Chromebooks: Google vs. Office365 Round 2

At the end of my first step in the Google vs 365 experiment, I noted the next step would be how easily we could get back to our documents.  In the iPad/Office 365 environment that we’ve been trying to make fly for the past two years, it was always uncertain if a student would be able to get back into their account the next day to continue their work.

Turns out, both systems fared fairly well. In our Chromebook environment, we have one login that connects us to both accounts.  So once students have logged into a machine, when they open anything Google, or even press the Office 365 login link from our Division website, they get that personal greeting indicating that they are already logged in.  After all of the repeated login issues we’ve had with 365 on the iPads, this discovery of login ease made some students giddy!

Beyond that, Google was more straight forward. As we only have a Google docs icon on the homepage tray, as soon as they press that, they go straight to thumbnails  of the documents they’ve created . One click and they are back to work.  The 365 login, on the  other hand, takes them to a clump of twenty icons, from which they have to choose Word.  Once they’ve clicked on Word, the ‘new document’ prompt is prominent, and some had a tough time locating their existing document from the side bar.

At this point we are unable to print from the  Chrome books, which means that someone has to print the documents from a desktop.  Google wins in the printing department, too. When I click on the shared document, I can fix font, spacing or labelling issues immediately, and then print. In 365, I have to click on an “edit” button which downloads the document in order to make any font, spacing or labelling changes. After I click the print button, I then have to click again to open the PDF that it creates.  Those extra clicks aren’t a big deal when printing an individual document, but become more time consuming over 20 to 30 papers.

The day ended with a telling sign about the Chromebook environment. We were about to write a controversial response paragraph-on paper in our novel study booklet- after finishing the novel Of Mice and Men.  One brash student just got up and said, “I need a Chromebook.” Following this, four other students picked a Chromebook from the charging station, logged on (to Google, which this class had used the previous day) and began typing. A fifth student sat down with a Chromebook, started to login, then put it back, as the login, document naming and sharing was “too much hassle when I don’t have to.”  This never crossed their mind as a desireable option when the iPads with 365 were available, but just made natural sense in the Chromebook/Google environment.

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Chromebooks: Office 365 vs Google Experiment #1

edublogs-2k7t2ct-1oe30zfIn the first week of the Chromebooks, any writing assignments I had students do were completed within our Edublogs Digital Portfolio environment.

Today I ended up with an experiment. Since the Chromebooks are conveniently sitting in my classroom, I had my English students use them for a fairly short writing assignment. Previously this year, I have had them do any writing less than an essay in length  on paper, rather than go through the torture (for both myself and the students) of trying to login to Word in Office 365 on the iPads.

In the first class, I had them try and use Word through Office 365.  When I had tested this, I thought that the login would be accomplished through an icon on the login screen. However in class today, this was not the case, so I had immediate chaos. Fortunately, I was a quick thinker today and quickly diverted them to the Office 365 Student login link available through the PRSD home page which was staring at them in the Chrome browser.  Looking back, ALL students were able to successfully login to Office 365 without any error messages –that is a first for my classes. Once in Word (which we have used several times in class on the iPads, so there was some level of familiarity) we named the document and wrote a title in the document. Word is very ‘finicky’ and it doesn’t take much for a student to end up with a new document, or in an offline or different version. Eventually students got to composing, but overall it was still somewhat chaotic getting set up to write in a tool that they have already used several times!

Since I teach the same class in back to back periods, I sometimes do some experimenting. After the non-slick use of Office 365, I quickly decided an experiment was in order!

google docThere is a Google Docs icon on the bottom of the login screen on the new Chromebooks. In the next class, we tried Google Docs, which the majority of student have NOT used before. Of course it is a beautiful thing that they are already logged into Google through the Chromebooks, so they were all quickly in a Google Doc. The document naming and titling was much more efficiently accomplished that it was in Word. I also had time to have the students share the document with me –this process is exceedingly more straightforward in Docs than Word, and was successfully accomplished without glitches, even though the students had to type my whole email address (ie. it didn’t auto populate).

For today’s experiment, Google Docs wins hands down!  It is just so much more simple and straight forward.  I know that the Google experiment was successful by the lack of whining which often happens when students experience something “new”.  Google Docs was so slick that it didn’t even feel new or different.

The next experiment will be how much effort it takes to find and retrieve and finish the documents that we began typing. Stay tuned for a “Round 2” update….

Students “Get” Google Docs

google docLet’s just say the school division I work in hasn’t exactly embraced Google products. For a long time, the use of any Google product other than the search engine was restricted. This has slowly been opening up in the past two to three years, however we have been strongly cautioned against using this platform with our students– a ‘server issue’ as best I understand it.

I will admit that I’ve not followed this decree, in a use-at-your-own-risk type scenario.  I had used Google Docs with a class of Grade 10 students as soon as the Google gates began to crack open in our district, and by the time the “do not use” edict had been officially issued, I was already convinced that this was a super important platform for not only student writing in my English and Social Studies classes, but for student collaboration on products.

The best part about students using Google Docs, is that ALL excuses about finishing an essay at home immediately disappear because I have students share their document with me the moment they create it. No Microsoft Word on your mom’s Mac book? No printer? Printer ran out of ink? No USB drive for saving? Your email account doesn’t work so you couldn’t send it?  You worked on it all night and you forgot to save it?   —  All of these excuses cease to exist once students use Google Docs and share the document with their teacher.

Apparently my students agree on the usefulness of Google Docs.

I was struck by this  a few weeks ago when I assigned an essay to my 11th grade English class.  As the majority of the students in this non-academic English class had not used Google Docs in grade 10, I chose to use what they were accustomed to: Microsoft Word. While Google Docs/Drive is an excellent solution for schools, having students set up accounts and learn to use Google Drive in an environment where students DON’T have school Google accounts to start with is a time-consuming process.  See a post I wrote about a year ago related to this topic.

As the majority of the class was setting up their Word document, a few students asked if they couldn’t just use Google Docs.  Although I didn’t realize it until later, all the students who wanted to use Google Docs were those had been stuck with me in Grade 10 and used Google Docs regularly.  In fact, every student that I had taught before wrote their essay in Google Docs. To them, it just made the most sense to use Google Docs –they could easily finish at home or even on their phone if needed.

I dream of a day in my school division where the Google platform for education will be embraced.  All students graduating from our high schools should be experiencing the power of this online platform to prepare them for the careers they are entering.