Best Chromebook Apps and Sites for Education
GSuite Apps for Education including Classroom, Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides. These are the creative base for most lessons.
- Google Docs: An online text editor, free for anyone, usable on most devices. Students can type, format, and design written and graphic content. There are fewer fonts and other features when compared to Microsoft Office Word 2016, but the Office 365 version of Word is very similar to Google Docs. Fewer features make the program faster to load and help students focus on text editing.
- Google Slides: An online presentation software. This program allows text and graphics to be presented in a slide show format. Just like the above example, it is less robust than PowerPoint 2016, but similar to the Office 365 version. This software is simple and intuitive, allowing young students to learn and make presentations with little teacher instruction.
- Google Sheets: An online spreadsheet software. The same as above. It offers a variety of data calculations, sorting techniques, and graphic representations, but fewer than the traditional Excel program. While few people knew all the features of Excel, even fewer ever used them. Regardless, Sheets has plenty of formulas. Out of the 3 main productivity programs, Sheets would best benefit from regular, direct instruction on its features, starting in middle school. Basic uses like data logs, charts, and graphs can be taught in elementary.
- Google Drive: An online USB drive (or flash drive). While that sounds simple, and it is simple, Drive is incredibly valuable. While students can save files in each program without going to Drive, Google is saving every file in Drive, letting it show as available in the respective program. Once students get into sharing files, organization techniques, or Google Classroom structure, they will need to learn a bit about the format of Google Drive. It is fairly simple and similar to Windows file directory. A couple classes of direct instruction on Google Drive file finding and organization structure will go a long way. Most kids are never taught about file systems.
- Google Classroom: An online classroom, just like it sounds. A place where a teacher can share information with students and students can share back completed assignments, discussion responses, and other material. The teacher chooses who is allowed into the class. The main area of concern with most teachers is how much collaboration and sharing the students should be allowed to conduct with each other. While Classroom will allow you to control this from teacher only and no internal collaboration, to the other extreme of allowing students to make posts to the wall, many of these options can be manipulated by assignment. Keep in mind, students will be able to share with each other in all the above programs through Drive and file sharing. Make sure they know how to share files and the rules of conduct outside the Google Classroom, as it becomes difficult to monitor group participation in those realms. The last topic I will touch on here is grading. A teacher can choose to grade and post grades in Google Classroom. Google added a rubric feature to its latest update to support higher level grading practices. The issues that can arise are when students think the grades they see in Google are the grade they have in the class. If the teacher is grading some hand written assignments, projects, etc., but not posing those grades to Google Classroom, make sure students know to look at the main school information system for a complete picture of their grade. This can be confusing for parents, too. Moreover, when every teacher is grading different things in different places, it is challenging for families. Last, this can be challenging for teachers, as they have to post some grades twice. Once in the Classroom and once in the information system. Be clear in your syllabus about how and where you plan to grade, and try to be consistent across the entire grade level whenever possible. Keeping families aware of a students progress can benefit them and reduce other forms of communication. Posting grades twice can reduce work in the long run.
Other Core Google Apps
- Google Calendar: An online calendar / scheduler that syncs with Classroom and other sources. I will call this the most under showcased tool so far. I won't say it is the most underutilized because if a teacher is putting assignments on Google Classroom, they are putting them in the Calendar of every student. The big toss up here is that some schools use a different online platform for assignments or use a traditional hand written planner. Whatever way a school chooses, I always push them to find a unified solution. A student shouldn't have to look in two or three different organizers to find all assignments. Sometimes a school information system calendar will push down to Google Calendar. Most often, Google Calendar events will not push to the school information system. I am shying away from discussing Gmail's use of Calendar because I know that is not used in most K-8 environments. Emailed events with dates and times will show in Calendar.
- Google Sites: An online website creator. The platform to create websites is very basic and limited. That is perfect for students to learn how to responsibly present material for viewing to the world. They can focus on the quality of the content they want to publish rather than fidgeting with endless settings. As a teacher, setting up an assignment where students will post material that is available on the internet is an incredibly scary step towards the future. Many teachers choose to create the website, then allow students to publish content to a specified page. This is more manageable. There are some finite settings for approving content before it is published. It is manageable, but it is scary on the first go around. Get some help from your IT person if possible. Allowing students to make a site will add novelty and excitement to a previously dull project or report. There are plenty of other free website editors on the web. This is the only platform where you will have some level of control.
- Google Draw: Allows basic free drawing with a mouse, touch pad, or touch screen if your Chromebooks have that feature.
- Calculator: Basic calculator. A positive when you want kids to have it. A negative when you don't. Even if your IT admin removes the app, there are countless online calculators available without an app.
Non-Google Apps that work well with Chromebooks in Education
- ClipChamp: If you want to allow student to record and upload video clips for assignments. Some editing features, too.
- Action Story: Comprehension app. I do not have experience with it.
- Sketchup for Schools: Some kind of story boarding.
- Google Input Tools: Allows full foreign keyboard typing if needed.
- Scientific Calculator: If Google calculator doesn't have enough features.
Best Websites for Chromebooks in Education
As we get into websites and non-core Google apps, a statement must be made. Sometimes it is better to pay for a quality program. When the alternatives are full of adds, low quality or misaligned content, or are taking away from teachers planning time, just bite the bullet and buy a program. Many schools opt for a single whole school solution like IXL or ScootPad. Others buy specialized programs for each subject area. Prices vary dramatically. In general, if you can get a whole school support program for 100 kids for $1,000 or less per year, that is a reasonable purchase. You want a quality product that aligns with the standards your school teachers, is compatible with school devices, and that allows monitoring and tracking of student progress. After that, price and student appeal are the deciding factors.
Relying on text book programs that include online content is tricky. Some are excellent and fulfilling. Others have never come to age. If it is included and the price is reasonable, there is no risk. Be careful if you are asked to pay extra for online material. Make sure teachers are trained and plan to share the content with students.
The main issue arises when one teacher likes the text book content for students, another likes IXL, another ScootPad, and another wants a specialized program for their favorite content area. All programs are bought, drain the schools tech funds, and all the programs are underutilized. There is give and take to all purchases. Getting everyone on board and positive about a school purchase is a necessity. Beyond that, there is nothing wrong with saying no to additional purchases.
Common paid subscriptions:
- IXL < $10 per year per kid
- ScootPad <$10 per year per kid (has a free version)
- https://www.freckle.com/ > Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies (has a free version)
- Discovery Education > focus on science and social science video and interactive games $1600 per year per school
- MyON > Digital Book Library > $3000 - $6000 per year to get started. More per added library. $6000 includes MyON News
- Junior Library Guild > https://www.juniorlibraryguild.com/ > The cheapest real digital books around. However, many were audio only with no words. It is $300 for K-5, 6-8, or HS. You get 30 rotating books every month from a variety of curriculum, but you can buy books for the school permanently. I am not sure if they have grown with text and images.
- Renaissance Place > STAR math and reading assessments for K-8, Accelerated reader and math, math facts in a flash > about $6000 per year for 200 kid school
- EasyCBM > Oregon University Dibels reading assessment for K-6 > $2 per year per kid. $3 with a math assessment. Cheap for the quality. Mostly for grades 2-3.
- BrainPop and BrainPop Jr. > Videos and quizes about a variety of school topics.
- StarFall > K-3 reading and math program. $270 per year per school. Well worth it. (has some free content)
- ABC Mouse > Free for teachers and their class, no administrative support. PK-3 general curriculum with token economy.
- Mathletics > Fun and engaging math program with token economy. $6 per kid per year (from my memory when we tried it in 2016). They wanted $12 per kid.
- Studies Weekly > Those news papers kids read are available digitally. Like MyON News. https://www.studiesweekly.com/
- Junior Scholastic > Same as above. Has a direct link to Google Classroom for articles and quizzes. Quizzes are in Google Forms and auto-grade and show data graphs.
This list will focus on free websites.
English / Language Arts
- For Reading
- https://www.getepic.com/ Epic Books
- https://www.vooks.com/ Virtual storybooks. Young kids only.
- https://brevard.overdrive.com/library/kids Brevard Public Library (once they fix Libby) Currently only works from Play and App stores
- https://discover.mylibraryworld.com/?section=home Also the Brevard library
- For Writing
- https://www.storyboardthat.com/ Story boarding comic style. Have kids screen shot each cell and paste them together in a doc or slide to turn in.
- General Research
- https://school.eb.com/ Encyclopedia Britanica for School (Paid by all DoO Schools)
- https://scholar.google.com/ This is supposed to bring up free research articles. They are almost always just a summary.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page Slightly more bias that other encyclopedias, almost as accurate.
- https://www.encyclopedia.com/ Lots of ads.
- For Grammar Practice
- https://xtramath.org/#/home/index Xtra math: Free online, but Apple store app is $5
- https://www.khanacademy.org/ Kahn Academy: Almost entirely Youtube videos
- https://www.desmos.com/calculator A powerful graphing tool. An Algebra 1 necessity.
- Anything that ends in .gov, maybe .mil for middle school
- https://www.ducksters.com/ Science and Social Studies, questionable
- https://www.history.com/ Questionable
- https://www.icivics.org/ Engaging. May not be free forever
- https://www.pewresearch.org/ High level research
- https://florida.pbslearningmedia.org/ Local PBS
- Anything that ends in .gov
- https://www.brainpop.com/ Most school districts prepay.
- https://code.org/learn Some free content. Many trials. Many the teacher has to set up a free class account.
- https://codehs.com/ Free, in depth, self-led coding programs for middle school and up.
- https://www.w3schools.com/ Excellent descriptions and practice for almost every coding language in use
Virtual Field Trips
- https://www.panoramas.dk/ Thank you Denmark!
- https://www.google.com/earth/ This can really eat up your bandwidth if whole classes get on. Use sparingly.
General Fun and Engagement