The school I work for is going 1:1 with Chromebooks next year and we are in the process of choosing which one to go with. We know we wanted a sub $300 Chromebook with 4gigs of ram and a 11" screen.
We bought both the Dell Chromebook 11 and the Acer 720. On the outside these two devices seemed almost identical. Rather than tossing both off a desk we decided to see how easy it was to change the screen on both since that is likely to be the most common repair our department would need to do. The pictures are not the best, as they were quickly taken, but they should give you a general idea.
I ran a 1:1 at a previous school and also learned about a few other common wear items that I needed to look for. So when we disassembled these two devices we looks specifically at the following items: Hinges, screen mount, power adapter plug, secureness of internal devices and keyboard key replacement.
These devices will be opened and closed more times than most other laptops and the hinges tend to need tightening after year 2. If they are loose then you run the risk of the screw mounts pulling out, which is a harder fix than if the screen itself broke. Worse yet is that having to tighten 450 screens is not something our school IT department has time for.
The mount to the dell appeared to be secured to a metal plate where the acer appeared to be mounted to plastic. The screen mount on the dell was much better, as it had the screws much farther apart. I am bias here as I had some earlier ACER's that the plastic mounts had come loose on and had to hold them together with superglue. It was a different model but the hardware looked identical.
Screen & Screen Mount
I know many people twist the screen to see how stiff it really is, well I was more concerned how beefy the metal mount holding the screen in place was. The dell was the clear winner here. The Acer barley had anything holding the screen in place, while the dell had a pretty solid piece of metal.
The Dell's screen held another great feature that in-of-itself I think makes it should be the #1 choice for a 1:1. Unlike the Acer and many other laptops the Dell has a complete plastic cover over the LCD screen.
Power Adapter Plug
Again these devices will be plugged in and unplugged, moved and who knows what else, which can really damage the power adapter plug. In some cases if this plug pulls off then it means re-soldering the connectors back on.
Before I took these devices apart I was very worried for the Dell as the plug had a lot of play in it. However once I took it apart I found that this was because the Dell's power adapter plug is detached from the motherboard. This can wiggle, and get hit all day long and it will be fine. If it does break then a very simple (and cheap) plug is all that is needed.
Secureness of internal devices
I had one generation of Acer netbooks where the hard drive was just held in place by pressure and 1 screw holding a bottom plat holding that in place. Needless to say I had wound up super-gluing all the hard-drives in place one summer.
Acer seems to have fixed this for the 720 and between the Dell and Acer this was almost a tie, except Dell's batter had 4 screws mounting the battery in place where the Acer had two plastic tabs and two screws.
Both backs of the devices are a single plat held on by screws. This is a big improvement for Acer.
Keyboard keys replacement
Both keyboards were very similar. We were not able to figure out how to change the keyboard on either Chromebook during our disassembly. I guess this one we will find out the hard way.
This is just a recap of the awesome stuff we learned at the 2014 Vermont Google Summit.
The person sitting next to me is +Allison Mollica, one of the organizers. I got to try out google Glass for the first time. This allowed me to take pictures or videos from my own perspective. There are also integration with Google Hangouts, however I was not able to play with that feature. These are not yet ready for resale but I can see some use in schools, especially for recording a demonstration as they allow you to use both hands and record at the same time.
During the conference participants were encouraged to ask questions, vote on questions, or answer questions using Google Moderator (Events Q&A). This tool is great for getting a lot of feedback and finding out what items are most important. Also during the conference everyone could post comments and photo’s to the Google Plus Event Page or follow the twitter hash tag: #GESummit. These tools created the back channel to the conference, so that people (like myself) could virtually attend and collaborate on sessions that we were not part of.
I find that I often learn more when I present than when I attend and one of the best things that a participant showed me was Youtube’s Creation Editor. This editor allowed me to splice together clips and add legal music to create stunning video’s all within Youtube. Also within youtube, creators can create interactivity by adding pop-ups, questions and links.
We were blessed to have +Ken Shelton here as a keynote speaker. Who spoke about the current meaning of literacy “The ability to effectively communicate a message, story, theme, or solution to a problem in the most efficient and understandable means possible.”.
One of the things that stood out for me was about how current students are generation “Now” and we can no longer ask questions of students that can be answered in a single search. For example, what is the capital of VT? Verses, is the capital of VT the original capital and if not when and why was it changed?
I attended 3 presentations this day.
First was on Hapara’s Teacher Dashboard with +Elizabeth McCarthy. This was one of the presentations that I was looking forward to as we are going to be using it next year with our 1:1. It was a little odd being in the presentation as I am the author of the gClassFolders add-on, a free alternative to Hapara, however my add-on is targeted to an individual teacher while Teacher Dashboard is designed for a whole school launch. We used gClassFolders with our teachers this year and I think it is going to be an easy transition into using Hapara Teacher Dashboard next year.
The next presentation I went to was on using Google Plus from +Allison Mollica. Click here for the presentation. One of the things that Allison stressed was that Google Plus has a large educational following and is a great place to get information and ideas for the classroom.
The last presentation I attended was with +Ron Turchyniak on using Google’s Fusion Tables and Pivot tables. Here is his presentation on Fusion Tables. And here is a video he showed on pivot tables in Google Sheets: Video. Both of these functions are things that really cannot be learned in one, 1 hour session, but do highlight the power of Google Docs for data manipulation.
During the closing we watched and voted on 4 different submitted slams. A slam is a presentation or video that has a time constraint of 1 to 5 minutes long and when your time is up, your time is up. For the ending slams the video’s needed to be under 1 minute. I was one of the people that submitted a slam video, and got 3rd place. Here are the four slam videos that were submitted. Snagit 1 / Snagit 2 / Snagit 3 / Snagit4.
Overall this was a great conference and I hope more can go to it next year.