October 17, 2016

#ETTchat: The Chromebook Creation Studio – an Interview with Greg Kulowiec & James Daley

This fall, as part of our #ETTchat series, Communications Editor James Daley will be chatting with our EdTechTeacher instructors about some of their favorite tools, apps, and strategies for the classroom. In this post, he interviews Greg Kulowiec, about How to Harness the Creative Potential of Chromebooks in the Classroom.

Greg Kulowiec of EdTechTeacher is a Google Education Trainer who has spent years helping teachers across the country find ways to incorporate Chromebooks and Google Apps into their daily teaching practices. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Greg about the challenges teachers face with Chromebook integration, and why he believes that creativity is the key to using Chromebooks in the Classroom.

In Greg’s experience, there is often very little discussion or training about how Chromebooks should actually be used prior to their arrival in the classroom. Because of this, when teachers see the basic suite of Google apps (Docs, Slides, Classroom, etc.), they naturally assume that the best use of their new devices is for basic tasks like word processing, presentations, and classroom management. While the Chromebook is certainly great for these tasks, Greg argues that its real power lies not in any of these basic functions, but rather in its incredible potential as a creative device. By moving beyond the basic suite of Google Apps, teachers can put an entire creative studio in the hands of every student, creating opportunities to incorporate student-made media into a wide array of assignments and activities.

Here are some of the ways that Greg suggests taking advantage of the Chromebook’s creative potential in the classroom.

Image Creation with Canva

Canva is a web-based image-editor that allows users to easily create graphics, presentations, and documents on the Chromebook (and other devices, as well). The best part of Canva, according to Greg, is how simple it is to use. By providing a wide variety of ready-made templates and a user-friendly, drag-and drop interface, Canva makes it easy for students to create slick, original, great-looking graphics without having to rely on more complicated or expensive software.

One of the things that makes Canva so perfect for classroom use is its built-in image search, which allows users to easily find and import images into their projects. The image search also lets users filter for

Creative Commons and public domain images, so students can easily avoid using copyrighted pictures.

Finally, Greg suggests that teachers take advantage of Canva’s Design School: a huge library of tutorials and educational articles where students can learn about various design principles, from the fundamentals of layout and composition, to incorporating color theory, to choosing the and mixing fonts and text styles.

Video Creation with Screencastify

Screencastify is an extension that allows users to create a video recording of their Chromebook screen, while simultaneously recording a voiceover narration. A favorite amongst educators, Screencastify is available on any device with a Chrome browser, and can have lots of different uses in the classroom.

A simple way to use Screencastify is to blend it with Google Docs or Google slides. For example, after a student composes an essay on Google docs, they can go back and record a screencast in which they reflect on their process and discuss their reasons for writing what they did. With Google Slides, students can record the screen while talking through a presentation to create a video archive that can be added to a class site, shared with parents, or even saved for future classes and further discussion.

For a fun and creative way to create videos with the Chromebook, Greg recommends using Screencastify alongside AwwApp (A Web Whiteboard). A Web Whiteboard is essentially a blank online whiteboard that allows users to draw and sketch directly into their Chromebook browsers. When you combine AwwApp with Screencastify, you get a live, digital canvas where students record themselves creating art in real time.

Audio Creation with Soundtrap

For Audio creation, Greg recommends Soundtrap, a web-based audio recording and editing tool that Greg describes as “a collaborative GarageBand for Chromebook.” With Soundtrap, students can use the built-in microphone to record directly into their Chromebooks, use Soundtrap’s online instruments to create new musical arrangements, or import audio files to blend and remix. This gives students lots of different ways to create audio, and opens up an entire world of teaching and learning opportunities, from creating topical podcasts and audiobooks, to remixing popular songs and other audio content.

Perhaps Soundtrap’s most useful feature is that it allows users to work collaboratively on a single project. Not only does this let students to work together on an audio project, but it provides opportunities for teachers and students to create archived conversations for a variety of purposes. One example that Greg gives is that of a language lab teacher using Soundtrap to create collaborative foreign language conversations. In this example, the teacher would record a question, then the student would record a response, and they would continue until they recorded an entire conversation. This practice allows the teacher to carry on conversations with multiple students at the same time, while also providing a record of the conversations that both the students and the teacher can listen and refer to in the future.

While Soundtrap does offer a paid plan for schools with some interesting, education-based features, the basic version is free and perfectly suitable for most classroom purposes.

Putting it all together

While taking advantage of even a few of these creative strategies can provide wonderful learning experiences, Greg imagines a way in which all of them could be brought together to create something even greater than the sum of their parts. In Greg’s words, “Ultimately, students could end up with a portfolio of work that is more than just text. You could reasonably have a Google Drive folder or a Google Site that has audio, video, screencasting, images, text, presentations: all pulled together in one spot, and that makes up the student’s entire body of work.”