The Chromebook Challenge

I’m a big Windows person. It’s what I grew up with, what I learned how to use first, and it’s far and away the operating system I’m most familiar with. I navigate Windows and its many quirks with ease. I was the first in line to upgrade my work laptop to Windows 10, even though it’s technically not approved for general use, because I have it at home and enjoy using it.

Now that I’m in my seventh year as the school’s technology coordinator (can’t believe I just wrote that), I find myself struggling to fight complacency and stay fresh and active. I decided recently that I need to try some new things, even if I hate them, just so I don’t lose my touch, or gain distance from the technology community I love so much.

That’s where the Chromebook Challenge comes in.

I had planned for a while to purchase my own laptop to use for work purposes, as sort-of a DIY replacement to my beloved-but-ancient work laptop. I wanted something without the shackles that my employer places on their laptops–with all the features, abilities, and power that comes with an unmanaged laptop.

But then, last week, my Check Engine light came on.

After a scary $625 near-disaster transmission problem, and being told that I need another $1,000 of work done over the break, I figured this was a sign that I need to try Chromebooks.

Chromebooks are great for lightweight computing, and all the reviews I read from people who use them for work say that they’re able to do about 90% of their job on them. It so happened that Amazon had this nice Acer model on sale, which got good reviews online, so I took the plunge. It arrived Sunday.

The “challenge” in Chromebook Challenge is that I intend to use this as my primary work computer from now until the winter break in December. I’m not sure how or if it’ll work, since I occasionally need to do Very Fancy Things, but I’m willing to give it a shot. I also intend on taking it with me to the technology conference this week–I took a smaller Chromebook last year to the same conference, just to take notes on, and it worked great for what I needed.

I will be checking in throughout the next two months with progress updates, insights gained, and thoughts about Chrome OS. Looking forward to my adventure!


Ten Days In

So I got to feeling very overloaded this week at work. Tuesday was the worst; every time I finished one item, two more were in my inbox. My e-mail notification was popping so often that I had to silence my laptop and flip my phone over so I couldn’t see the screen–each “ding!” was stressing me out more and more.

I decided to take the advice I’d been giving out to others over the years, and establish some healthy boundaries to keep me from feeling like I’d never see daylight again. Here’s some of what I decided to do:

  • Me Time: I have been taking from 10-12 each morning to work solely on projects of my own choosing, at the cost of all the random tasks everyone else has been giving me. It’s important to me that I try to keep long-term goals in my mind, even when short-term problems seem overwhelming. I’m thinking of making this a semi-permanent feature of my day, since I was very productive with it this week. I’m behind on where I should be on several projects–this started helping.
  • Prioritize Teachers: Sometimes I get lost in administration-driven projects and tasks that I forget my stated purpose: to support classroom teachers integrate technology in instruction. I took the time to help several teachers with their gradebook incidents, and they were all very grateful. It’s gratifying to feel that I was able to help someone with a classroom need. The random nature of technology incidents makes this hard to schedule, but I’m toying with the idea of focusing on teacher incidents from 8-10 each morning (working on structuring my day a little more, see above).
  • Choose Battles: If it’s easier to complete a task–even if it shouldn’t be my responsibility–than to go to war over making a point that it’s not mine, I often do it. Especially right now, when I don’t have time to fight every battle. That said, something on my to-do list this year is to sit down with a copy of my job description and figure out a way to unload as many of the tasks that don’t advance me professionally as possible.

It’s way early in the year, and I’m certainly open to adapting myself in new and different ways, but I feel these few changes have made me more productive (and more sane) so far.

I Broke a Laptop to Write This Post.

Two years ago, I bought myself a laptop with a discrete graphics card–a dedicated graphics chip which enabled me to play the games I wanted to on my computer. It was my first experiment with real PC gaming. I’ve always been an Xbox person.

It works great, and I love the convenience and flexibility of playing games on my laptop. Unfortunately, it works so well that I rarely want to use my laptop for anything else, which I view as a waste of its power and capabilities. All my plans for productivity seem to disappear when I open Steam and pick out something to play.

But I’ve wanted to get back into blogging for some time now. I also want to be super-productive at work this year. So here’s what I just did:

In my office is the computer I’m currently using: A cheap Sony laptop that’s now more than seven years old. It can’t play games, it weighs a ton, the battery only lasts an hour, the hard drive is slow, the processor is weak, and it has half the memory. Dusting off my old college skills, I installed Linux on a chunk of the hard drive. I’m pretty much all Windows, all day, but I know enough about Linux to be very dangerous. All I have installed on it is a browser and an office suite.

It all came about when someone mentioned The Paradox of Choice, a great book which I’m overdue to reread. The bottom line is that, sometimes, having lots of choices causes a paralyzing overload. Sometimes, less is more.

So I’m here on my “sabotaged” laptop which will pretty much only do this right now, and I have to say, it feels pretty good! I’m looking forward to hopefully making this a continuous part of my growth plan for this year.

Now, I think I’ve earned some Xbox time.

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