All things ed tech, straight from the experts

Good-bye ChromebookInventory, Hello Chromebook Getter

Out with the old and in with the new for bulk Chromebook management tools!

We’ve loved ChromebookInventory ever since we added Chromebooks to our lineup of K-12 tech. When it comes to bulk Chromebook management add-ons for Google Admin Console, this has been a long-time favorite of the FireFly tech team! ChromebookInventory lets you export organizational units (OUs) and metadata into a Google Sheet. There, you can easily manage and update systems and then import the settings back into the console. It makes managing an entire fleet of Chromebooks a total breeze and saves you tons of timeOh, and did we mention it’s FREE? 

But alas, all good things come to an end, and on July 15th, 2019 this tool will stop working. 

Luckily, a great new alternative has just appeared on the scene! Our friends at Admin Remix have developed a replacement tool for ChromebookInventory called Chromebook Getter. The tech team at FireFly has been testing it out in-house and has been in contact with the developers. So far, it has been an easy transition. The experience is just like ChromebookInventory. Chromebook Getter is free, and most importantly, it will keep working after the July cutoff! 

 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Sure, there are other tools out there that let you do the same thing with the addition of all sorts of bells and whistles, but in our experience, ChromebookInventory, and now Chromebook Getter, is a favorite among the free options. It really is a great tool. It’s intuitive, it’s easy, and it makes the whole process of bulk updating and managing devices in Google Admin Console so much better. 

So for those out there who rely on ChromebookInventory for Chromebook management and are panicking about what to do come July 15, don’t miss a single beat! Head to Google Marketplace, install the app, and keep on managing your Chromebook fleet sweat-free with Chromebook Getter.

Update 7/10/19: Today we learned that moving OUs is not currently working as expected. We’re working with the developers to assist with getting that corrected ASAP!

Update 7/12/19: While the developers are actively working on a permanent fix for being able to move OUs, in the meantime, our FireFly tech team has identified a viable workaround. Use the field ‘Annotated Location’ (or Notes) to specify the OU the units will go into. After uploading to the console, filter by the location field in the devices view and select up to 50 devices at a time to move them within the Admin Console. We will post an update once Chromebook Getter is updated with the ability to move OUs as intended.

As an additional note, we have learned that ‘Get Chromebooks’ is still a newer feature (as opposed to ‘Get All’) and is being actively developed. We have found some instances where it will retrieve duplicate rows or miss very recently enrolled units. Using ‘Retrieve All’ will retrieve everything as expected. The developers are working to correct this issue, and as soon as the Chromebook Getter is updated we will post an update below.

Update 7/16/19: Excellent news! The dev team for Chromebook Getter works fast, and they have already fixed the ability to move OUs and use the ‘Get Chromebooks’ feature. None of the workarounds above are needed in the most recent version. Special shout out to our FireFly tech team, who did an amazing job documenting the issues and working with the Chromebook Getter devs to get everything solved so quickly.


Meet Your New Go-To For Classroom Apps

Teachers Spoke and Google Listened

As of early 2019, over 30 Million students and educators worldwide use Chromebooks in the classroom. With stats like that, it’s no wonder that when educators offer up feedback on Chrome products and services, Google listens.

It turns out that teachers have been spending a lot of time researching classroom apps. Searching for safe apps and inspiration on how to use them has become a part time job. Teachers are constantly on the lookout for ways to make their students’ Chromebooks even more engaging, useful, and secure, so Google thought they would make the search a little easier for them!

Introducing *drum roll please* Chromebook App Hub

What Is App Hub? 

App hub was designed to be a constantly evolving and growing resource for educators, and developers to find and design Chromebook apps and activities. On App Hub, you can: 

  • Discover new educational Chromebook apps
  • Learn each app’s digital policies
  • Explore ideas for using Chromebook apps in the classroom
  • Build the idea library by submitting your own lessons

Safety first. On top of providing great inspiration on how to use apps in the classroom, App Hub is highly focused on student safety. According to Google, “The App Hub is dedicated to bringing transparency to developers’ data and accessibility policies, and to help decision makers find information about apps to meet the unique learning goals and policies of their school districts.” That means that apps are only put on the hub if developers provide full transparency on digital policies. With App Hub, you will know exactly what data apps pull from your students, so that you can make informed decisions to protect their digital privacy.

What We Like About App Hub

  1. Filtering makes it easy to find the right apps for your classroom. You’ll be able to zone in on the perfect classroom apps in a fraction of the time. Wave goodbye to hours of research when you enjoy simple, clean searching using targeted filters. Filter by “Idea Categories” like Coding, Entrepreneurship, Music Composition and more. Then, you can get even more specific with filters like age, subject, and learning goals. No matter what you’re looking for, App Hub makes it easy to find it. 
  2. Ideas for teachers by teachers. Not feeling inspired when it comes to Chromebook classroom activities? For days when the creative juices just aren’t flowing, App Hub lets you browse hundreds of unique idea sparks submitted by actual educators. Each idea comes with a general overview, tips for success, and resources for getting started, making it easy to try out new Chrome apps with your class. Additionally, if you have great ideas yourself, you can help build the idea library by contributing an idea spark of your own!
  3. Safety is the name of the game. You don’t have to worry about student safety anymore when trying new apps. All “apps on the hub are built by developers committed to transparency and security”.  With that information at your fingertips, you can pick the best apps for your class all while sticking to your school’s digital safety guidelines.
  4. 👏THESE 👏ARE 👏GOOD 👏APPS! Every app is student tested and teacher approved, so you won’t be wasting time on total duds. And forget the hours of research! Now, you can start spending that time experimenting with new and exciting Chromebook apps. 

Learn how educators in every subject are using their apps to enhance Chromebook facilitated learning. Get started using App Hub today! 

Need Chromebooks? FireFly makes it easy with top brands and models in-stock and ready to go. Contact us for more info.

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4 Tips for Fixing Slow Chromebooks

Chromebook Running Slow? Use These Quick Fixes For Laggy Devices

Noticed your Chromebook running slow? Just like any laptop, tablet, or phone, Chromebooks aren’t immune to the dreaded slow-down, despite functioning heavily on the cloud. You may notice your device becoming sluggish after a just few months of use (boot time takes longer, apps open slower, audio stutters, etc) and that just won’t fly in the classroom. So, what’s bogging down your device and how do you speed it back up?

NOTE: Before anything, rule out poor internet connection. If you are confident you are connected to a strong network and still having issues, they can often be boiled down to a few things: syncing data is clogging your bandwidth, difficult extensions/apps are tying your device up, or there’s something affecting your Chromebook’s “local environment” (i.e. non-cloud components). With that in mind, here are FireFly’s tips for getting your device back up to speed:

Is your Chromebook running slow and driving you nuts!?

1) Deactivate your offline sync

One thing we love about Chromebooks is their ability to run most apps and tools from the cloud. This saves your device from doing the heavy lifting locally, adding an enormous speed boost. That being said, there will always be times when you don’t have a snappy internet connection and will need to take work offline. For those of us who primarily utilize Google apps (Docs, Slides, and Sheets) for file processing, are generally saved directly to Google Drive. Chromebooks can be set to have Google Drive sync with your local storage so you can access your content without the use of an internet connection.

Automatic syncing is a great option for those of us who often find ourselves needing access to our documents but can’t always find a reliable source of internet, but it has it’s downfalls. For heavy users of Google Drive, syncing can begin to take up large amounts of bandwidth and processing power on your device. If you think this could be your problem, it might be worth deactivating automatic syncing.

  1. Open Google Drive, and click on the “Settings” cog icon in the upper right
  2. Under “General” settings, uncheck the box that reads “Sync Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drawings files to this computer so that you can edit offline”
2) Move locally stored files to the Cloud

Typically, Chromebooks have pretty limited local storage. The closer a device come to storage capacity, the more bogged down it becomes. Be intentional about what gets downloaded onto your device and delete anything you don’t need. If you are already excessively storing files locally, go through and move what you can to online storage (i.e. Google Drive) before deleting them from your device.

3) Limit Apps and Extensions

Extensions and apps can really help make the most out of a Chromebook. They add a layer of customization and function to our devices that make them a really useful and powerful tool for educational and personal use. Unfortunately, having excessive amounts of either doesn’t do your device any favors in terms of speed. Delete any apps or extensions that are suspicious or that you just don’t use. While you’re working on extensions, you can actually install a few that help save bandwidth:

  • Data Saver. With this extension, everything you view online is filtered through a server that compresses it can before being sent to your device, which means fewer bits and bytes.
  • The Great Suspender. We’re all guilty of going overboard with tabs sometimes. The Great Suspender puts tabs to sleep after idling for a period of time, freeing up bandwidth.
  • AdBlock. In addition to cleaning up webpages of unwanted advertisements, AdBlock saves bandwidth by limiting the number of graphics being processed online.
4) Powerwash your Chromebook

Starting fresh with your Chromebook might be a great idea for getting your device back up to speed. Before you powerwash the device, backup all your local data (anything stored internally on your Chromebook) by transferring it to an external disk drive, uploading it to you Google Drive cloud storage, or both if you want to be extra sure your most important documents survive the purge. Once you’re sure your content is safe and sound, follow these instructions for doing a factory reset on your Chromebook:

  1. Sign in to your Chromebook.
  2. At the bottom right, select the time.
  3. Select Settings .
  4. At the bottom, select Advanced.
  5. In the “Powerwash” section, select Powerwash Restart.
  6. In the box that appears, select Powerwash Continue.
  7. Follow the steps that appear and sign in with your Google Account.
  • Note: The account you sign in with after you reset your Chromebook will be the owner account.

Once you’ve reset your Chromebook, follow the onscreen instructions to set up your Chromebook then check if the problem is fixed.

I.T. HERO 101: Organizational Units (Part 1)

Starting Strong

Set up a well functioning Google Admin Console with the perfect organizational Units

If your school’s 1:1 technology program relies on Chrome OS, you’re no stranger to the Google Admin Console. For those who may just be getting started with their 1-to-1 technology program, here’s the scoop. Google Admin Console is a central place to manage all G Suite services over all your district’s devices. With it, you can update G-Suite settings, manage user accounts, configure administrator preferences, monitor usage, and more.

Most administrators would be lost without Google Admin Console. Its offers incredible control and customization of a school domain. Just try managing up to 40,000 Chromebooks and 200+ digital policies without it. However that many Chromebooks can still be a handful if they’re not properly categorized. You have better things to do than go through and individually set preferences for hundreds (even thousands) of Chromebooks. That’s why Admin Console makes it easy to bundle groups of students and staff into “Organizational Units” (OUs).

“What is an OU?”

An OU is a subdivision of your domain that allows you to clump users (students, teachers, administrative staff, etc.) into groups. Each group can then be assigned specific settings based on the kinds of restrictions or permissions that group should have. By default, all users belong to your account’s top-level organization (your “District”), but can be organized into groups like “Staff” or “Students”. Those groups are then set up with specific features, security settings, permissions, policies, extensions, apps and more.

Organizational Units help you categorize your school’s devices

If you haven’t already, creating the perfect OUs can make your job a whole lot easier. However, they also presents challenges. A poorly setup Admin Console can quickly become a nightmare for tech directors and administrators.

This blog series will help you become an OU pro! You’ll learn:

  1. Keys to organizational unit success
  2. Tips on restructuring existing OU structures
  3. Best practices for working with setup specialists during Google domain enrollment.

Let’s get started!

3 Keys to Building a Strong OU Structure

Setting up OUs via Google Admin Console is simple and easy. The real challenge of setting up OUs is thinking ahead and building a structure that is both functional and scalable. Get off on the right foot with these keys for a successful setup:

  1. Keep it simple. When it comes to OUs, the best solutions are the simplest ones. Create as many organizational units as necessary but as few as possible. For every OU created you are giving future-you more work. Pare down units to simple, intuitive groups.
  2. Be intentional. Don’t be too heavy handed on the OUs during setup. It may be tempting to meticulously categorize users, but only create OUs when there is a particular purpose in mind. For example, it would make sense to place elementary school students in a different unit than high school students because their settings and restrictions would be different.
  3. Follow the hierarchy. Remember that “child” units inherit traits from their “parent” unit. Build a structure that naturally cascades traits down through units. (Note that changing a setting at a higher level changes the setting for all sub-organizations unless specifically overridden.) We would recommend that the main district division is between “Students” and “Staff”. Then, continue to sort down from largest to smallest groups.

Keep reading PART 2 >>

I.T. HERO 101: Organizational Units (Part 2)

Freshening Up

Clean Up Admin Console–Restructuring Old OUs

Maybe you’re already knee deep in OUs and don’t have the luxury of working with a fresh canvas on Google Admin Console. If your school is working with a pre-existing OU structure and it’s just not working it may be because:

  • Your existing OU structure is too simple. The categories within your Admin Console are too broad, limiting the amount of control you have over certain bodies of students and staff. Remember “You should create as many organizational units as necessary but as few as possible.”
  • It’s overly organized. Your structure is meticulously broken down into segments of students and staff, even though there is no policy difference between some groups. This gives you more work when it’s time to assign new policies.
  • It’s just a downright mess. A good structure should follow a logical path, descending from broadest categories (Students and Staff) into smaller and smaller sub-categories (Schools and Grades). See an example of good and bad structures below:

Thinking it might be time to clean up Admin Console with a better OU structure? While it’s always easier to build a clean and simple structure from the ground up than it is to simplify an existing one, it can be done! If you want to restructure an existing OU structure:

  1. We recommend you do it when students are on break since it can be a messy process. Grab a pot of coffee and buckle up!
  2. Define your desired structure by making a clear structure map. Then store information on where each device in your district (labelled with asset tag #s) should be relocated in a well-organized spreadsheet.
  3. Move all devices to placeholder OUs.
  4. Create new structure
  5. Delete old structure
  6. Move everything into new OUs manually (yikes), using third party software (highly recommended)

<< Back to PART 1

Keep reading PART 3 >>

I.T. HERO 101: Organizational Units (Part 3)

Working With Setup Specialists

Setting Up Your Computer Specialist for Success

Setting up a strong OU structure is one thing but taking the time to individually enroll each device is a whole other beast. Placing all of your district’s new Chromebooks within your domain can be a cumbersome task. Unfortunately, Google Admin Console doesn’t come equipped with a strong bulk enrollment capability. During Chromebook setup, It can take between 5-8 minutes to individually update and enroll new devices in Google Admin Console. Multiply that by the number of devices in a deployment initiative and that’s a lot of time down the drain. No thanks!

Having an expert to help during Chromebook Deployment makes your job a whole lot easier. Working with Chromebook Setup Specialists–like the team at FireFly–gives you back hours of time during the deployment process. On request, OU enrollment can be included in White Glove Setup plan making new device deployment easier than ever!

Set your technicians up for success by providing them with the right information and good instructions. Give them a list of your separate organizational units, their full OU path, the quantity of devices each OU will receive.

When it’s time for them to get to work arranging devices within your domain, we recommend the creation of a locked down enrollment account (Instructions HERE). This allows for the explicit function of device enrollment and modification without giving access to anything else in your domain. Then, you can sit back and your setup specialist will do all the hard work for you.

See other ways that FireFly is making K-12 technology easier! Whether you’re just getting started with a 1-to-1 technology program, or looking for new solutions for maintaining your current technology fleet, FireFly is your partner in school computing.

<< Back to PART 2