Viewpoint

Sowash’s ‘The Chromebook Classroom’: An Excellent Resource for K–12 Teachers!

With Chromebooks virtually flowing into K–12 classrooms, the second most popular question K–12 teachers rightfully ask is: "How do I use those shiny new Chromebooks in my classroom?" While Kathy Schrock’s "Guide to Everything" lives up to that title with respect to including a section on Chromebooks, we also highly recommend "The Chromebook Classroom" by John Sowash, just released. It goes a long way toward answering that question. And, while the book is clearly directed to K–12 teachers, IT folks will find it answers lots of their "how do I" questions, too.

(Chortle, chortle… We can’t leave our dear readers hanging any longer. What’s the most popular "How do I … ?"  All together, now: "How do I love thee?" That dates us, doesn’t it? Do the kids these days know Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s immortal poem?)

There are a number of features of Sowash’s "Chromebook Classroom" that we really like. First off, "The Chromebook Classroom" is comprehensive. About one-fourth of the book is devoted to describing the Chromebook per se — hardware and software. But the lion’s share of the pages — the other three-fourths — is devoted to the issues that arise when using the Chromebook in the classroom. IOHO this is an appropriate balance given that while “teachers don’t want technology, teachers want curriculum” — teachers do still need to know something about the technology.

Second, while someone might sit down and read the book cover to cover, we feel that the table of contents provides an excellent index into the book and truly answers questions of the "How do I" sort:

  • How do I switch to Chrome (the OS underlying the Chromebook) from using a Mac (or an iPad, or a Windows computer)?
  • How do I pick a good case for the Chromebooks?
  • How do I manage the Chromebooks in my classroom?
  • How do I use the Chromebook for an elementary/middle/high school lesson?

Suggestion: Skim the table of contents to get a sense of what is in the book; then, read the introduction; then, re-skim the table of contents while writing down your most pressing questions; then dive into the sections that answer those questions. Of course, do peruse the classroom lessons that occupy almost 50 percent of the book and find one that will serve as your first, anchoring lesson.

Third, while Sowash, who is credited as the author of "Chromebook Classroom", has virtually every relevant credential — he’s a former classroom teacher and school administrator, he runs highly-regarded conferences for teachers on using Chromebooks, he’s earned all the education-oriented accreditations that Google offers, he founded the Google Certification Academy and Admin Bootcamps — he still had a little help from his friends in completing the book:

  • “More than 60 educators from around the country contributed content and feedback for this book.”

Making technology work successfully in the K–12 classroom is still an art, not a science. And a new type of device — a Chromebook — with its unique properties poses unique challenges (e.g., Chrome, the OS, is a cloud-based OS and thus connectivity is imperative). No one person is going to have all the answers. Thus we consider it a real strength of the "Chromebook Classroom" that more than 60 educators gave their input.

Fourth, the book is well-written and well-illustrated. No dry, stilted language; Sowash has an excellent way with words. And, fear not, the book is not pages and pages of text. There are plenty of tables, charts, illustrations and notes in the margins. Color is used when color adds real value, e.g., color is used to illustrate non-obvious finger gestures such as clicking, clicking and swiping, right-clicking and two finger swiping. Still further, there are URLs (mercifully short) in the book that point the reader to additional resources (apps, videos, websites, etc.).

In sum, we feel Sowash has hit a home run — he and his friends have created an excellent resource for K–12 teachers (and IT folks) who are asking themselves the question: "How do I use those shiny new Chromebooks in my classroom?"

About the Authors

Cathie Norris is a Regents Professor and Chair in the Department of Learning Technologies, School of Information at the University of North Texas. Visit her site at www.imlc.io.

Elliot Soloway is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of CSE, College of Engineering, at the University of Michigan. Visit his site at www.imlc.io.

Find more from Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris at their Reinventing Curriculum blog at thejournal.com/rc.

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