January 8th, 2014

Observations about Chromebook, buckwheat, and that whole we-are-German-theory thing

These observations have, as far as I know, almost nothing to do with each other.

The Chromebook (Samsung, 11.6 inch) arrived from Amazon. It was disturbingly easy to set up. T. immediately started demanding either it, or one just like it for himself. I steadfastly insisted that this was going to be a family computer "for travel". It's heavier than I think it should be for its size, because we have a lot of Apple products. The hinge feels like crap (ditto) and I'm seriously underwhelmed by screen refresh and by the trackpad's "feel". R. says this is completely understandable. All that said, it was $258.42 (including tax, but not shipping and handling, because I have Prime). For that price, this thing is Awesome and a Screaming Deal. I am going to try to get Skype set up (I've never used Skype, only Facetime) and see how that works on it.

I've been continuing to make buckwheat pancakes, but haven't made anything more complicated. I remember eating this really incredible buckwheat and sunflower seed toast at the Gravity Bar on Broadway in Seattle, starting some time in the very early 1990s, IIRC. I'd love to recreate it. I remember ordering it because it was the most normal seeming thing to eat on the menu (loved the juices, but I cannot live by juice alone) back when I was even pickier than I am now. Buckwheat seemed normal because I remember having buckwheat toast at my grandmother's when I was quite small, and really liking it then.

So today, I got to thinking about why my grandmother might have been eating buckwheat toast, and there's at least a small chance that it was a habit picked up during her married years, some of which were spent in Steinbach, Manitoba, in a community which had a couple generations earlier come over from what is not the Ukraine. They grow a lot of buckwheat in the Ukraine, and have for a long while.

One of my cousins (who shares the same grandmother) has long been convinced that we are actually of German heritage (this turns out to be fractionally true, but he means that the Mennonites were German, not that grandmother's other mutt ancestry included some Palatine Germans). As I was thinking about grandma, and buckwheat and buckwheat toast (in the opposite order), it dawned on me that I had corrected another cousin (one of my great-uncle/step-grandfather's kids, so a first cousin once removed, unless I've screwed up again) in email a month or so ago, who had a misunderstanding of where our Mennonite ancestors came from.

And I realized, I now know _why_ all those people are so confused. My branch of the Mennonites followed Holdeman in that early schism, and _Holdeman_ himself was Swiss-German in ancestry (just like all the Mennonites and Amish who came to the United States a hundred or more years before my ancestors came over). And apparently the heritage of the church leader became understood as the heritage of all the membership, once a few generations had gone by.

That's just nine kinds of freaky.

Someone wanna bring me up to speed on 6th graders and 1 to 1 computing?

Here's an example definitely not local to me (involves the $250 chromebook I just bought): http://www.9news.com/news/article/340560/129/School-requires-all-6th-graders-to-buy-laptops-instead-of-supplies

I just got through listening to a highly entertaining retelling of the meeting that may have ld to this letter:


It sounds like there may have been some kind of federal incentive/mandate to get computers to all 6th graders in a form that they can bring home with them. I'm interested in (a) is that true and (b) where can I find details about the incentive/mandate and (c) how is your district/town/wtf implementing this program, particularly if the parents in that district are overall happy with the process.

Because so far, I'm looking at a whole lot of, what? How much is this going to cost? My kid will break that! Etc. Which could be bad decisions, bad process or just straight up Change Is Bad, and I have no way of distinguishing between the two currently.

Link Fu: 2013 was the year of 1 to 1 computing initiatives encountering trouble/Except Chromebook

This will likely be updated regularly.

[This is the one you should read, if you only read one: http://www.informationweek.com/policy/common-core-meets-aging-education-technology/]


Miami-Dade puts a program on hold, reconsiders the take-it-home/ownership model and preference for tablets. Their BYOD program continues.


Samsung says that Richland School District Two in SC has beat the timeline and been successful. With Chromebooks.


Maine HAD an Apple only 1 to 1 initiative. Not any more -- they've gone with a $250 HP laptop running Windows 8. (The Maine-gave-up-on-Apple development came up in my conversation today.) Altho the story here is a little complicated.


The numbers in this are _fascinating_, because that Macbook Air? Cheaper than it costs for normal people to buy it.

"All told, 39,457 students and teachers will get Apple's iPad tablet with an annual cost of $266 per unit, including networking, and 24,128 will get Apple's MacBook Air with a cost of $319. Only 5,474 will use the HP ProBook 4440 laptop, equipped with Windows 7, which was the least-costly option for a laptop at $286."

ETA: Christian private high school in Chicago, Wheaton Academy, uses Chromebook


LA Unified iPad initiative coverage:


There's been a lot of kicking about LA Unified's decision. I'll say this for the article: it answered the question I had about what was driving this. _COMMON CORE_! Specifically: Common Core Technology Project Plan (ETAYA: Oh, maybe not. This is a bit of a rat hole. Nope, that's definitely what is driving this bus. All states which signed onto Common Core have signed up for 1-1 computing commitments. Interesting.)

Article gets into details of item management (charging, security, distribution, etc.), which small school districts can get away with offloading onto families -- and which then leads to some obvious problems.

Politico coverage of upcoming digital testing through Common Core:


Things you might want to know about:


What is SAMR? A pretty clear answer!

You need to know that (and other things) to make sense of this:


Which is somewhat interesting.

Looks like Race to the Top grants at the Federal level are also a factor. Wow, if you search on some of these things, you find some serious Spew from people like Michelle Malkin. "Why do we need tablets for this! Pencil and Paper is Good Enough!!!"

Physics Teacher fan of Chromebook in the classroom:


Blogging from the Chromebook / First Review

Executive Summary: I could live with this as a primary computer. I'd probably want to set up a docking station for it (because I sure love the one I set up for my Macbook Air), but this thing will do everything I'm likely to ask it to do (that isn't the specifically Apple version of something -- so if I really did switch to the Google-verse, I'd yank everything out of iTunes Match and shove it up into my Amazon Cloud Drive, etc.). If you have kids that need computers, and a Chromebook will meet your school system's constraints, this is definitely the way to go.

[ETA: I had assumed I would be able to find a way to text edit and upload files to my website. When I researched that this afternoon, I was a little appalled at the scarcity of ways to do this. I'm currently looking at c9.io. But really, you're not actually hacking HTML or any other kind of code on your Chromebook, right? Right? Further: I'll be experimenting with Cloud9 either tonight or soon.]

I'm getting used to the screen and the keyboard is actually better than I initially thought; my issue with the keyboard can be chalked up to It's Different.

Another It's Different is that the scroll on the trackpad is the opposite direction from on Apple devices. That's kind of driving me nuts, and there will be friction switching back and forth; hopefully it will recede into my muscle memory.

I have installed the LastPass plugin on the browser. That seems to work very smoothly; it's nice that there is native support, however, it would have worked even if there wasn't a plugin.

Next up: let's see how ancestry behaves.

Continued: Very well! The trackpad issue hasn't dropped below my awareness yet, however, as I adapt to the screen, I'm pretty happy with it. Everything is small, but crisp, and I am sufficiently youthful that I can always pick up the device, park it on my, er, upper torso, and get a better look at things that way. As I age, I'll have to take my glasses off for that to continue working, and obvs this is less of an issue for more youthful users. Zoom helps, too, seems to be tab-specific, so if you zoom for an obnoxiously small font site, it won't blow up all your other tabs.

ETA: 11 Jan 2014 icloud.com means I have easy access to Notes, Contacts, etc. on the Chromebook. There are probably other ways to synchronize as well.