Saturday, April 13, 2013

Malaysia: Chromebook/cloud provision for 10 million! (not taking the tablets)

Malaysia has today announced the national adoption of Google Apps for 10
million (read that again) teachers, students and parents. Primary and secondary
schools will get Chromebooks and use cloud services. This is a massive attempt to
reform and turbo-charge a national education system through technology and I
applaud their vision.

In one stroke they’ve got a solution that solves all of those irritating
problems, fiscal, technical and pedagogic, that plagues tablet projects.
Chromebooks have quick start-up times, are robust, secure, use a cloud based
approach that makes delivery of services and content easy and provides good analytics.
At last a country that understands procurement and puts learning needs above
shiny objects. I fly there this week, so hope to report back in more detail,
but here’s a starting primer.


Chromebooks are thin, lightweight devices with physical keyboard. This
is important in terms of learning productivity, as one can type 20% faster than
touchscreen, with less errors, and do far more sophisticated work on essays,
coding, pixel accurate graphics tools etc. than tablet devices allow. (see end of post)

The advantage of a low-cost Chromebook is that it boots quickly,
connects immediately, is browser-based using the internet and cloud, rather
than difficult to manage local storage and apps. This gets both students and
teachers into productive learning quickly and life is a lot easier in terms of
delivery, tracking, assessment, data and security (virus protection is built
in). Remember that this is cloud storage, avoiding local data on the devices,
making them much easier to manage and maintain.

Cloud-based learning

Cloud-based design means access anywhere, anytime from any device and
with Google Apps, you’re not buying licenses for Microsoft and other software. Students
and teachers use Google Apps for email, calendar, documents, data, and much more. As all docs and data
are in the cloud, you don’t have to worry about storage and backups, and OS updates
happen automatically every time you switch it on. Your school does NOT need
servers! Even of a
Chromebook is lost, stolen or broken, no learning data is lost. Focus on WIFI
and you have your comms sorted (note that Chromebooks can also have 3G add-ons
for mobile network access).


IDC comparative research showed that Chromebooks would save $1135 for
each device, as they take 69% less time to deploy and 92% less time to manage.
The per-device costs come out at $7.75 per month over three years. This gives
considerable costs savings when compared to tablets, desktop PCs and laptops.
You can, of course, expect these costs to fall, making it easier to move to one
device per teacher and student.

The good thing about this research is that it really did look at productivity
in terms of real teacher and administration salary costs in relation to support
and classroom downtime. None of the woolly ‘survey-monkey’ qualitative stuff we
get from UK tablet trials.

the research showed that the devices were highly reliable and reduced expensive
teaching and administration time by 82%. This was important as there were often
zero help-desk calls and minimal calls on support across the projects. Above
all, there was no need to worry about redesign and realignment of existing
systems and no problems with losing files. All of this leads to more time on
learning and less on dealing with and fire-fighting IT issues.


The downside
is that Chromebooks do not run Windows, so if you have Windows apps, you may
think you’re in trouble. Fear not, Google provide Windows virtualisation. Internet
dependent devices need adequate and robust wifi, as the applications need to be
run online. This can be a problem if the network is interrupted or fails. Fear
not, Chromebooks cache work so that you can continue until the connection comes
back. You do, however, have to invest in wifi to match use.


advantages for teachers are that the devices start up quickly, are easy to use
and require little support allowing teachers to teach and learners to learn.  In one UK school, James Wilding explains that
they rolled out an enlightened, cloud-based solution as follows:

first - 3 months to bed down the tech and allow the teachers to adjust

Students next
– 3 months

provision – 6 months to build –up expertise, habits, processes and effect
change management

I say ‘enlightened,
as this seems like a sensible approach based on change management, not device
dumps. The excellent Ian Nairn, of c-learning. tells me of a school who have
ditched their expensive tablets for Chromebooks and the cloud.


This is big news. I
also think it is good news. A procurement based on a strong fiscal case, a real
detailed analysis of the technology and long-term support, as well as the idea
that pedagogy should be in the driving seat. Free and low cost solutions on any
device is what cloud-based learning offers. Google Search, Google Docs, Wikipedia,
Khan Academy, email, calendars, blogger – the list goes on and on. I’ll report
back from Malaysia next week.


Other posts on tablets:

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