3 Chromebook Management Tips for Google-fied Districts

Adam Heckler is a twenty-something Cincinnati, Ohio local working in the education technology sector. Most of his time is spent at VARtek Services where he writes for the blog, manages social media, and advises K12 s

As discussed in my last post, I’ve had the fortune to work in a few districts that are in the midst of deploying Google Chromebooks on a large scale. While it’s definitely an extremely busy and complicated process, you tend to learn a few things from it as well.

Today I wanted to share with you some of the more important tips and tricks I’ve learned that can help your district in Chromebook management. Here are the three main lessons to ensure you and your school or district make a smooth transition to the world of Chromebooks!

 

Chromebook Management Tips

Organize Your Google Apps OUs Efficiently

In Google Apps for Education (GAFE), Chromebook policies are applied to the same organizational tree that houses your users. Basically, this means that however you have your domain structured in the Users tab is going to be the way it’s structured in Settings > Chrome Management.

The ideal way to do this is as follows:

YourDomain.com
│
├── Administrators
│   └── Building 1
│   └── Building 2
│   └── Building 3
│   
├── Staff
│   └── Building 1
│   └── Building 2
│   └── Building 3
│   
├── Students
│   └── Building 1
│   └── Building 2
│   └── Building 3
│   
├── Teachers
│   └── Building 1
│   └── Building 2
│   └── Building 3

You might think that the buildings should be the higher-level group with the staff, student, admins, and so on nested under that, but doing it that way creates a few issues.

For example, say you want to apply a policy to your Chromebooks that allows staff to bypass SafeSearch but prevents students from doing so. This is easy to do with the above structure: just change the policies for staff and students, then you’re done. Total policies that need to be created: 2.

If you organize GAFE so that buildings are the high-level group, then you’ll need to recreate the staff and student policies inside of every building group, which could take a long time. Total policies that need to be created: 2 x the number of buildings you have.

The first way works best because there are going to be many more differences between your staff and student policies than there will be between building policies. (The one caveat to this might be printers, but you could always just enable all printers in the district for staff and then enable all hallway printers for students and call it a day.)

Chromebook Management Tips for Schools and Districts

 

Enroll Your Chromebooks in Batches

If you’re like most other school districts out there, you probably use some sort of inventory system to keep track of your district-owned assets. This means that when you get your Chromebooks, you have to put the inventory tags on them all. Additionally, you probably assign a specific device to a specific person as well, so that you know Teacher A has Chromebook #000001, Teacher B has #000002, and so on.

Where this causes problems is during device enrollments, since enrolling everything at once means you’ll have to go back and hunt down the serial numbers for each device, put it in some sort of spreadsheet, and then move that one device to the right Apps OU for the person you assigned it to.

That’s all rather time-consuming, so what we ended up doing was this: We unboxed 30 Chromebooks at a time (since that was the number our carts could hold), inventoried them, enrolled them, and then moved them to the correct Apps OU all at once.

This is the easy way, since only 30 at a time popped up in the Devices tab, and they were all going to the same OU. Ta da! No need to find individual serial numbers in GAFE and move them one by one!

Enroll Your Chromebooks in Batches

 

Move a Few Devices to the Beta Channel

Update channels determine when a Chromebook is updated to the very latest version of ChromeOS. The stable channel, of course, means that devices will only be upgraded once the new ChromeOS build has proved itself reliable and ready for mass deployment. The beta channel is where newer features are tested before being moved to the stable channel.

It’s a good policy to take a few Chromebooks and leave them with your IT department so that they can change their channels to beta. This way, they can test out new features before they’re deployed to the rest of the district’s devices. Any issues that crop up can always be avoided by limiting the Chrome version of the rest of your Chromebooks.

Beta updates tend to be pushed to the stable channel six to eight weeks later, so you’ll have plenty of time to see if something breaks and figure out how to fix it.

 

Have you learnt any Chromebook management tips that have made the adoption process easier for your school or district? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Alex Washburn and Jeff Billings.