Chequamegon School District's BYOD policy makes it easy to shop for your student this year for Christmas.  Under BYOD or Bring Your Own Device to school, what ever choice you make for a device for your student it will be allowed in school.  Here are some handy tips and choice recommendations for this years holiday shopping for a digital device for your student.

Tablets are all the rage this year with prices lower than ever.  The iPad is the top selling tablet with the new 9.7" retina display 4th generation iPad starting at $499 for the 16G WiFi only model.  For some this is a hefty price to pay so best to get the generation 2 iPad at $399.  It has all the same basic features as the generation 4 iPad but without the retina display and a little slower processor. Then there is the iPad mini with a 7.9" display, smaller than the larger unit but basically the same as the generation 2 iPad in specs with a price starting at $329.  While the Apple iOS has not changed much in the past couple of years, expect your new iPad to be compatible with the next release of iOS 7  predicted to be a major shift in its graphical user interface design to keep pace with features found on Android devices.

If you are looking to get a great tablet but do not want to pay the premium price of an iPad then check out the Google Nexus 7 at play.google.com.  The Nexus 7 has tremendous reviews and is only $199 in price for the $16G WiFi model.  Your student can use the Nexus 7 to do research with Google's new voice search connected to knowledge based search engines as well as voice dictate a document directly into a Google doc even while off line.  Google is making tremendous strides in voice technology and the Nexus 7 is the only purely Google Android OS other than the Nexus 10.   Speaking of the Nexus 10, here is another purely Android OS device with all the latest features Google Android has to offer.  The Nexus 10 is a larger tablet like the iPad with on-screen keyboard that uses swipe technology which is a rapid input typing method unique to Android devices.  The Nexus 10 could be used in place of a laptop with its integration with Google Apps and voice dictation capabilities.

If you are looking for a laptop for your student, there are many to choose from but at this time I DO NOT recommend anything using Windows 8.  Windows 8 needs another year to be refined and for more software programs and apps to be developed.  Since tablets are out selling laptops by more that 2 million units per month, there are a plethora of Windows 7 laptops to choose from that are going to be dumped on the market in time for Christmas to make way for new Windows 8 touch laptops.  These Windows 7 laptops will be cheep.  Again I do not recommend the Windows 8 devices at this time.  
For a premium laptop the Apple Macbook Air is the best choice.  Ultra thin and light, 100% solid-state (no moving parts), runs all day on a battery charge and with the newest Mac OS it is super easy and slick to use.  The next Mac OSX update is expected to have Siri and an improved voice dictation built in.  Typical starting price for the Air Book is $1,199. 
 
At the complete opposite end of the spectrum, if you are looking for a cheap alternative laptop or a second computer for around the house you cannot beat the Google Chromebook.  Starting at $199 on the Google play store it is hard to beat the price.  The Chromebook is a cloud-based laptop that all the students are using at school.  Works with their Google accounts and stores all their data in the cloud.   I recommend the Samsung model on the Google Play store for $249.  The Samsung model Chromebook is 100% solid state (no moving parts, just like the Mac Book Air), boots up in 10 seconds and runs all day on a battery charge.  This is a great device for doing research on the web and for document production.  I use a Chromebook every single day for reading, document creation, updating my websites and more.  Did I mention it plays videos and music as well?

If you are considering a smart phone for your student I recommend the iPhone or the Nexus 4.  You can find the iPhone at Apple.com and the Nexus 4 at play.google.com.  Both are terrific phones and your choice is dependent on just a few simple things:  if you already have an investment in iTunes music or videos or Apps then you choose the iPhone, if you are new to smart phones and want to try something very different then choose the Nexus 4.  You will not go wrong with either choice and both will work just fine at school.

What ever you choose your student can be using a device of his or her choice at school and at home with their own personalized device.  Your student will be happier using their own device and could ultimately be more productive,
 
 
The Chromebook is a different sort of device.  It is neither a Windows laptop or a Mac laptop and it is not purely a Linux OS device either.  The Chromebook uses a Google Chrome web browser that sites on top of a very tiny Linux operating system so therefore the device boots up in as little as 8 seconds.  The Chromebook uses Cloud-based or Internet-based services only.  You do not install software on to the Chromebook they way that you would on a Windows or Mac system.  Instead you would make use of a web-based app to accomplish the task that an installed program would do.  For instance, instead of using Microsoft Office PowerPoint, the student would use Sliderocket or Presi or even Google presentations.   Instead of using Microsoft Office Word to type a document, the student would use Google docs or Zoho docs.

It was decided to base our 1:1 program for the 4th through 8th grades on these Chromebook devices because of their rapid boot, and very long 8 hour battery life and also because of their simplicity in use.  When deployed in a classroom the teacher does not need to be a technician to get a roomful of devices up and running,  The students open the cover and in 8 to 10 seconds they log on to their accounts.  All of their information is then synchronized to the device.  All students have a Google account that will get them access to any Chromebook and to their documents and other content.

Since the Chromebook is so different I felt it necessary to point out a few tips on their usage.

File Manager:
Even with the Chromebooks simplicity with only a web browser running, the Chromebook does in fact have a File Manager built in.  It is possible to save and store files on the Chromebook.  To gain direct access to the File Manager just press Ctrl+M.

Screen Print:
There is no print screen button on the Chromebook but you can most definitely print the screen to an image file.  Just press the CTRL and the Windows switcher button [   ]]]  (just to the left of the screen brightness button on the top row of keys).  Once the screen print is taken you will find the file in the File Manager.  Press CTRL+M to open the File Manager.  The screen print is labeled screenshot-todays-date and ends in .png.

Caps Lock:
The Chromebooks do not have a Caps Lock key but you can put it into Caps Lock by simply pressing both Shift keys at the same time.

Multiple Screens:
If you are one of these people with lots of tabs open at the same time and would like to have some sort of order, you can open multiple windows and have certain tabs on certain Windows.  Top open a second or more window(s), click CTRL+N.  A new window will open.  To swith back and forth just click the window switcher button [   ]]] in the middle of the top row of keys, click the window you want to go to and then click the window switcher again to maximize it.


Printing:
You do not install printers on the Chromebook like you do on a Mac or PC.  Printing is done through a new Cloud service that Google calls Cloud-Printing and uses special HP and Epson printers.  The District only has one actual Cloud printer and it is located in the Glidden middle school.  

I have created a cloud-printing server in the District in order to make use of our legacy (non-cloud-print) printers.  In order to activate a printer for cloud-printing I simply add the printer to this special server and then I must share it out to every student that will be printing to it.  I have created a special process for doing this so it is simple to set up a new printer.

Shutting Down:
To shut down the Chromebook just press the power button in the upper right corner, the screen will shrink down and then go dark.

When All Else Fails:
As with any computer, if you find that something just is not working on the Chromebook try these two things before calling for help:

#1 use the screen refresh button on the top row of keys, it is the round arrow key, 4th button from the left.  If that does not work then
#2 just shut down the Chromebook and log on again.  It only takes 1/2 a minute of time.

To see a list of keyboard shortcut keys click here.

For a full list of usage tips press CTRL+? on your Chromebook.