nationally for free is awesome!
- Google Apps migration tools allows for migration from Microsoft Exchange environments. Even Outlook stalwarts can appreciate this feature.
- Organization features provide users many ways to control their email. Labels (sublabels) and the ability to create filters directly into labels is quite valuable. The new Priority Inbox is offering Google intelligence to email filtering and color-coded starring of email has always been handy.
- Using Google search engine to find email has always been a key differentiator.
- Full integration with other Google Apps provides a comprehensive communication, collaborative and document sharing platform.
- Product roadmap and company sustainability is strong with Google launching updated versions of Gmail and continued partnerships with third party applications.
- Multiple-Sign In capabilities allows users to link personal Gmail addresses with Google Apps domains.
- 7GB of storage and counting has always been industry leading. (Of course MSFT responds with 25GB email storage with MSFT Office 365)
- Google mobile apps provide seamless transition from computer to mobile device.
To add to the Gmail experience, I also wanted to ask my PLN what their top 3 tools/features are in using Gmail? Here are their responses:
- @mcarrib7 PLN Help: Priority Inbox, filters, stars
- @jasonschmidt123 Top 3 for me: Priority Inbox, Filters, Search
- @cbell619 1-filters to apply labels 2 incoming mail 2-boomerang (reminders) 3-superstars
- @wmchamberlain not a power gmail user but I love labels and search
- @warrena Top 3 reasons I use Gmail: free, searchable, massive storage(7gb?) #eduit (but all the Google account bonus features help too.)
- @billselak (from a Google Buzz friend) 1) Best spam filter. 2) Uses labels vs. folders 3) Keyboard shortcuts Bonus) 2-Step User Verification
- @billselak Gmail is easy to use, it archives everything, & labels make it easy to organize. It integrates with everything (aka my iPhone).
- @franze98 no worries of shortage of storage space, top line spam defense, & a product that is constantly upgrading. #eduIT#ga4e
- @jasontbedell Speed, reliability, easy maintenance, and easy access from anywhere. Plus, Exchange is just awful.
- @peterscampbell Seamless mgmt via labels + filters; Usable search; integrated inbox (I feed all other email to gmail account).
- @turrean top 3 gmail features: labels, assigning custom colors to labels, and all the different color stars! Love organization tools 🙂
- @mrbadura groups, chat feature, folder colors
- @audreywatters I don’t know if this counts, but I love @rapportive
- @epaopao 3 gmail tools i use r 1.multiple inbox- to do list & priority 2.custom label colors-lots of labels 3.chat-quick correspondence
- @nathansudds Some good ones mentioned already but a few more tools are @cldmgc @IntegratedGmail @activeinbox @strube‘s Wav player for #Gmail
- @mswanson In order; collaboration, storage, easy management
- @idarknight how about add ons like Active Inbox?
- @techforschools I’m a huge fan of canned responses
There are probably a hundred other features that Gmail provides to make your life a little easier, would love to hear about it! Leave comments or @socratech to contribute to the growing list. Thanks!