Directing Technology/Chromebook

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Directing Technology: the Job of the School District Technology Director


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Job Overview · Planning · Funding/Budgeting · Grants · Purchasing · Staffing · Training · Network Infrastructure · Maintaining/Supporting · Evaluation · Ethics · MobileTech: Kindle · MobileTech: Smartphone · MobileTech: iPad · MobileTech: Android Tablet · MobileTech: Chromebook · Appendices


Introduction[edit]

The Chromebook is a netbook released in the open market June of 2011 and configured with the Google Chrome operating system to run Google applications. It also can run web based applications that can be accessed with the Chrome browser.

At the time of its initial release it was priced for purchase by Acer and Samsung between $390 and $500. Users need access to a local WiFi network or have a 3G wireless network plan from Verizon in order to be able to work with these web-based applications. Some of the Google applications can also be used offline, but user actions are limited to what they can do without the functionality and the data in the cloud.

Chromebooks have limited local SSD storage and USB ports for portable storage devices. It does not run local software applications. All files and applications reside in the Google cloud with the exception of any information you download into a local storage device. The Google cloud protects your data and applications and it is isolated from other users data and applications. The chromebook can also be used by multiple people in total confidence that privacy and security won't be violated. All their application and data is driven by their Google user account.

This netbook requires no local upgrades or software installations. If you lose or damage your Chromebook no applications or data is compromised. Just replace the Chromebook and you can continue your activities. Users can use any Google application or Chrome Web Store app. Music, videos, photos, and sound files reside in web services provided by Google or other providers in the cloud. Users can print to a wireless ready or e-printer after doing the initial setup from their Chromebook. Chromebooks can not run Windows, Mac OS X applications, or any other application that was not developed for the Chrome OS. Additional information is available in the Chromebook Wikipedia page or the Chromebook site[1]

Chrome OS New Release

History[edit]

Joanna Stern from engadget wrote an article[2] about the December 7, 2010 media event where Google announced the upcoming “Cr-48” (named after an isotope of the material chromium), a Linux-based Chrome OS based laptop. It would become the first "cloud-based" netbook in the market. Only 65,000 units were released to Google employees, close friends, and family. This version of Chrome OS supports the Chrome apps which were made available in the also new Chrome Web Store. .
During the six months prior to the release of the Samsung and Acer Chrome OS based netbooks in the market some businesses and schools tested the Cr-48 laptop also. Some names and little information on these pilot tests can be found in the Google Chromebook site[3]. Some individuals also requested a Cr-48 from Google in this beta period.
The “Cr-48” became the Chromebook when it was released in the market on June 15, 2011. Other countries participating in the initial release were the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, and Italy.

Specifications[edit]

Student using Google apps with a Cr48

Chromebooks can quickly boot and connect to the internet where WiFi and 3G wireless connectivity is available. Less than 10 seconds is the boot time reported by the students and teachers users in KIPP schools in Los Angeles[4], and in the Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) in Arizona.



Users have access to web based applications like video, photos, music, play Flash files, web email, web based calendars, Google docs, Google Sites, Blogger, and all Chrome Web Store Apps. There is no limit on the number of Google or web applications you can have and use with this device.
 Some of the applications from the Chrome Web Store are new, users can expect some issues and lack of functionality. This is specially the case for users that are accustomed and comfortable with their personal computer application software and utilities. In educational institutions the Chromebooks will be better received by teachers, staff, and students who are used to open source or web-based applications. Various articles available online show a less enthusiastic reception from business users, like the article written by New York Times David Pogue on June 15, 2011[5]. At the time this Wiki article was written, there were no articles reviewing the Chromebook from an educational mobile device standpoint.

There are a number of manufacturers of Chromebooks, including Dell, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba, ASUS, Samsung and Acer. In the table below you will see in one place the specifications provided by various sources, also referenced in this article, for the Samsung Series 5 and Acer AC700 models.

  • The Google Chromebook website (2011) [6],[7].
  • The ARS Technica iFixIt Group article "iFixit tears the chrome off of a Samsung Chromebook" written by Ryan Paul (2011). Check this article if you want to see a Chromebook with its components taken apart[8].
  • The Popular Science Magazine article "Google's Chromebook Specs Revealed: Up to $499 for a Cloud-Based Laptop" written by Rebecca Boyle (2011)[9].
  • The ChromeSource online article "Acer Chromebook Specs" article written by Daniel Cawrey (2011)[10].
  • The CrunchGear blog article "The Google Chromebook Breaks Cover At I/O 2011, Hits Retailers June 15th" written by Matt Burns (2011)[11].
Samsung Acer
12.1" WXGA (1280x800) 300 nit LCD Display 11.6" HD Widescreen CineCrystalTM LED-backlit LCD
Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 3150 Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 3150
3.26 pounds 3.19 pounds
8.5 hours of continuous usage (estimated battery time) 6 hours of continuous usage (estimated battery time)
1.66Ghz Intel® AtomTM Dual-Core Processor 1.66Ghz Intel® AtomTM N570 Dual-Core Processor
2GB of RAM 2GB DDR3 RAM
16GB SanDisk SSD (Flash drive) 16GB SanDisk SSD (Flash drive)
Built in dual-band 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and optional World-mode 3G (optional from Verizon) Built in dual-band 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and optional World-mode 3G (optional from Verizon)
1Megapixel HD Webcam and ALC272 Integrated Audio Controller 1.3 Megapixel HD Webcam (1280 x 1024) and High-Definition Audio Support
Speakers and headphone jacks Speakers and headphone jacks
Two Built-in Stereo Speakers Two Built-in Stereo Speakers
2 USB 2.0 ports 2 USB 2.0 ports
4-in-1 memory card slot supports SD / SDHC / SDXC / MMC 4-in-1 memory card slot supports SD / SDHC / SDXC / MMC
Mini-VGA port HDMI port
Full size Chrome keyboard (simplified version from the typical PC keyboard, closer to an Apple keyboard) Full size Chrome keyboard (simplified version from the typical PC keyboard, closer to an Apple keyboard)
Oversize fully-clickable trackpad Oversize fully-clickable trackpad
Available in Black, White, Titan Available in Black
Chrome OS Chrome OS
Coming soon: Offline capable Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and some Games from the Chrome Web Store Coming soon: Offline capable Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and some Games from the Chrome Web Store
Can run all apps from the Chrome Web Store Can run all apps from the Chrome Web Store

Cost[edit]

These are the purchasing and leasing options available together with 3G connection plans provided by Verizon Wireless. Chromebooks are available online at Amazon, and Best Buy online, and store locations.

Samsung - Series 5 Acer - Cromia
WiFi only sells for $429 WiFi only sells for $379
With 3G sells for $499 With 3G sells for $449
Two year plans Two year plans
Enterprise Lease: WiFi only $30/month/user Enterprise Lease: WiFi only $28/month/user
Enterprise Lease: With 3G $33/month/user Enterprise Lease: With 3G $30/month/user
Education Lease: WiFi only $20/month/user Education Lease: WiFi only $20/month/user
Education Lease: With 3G $23/month/user Education Lease: With 3G $23/month/user
Included data with 3G: 100MB Monthly Included data with 3G: 100MB Monthly


  • Two Chromebook models come with 100MB per month data 3G service for 2 years. Unlimited day pass is available for $9.99 for users that do not want a long term contract. Additional 1GB, 3GB, and 5GB plans are available for $20 per month, $35 per month, and $50 per month respectively. [12]


Based on the fact that these netbooks can not run PC, Mac software, or local applications, some individuals and institutions were hard pressed to make the investment at release time. For individuals and institutions that do not want to spend the upfront amount to purchase the netbook, the lease is an alternative. The only users that will have to pay more for 3G wireless communication will be those without WiFi access. Prices might come down in the future since this is the initial market release of these devices. The two year lease is an option for businesses and schools. Schools will need to consider their technological needs, current infrastructure, and decide if using these netbooks can be integrated into their present systems, and forgo local or legacy applications in favor of these new cloud services. In the following sections we will cover some of the implementation, and logistic issues, that educational institutions could encounter.

Implementation and Logistics[edit]

Middle School Students with Cr-48 devices.

At the time this section was written, the information available on complete implementations with Chromebook netbooks was limited to a few pilot deployments in schools which used the Cr-48 netbook in the United States. After contacting Google and three of the educational institutions available in the Chromebook site's Education section [3], two school replied: KIPP LA Schools[4], and the Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD)[13]. Their valuable feedback contributes to the information included in this article.

For a school, or school district, to implement Chromebook netbooks as a mobile device for their learners, educators, and staff, several items have to be in place:

  1. Adequate bandwidth wireless network, with internet access available to all users in the institution's premises.
  2. For users at home, access to their home wireless network connection, or
  3. Netbook with capability to use an active 3G Wireless connection.
  4. Access to electrical outlets for users to charge the devices batteries.
  5. Setup of individual user accounts for learners, educators, and staff.
  6. Setup applications, access, and permissions adequately according to each group of learners, educators, and staff.
  7. Training the staff, educators, and learners in using the applications.
  8. Address the differences with the users between working locally and working in the cloud.

Software Installation[edit]

Clouds

Chrome OS and supporting files are preloaded on the device. No other software is required. All the applications and their content are in the cloud. Setup of each device takes about 10 minutes or less[14],[13]. Administrators and on-site support will need to learn how to setup and support the devices in the network. Using these devices will eliminate many common time-intensive IT tasks such as machine image creation, application distribution, patching, and upgrades. According to Mr. Peskay, from the KIPP LA Schools pilot study, the applications that are not required in these devices will bring dramatic savings per computing unit in the software, operating system, user management, email, anti-virus and security applications, especially for schools replacing desktops and laptop computers with the Chromebooks[14].

Network Infrastructure[edit]

Network-wireless

These devices require access to the internet to operate. The institution will need to have an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and a wireless network (Wi-Fi) designed to handle the increased traffic when all interaction is with the cloud. Network device management is done by current IT Administrators and Staff or the local IT Services Provider. Wireless e-printers and regular printers connected to a server will need to be setup to print from these devices. Print settings are done from Chrome browser. The Chromebooks cannot directly connect to non-wireless printers or Bluetooth devices. For small remote users without wireless network capabilities or access, 3G wireless plans are available with certain device models (see prior Cost section).

Management Infrastructure[edit]

Wireless Setting

Device management is provided by IT Administrators and Support staff using a Web-based Control Panel. Administrators can manage and set user, application, and device policies for the institution's Chromebooks from Control Panel. Users can be added individually from this Web interface. User policies, and device policies are defined on a per-user basis or by group/organization. Administrators can use the console to control other settings, including proxy and home page settings. From the management console, Administrators can also manage browser settings, content control, printer management, network configuration, inventory management, status monitoring, and reporting.

There is an option to upload a CSV file to add users in batch files. Institutions can also use Google Apps Directory Sync utility for a large number of users, by connecting your LDAP directory, such as Microsoft Active Directory, to the Google Apps Provisioning API. The Google Apps Provisioning API is for a large number of users, using data from an existing LDAP directory, such as Microsoft Active Directory. The API provides more flexibility than Google Apps Directory Sync, but requires programming. Google Apps Migration for Lotus Notes can be used if you are migrating from Lotus Notes. For those educational institutions that rely on their Virtual Private Network (VPN) for user access, Chromebooks do not support VPN access at the present time.

New email accounts can always be created in Gmail manually. For IMAP and Microsoft Exchange use Google Apps Migration. Recommended for Microsoft® Exchange Server 2003 and 2007, as well as any RFC 3501-compliant IMAP servers, like Novell Groupwise, Cyrus, Courier, or Dovecot. There is an Email Uploader for Mac. Also a Native Lotus Notes database migration tool for mail, calendar, contacts, and group information from your Notes accounts to Google Apps. For larger institutions the Google Apps Directory Sync can migrate from MS Active Directory. Google App migration to Outlook is a standalone utility that lets you migrate Microsoft Outlook® mail, contacts, and calendar events (including recurring meetings) to Google Apps. You can also import data to Google Apps from a Microsoft® Exchange profile or PST file. You then work with your data from the Google Apps web interface.

Google's Cloud Connect plugin lets you work on your MS Office documents in the cloud. But for migrating into Google Docs, there are 3rd party applications like SyncDocs. If the educational institution relies on enterprise applications like SAP and Oracle, there is an upcoming Citrix Web Receiver application that will give users web access to their enterprise applications.

Users will see, store, share, and work with their files only using web/cloud based applications that run on the Chrome browser for photo and video viewing, storage, sharing, and some editing. For audio editing there are some Web 2.0 online editing tools available. For web-based online music and multimedia download sites there is a large variety of them.

After setup by IT administrators and staff, the devices can be distributed to the teachers to keep in the classroom, or to the students individually, after user accounts and setting are done in the device. Inventory tracking, and management of devices can be done by identifying each unit, recording a unique identifier, and tagging the unit accordingly. Information can be part of a current inventory management system, or it can also be contained on the Web-based Management Console. Storage locations, and battery charging needs to be facilitated for the users. Storage cabinets w/ locks and access to electrical power strips will be needed if the devices are to be stored in the classroom. The batteries in these devices can last for a complete average school day according to both IT Directors in the case studies (KIPP and PVUSD) referenced in this article.[3].

Support, Maintenance, Upgrades and Protection[edit]

Phishing
  • Local Administrators receive 24/7 email and phone support, as well as access to the Google Enterprise Support Portal, where they can find answers to questions related to device and user policies and other Chromebook related topics.
  • Support and service can be provided by administrators and support staff using the Control Panel.
  • Administrators can manage and set users application and device policies for the institution's Chromebooks also from the Control Panel.
  • Devices have a replacement warranty, under their two year lease agreement, for up to three years in Educational Institutions. And the institutions can replace the devices with newer ones while keeping the former ones outside their support agreement.
  • If a unit is lost, or damaged, the user’s applications and data is in the cloud and can be easily accessed with a new (replacement) device. According to the IT Director, the Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD), in Arizona deployed 800 Cr-48 units in their pilot, and only 3 devices had to be replaced (less than half of a percent) in the first five months of use (J. Billings, email communication, June 26,2011).
  • The battery in these devices were still charged after a complete school day in both pilot studies (KIPP, and PVUSD) referenced in this article.
  • Security, malware and antivirus protection is all handled in the Google cloud[15], not locally or on-site. Safe browsing, sandboxing, data encryption, and auto-updates, from the Google cloud, help protect against phishing and malware attacks.
  • Backups, restores, and data recovery of content are all handled from the Google cloud, not locally or on-site. Troubleshooting of devices is done via USB image restoring in a few minutes.
  • Updates, upgrades, and patches of the Chrome operating system are installed on each device and updated automatically from the Google cloud.
  • For those educational institutions that rely on their Virtual Private Network (VPN) for user access, Chromebooks do not support VPN access at the present time.
  • The educational institution can expect minimal work required from the IT support staff and administrators involved in supporting, maintaining, upgrading, and protecting the user accounts adopting these devices. Both IT Directors, in the KIPP Pilot (M. Peskay, via online presentation, June 15, 2011), and the PVUSD Pilot (J. Billings, via email communication, June 26, 2011), observed a decrease in the demand, and requirements, for support.

Training Required[edit]

High School students helping each other
  • Administrators and support staff. Training on using the Web-based Control Panel.
  • Administrators and on-site support on how to setup and support the devices, network, printers, and peripherals (mice, headphones, speakers, USB drives).
  • Addressing the particulars of these devices shared by multiple user accounts, and the same user using multiple devices. Show how their data is kept safe, and private, by user account. Depending on the educational institutions, a device might be kept in a classroom and shared among different students, or a device can be issued per student (user account). These situations need to be addressed thru training for the teachers.
  • Teachers, staff and students used to other email systems, transitioning to Gmail, Google Calendar, and Contacts.
  • Teachers, staff, and students used to open source, or other software applications. Training will help their transition into having their files created, changed and saved in the Google cloud, instead of locally, using Google docs.
  • Teachers, staff, and students used to licensed software applications in their personal computers. Training focused on online web applications that contain equivalent functionality. Training needs to address the fact that their files will be created, edited, changed, and updated in the cloud.

Google provides training videos and user guide materials about their applications. Google also facilitates communications for the user community to provide intelligence and suggestions that benefit all users. Users that are accustomed to a classroom lecture or one-on-one training, will have to rely on local users or coworkers that become experienced with the Google and web applications they need to learn. With the adoption of these devices, Google Enterprise Partners[16] will offer this service if there is demand in the market. In an open minded school culture teachers and students can work and learn from each other in a cooperative and less formal setting where they all master these applications together.

In the Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) students and teachers supported themselves during their Cr-48 Pilot and very little IT support was necessary. They created a Chromebook Google Group internally and end users collectively solved their issues, explained tips and tricks to each other, etc.. A number of their students took the support lead on their own providing one-on-one support where needed (J. Billings, email communication, June 26, 2011). When 800 Cr-48 devices were deployed in PVUSD it took a little more than a day from the receipt of the devices to have them deployed to their users. The students and teachers in PVUSD have been using Google applications for some time before the pilot deployment took place. Their familiarity with the Google applications helped the transition for the users between their former Macbooks and i-Macs to the Chromebooks.

Potential for Schools[edit]

Classroom

Teachers and students creating, editing, collaborating, sharing, and publishing in Google docs. Files live in the cloud instead of being in several locations or among different users. Students are more accustomed to using these web-based applications than the teachers or the staff. The transition is easier for them. These devices, with the proper wireless network bandwidth, can lessen the workload in educational institutions where the IT resources are overworked, or at a minimum. These devices also afford an educational institution with outdated or absent infrastructure the ability to access the internet (using 3G wireless access) without additional investments in hardware and software.

If the devices are leased they will be replaced if damaged or lost within a three year term[4]. Leasing these devices is an economic option for a school that does not have the budget to purchase the devices. According to Mr. Peskay, IT Director at KIPP LA Schools, at the end of the lease term users have the options of keeping the older devices, in addition to receiving newer ones. (M. Peskay, via email communication, June 27, 2011)

The following items will be handled in the Google cloud. These items will no longer require local IT resources or funding:

  • Imaging of devices
  • User management, file management, email system
  • Software applications, licensing, and distribution
  • OS patches, and upgrades, downloaded to all devices
  • Application, data backups, and system maintenance related to these devices
  • Security, antivirus, and malware protection software
  • Diagnostics software for the devices
MiddleSchool Class Chromebooks PVUSD

Challenges/Risks[edit]

These devices will put an additional load on the institution's wireless network since all the work is done online. Google is working on enabling some applications to be available to users offline, but at the time this wiki article was written, they were not available. Presently the user will be highly dependent on having adequate wireless access to work unobstructed with this device. 
Users in educational institutions that depend on software which resides in their local computers and networks, will not be willing to use this device. A regular laptop can access and use the same Google features this device offers. For educational institutions that have made their investments in portable computers, it will not be a consideration.
Compliance with regulations, federal, state, and local policies regarding internet access by young users needs to be addressed. Schools have to strike a balance between internet access and compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) when K-12 schools receive federal funding or discounts[14]. Content filtering for the Chrome browser is available from SafeSearch by Google, specially for young learners, educators, and families. The settings for content filtering will be handled by each institution’s systems administrators according to their requirements[17].
Addressing problems, issues, or troubleshooting can be done by accessing the Chrome OS support pages. For some users doing their own troubleshooting using forums, blogs, and contact forms might be challenging and more time consuming than the current support they receive from their in-house staff or provider. In-house staff needs to be trained and ready to support the users of these new devices, at least during the initial stages.

Case Studies[edit]

Chromebooks in School Shelves PVUSD

The only case studies available are the pilot/test deployments of the "Cr-48" models to a few educational institutions. These deployments took place before the Chromebook devices were released in the open market. The following schools were responsible for pilot/test deployments, and by sharing their experiences, contributed greatly to the content in this WikiBook article.

  • The KIPP Schools in Los Angeles, California. Their short testimonial video can be found in the Chromebook site under Education[3]. The Director of Technology for KIPP LA Schools, Mr. Matthew A. Peskay, replied to an inquiry on June 15,2011. He provided a link to their online presentation about the pilot program with 400 "Cr-48s" deployed between two KIPP middle schools[14]. He provided valuable feedback about the cost savings, and the benefits in reduced demand for IT Resources.
  • The Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) in NorthEast Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. The only information provided in the Google website is a link to their site[13]. The IT Director, Mr. Jeff Billings replied to an inquiry on June 25, 2011. In their pilot test, PVUSD deployed 800 Chrome Notebooks in their K-12 schools, for a variety of programs, and academic settings. Mr. Billings summarized this pilot deployment as a total success. None of the Cr-48s were returned to him after the study was completed. Students in his school district welcomed these devices. They are currently (July, 2011) in the process of ordering and receiving more units. Photos were provided, and permission granted to use them by Mr. Billings for this WikiBook article.

References and External Links[edit]

Last accessed on March, 2012 for minor updates.

  1. Google Chromebook website. Google chromebook features. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/chromebook/#features
  2. Stern, J. (2010, December 3). Google-branded Chrome OS netbook to launch on December 7th. Engadget. Retrieved from http://www.engadget.com/2010/12/03/sources-google-branded-chromebook-to-launch-on-december-7th
  3. a b c d Google website. Case studies in business and education. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/chromebook/#business-education-usecases
  4. a b c KIPP LA Schools. Retrieved from http://www.kippla.org/
  5. Pogue, D. (2011, June 15). New York Times. A laptop, its head in the cloud. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/16/technology/personaltech/16pogue.html?_r=2&nl=technology&emc=cta1
  6. Google Samsung Chromebooks. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/chromebook/#chromebooks-samsung
  7. Google Acer Chromebooks. Retrieved http://www.google.com/chromebook/#chromebooks-acer
  8. Paul R. (2011, June 8). ArsTechnica. iFixit tears the chrome off a samsung chromebook. Retrieved from http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2011/06/ifixit-tears-the-chrome-off-of-a-samsung-chromebook.ars
  9. Boyle, R. (2011, May 11). Popular Science Magazine. Google's chromebook specs revealed: Up to $499 for a cloud-based laptop. Retrieved from http://www.popsci.com/gadgets/article/2011-05/googles-chromebook-specs-revealed-499-cloud-based-laptop
  10. Cawrey, D. (2011, May 11). Chromesource. Acer chromebook specs. Retrieved from http://www.thechromesource.com/acer-chromebook-specs/
  11. Burns, M. (2011, May 11) Crunchgear. The Google chromebook breaks cover at IO 2011. Retrieved from http://www.crunchgear.com/2011/05/11/the-google-chromebook-breaks-cover-at-io-2011/
  12. Google Chromebooks features and connectivity. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/chromebook/#features-connectivity
  13. a b c Billings, J. (2011). IT Director. Paradise Valley School District. http://www.pvschools.net//
  14. a b c d Peskay, M. (2011). KIPP LA Schools IT Director. Online Presentation. Retrieved on June 17, 2011 from https://sites.google.com/a/kippla.org/chromebooks/
  15. Google Chromebook security. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/chromebook/#features-security
  16. Itech. Top 10 Reasons to use Google Apps Education Edition. Retrieved from http://www.ltech.com/google-apps/education/top-10?_kk=google%20for%20education&_kt=194d1b04-2292-4ada-9670-c7dce5a52169&gclid=CKPz_IDZs6kCFcbc4AodylvWMw
  17. Google Support. SafeSearch. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=186669