STEM in Primary

STEM in Primary
A blog for those interested in primary school STEM education

Saturday, 17 June 2017

What is a Chromebook?

Stuff this week - What is a Chromebook?

Put simply it is a laptop. It is a laptop which runs an operating system known as ChromeOS which was developed by Google. It was conceived as an operating system in which both applications and user data would reside in the cloud. This would be achieved by all the applications being able to run inside the Chrome web browser. You might use Chrome yourself on your Windows or Apple computers. However, since this initial concept ChromeOS has grown in capability and whilst it strengths lie in its cloud integration modern Chromebooks do not need to be connected to the Internet to function.
So what is good about them? Firstly they are CHEAP! Not cheap because they are made poorly but cheap because they do not require expensive components to function. They have incredibly long battery life, boot up in seconds, virus protection is built-in and are easy to use and administer. Everything you would want for use by primary school students. Additionally, many Chromebooks are built with kids in mind and come with waterproof keyboards and are tested to survive drops, extreme temperatures, humidity, vibration, rain, sand and dust.
In the USA Chromebooks account for the 58% of all laptop education sales (that's over 30 million students!). Microsoft has seen the writing on the wall and is fighting back but Chromebook's lead will take some beating as it has been designed from the ground up to do what it does whereas Microsoft and Apple are trying to shoe horn their round product into a square hole.
In Australia the picture is slightly different and Chromebooks are yet to achieve the same market share. However, the entire ACT public school system comprising 43000 students is migrating, the Archdiocese of Parramatta, also with 43000 students, has also switched, there are also the Archdioceses of Sydney, Townsville and Wagga Wagga.
The economics don't stack up in most school situations for anything more than a Chromebook. Typically the laptop "recommended" by schools will cost upwards of $1000. Contrast this with Chromebooks which typically cost between $300 and $450. People would normally buy an expensive laptop because they need large amounts of processing power, storage or specialist applications but this is simply not necessary in most school situations. Some schools appreciate this and do not get prescriptive regarding the device to buy.
Chromebooks continue to innovate. They now have stylus support so kids can write or draw directly on the screen and the newest devices can run many Android apps and thus can double as a tablet. Native ChromeOS apps are available from all the major companies such as Lego, Spotify, Microsoft (if you can't bet 'em join 'em!), Evernote, Dropbox and Twitter to name just a few. It is hard to find an application that a student would use that isn't available on a Chromebook and worst case there will be a good alternative.
I just can't understand schools that make parents shell out over $1000 for a laptop that you probably wouldn't buy for yourself when all the students use it for is web searching and office tasks (eg. word processing, spreadsheets and presentations). Is your school using Chromebooks or at least allowing an affordable option? Let me know how it is going.
P.S. If you are now thinking maybe I could do with a Chromebook read this to answer all your questions!

Stuff in the news

How Robots Are Helping Chinese Students Solve Real-World Problems - What key skills do students need to learn to find a good job? In China, the answer increasingly points to STEM. An article from Forbes 7 June 2017
Education thought leaders converge at major conference - A short summary on the recent EduTech conference in Sydney, the largest in the world. An article from The Educator website 9 June 2017.
Super mum STEMs the flow of girls away from science, technology, engineering and maths - The 45-year-old mother of four daughters is leading a growing wave of women passionate about inspiring the next generation into traditionally male-dominated STEM careers. An article from the Herald Sun 10 June 2017

Stuff to buy

Latest on Kickstarter:
*At this point in time I earn no money from any product I list and I am not affiliated with any other company.

Stuff in education

STEM learning – international best practice - Queensland science teacher Sarah Chapman is passionate about engaging youngsters in STEM education and has travelled the world gathering evidence of international best practice. An article from Teacher Magazine 8 June 2017.

Stuff to do Australia Wide

Program Computers to Talk - Coding with Speech Synthesis for Kids - Read this blog post from Tech Age Kids to see how you can get your kids into experimenting with speech synthesis. Its easier that it sounds!
Australian STEM Video Game Challenge - For grades 5+.The Australian STEM Video Game Challenge will ask participants to develop games in response to a central theme or idea. Registration open 1 May and submissions close 25 August.
Young ICT Explorers -  A non-profit competition, which has been created by SAP to encourage school students to create their best Information and Communication Technology (ICT) related projects. Registrations are OPEN. See the YouTube video here!
CSIRO CREST Program - CREativity in Science and Technology. Engage your students with open-ended science investigations and technology projects through the CREST program.
National Science Week - Australia’s annual celebration of science and technology and thousands of individuals – from students, to scientists to chefs and musicians – get involved, taking part in more than 1000 science events across the nation. 12 - 20 August 2017
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Young Engineers Australia - Provides an engaging, hands-on learning platform using LEGO® and K’nex® assembly kits
CoderDojo - A volunteer run programming club
Code Club Australia - A network of coding clubs for kids aged 9 to 11.

Stuff to do in Brisbane

SLQ Digital Futures - Each year the State Library of Queensland presents a theme of interest to the Queensland community. Throughout 2017, they invite you to join in exploring Digital Futures.
Robogals Holiday Workshops - Robogals from UQ are advertising for their next holiday sessions in June. Get in quick! (Grades 4+)
Robotronica 2017 - Robotronica is a groundbreaking one-day event showcasing the latest developments in robotics and interactive design. QUT's The Cube 20 August 2017 
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Brisbane Library Service has purchased the very flash NAO Robot and is showing it off in various libraries.
The Cube at QUT has a number of changing programs. 
Brisbane Planetarium - Features entertaining and informative shows for adults and children
STEAMPUNX - Not to be confused with the organisation above! Offers in-school and out of school workshop programs
Flying Fox Studios - A studio offering programs in the arts, music and construction areas from babies to teenagers in Brisbane
It's Rocket Science School Incursions - Educational and fully interactive project based rocket science incursions for primary and secondary schools in a safe and empowering learning environment.

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