Sunday, March 31, 2013

Google Nexus Tablets Deployment: First Grade Pilot

Recently we deployed a small set of five Google Nexus 7 tablets to each of the 5 first grade teachers in one of my districts. iPads really haven't been a good fit in that district. I love working with iPads in my other districts but one size does not fit all. Since we were also deploying Google Apps and using Meraki's wireless MDM, we applied for a small grant for the Nexus tablets and we awarded the grant along with a handful of other districts. The first grade teachers were very excited.

Setup and Management:
From the IT setup and management perspective it was a dream. Having set up major amounts of iPads and other devices for teachers in different schools, the ease of setting the Nexus 7 tablets up in a Google Apps district was a very welcomed surprise. Literally, I just had to sign in the device with a teacher's district email address (GMail account) and password and it was set up. Their mail, calendar, contacts, backups, Google Play App store access and all other Google Apps set up.... just one step!

A second welcome surprise was the ability to create multiple logins.... Yes, unlike the iPad and other tablets before this, the Nexus allows you to have multiple logins at the lock screen. You can even passcode one account (like a teacher's for example) and not the other (like a generic student account). Now the teacher can feel comfortable setting up all of their information because the students can not access it under their separate login on the same tablet. Very nice feature that allows the tablets to be used by both teachers and students. We next added the Meraki management profile and found we could not only track them but deploy apps and files to the "backpack" or basically, send files to the folders under each profile (login) on the device without even being in the same location as the tablets. We could also wirelessly manage settings and pull reports on content, device status, etc.

Training the Teachers:
OK, training on these was pretty simple. Since the tablets automatically connected to all of their services under Google (Mail, contacts, calendars, chrome bookmarks, Docs, etc), just some device maneuvering was needed and I had even the most unfamiliar tablet user up and running in less than a class period. Now, they were not running marathons with them in the classroom right away but for one teacher who had never even touched a smartphone or any kind of mobile device, she was much further out of the starting gate than expected. Some of them just flew with the devices and had them instantly in the hands of students in centers and individual remediation settings. They also figured out to use a Google Form and walk around during centers and other Response to Intervention activities to log individual progress on a team shared spreadsheet. Awesome!

Student Use;
OK so 5 devices with only 1 to a class was not optimal but they still found their way into student hands through center time and other creative ideas.

One challenge is getting them projected to the screen. Through several failed attempts, projecting directly or "mirroring" did not work to a projector. We also tried using a document camera but through my own fault of using a very cheap document camera, this did not work well. It kept autozooming in and out and even with that setting changed, they couldn't see as well as I had hoped. Finally, I found a neat device called a Google TV mini Android PC. Costing half of what an Apple TV or Roku would cost, this USB flash-drive looking device is actually a full android computer that sticks right into the projector. The Mini PC works and looks just like the Nexus when projected to the screen. My favorite moment was wen I set it up to the promethean board in the room and a first grader yelled out "Wow, we even have a full wall tablet now!" The teacher instantly started using it to share digital books from their Booksy and Kindle apps with the class full screen for the whole class to enjoy.

The students took right to them just like the teachers and there is now even a plan to possibly expand the pilot........maybe to a 1:1 initiative?  Well, we'll have to wait and see.

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