Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Student Reviews of the HP 11 EE Chrombook

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


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.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Closing The Connectivity Gap For Leyden Students

Leyden High School District 212 is now in its fourth year of being fully 1:1.  Every student is issued a district-owned Dell Chromebook to use both at school and at home.  The students even keep their devices over the summer.  We've learned and grown a lot over the past four years and have been happy to share our experiences with anyone interested (check out some of our resources and events here).  One obstacle that we had not decided to eliminate, until now, was the lack of connectivity for some of our students when they are at home.  We certainly knew going into our first year of 1:1 that some of our students didn't have connectivity at home but chose to apply some band aides like extending our school library hours, compiling a list of free WiFi locations in our communities on a Google Map, encouraging students to visit the local libraries, pushing the low-cost Comcast Internet Essentials program for free or reduced lunch students, and training students about Google Drive's offline access on their Chromebooks.  This seemed to be adequate for a while, but we recently decided that adequate was no longer good enough.  Over the last 6 months or so, we have been researching permanent solutions to close the connectivity gap for our students.  Through the Sprint ConnectED grant, we are moving forward with issuing mobile hotspots to those students that do not have connectivity for their Chromebooks in their homes.

Here's how we are finally closing the connectivity gap for Leyden students:
  • We applied and got accepted into the Sprint ConnectED grant.
  • We asked all students to fill out a Google Form to indicate if they can connect their Chromebooks to the Internet when they are at home.  The results came back suggesting that just over 17% of our students do not have connectivity at home.
  • We mailed a letter to the parents/guardians of the self-identified students describing our goals and plans for closing the connectivity gap and informing them about mandatory meetings during our parent/teacher conferences to learn more, validate their student's response to not having connectivity at home, and to sign off on a contract to allow their student to receive a mobile hotspot.
  • The technology department reviewed the available devices through the ConnectED grant and chose a device that will allow us to pair each hotspot with one student Chromebook and disable the ability to manually reset those devices.  This will prevent the family and friends of the students from using the hotspot and gobbling up the allotted monthly data.  This should also prevent the possibility for families with Internet access to cancel their accounts in order to get a hotspot from Leyden.
  • We do not have to worry about any extra content filtering as all of our Chromebooks are already filtered everywhere they go.  A CIPA-approved filter would be available through the hotspots if we need it.
  • As the parent/guardian contracts get signed and the devices begin to arrive, we will start contacting the students with instructions to bring their Chromebooks to a location to have a hotspot linked to their Chromebook and officially checked out.
  • Should a student with a hotspot need to turn in his/her Chromebook for service, we will either ask that student to bring in his/her hotspot to link it to the loaner Chromebook he/she gets assigned or possibly just issue a loaner hotspot with the loaner Chromebook.  We are still thinking about this one and may experiment with both options.

With all of the time and effort the Leyden teachers and students have put into adapting to Leyden's 1:1 digital teaching and learning environment, this next step of closing the connectivity gap for our students when they are at home is the right move for District 212.  We are excited to see how this plays out!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Another 39 West Leyden Faculty/Staff Become Google Educators

A few months ago, a first group of West Leyden faculty and staff completed their 4-month journey to becoming Google Educators (blog post here).  With the success of that program, it was decided to immediately run it again but with an accelerated timeline.  As of today, 39 more West Leyden faculty and staff have become Google Educators.  Here is some info from West Leyden librarian Janine Asmus (@asmusj), one of the organizers and leaders of this program:
"The educators and Support Staff members listed below committed to a whirlwind professional development experience!  They attended 10 Lunch and Learn sessions that began in early April and ended today.  They became Google Educators by studying independently and reviewing with us. They took detailed exams on Gmail, Docs/Drive, Calendar, Sites and the Chrome browser.  They earned an 80% or better on each test. 
Upon reflection, what made this professional development opportunity work so well was the willingness of our participants.  They were eager to learn more about the tools they use daily. Moreover, we enjoyed the collegiality and camaraderie we experienced. Having a technology coach and a librarian partner to deliver much-needed content was a win/win."
Rick MasonTerie CollettiJill Ethridge
Nadia Ruiz-LopezPete Karamitos
ArtAysha ShedbalkarJessica Kelly
Lynette RosenShelia Kraft
MusicLaura Moran
Business EdPatrick BakerRosanne Orsi
Eric McFaddenStacy Cunningham
Tim MurphyMichelle VazquezSupport Staff
Frank Bavone
EnglishPELouise Jarke
Kerri KennedyMark ValintisJuli Kasper
Steve MartenMary Kelly
John RossiScienceLilli Kruml
Karen SchumppPat GodziszewskiIsabelle Pouliot-Kunca
Georgia StavrouliasHina PatelStephanie Ramirez
Melissa PreglerKim Rentner
Ind TechKeith Rogers
Frank HolthouseSocial StudiesDaina Shuipys
David RoseJasmina Sleimovic
Caryn Thomas

A big congratulations goes out to all of the Leyden faculty and staff that have become Google Educators this year!  We are hoping to expand this program to even more people next year.  In the meantime, I'd appreciate hearing from the newest Leyden Google Educators about their experience and why this became a goal of theirs.  Please leave a comment on this post.