Chromebooks 101: A Guide to Chromebook Success

Version 2

    by Vicki Davis



    Chromebooks are a fantastic new tool being used by many schools with robust wireless networks and a vision for twenty-first-century learning. Remember: Focus on what you wish to do. The technology should help you accomplish your goals and is not a goal in and of itself. The goal is always to improve student learning.


    You can make a strong start with the following tips.


    Cast a Vision.

    The best classrooms have teachers who believe in and expect their students to learn (Rosenthal). Verbalize and express your vision for how learning will look. How will you interact? How will you share? You can set expectations, or students will create their own. Expect the best.


    Chromebook Success Tip #1: Write and share your vision for learning. Take time to write a vision for twenty-first-century learning and integrate it into your first-day script as you introduce yourself and your classroom to your students.


    Get Trained.

    Research shows that teacher quality accounts for more than 90% of the variation in student achievement (NCTAF, 9). When teacher effectiveness increases, the lower-achieving students benefit the most (Sanders, 7).


    Chromebook Success Tip #2: Get trained. Reading this article is a great start. Join groups of teachers learning about their Chromebooks. Join Google Groups like this helpful Google Apps for Education group. View Tutorials on YouTube. Take time to train and learn.


    Integrate Chromebooks into Your Classroom Management Plan.

    Research shows that effective classroom management is the single most important element in the classroom of an effective teacher (Wang). Establish the procedures for how student Chromebooks will be used, and you are well on your way to success.


    If you get Chromebooks at another point during the year, have a first-day script for that day, where you share your vision, the procedures, and the rules.


    Chromebook Success Tip #3: Set up procedures on the first day. Consider the following procedures and discuss with your colleagues what will work for you and your school. Establishing common procedures and language will help all of you focus on learning.

        • Speak the language. Teach students terms like “lids up” and “lids down” and other ways to communicate how and when the devices should be used.
        • Set expectations. When will students use the devices? What will they be doing? Explain how to properly care for the devices and the possible consequences of both being off task and not caring for the equipment.
        • Set up your online classroom. The new Google Classroom
        • Actively engage and redirect. You as the teacher should be actively engaged in your classroom. Set up your room so that you can see all screens from one position—if not, you will have to be actively moving around the classroom as students use the devices. It is easy to get off task, so engage with students and be prepared to help them learn to focus on the task at hand.
        • Allow creativity.
        • Give time to invent. I love geniushour20-Time, where students create and invent using the devices. When you finish tasks, students can use the devices to pursue their passion projects or other pursuits (except social media).
        • Teach students professionalism. I teach my students that they are professional students just as I am a professional teacher. Certain requirements go along with being a professional. For example, when they type, they will write in complete sentences and use punctuation—because professionals communicate clearly. They can do as they wish in their own social lives, but this is their professional lives, and they must learn to engage accordingly.
        • Share procedures.


    Start Strong.

    How your students accept and use the Chromebooks will be determined within the first few days. Be extravigilant, model procedures, and reinforce your policies immediately. The students are watching and learning.


    Chromebook Success Tip #4: Empower student sharing. Encourage communication about the devices by beginning the class with “Tech Time” or “Chromebook Corner.” Assign each student a day and for the first minute of class have him or her share something new or interesting that can be done with the Chromebook. This is a great way to start class and engage students as you all learn to master the devices.


    Chromebook Success Tip #5: Shorten links. Use a service like Bitly or to shorten long links. When you want to say the name of a link or share it, a shorter link makes more sense than a long one. Teach students to shorten links when they share as well.


    When students are part of learning, teaching, and sharing, they learn far more than if you adopt a “point and click” teacher-centric method of teaching.


    Cover the Basics.

    Most schools with Chromebooks use Google Apps for Education, and each student will have his or her own e-mail ID and password. Stress the importance of keeping their IDs private and other basic skills.


    Chromebook Success Tip #6: Don’t assume that students know the basics. They cannot use the devices without remembering their own password, so educate the most important software for your Chromebook—their brains—on how to set up and remember passwords.


    These are the essentials to include:

        • Teach them tips for a strong password.
        • Teach them to click on their name and account to see all the settings (including privacy settings) that are set with their account.
        • Talk to them about the difference between a personal e-mail account and a school account and how it is best not to use their school e-mail account for social activities. (You don’t want them getting distracting
          e-mails via their school account.)
        • They should sign into their Chromebooks with their school account and not their personal Gmail account. If they move between personal and school accounts, some things may not show in both places.
        • Finally, if they set up a Facebook or other social media account with their school e-mail (which is against the policy of most schools), they could lose access to their personal account if they change schools.


    Set Up Sync.

    When you click the three lines at the top-right side of Chrome and go to Settings, you can review all the settings for Chrome (refer to the Chrome Help Center for up-to-date info).


    Chromebook Success Tip #7: Set up Chrome sync settings. Syncing Chrome enables students to log in from home or any other location. When students go home or to a library, they can click the three lines at the top of the Chrome browser and log in with their ID. This gives them access to all of their files.  Students have a portable learning center right there in any web browser.


    Chromebook Success Tip #8: Teach students how to log in and out. Take students to another computer and make sure they know how to log in and log out of Chrome on other devices to access their files, particularly if they will not be taking the Chromebooks home. Emphasize the importance of logging out when done, particularly if the computer is shared with others.


    Teach Students How to Document Problems.

    A screenshot is a picture of the computer screen at that moment. But taking a screenshot is not enough; students should know how to insert it into a document and e-mail it to the appropriate person. (Feel free to download my free “5 Steps to Internet Safety” poster if you would like to use it.)


    Students would need to use this skill if they wanted to document something that happened with the device. (The first thing students do when they realize that they have done something wrong is delete what they have written, so you need a picture or it becomes “he said, she said.”) Students will also use this skillset for troubleshooting.


    Chromebook Success Tip #9: Teach students how to take a screenshot.

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    Chromebook Success Tip #10: Teach students how to insert a screenshot. A screenshot can be inserted into a Google Doc or an e-mail message.


    Inserting a Graphic: Option 1 (fast way)

    The easiest way to insert a graphic into a Google Doc is to immediately click Copy to clipboard and then paste into Google Drive by pressing Ctrl + C.


    Inserting a Screenshot: Option 2 (takes longer)

    Then, if you want to insert that image into Google Drive, you will have to click Insert> Image> Upload and then upload the screenshot from your files.


    Option 3: Another way to take a screenshot and insert it

    You can also use Snagit, which lets you capture images and videos.


    Set Up Sharing.

    Although the new Google Classroom will automate folder sharing, I manually create folders for my classes and add all of my students before the first day. (I will test Google Classroom this fall.) This gives you a place to share your work. Whether you set it up manually or use Google Classroom, you will need to set up places to share. You can put anything in these folders—presentations, drawings, and more.


    Chromebook Success Tip #11: Set up shared student folders. I also teach my students to share their own folders (but they must add me) because sometimes they work in teams in competition with one another and don’t want everyone to see what they are doing.


    Chromebook Success Tip #12: Color-code everything. You can also color-code your folders to match the color codes you use in your physical classroom.

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    Create a Plan for Note Taking.

    As I stated in my book Reinventing Writing, every school needs a plan for individual and group note taking, and many are using OneNote or Evernote. These are certainly options, but many using Chromebooks are moving toward Google Keep and Google Docs for their note-taking needs.


    Chromebook Success Tip #13: Use Google Keep. Google Keep is a built-in note-taking, list-making tool that is handy to activate. I use Google Keep to keep a color-coded list of projects, but you can use it for just about anything.

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    Help Students Set Up a Dashboard to Be Productive.

    You help students organize their desks, their notebooks, and the classroom. You should also help them organize their Chrome browser so that they can easily find the things they need.


    Chromebook Success Tip #14: Customize your start screen. My favorite task for the student start screen is to have them create their own portal using Netvibes. Some teachers create a personal homepage for their students using Google Sites, whereas others create dashboards using portaportal, Wibki, Symbaloo, or some other dashboard-creating site.


    Chromebook Success Tip #15: Customize your bookmarks bar. Once you have the tools and the websites, you should not have to constantly tell students where to go. Have them create a bookmarks bar or dashboard so that they can quickly navigate among the websites they need to access. I created a quick tutorial using the Snagit app on my Chromebook; use it to learn some hacks to make the most of your student dashboard.




    Establish Procedures for Turning in Work.

    Determine how students will submit work and share things with you. I have several methods in my Google Workflow. I have been using Google Docs for a very long time, and if I did not use folders and organize my work, I would never be able to find anything.


    Plan ahead and test-drive some options with other teachers. Several of you may wish to test different methods and share with your students which one works best. Be consistent with your system to help workflow.


    Chromebook Success Tip #16: Create a turn-in folder or project folder for completed work. Create a folder within your class folder to which students can drag their work when complete. You can also create a shared location with a copy of the best work and call it “Hall of Fame.” This helps when you do the project again the following year, and the new students can see exemplary work.


    Chromebook Success Tip #17: Master Google Forms to collect information or links. Use Google Forms to get feedback from students with links to their work. I use them for weekly activity reports and to have all the links they have created that week. You can also create self-grading quizzes with Google Forms. Google Forms are a handy tool for collecting work from various websites into one place. (See part of mine from the Gamifi-ed weekly activity report below.)

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    Chromebook Success Tip #18: Connect to your learning management system. Many schools are implementing learning management systems and have ways to turn in assignments. Specify a consistent way for students to submit work. Some of you will be using Google Classroom for this function after it is more widely available.


    Assemble Your Toolkit.

    I have written about my 15 favorite add-ons for Google Chrome, but what teachers want to know are the tools they can use for different tasks.


    Chromebook Success Tip #19: Keep a list of suggested tools. Share this list with other teachers and with your students and let them make additions and suggestions. You can start by copying this one:


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    Chromebook Success Tip #20: Add extensions wisely. Go with recommended extensions from trusted sources. Some extensions can insert ads or make websites not function properly. Use only extensions you need, or use an extension manager like Extensity to turn them on and off.


    Empower Student Learning.

    Start with the list of tools I have given you and add your own. Create a Google Doc and let students add their favorites. It is not about the tools you use, although they should be stable, useful, and transformational; the most transformational thing in your room is when you unleash your learners to become part of the process.


    Chromebook Success Tip #21: Let your students test and share extensions. There are many more extensions out there. Teach students how to find and select appropriate ones. If they have problems, teach them how to disable or remove extensions. Also help them understand that extensions can slow down their browsing and make pages look different from one Chromebook to another. Troubleshooting is higher-order thinking. Release your need to feel like the expert so that everyone can learn together.


    Remember this.

    Educators who care, share. When you find something powerful, share it with your colleagues or online. It may be the one helpful thing someone needs to take their classroom further. Enjoy your Chromebooks—your journey is just beginning!





    National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. Doing What Matters Most: Investing in Quality Teaching. NCTAF: Washington, DC, November 1997.

    Rosenthal, Robert, and Lenore Jacobson. Pygmalion in the Classroom. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1968.

    Sanders, William L., and June C. Rivers. Cumulative and Residual Effects of Teachers on Future Student Academic Achievement (research progress report). University of Texas Value-Added Research and Assessment Center, November 1996.

    Wang, Margaret, Geneva Haertel, and Herbert Walberg. “What Helps Students Learn?Educational Leadership (December 1993/January 1994): 74–79.



    Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher is a full-time teacher, the author of the book Reinventing Writing, and the host of “Every Classroom Matters” on the BAM Radio Network.

    Brought to you by Intel Education. Chromebooks provided by Intel for the purpose of this article. Follow us on Twitter!