Chromebooks Now Have A Suite of Creativity Apps

It’s no secret that I am a big supporter of iPads for student use in the classroom. A big reason is because of the creative output that the iPad enables. When I helped launch the one to one iPad program in the Encinitas Union School District in 2011, the emphasis was on student creation with the device. Programs such as iMovie, GarageBand and Explain Everything allow students to use the iPad as a mobile studio.

At the time (2011) Chromebooks were just emerging. My biggest criticism of the Chromebook was that it enabled acquisition learning, but it did not have good programs for creativity and application of learning. If you’ve ever tried to take a picture or draw on the screen using any type of laptop you know that it is not a natural function.

In 2016 we are now seeing some leveling of the playing field with creativity on the Chromebook. Google for Education is now promoting a suite of three creative apps that they think will make the Chromebook be taken more seriously as a device for creativity. The apps WeVideo, SoundTrap and Explain Everything are now being offered as a bundle.

I have been a user of Explain Everything for a long time and I’m familiar with it as a platform for students to be able to record themselves teaching a concept or presenting literally anything. I still have some reservations on Chromebooks that do not have a touch screen to use it to its fullest potential, but it does allow the voice recording feature to now be integrated with a good screencasting program for the Chromebook. The difference between this and the iPad version is that Explain Everything for Chromebook is a subscription-based service while the iPad version is a single license cost.

WeVideo has been an interesting program available for the last several years. It has always been the best option for video editing on the Chromebook. Again the difference between a tablet and a laptop becomes apparent when trying to capture video natively from the device. While not impossible to shoot video from a laptop/Chromebook, it is less natural than on a tablet that can use the screen as a viewfinder with the camera on the opposite side. The video import functionality is seamless with Google Drive which seemingly is what students that are using Chromebooks are using for file storage. Being able to grab an existing video from their Google Drive makes it easy for them to do the pre-production needed when they get into the video editing process. It is very easy to add video and do a simple voice narration. Publishing the video is also very easy and gives you several options including YouTube and to Google Drive.

My favorite of the three is Soundtrap. I have been a user of GarageBand since it first came out as part of the iLife suite in the mid-2000s. It has always been a great differentiator on the iPad to have it as an app. With Soundtrap, the Chromebook now has a true equal for podcasting and music creation. Having not seen Soundtrap prior to ISTE in Denver, I didn’t know such a wonderful program existed. Being a musician myself, I immediately saw great potential for students learning how to compose music. It is essentially a multi-track audio recording app that includes both a library of loops as well as the ability to record virtual instruments. With Auto-Tune for voice and the easy transposing of keys in the loops to match other loops it already has a step up on GarageBand. The fact that you can also work on projects on multiple devices make it more flexible as well. if you have not tried Soundtrap you can go and open up a free account and record your first song.

I hope my Apple supporting friends can forgive me when I say that there are few less reasons why you should not be buying Chromebooks instead of iPads.

Of course a good headset is recommended for all of these programs. For sound quality and recording, ThinkWrite Ultra Durable headset is an ideal accessory.  We are excited to see that our products can now be completely used on Chromebooks for supporting student voice and creativity.

More information on the ThinkWrite headsets is at http://ithinkwrite.com/headsets.

Google for Education has posted a video and information page at http://www.google.com/edu/products/class-content.