Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Google Play for Schools


Where I'm From...

I've provided technology integration training for Windows machines, iPads, and Chromebooks. I spent four years primarily focusing on using the iPad as I worked in two elementary buildings. All the while, I used a Chromebook at home and my phone of choice was and still is an Android. In the Summer of 2015, I was provided with a new job opportunity as technology coordinator at MSD of Steuben County. It seemed like a great fit as I have love for both the iPad and the Chromebook; here I had both. At the start of this year, we took our aging iPad 2's from our kindergarten through second-grade classrooms and provided them with the Asus Chromebook Flip. I thought the transition from iPad to Chromebook would be smoother since we were dealing with a touchscreen device.

In reality, the transition from iPad world to Chromebook has been a love/hate relationship. I love all the Google has to offer, but I always felt that the touch-friendly app realm of the iPad was a natural fit for younger learners. The iPad app world is very multimedia friendly. They have apps that will prepackage images and videos into a cool animation or presentation in a matter of minutes; processes that take much longer on the Chrome OS platform with web-based services.

From a techie's standpoint, the Chromebook is a much easier device to manage. I can log in from any location and push out what I want to any group of students. If a device breaks, I can enroll a new one into our domain with a mere email address and login. As soon as the student signs into their device, everything loads back onto the Chromebook that was there before. It is as if the malfunction never took place. If students need to access Google products, the Chromebook is a perfect fit. You don't have to use an app version that is missing key elements. Students get the full-blown version of the Google Suite without the limitations of the app.

Google Play for Schools is at MSDSC!

A few weeks ago, the option to install Android on our Chromebooks appeared in our district Google Admin Console. For the last week, I've been slowly making Android apps available for staff and students that have the Chromebook Flip (kindergarten through second grade). Some teachers are aware as I've been introducing some of their new options in passing through the hallways or at lunch. Excitement has been brewing as many of the old tools they used on the iPad are now available for their students again.

So this is the official announcement for my kindergarten through second-grade teachers that they are able and their students are able to utilize the tools provided for them in our own Google Play for Schools Store. You and the students cannot explore the entire Google Play Store. It is only what I make available via the Google Admin Console. In my video below, I run through the process of how to access and download Android apps, but there are a few things you should know.
  1. Your Chromebook is essentially running two different platforms. You have Chrome OS which is what the students have been using this school year. You also are running Android...kind of. I made available Google Drive, Google Slides, and Google Classroom for Android. They are very different than the web versions you are used to using. They are a mobile version. Reason two is why I made them available. 
  2. If your students color a picture or save a video that they create with Toontastic, they need a place to save it. It will not save to the Files app in Chrome OS. If you want students to save something, they will need either the Google Drive app or they could send things directly to you using the Google Classroom app. When they want to export something they create, they will have to select share. If they have installed Google Drive or Google Classroom, it will give them the option to export to those locations. Saving to the web version is not an option at this point. (2/24/2017)
  3. When you download an app in the Google Play Store, it will be available with your Chrome apps when you press on the launcher. You can sort and organize these like you do on a smartphone or tablet. You can also drag apps to the "shelf" at the bottom of the Chromebook. 
  4. Apps will initially be launched in a smaller screen. Some apps do not perform well when you put them into full-screen mode. You will figure that out as you use them. 
  5. Google Play for Schools is still in beta. So if the app is buggy...that is why. Don't lean heavily on everything working perfectly.



Why I'm Excited

This week I also had the opportunity to give an are school district a small tour of our Chromebook initiative. They visited several schools with differing devices. They wanted to see the Chromebooks in action at the elementary level. This was exciting for me as I've had experience with integrating three different platforms. 

I heard many comments about how well the touch capabilities and the option of a keyboard with the touchpad make the Chromebook a great option for students. From the techies, we discussed the management side of it and how it fits the scheme of a smaller technology team well. They were excited at the opportunities that Google and the touch-enabled Chromebooks had to offer. At one point in time, I would have countered that the Chromebook is not a perfect fit for all grade levels. With the ability to use Android apps enabled, it really is almost perfect.