In recent history, we’ve created loads of content surrounding tips and tricks for apps and processes on Chromebooks, and have increased our focus on news and updates for students and educators within the Google apps and services ecosystem. In honor of EDU Week, we’re going to spend a bit of time looking back on all of the incredibly useful information available to teachers and students so that you have a one-stop shop for all of your Chromebook education needs!
First off, I wanted to shine a spotlight on notable educators using Google’s laptops that have inspired our endeavors this week and continue to make Chrome OS the go-to operating system for learning and teaching. That’s why I’ve compiled the top 10 Chromebook using educators to follow so that you can load up on the best information in this ever-changing landscape. Seriously, these influencers are on top of it day in and day out! Now that Chromebooks have exploded in growth with a 275% surge, you’re going to want to increase your sphere for staying in the know.
Notable Education Updates
To kick things off, G Suite and Enterprise for Education went through a complete metamorphosis earlier this year and are now called Google Workspace for Education. It includes four packages with various price points – Education Fundamentals, Education Standard, the Teaching and Learning Upgrade, and Education Plus. If you have yet to familiarize yourself with these changes, I recommend you read our overview as soon as possible!
Following suit, Google Classroom received a 2021 roadmap for updates, and it includes a host of exciting changes that are already beginning to alter the very fabric of the distanced learning model that we’ve all been thrown into thanks to the pandemic. We’ve also compiled three awesome (and free) resources for your Google Classroom if you want to get the most out of it going forward.
Another extremely notable change this year has been all of the love and attention that Google Chat and Meet have been receiving. They’ve quickly become the focal point for the company in the aforementioned model as they’re key to the success of the digital classroom. We’ve written extensively on the constant updates and new features for each and encourage you to take some time reading through them.
Apps and Web apps
The first thing most students do when they receive a new Chromebook is set up the Microsoft Office suite of apps. In my time as a Chromebook expert in Best Buy, I’ve seen more devices returned than I can count because this process was not as straightforward as one would hope. I don’t blame this on the user, so I’ve created a detailed guide for installing and activating Microsoft Office 365 on your Chromebook so that no one gets left behind. Use it and share it – I hope it remains a valuable asset for students and teachers alike.
One last thing I’d like to cover in regards to the major highlights for education this year is the insane potential of web apps and progressive web apps. Google is making it abundantly clear that the web is the future, and that Chromebooks are at the center of that. While it’s constantly putting PWAs in place of traditionally packaged Google Play Store apps, we thought it was important to help you get the most out of your Chromebook as a teacher or student by turning any website into an icon. This includes web applications central to the learning experience like Focus, Canvas, Clever, iStation, Dreambox, STMath, VIPKID, and so on. By following the steps we provide in our guide, all of your school work and tools will be one click away on your shelf!
Taking that a step further, there are plenty of important web apps that act as tools and resources for the day-to-day work a student or teacher would perform. To get your head around the immense pool of available ‘software’ available to you directly through the open web, we’ve compiled our very own Essential web app starter pack for new Chromebook users and hope you take full advantage of it.
Accessories and Perks
Our very own contributing writer, and an educator himself – John R. Sowash, has spilled all the details on his favorite Chromebook classroom accessories, so if you’re looking for USI styli, USB hubs, monitors, or anything else to expand your device experience, you’re not going to want to skip this. Oh, and be sure to read my in-depth review of the One by Wacom – the first-ever Wacom drawing tablet for Chrome OS! We’re actually doing a giveaway for it right now to get you excited about EDU Week. It’s a wonderfully compact little accessory that can be thrown into your tote bag and taken with you for signing papers, writing scientific equations, brainstorming with classmates on whiteboarding apps, and more. Enter our giveaway below – you could be one of our lucky winners!One by Wacom Giveaway
Once you’ve won or picked up the One by Wacom (Which now works with a powerful Photoshop alternative – Clip Studio Paint) or even something like the Penoval USI Pen, you should check out our best pen-based note-taking apps for Chromebooks! If you want to switch to something a tad more creative, you should read through our artist’s guide to sketching and drawing on a Chromebook.
However, if your child has a new Chromebook and you want to start them on something a bit easier to learn and navigate than the above professional art apps, there are 6 easy to use drawing apps that have no ads or in-app purchases. Paired with the latest Chromebook perks for creativity, they’ll be creating masterpieces in no time! Additional perks for students include Simplifi, Codecademy Pro, and Framer for programming, and Docusign for cranking out quick signatures without a printer! If you absolutely must use a printer, we’ve created a video tutorial for that as well, and even have a list of 12 Google Cloud Print alternatives now that it’s been snapped to dust. Educators can also follow our guide for enabling wireless printing for their students after the death of GCP.
Of course, you can’t claim the aforementioned perks for “Android” apps without first enabling the Google Play Store on your student’s Chromebooks. That’s why we’ve created a tutorial for doing just that. Many times, teachers or school IT specialists will be tasked with visiting their local Best Buy or Walmart to pick up several consumer-ready devices in bulk, but they won’t realize that they must toggle permissions for the Play Store itself via their Google Workspace Admin Dashboard before it will appear on said devices, so having a step-by-step walkthrough for it is useful. Again, as a former Chromebook Expert in Best Buy, I’ve seen that helping people with this greatly reduces trips back to the store.
If you’re looking to keep Chromebooks at school or at home as secure as possible, putting them in the oven is definitely not the best way to do so! Instead, consider setting up and managing these devices directly through Google Family Link. Now, Google’s very own “parental controls” suite works directly with school accounts! Once you’ve done so, educating your students or your own children on the potential dangers of the internet and how to avoid them using Google’s Interland game can help them become a good digital citizen and Be Internet Awesome! If you’re a student yourself, this is a fun interactive experience that you’re going to want to try at least once.
Google has also done a lot of work this year to wrangle the wild west of the Chrome Web Store and its extensions problem. Now, it’s issuing a digital safety certificate to developers who help users maintain their privacy and protect their data while serving them. We’ll have an article out during EDU Week on the best extensions for teachers and students, so stay tuned!
Since Google’s Tab Groups feature launched, I’ve accidentally fallen in love with it. Seriously, I use it for everything now! Soon, it should also be baked directly into the Reading List feature, so all of your research tabs can be collapsed and recalled later. Pair this awesome tool with the newly released bibliography citation feature that the company has created directly within Google Docs, along with new smart compose and autocorrect updates to comments in Docs, and you have the recipe for some fantastic productivity while writing a school paper.
Lastly, an incredible amount of updates have been pushed to Google Search over the course of the year, but one of my favorites is that you can now solve complex math problems and practice STEM concepts like a boss just by typing queries into the search bar. Oh yeah, speaking of Search, you can use Google Collections to inspire your 2021 goals and save things for later – I’ve found that many students have been interested in this, though it’s not entirely clear how Google hopes you’ll use it yet.
Wow! That was a lot of information! You can find all of this and more on our site by using the search bar or our dedicated navigation menu, but I wanted to compile as much of it as possible here for you so that you had less hunting and pecking to do. Now that we’ve gotten through the heavy stuff, I wanted to make a last quick mention – gaming. As you’re probably well aware, we merged Gaming Unboxed into Chrome Unboxed via the Gaming tab, and now cover all major Stadia updates. As a student, you’ll likely want to take a load off after a long day of studying and testing. Google’s gaming platform works directly through your browser. If you want something a bit more educational, Minecraft: Education Edition and Roblox Studio can help give your brain a workout as you build intricate worlds with easy-to-use tools with nothing more than a Chromebook.
Alright, I hope that rounding all of this up has been helpful! I understand that it’s a longer article, and I apologize for that, but I’ve had an incredibly fun time writing on so many aspects of the education industry and how it pertains to Chrome OS since I joined the Chrome Unboxed team. I never miss an opportunity to draw attention to the wonderful work that Google and the passionate educators I mentioned at the beginning of our time here today have done and continue to do. If there’s anything you want to see more often on the site regarding topics we cover in EDU Week, let us know in the comments section – we hope to continue bringing you all of the latest and best coverage!