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K12 IT Administrators Rethinking Chromebooks After Crash?

Widespread bug crashed thousands of Chromebooks in K12 districts
Chromebook becomes Stonebook without internet access

Google Chrome OS long seemed like a solution looking for a problem. In a world dominated by Microsoft and Apple, it was hard to find a purpose for a lightweight platform that was mostly for basic applications like word processing and spreadsheet usage – and an OS that required internet access to function.

Then K12 came calling. Chromebooks – lightweight, durable, cheaper than their Apple and Microsoft alternatives – caught on with school districts looking for a suitable vehicle as 1:1 programs took on steam. However, school districts across America got a wake-up call on the potential hazards of putting all their eggs in Google’s basket when a network policy update pushed by the search giant’s administrators caused devices to temporarily lose internet connectivity. This would be a headache for any notebook computer, of course, but in a Chromebook environment, this is mission critical: without internet access, a Chromebook becomes a paperweight.

Google won’t say how many users were affected, but one school district alone believes that all 20,000 devices in its network were impacted. The issue was fixed on the same day, and Google posted a series of steps that districts could take to solve the problem. But many IT professionals are now concerned, especially if Google pushes a major update that isn’t rolled back easily.

As school districts seek to facilitate active learning, they turn to Silicon Valley in ever greater numbers seeking to adopt the right technology. But even mighty Google isn’t immune to technical difficulties.

(Source: EdSurge)

Survey: Pretty Much Every Student Wants to Use Smartphones in Class

Student with smartphone in class
Phoning it in? Not really.

A recent study is unlikely to surprise college professors: 94% of college students want to use their mobile phones in class for academic purposes. The survey found that a substantial number of students (58%) use their phones to take pictures of lecture slides, and similarly high percentages of students also use their phones to search for information on Google or access a digital textbook during lectures.

Students also indicated their willingness to use the phones more often for a range of classroom activities, including checking into class, answering in-class polls, and accessing lecture slides. (For some mobile classroom polling alternatives, check out this blog post from November.)

However, the risks of mobile phones being nothing more than a distraction are obvious. Half of students admitted to using phones to text friends or check social media during class.

Smartphones aren’t going away, of course, so administrators and professors need to think about ways to leverage the opportunity while minimizing the potential for distraction. Having the right kind of active learning furniture may also help.

(Source: Campus Technology)

Four More Ways to Avoid Computer-Related Pain

Stretching while working on laptop

We recently published a blog post about ways to avoid pain while working in front of a computer. Here’s a follow-up post with some additional ways to keep yourself healthy.

It’s increasingly the norm for people to spend a tremendous amount of time in front of a computer. While office jobs tend to be a lot safer than blue-collar careers, they’re still strenuous in their own way, and unaddressed discomfort can progress into debilitating conditions that can impact your ability to work effectively. Consider taking the following steps:

  • Shake it up. Remaining stationary too long without adjusting your position can result in stiffness and other discomfort. Trying moving around in your chair frequently, or shifting from one foot to the other if you’re using a standing desk.
  • Take a break. If you sit at a desk for more than an hour without getting up, you’re setting yourself up for problems. Get up and walk around for a minute or two: it’s a good way to promote blood circulation and helps undo the damage inflicted by too much sitting.
  • Rethink your computer usage off the clock. If you spend most of your work day in front of a computer, limit your personal screen time in the evenings. You need to give your body a break.
  • Stretch. Regularly stretching your muscles during the day can help relieve some tightness and promote blood circulation.

It’s important to take care of your body while working at the computer. Be proactive about addressing your work habits and lifestyle.

(Source: Elemental Ergonomics)

Four Ways to Avoid Computer-Related Pain

Worker hunched over laptop

As the United States has transitioned into a service-based economy, more people than ever are spending a tremendous amount of time working in front of a computer. This certainly tends to be much safer and less strenuous work than in a factory, but it isn’t without its own set of risks, as various forms of repetitive stress injury, including back pain, neck pain and carpal tunnel syndrome have become widespread issues among office workers. Here are some ways to reduce or eliminate discomfort as you work at your desk.

  • Keep your head up. Spending a lot of time looking down is a good way to give yourself some serious neck strain. Move your computer display to eye level. That means getting a monitor stand to raise it a few inches, or getting a laptop stand and external keyboard to raise your laptop screen upward.
  • Get those forearms level. If you lean on your desk or armrests frequently – which tends to happen a lot with laptop usage – you can run into problems with blood circulation and nerve strain. Adjust your position in front of the computer such that your forearms are parallel with the ground, and your elbows are bent at a 90° angle.
  • Check your wrist position. Your wrists should be straight up and down and side to side when typing, and they shouldn’t touch the surface of the desk.
  • Check your back posture. Adjust your chair height so that your feet are flat on the floor, and your knees and hips are both at a 90° angle. Lumbar support is also helpful here, so if your chair doesn’t offer it, use a small pillow or towel to help your lower spine curvature (generally just above your belt).

There are a range of additional things that you can do, such as getting an adjustable desk, but making some basic changes to improve your posture can make a big difference.

(Source: Elemental Ergonomics)