Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Student Reviews of the Asus C202 Chromebook

Over the last month, two of Leyden's Tech Support Intern (TSI) students have reviewed the Lenovo N22, HP 11 EE, and generation 2 Dell 11 Chromebooks.  Below are their reviews of the Asus C202 Chromebooks, the last devices they were asked to review.

Review by an East Leyden Sophomore TSI Student...

When I first saw the Asus C202 I was very impressed with how it looked.  It reminded me of a gaming laptop.  I also couldn’t believe that I got to test this Chromebook since it was showcased at C.E.S (Consumer Electronic Show) 2016. 

The Asus C202 contains pleasing specs. This Chromebook has the Intel Celeron N3060 Processor with two cores which run at 1.60 GHz (note that this device contains a different processor than all of the other Chromebooks I have tested) and 3.8GB of R.A.M. These specs allow for the Chromebook to be used for student tasks such as writing essays and manipulating Google spreadsheets.
This Chromebook has a great number of benefits, one of them being that it has a reinforced chassis and a rubber bumper with reinforced corners.  In addition, it has a scratch resistant exterior finish.  Asus claims this Chromebook was designed from the ground up for educational use and that it should withstand bumps, spills, and bruises that students may accidentally cause.

I really liked the keyboard on this device.  First, according to Asus, the keyboard is also spill resistant.  In addition, the letters, numbers, and other symbols on the keyboard are light blue.  For  me, this made the keys easy to locate in both dark and bright environments.  

Another feature that I found useful are the indicator lights located on the right edge of the keyboard.   The first indicator light  lets you know when the Chromebook is on.  The second indicator light lets you know the charging status of the Chromebook: it turns orange when it is charging and light  green when it is finished charging.  I found these features to be useful because most Chromebook charging indicators remain the same color while charging and when done charging (such as the current Dell Chromebooks that we have).  You never really know how charged your device is unless you open the Chromebook and check the battery status bar.

A different feature that this Chromebook has to offer is that the screen (like the Dell Chromebook 11 2nd generation) is anti-glare and is 11.6 inches. This is a useful feature because the screen is easy on the eyes.

I also really liked the modular design of the Chromebook.  The keys on the keyboard, power socket, and the battery are modular.  Asus claims that full dismantling of the device is possible in a few easy steps using only simple tools. This would be a huge benefit for TSI students when it comes to repairing the devices. This could also be a benefit for Leyden students as it may be less expensive the repair the devices.  For example, rather than replacing an entire keyboard when a few keys are damaged, we could easily just replace the keys. 

Finally, the footprint of the device is smaller than other Chromebooks I have tested.  This can either be positive in that the device consumes less space in a backpack or on a desktop or negative in that it can sometimes be harder to work on a smaller device.

As you can see, the Asus C202 Chromebook has many benefits, but it does have its downsides.

The first downside that I noticed is that this Chromebook only has one U.S.B 2.0 port. This may be a downside to some students because as I have mentioned before, they like to connect multiple things like their phone charger and an external mouse. 

The second downside is that the Google Chrome browser starts to lag when only having six tabs open. This may be an issue for some students because they may like to multi-task and have multiple homework assignments open. 

Another downside is the battery life.  Asus claims that this device only lasts about 8.5 hours, which is less than the other devices I tested.  

The final downside that I noticed is that the bottom and top covers are white.  After using the device for about a week, the white covers were noticeably dirty.  In addition, I had black “skid” marks on the bottom of the device.   A quick clean did resolve the issue.

Overall, the Asus C202 Chromebook has a nice design, decent specifications, and a nice rugged exterior which is great for student use. This device has multiple benefits and few major downsides which consumers look for in any electronic device. I think that this Chromebook should be kept in mind when Leyden High School picks the next Chromebook, although I still believe that the Dell Chromebook 2nd Generation is the winner.

Review by a West Leyden Sophomore TSI Student...

The Asus Chromebook is the greatest “looking” Chromebook I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. It is mostly grey, with a navy blue rubber borders. It has a bumpy texture to it, the first of the Chromebooks. Inside, instead of keyboard consisting of black keys with white letters, it has blue letters. The screen, also, like the previous Chromebooks I’ve tested, lean all the way back. Aesthetically, it is the most gorgeous Chromebook I’ve ever used, and you can tell that Asus didn’t base their design of their Chromebook on any of the previous generations of Chromebooks.

The Asus Chromebook is the smallest Chromebook of the 4 Chromebooks I’ve used. It fits easily in the black Leyden case and could also easily fit in the tighter original blue case Leyden had given students. In terms of weight, it is also pretty light. The size and weight of the Asus make it easy to carry, especially for students who do not like to use their case when walking around Leyden with it. 

The Asus’s Chromebook has a very satisfying to use mechanical keyboard. There is something that just feels right when you tap on a key and it makes a great clicking noise. There’s something rhythmic about it that makes doing classwork more bearable. The touchpad and mouse are also very smooth to use. It moves where I tell it to and it does not flick randomly and in general is very responsive. 

Durability wise, it is tough to say with the Asus. The sides of the Asus are rubberized, so if it falls on its side, the rubber will absorb the impact. Chromebooks, from what I’ve seen in TSI, get damaged on their side a lot, and cracks their edges. Rubberized sides would minimize these Chromebooks problems by a lot. It is the only Chromebook of the 4 I’ve tested to have this quality. Besides the rubber sides, however, I don’t think the Asus is all that durable. The top of the Asus is just plastic, and a weak one at that. I can easily push it in with minimal force. If the Asus Chromebook were to land with the all the force on the plastic, I don’t think the Chromebook would survive. 

The battery of the Asus Chromebook isn’t amazing compared to the other Chromebooks. At the end of the day, this Chromebook was at 60%, which you might say, isn’t so bad. However, since it’s the end of the year and this is my last week at West Leyden, I haven’t had to use the Chromebook as much. Moreover, if I were using this Chromebook during the middle of the year, I’m sure the battery would be at a much lower percentage at the end of the day, maybe 50%, or even 40%. 

Small, extra bits and pieces I want to go over are the speakers and USB ports. In terms of the speakers, it passed the Kung Fu Panda test wonderfully (if you’re confused, please look towards by review of the HP Chromebook). The speakers are the loudest and clearest sounding out of all the Chromebooks. The sound is not muffled and hard to hear like the others. Another one of the good qualities of the Asus Chromebook is the fact that both of its USB ports are USB 3.0s, which allows for faster data transfer speeds than the older USB 2.0. 

The Asus Chromebook has an unbeaten physical design, a small form factor, and a satisfying to use keyboard and touchpad. It’s durability is so-so, better than what we have now, but there is still room for improvement. The battery life isn’t so great and I don’t think it’ll last long for students. The speakers and USB ports are an excellent touch though. However, I believe that the Asus Chromebook just isn’t the right fit for Leyden, because durability is a very important factor and Leyden should go with the Chromebook that excels the most in this quality.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Student Reviews of the Dell 22 (gen 2) Chromebook

In the last few weeks, two of Leyden's Tech Support Intern (TSI) students have reviewed the Lenovo N22 and HP 11 EE Chromebooks.  Below are their reviews of the second generation Dell 11 Chromebook.

Review by an East Leyden Sophomore TSI Student...

This Chromebook has a dual core Intel Celeron N2840 running at 2.16ghz, 3.778GB of R.A.M, internal display with 768x1366 resolution, a screen that is 11.6“, and it only weighs 2.74lbs.  In addition, the device has front facing speakers, co-molded rubber edges, and the LCD can extend 180 degrees (like the HP G4  EE).

The first and probably the most beneficial feature of this Chromebook is that the edges are co-molded with actual rubber (unlike the HP Chromebook 11 G4 EE, which was co-molded with plastic).  This is a huge plus for students in the event they drop the Chromebook.  According to Dell, the device is “specifically built to withstand the abuses inherent to an education environment.  It’s purpose-built design means that this notebook should survive drops, water spills, dirt and dust and most things that the harsh academic environment throws at it.”  In addition to the co-molding, the device has rubber feet.  This allows the Chromebook to grip to desk and table surfaces and helps prevent accidental slippage.

The second benefit is the battery life.  Simply put...the battery life is amazing!  Dell claims the battery will last approximately 8 hours.  During my time with the Chromebook, I found the battery life to last much longer than that.  First I tested the device on low brightness and made sure to have no more than 5 tabs open at a time.  Using this criteria and with normal educational usage, the battery lasted for three full school days.  Then I tested the device on full brightness and did not limit the number of tabs.  Using this criteria, the battery lasted for two full school days.  Based on these tests, this Chromebook’s battery life is the best out of all of the Chromebooks I have tested so far.

An additional benefit to the Dell Chromebook 11 2nd Generation is the anti-glare display. This means that when you are in a bright environment, the display will not reflect the light around you thus making it easier to see what is on your screen.  I was extremely pleased with this feature.  Most classrooms are really bright and with other devices, I was forced to adjust my screen to an uncomfortable position in order to see it.  I did not have to do this with the Dell Chromebook 11 2nd Gen.

Another great benefit is that the keyboard and the touchpad are spill resistant.  Most Chromebooks only have a spill resistant keyboard and not a spill resistant touchpad.  I also found the touchpad to be very responsive.  The plastic and rubber co-molding on the bottom edge of the trackpad is depressed.  This is useful because the user does not have to apply too much force to the touchpad in order to click.

Another neat feature that this Chromebook has to offer is that it has dual front facing speakers. In my experience, this placement of the speakers makes the audio sound clearer and easier to hear.  This is in contrast to the current Dell Chromebook we are using which has bottom facing speakers.

The final neat feature I noticed about this Chromebook model is the interactive light feature.  Located on the left corner of the top cover, this light works nicely with an app that can be installed called Dell Activity Light.  When the app is selected a dialogue appears with three icons: raise hand, question, and discussion.  When the raise hand icon is selected, the interactive light turns blue which lets a teacher know you need assistance. When the question icon is selected, the interactive light turns red.  And finally, when the third icon is pressed, the interactive light turns yellow which lets a teacher know you want to be a part of or start a discussion.  Dell suggests using this feature during quiet class moments, such as testing, to prevent distractions.

Even though the 2nd generation Chromebook 11 has numerous benefits, like all technologies, it does have two negatives that I would like to address.

The first negative is the Chromebook only has one U.S.B 2.0 port, allowing only one peripheral or external storage device to be connected.  This may cause a problem for some students who need to connect multiple devices to their Chromebook such as a wireless mouse, flash drive, or even their cell phone.

The second negative is that the keys on the keyboard are raised a little too much.  Although the keys feels nice and responsive, garbage, food crumbs and dust can easily get under them.  I can see this possibly becoming an issue especially if enough debris gets caught under the keys preventing them from working properly.

To conclude, the 2nd generation Dell Chromebook 11 is almost a flawless device. For $250, you get amazing specs and a well protected and designed exterior.  In addition, the Chromebook is manufactured by Dell.  This is a huge advantage for Leyden as we already have a partnership with Dell.  We already have two years experience repairing Dell Chromebooks, following R.M.A(Return Merchandise Approval) procedures, working with Dell’s warranty, etc.  I think that Leyden High Schools should keep this Chromebook very close to mind when choosing the next student Chromebook.

Review by a West Leyden Sophomore TSI Student...

The Dell Chromebook 11 has many appealing qualities that make it the best fit for the Leyden students. Dell’s design of the Chromebook 11 looks like a revamped version of their original Dell Chromebook. Dell’s new Chromebook is also wider than their last Chromebook, and the difference is big enough that it will no longer fit in the old blue Leyden cases and will now only fit in the newer black cases.

The best quality of the new Dell Chromebook is the hard new shell. The shell for the Chromebook offers much more protection than the Lenovo, HP, and even the previous Chromebooks we’ve had in the past. This Chromebook, in the time I have had it, has not received one scratch or any sort of damage. This Chromebook can take a beating and could probably even be dropped and receive no damage whatsoever. This characteristic of the Chromebook will be very beneficial to students because they constantly drop and break their them, causing them to be charged massive fines and take loaners.

Another great quality that not only this Dell, but all the Chromebooks had was the fact that the screens can bend all the way back. Now students can put the screens back to their preference. They also won’t break the screens and cause them to become unhinged from the system. Hinge problems are one of the most prominent reasons for sending Chromebooks back to Dell. The return rate on these Chromebooks can last from weeks to months, causing students to get long-time loaners and lowering the loaner count we have for all the other students. I’m glad these hinge problems will be minimized.

One of the unique characteristics of the Dell Chromebook 11 is the little LED light in the front of the Chromebook. By using an app on your Chromebook, you can change the color of the light to either red, blue, or yellow. There are a variety of uses for this little light. For example, when the teacher wants to know when everyone in the class is done with a particular in class assignment, they can ask their students to change the color on their Chromebook to red. A teacher could also divide the classroom into groups of 3 and have each group be a separate color.

The touchpad on the Dell Chromebook 11 was not as smooth as I hoped. It was more like the original Dell Chromebook, in the way that it didn’t move as easily and sometimes would be unresponsive. I would have greatly enjoys a touchpad and mouse similar to the HP Chromebook. The keyboard on the Dell Chromebook 11 is average at best, it just seems like the everyday keyboard and is not as comfortable to type on as some of the other Chromebooks I have tested out.

The Dell Chromebook 11 is the best Chromebook so far for the Leyden students and I think that, in the end, it will be the best choice. The fact that it is so durable is one of the biggest reasons to choose it because in the long-run it’ll save Leyden a lot of money. The LED light in the front adds a new layer of innovation that teachers and students alike will benefit from. Even the battery life and speeds from it are not that far off from what we currently have.  Although the touchpad and keyboard are average, I think the pros of this Chromebook really make it stand out from the rest of others.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Student Reviews of the HP 11 EE Chromebook

Last week I posted two Leyden Tech Support Intern (TSI) students' reviews of the Lenovo N22 Chromebook.  For the past week, they have been using the HP 11 EE Chromebook and here are their reviews of those devices.

Review by a West Leyden Senior TSI Student...

The HP Chromebook, just from holding it, felt like a better Chromebook than the Lenovo Chromebook (sorry Lenovo). It was much more Dell Chromebook-like in design, not like the Lenovo, which stuck with more of a Samsung Chromebook design. The thickness of the HP was much more slim than the Lenovo Chromebook, so it felt better to carry inside of the the case that Leyden had given us.

The most satisfying thing about the HP Chromebook is the keyboard. The keys were smoother to type with, and they allowed for faster typing than the Dell Chromebook. I even felt like I wanted to do work in school now with the keyboard that was, in general, much more comfortable to use. Essays became a breeze to type. 

Another thing that I was glad was better in design was the touchpad. When I was using the touchpad for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was very responsive. It moved where I wanted it to and it didn’t randomly flick away or not move at all. This was a problem that I, as well as others, have had with the Samsung and Dell and I’m glad that one of the new Chromebooks have finally taken this into consideration and fixing the problem for students. 

The speed of the HP Chromebook was more closely related to that of the Dell. I was glad I didn’t have to put up with Lenovo-like speeds. I didn’t have to wait that long for the Chromebook to power on and connecting to certain websites were not that slow either, maybe even a little bit faster. 

The speakers on the HP Chromebook are not too shabby either. Although I didn’t write it in my Lenovo Chromebook Review, I have been using the song “Kung Fu Fighting” that starred in the hit movie “Kung Fu Panda” to test the speakers. The speakers on the HP were great quality and I could easily hear the music, it was not muffly like the Lenovo’s speakers. 

Now the cons of the HP Chromebook, the biggest being the battery life. Unlike the Lenovo, which would last days, the HP barely lasted 2 days in my hands. I had to constantly charge it, which was a nuisance. The small battery life will lead to more loaner Samsung Chromebooks to be lent out, if the HP was the one you choose. What students need is the bigger battery so that Leyden’s TSI would stop running out of Chromebooks to give to students when they have their uncharged. 

A disappointing characteristic of the HP Chromebook was the number of USB ports. It only had 2 USB ports as opposed to 3, so there if you connect a mouse and a flash drive, you’re limited to just that. For those who want to connect any other peripheral devices will be forced to disconnect their mouse or flash drive. 

From what I have seen thus far, the Lenovo and HP Chromebooks are polar opposites of each other. One has a better trackpad and keyboard, while the other has a better battery. One has a thicker design, while the other, a more slim and compact one. One is modeled after a Samsung Chromebook, the other, a Dell Chromebook. While the HP is a step up from the Lenovo, I feel like it still lacks certain qualities that are needed for it to be the “Leyden’s Next Top Chromebook”. 

Review by an East Leyden Sophomore TSI Student...

The HP Chromebook 11 G4 EE was made for educational purposes hence the EE in the name which stands for Education Edition. The HP 11 G4 EE has numerous upsides and very few downsides. The starting price for this Chromebook is $199 which is a very good price considering the specs: dual core Intel Celeron N2840 running at 2.16ghz; Intel HD Graphics; and 3.778 GB of R.A.M.  With these two internal components (dual core Intel Celeron N2840 running at 2.16ghz and 3.778 GB of R.A.M), the Chromebook operates at a high speed without any major problems.  While I did experience a few lagging issues here and there while multitasking, this did not impact my productivity and is something I expected based on my past Chromebook experience.  Overall, I was very happy with the performance of the device. 

A major benefit of the device is the battery life.  HP claims that it lasts up to 9.5 hours on one charge.  I used this Chromebook for one full week.  During that week, and with normal school usage, the Chromebook lasted for 2.5 days without needing to recharge.  

Another benefit that the HP Chromebook 11 G4 EE has to offer is that the keyboard is spill resistant.  According to HP, the “spill resistant keyboard keeps it safe from leaky lunchboxes”.  As a TSI student, I have helped many students who come into the classroom having spilled various liquids on their devices.  This spill resistance keyboard could be a huge benefit.  I do wonder, though, how easily liquids will go through ports and other vulnerable parts of the Chromebook.

Aesthetically, this Chromebook looks very nice.  The first thing I noticed were the edges of the device.  The exterior is co-molded with rubber along the edges.  According to HP, because of this, the Chromebook passed their 2.3 foot drop tests.  This is a pretty neat feature.  I also like how thin and light the Chromebook is. The HP G4 EE Chromebook is 20mm thin and weighs 2.7 pounds, which can be a very useful feature for a student because it will not take up too much space in their backpack or weight them down.  Additionally, the HP Chromebook 11 G4 EE has the U.S.B 2.0 port, the U.S.B 3.0 port, the headphone jack, and the HDMI port on the right side of the device.  The ports being on the right side of the device feel more natural for right handed individuals since they tend to hold items (such as a flash drive) with their right hand.  The charging port and the SD card slot are on the left side of the device.

Another cool feature of the device is that the screen can lay 180 degrees flat.  While this is pretty cool and reminds me of tablet devices, this feature can also be useful to students, especially when showing work to another student or teacher.

Now that I have named the numerous benefits that this Chromebook has to offer, let’s talk about a few downsides of the device.  The first downside is that the speakers are on the bottom of the Chromebook which makes the sound a little bit muffled and hard to hear.  The sound quality of the speakers are average.  While this placement does not lend itself to optimal performance, I do not think it will be too much of a problem considering students who need audio almost always use headphones.

The second downside that I noticed was that the Chromebook’s exterior consists of a slippery plastic which may cause some students to drop the device.  As mentioned above, the Chromebook passed their 2.3 foot drop tests; however, most drops occur from more than 2.3 feet.  Also, the Chromebook’s feet seem to be made of the same plastic of the rest of the Chromebook.  I used the Chromebook on a wooden desk, a glass desk, and a synthetic countertop.  In all three instances the Chromebook easily slid on the surface.  In addition, I noticed that smudges show up easily on the plastic.

Overall, when I was given the HP 11 G4 EE, I thought to myself “this Chromebook looks high end”.  After using it for a week I still have the same opinion. The device has great specs and a great battery life all for a good price.  I also appreciate that HP had education in mind when developing this Chromebook. I feel that this Chromebook could be a good option for Leyden High School and should be considered for next year.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Student Reviews of the Lenovo N22 Chromebook

Leyden High School District 212 is in our fourth year of being fully 1:1 with all students getting issued a Chromebook.  The Leyden leadership team has recently decided to purchase new Chromebooks for the 2016-2017 school year.  As part of the decision making process, we ask one Tech Support Intern (TSI) student at each campus to use the different Chromebook models being considered for about a week.  They'll write up reviews for each device and I'll post those here on my blog.  Here are the reviews of the Lenovo N22 Chromebook:

Review by an East Leyden Sophomore TSI Student...

The Lenovo N22 was specifically made for educational settings.  This Chromebook can be found under $200.00. It has good specs, such as 3.8 GB of R.A.M and an Intel Celeron processor with 2 cores running at 1.60GHz. The Chromebook’s display is 11.6 inches and it’s resolution is  just below 1080p HD quality at 1366x768 and it has 133.44dpi(Dots per Inch) which is average for a Chromebook. This average display is adequate since the device is being used for school purposes. But like all other technologies it has it’s downsides. 

The first downside that I noticed is the camera. A user is able to rotate the camera the camera about 180 degrees which allows the user to take pictures at different angles.  The first issue with the rotating camera is that I worry it will easily break.  Most students use their phone cameras more than their Chromebook cameras due to quality issues; however, I can see students fidgeting with the camera.  Eventually this may cause the camera to break off or become loose.  It may be hard for the TSI students to fix this issue or for the Tech department to even get parts necessary to fix the issue.  Worst case scenario, we might have to replace the  Screen entirely.   Another issue with the rotating camera is that students can rotate the camera and take pictures of others during class without their knowledge, which is a privacy issue and something students and teachers may be worried about. 

An additional problem with the Lenovo N22 is that it feels cheaply constructed, However the fact that the Chromebook’s exterior is made of plastic makes it sturdy and durable. I think this because the plastic used to construct the Chromebook feels low quality and that plastic is used for most of the Chromebook’s external design.In addition to the Chromebook being made of plastic,. Lenovo claims that the Chromebook is supposed to be sturdy and durable and that is why they constructed the Chromebook using plastic, also I noticed that the plastic was slippery.  I feel that students may drop the Chromebook because of this causing it to break. While students are not supposed to carry their Chromebooks while walking in the hallways during passing periods (especially outside the provided carrying case), they still do.  I can see it already...a Chromebook slips out of a student’s hand, it falls to the floor, gets kicked around by a few students and stepped on by another.

Another  issue I found with the Lenovo N22 is that when the Chromebook restarts or is booted up after being turned off for a while, it logs in slowly and it takes almost 2 whole minutes to be able to fully load tabs even on high speed internet. In addition the battery life on the Lenovo N22 is average for a Chromebook since it gets up to 10 hours of battery life, which can easily be made to last a student 2-3 days if they do not multitask too much and only keep required tabs open because otherwise the Chromebook will most likely only last 36 hours since the battery will drain faster.

Enough about the downsides of this Chromebook, let’s talk about some of the benefits of the Lenovo N22. 

The first upside I will mention is that it never overheated meaning the device was never hot to the touch when multi-tasking and or having a lot of tabs and windows open although it did slow down, the fan did not make noise when being used as so.

An additional upside to the Lenovo N22 is that on the back of the Chromebook it has a handle so that it can be carried like a briefcase which is the biggest and most useful feature of the Lenovo N22. I can imagine a lot of students would find this feature useful  because if they are in a hurry they do not have to pack  their Chromebook into their backpack, they can just carry the Chromebook via  handle.

Another aesthetic feature I liked about the Chromebook is the fact that the keyboard is spill resistant to liquids, the keys peel off which will make it easier for T.S.I students to repair keys if a student spills a liquid on their Chromebook making it a faster repair process.I can imagine this feature being a big help to a lot of students because there are a lot of students who spill some sort of liquid or drink on their Chromebook since they use it during lunch.

An alternate  useful part about the Lenovo N22 is the way that the letter keys and number keys on the keyboard are positioned, it is useful because they are slightly positioned to the left but still centered like most laptops which will make typing easier and feel more natural since most likely students will be used to how the keyboard feels because of their computer at home so this feature will definitely help students make less mistakes.

The final upside to the Lenovo N22 is the sound quality. The speakers are much louder than most Chromebooks and the highs and lows on the audio is normal for a Chromebook. Since the speakers are placed on the side of the Chromebook it sounds clearer and louder because they are not muffled by any surfaces or materials.

Altogether, when I first received the Lenovo N22 it seemed like it was built for rough environments, which I thought would be perfect for a student Chromebook because a lot of students drop their Chromebook and end up breaking their L.C.Ds, but after actually testing the Chromebook the specifications felt like they would not be good enough for the circumstances in which students need it for. For  a Chromebook in its price range the specs definitely felt like a low end computer when it was being used because since it only has 2 cores running at 1.60 GHz, it was not  able to handle multiple processes such as numerous windows and tabs which students sometimes need to leave open and running in the background to work on later or multi-task with different assignments.

Review by a West Leyden Senior TSI Student...

This past week I had the pleasure of using the Lenovo N22 Chromebook for school as opposed to my regular Dell Chromebook. Right away when I saw it, I knew that Lenovo had leaned their design of the Chromebook towards the Samsung Chromebook. The Lenovo Chromebook is about the same size as the Dell Chromebook, so the jump from the Dell to Lenovo would not affect many students in terms of keyboard size. 

From what I had noticed, the Lenovo Chromebook is slower than the Dell Chromebook. When turning on the Lenovo, it takes a few seconds more to turn on than the Dell. Opening websites such as my student email and my Google Drive would also take longer to load than usual. However, the change in speeds did not affect me so much in my daily use of the Lenovo. 

The battery of the Lenovo was one of the best features I enjoyed. At a full 100 percent, the battery lasted me a long time, about 4 days. My brightness was not low either, so I didn’t have to sacrifice anything to get the longer battery life. This would greatly help students who constantly forget to charge their Chromebook when they need to. The charging did take longer than the Dell, but for the extra hours of battery life, I think it’s worth. 

An interesting feature of the Lenovo Chromebook is the swivel camera. The camera, by default, faces forward, towards the user, however, you can turn the camera the other way around to take pictures away from the user. This is a cool feature, but ultimately useless. I only used it the first time I got the Lenovo, just for the sake of trying it. In truth, the camera bought more negatives than positives to the table. For example, if you try lifting the screen from the middle, where the camera is, you’ll just end up turning the camera, and makes the screen awkward to grab. 

Another cool feature of the Lenovo is that it comes with a built-in handle. As opposed to just carrying the Chromebook in your arm as most students who don’t like the cases do, they would now have the option to carry it by the handle. I used it a few times and enjoyed it, however, when I let my friend try it, I discovered that he found it awkward and tight because his hand was bigger than mine, so students with bigger hands probably won’t be using it as much. Another thing to take into account is that, if you use the handle, your Chromebook will not be in its case, meaning that it is free to hit anything and have nothing to protect it. I could see quite a few Chromebooks becoming damaged as a result of swinging the Chromebook too far and hitting the stairs or wall or even another student. 

The Lenovo Chromebook has its strengths, such as the battery life, which will be better for students who forget to charge their Chromebooks, and the form factor, which will make the jump from Dell Chromebooks to Lenovo Chromebooks, if the Lenovo was the final decision, that much easier. The speed of the Lenovo may be slower, but for a Leyden student, the difference isn’t that big that it will cause a huge change in their learning. However, the weaknesses, such as the handle and camera, will cause more hardware problems in the long run, costing both East and West Leyden high schools and its students more money. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Student Tech Leadership Summit

Calling all student technology leaders!  There is now a conference just for you.

What?  Student Technology Leadership Summit

When? Friday, April 22, 2016 from 9:00 AM - 2:30 PM

Where? Maine East High School in Park Ridge, IL (map)

Who? Student technology leaders

Website? bit.ly/STLS16

Hashtag? #STLS16

Hosts? Evanston Township High School District 202, Leyden High School District 212, Maine Township High School District 207, and Niles Township High School District 219

This event includes a keynote presentation by Jaime Casap, Google's Chief Education Evangelist, three breakout sessions run by students, and a closing panel.  Both registration and the call for presentations are currently open.  Please visit the website for more details.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Leyden's First Robot Student... Wait, what?

Say hello to, well, I'm not sure it has an official name yet.  I've heard options like R2D212 (my personal favorite), C3CMe (another good one), or maybe just Double.  Whatever the name ends up being isn't nearly as exciting as the opportunities this unit provides.  Thanks to Double Robotics, Leyden now has a Double 2 telepresence robot that can simply become the physical presence for a student that cannot attend school.  Think video hangout on wheels.  The student uses either a web interface or iPad/iPhone app to drive the robot around (yep, even from class to class), uses the cameras and microphone/speaker to interact with teachers and other students, and has the ability to take photos or share a website.  This robot allows students that would otherwise be disconnected from school to fully participate in most of the daily activities.

We don't have a specific student user in mind just yet as we are still learning how to operate and maintain the robot.  Our East Leyden Tech Support Intern (TSI) students are currently experimenting and learning as much as they can.  Once we get the hang of it, we'll determine how to best implement the robot and who might qualify to use it.  I'm confident it will become a valuable tool that does more than make appearances on The Bachelor and Modern Family.

I do have to admit that when we first started looking at this robot, it was hard not to think about how cool it would be to have one for myself.  I mean, I could finally be in two places at one time. That dream quickly dissipated after we watched the following case study from Sebasticook Valley Middle School, which put the focus back to where it should always be, on our students:

Stay tuned for more posts on how the robot gets used at Leyden, and what we eventually name it.  In the meantime, check out the Double Robotics Customer Stories page for more interesting case studies and usage stories.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

E-Learning Days at Leyden

scene from the 1985 movie Real Genius

Disclaimer: We are not replacing teachers with computers or other electronic media.

However, when snow accumulates to impenetrable depths or temperatures plummet to dangerous levels or for other reasons that may have required Leyden schools to close in the past, a new opportunity is now available.  Leyden High School District 212 has been chosen as one of three districts in the state of Illinois to pilot E-Learning days.
The overall goal for Leyden's participation in this pilot is to allow courses to keep moving forward without needing to make up days at the end of the school year.  With state testing windows, AP tests, graduations, and other activities being locked into our schedules, the ability to utilize E-Learning days becomes extremely helpful to keep everyone on track.  Because Leyden has been a 1:1 district since 2012-2013 where every student gets issued a Chromebook and through the evolution of the activities implemented by our teachers that appropriately utilize various technologies, E-Learning days are a natural fit in District 212.  In many cases, an E-Learning day will almost be business as usual for our teachers and students, just outside the physical classroom space (which is already occurring on a regular basis at Leyden).

So, how will E-Learning days work at Leyden?  Here's a brief outline of our plan:
  1. If it can be determined that school needs to be closed by 8:00 PM of the day prior to the closing, the Leyden Superintendent can enact an E-Learning day.
  2. Multiple methods of communication regarding an E-Learning day replacing a regular school day will take place.  These include the following: notice on the district's website; automated phone calls to parents and guardians; and posts on social media.
  3. Every teacher will send an email to their students by 9:00 AM on an E-Learning day that will outline the instructional goals for the day, provide the necessary resources for the learning activities, identify the evidence the students will need to produce to demonstrate their learning, and clearly communicate how the students will be assessed.  The email will also include a link to an online Google Form that students must fill out by 1:00 PM on an E-Learning day to be counted as "present" in their class.  This means each student will need to review emails from each of their teachers and fill out a separate attendance form for each of their classes.
  4. Teachers will review the Google Form submissions and enter their attendance information into the regular attendance system before the end of the day.
That's really about it.  Teachers and students will not be following the traditional bell schedule.  There is no requirement of teachers and students to work synchronously together, however teachers are encouraged to identify times during the day that they can be available to answer questions, provide feedback, or interact with their students.  There is no mandate as to the learning platform that must be utilized.  E-Learning days really boil down to teachers designing effective lesson plans that can be distributed electronically, that implement various technologies to support the learning process (Google Apps tools, Hapara's Workspace, online LMS, YouTube, EDpuzzle, VoiceThread, Discovery Education, Socrative, Blogger, and so many more), and provide the opportunity for Leyden students to communicate, collaborate, think critically, and create.

An essential component to being able to run a successful E-Learning day is, of course, ensuring that all Leyden students have Internet connectivity in their homes.  We solved that challenge earlier this school year when we started distributing Sprint mobile hotspots to those students that need them (read my previous Closing The Connectivity Gap For Leyden Students blog post).

Here's a great video put together by a few administrators and students that was shared with all students to explain E-Learning days at Leyden:

Stay tuned for other blog posts that I'll share with details on how any E-Learning days play out.