My colleagues call me Mr. Google because when someone comes to me with a technology problem, my answer usually has something to do with a Google application. I mean, their products do everything short of making your dinner and walking the dog so I use it whenever I can.
While at the Greater Clark County Conference in Indiana, I saw the release of the Chromecast and knew it was exactly the device I needed to get my hands on. Here is a picture of the moment it arrived
In a nutshell, the device connects to the HDMI port of a projector or TV and allows you to send what is in your Chrome browser to the TV over the local Wifi. Currently I use a Warpia VGA to USB wireless adaptor to transmit my computer screen to the projector in my classroom. While this device works well for general use, one of the downsides is that everything that is on my screen ends up on the projector. The Chromecast app allows you to connect a single Chrome tab and then work on anything else on your computer. A huge benefit to teachers who might to show a slide show or video, but then work on sensitive information (emails, grades, etc.) at the same time. While showing videos in class, my wife backchannels with the class, posing questions and engaging in discussions. Her district no longer uses DVD players since every computer has a DVD drive so this allows her to do both tasks without interrupting the students’ attention.
After installing the Chromecast app on the computer, an icon appeared on my extensions bar in Chrome, This allows me to instantly display the tab I am on in seconds. YouTube and Netflix have been modified also with Chromecast buttons that will display the videos in full screen automatically. The one major downside it the device only works with Chrome. You can’t display any other software or browsers. Great for doing presentations on Google training, but not for my every day teaching. (oh and great for parents who can now show Netflix on a TV in a hotel room while on vacation!)
So that was July. August rolls around and I stumble across a $30 coupon for a Samsung Chromebook available for 1 day only. I think it took about 30 seconds before my car keys were in my hand and I was out the door. It turns out Staples only had 1 left and it was an open box (which always makes me nervous), but after 2 coupons and a discount for the open box, I was walking out with a new computer for $50 less than listed.
So the Chromebook.
If you don’t know what it does, you are living under a rock. The device runs Chrome OS and needs an Internet connection for most of its functions. While it will work offline for several Google Apps, it really needs Wifi to be more than a shiny paperweight. I can’t foresee giving up my laptop for teaching and everyday use, but I am not likely to be carrying around a heavy laptop to meetings or lunch duty. The Chromebook feels like it weighs nothing and is smaller than a paper notebook. I have to say that I am definitely in love with this device.