Deploying class sets of Chromebooks

chromebooks

This is the first in a few posts I plan to write documenting our process for deploying various devices into school. It’s an area I get asked about frequently so thought that a post that gets updated with latest practice could be helpful. Do add to the comments if you do something different / have questions.

With the Chromebooks it’s simple. If you’ve been doing similar with iOS devices you’ll notice how much shorter this job list is. With the right preparation it only takes a few minutes to go from unboxing to classroom use.

Before purchasing

There are two pretty critical steps here.

You’ll want your school to have a Google Apps for Education setup. You can log on to a Chromebook with any Google account, but you don’t get the device management features if you’re not part of GApps.

Make sure you get the Management Licenses. Your reseller will be able to provide them (when we purchased £19.99 / device), and it gives you all the admin functions you’ll need.

In our experience this took longer to activate than expected. We had the Chromebooks but had to wait a few days before they could connect to our apps installation. Not a huge problem, but do be aware of this is you have tight timescales – chase your reseller when you order.

Unboxing

With your management licenses in place you’re good to go. We labelled our devices and powered them up. Join a wireless network (& add your proxy settings), but when you get to the login screen don’t log in.

Instead, hit ctrl-alt-E and you’ll be get the enterprise login screen. Enter your GApps admin credentials.

Once logged in your Chromebook joins your apps installation. You can log out and it’s ready to go. From now on it will default to the enterprise login so your users don’t need to remember the key combination.

MDM

management

With all the Chromebooks added to your domain you can have a look at the Google management tools.

Log in to your Apps domain and go to the admin area (the ‘manage this domain’ option in settings). Pick ‘device management’ and you should see your devices.

You can drill down to an individual device level and get useful data like recent active times and users. ‘Last policy fetch time’ is a useful piece of information for when you start to deploy apps/settings.

You can assign Chromebooks to different ‘Organisations’ within your setup. You could assign them all to the top level org, but using sub-organisations such as staff/students/yeargroups/etc will allow you to set up groups of devices in slightly different ways. Different permissions/apps for teachers compared to students seems like an obvious way to use this.

Back on the device management page the network & chrome management settings are useful. On these pages you can control settings for your devices, based on those organisations mentioned above. Google have full docs on these, but some key settings are:

  • Preconfigured wireless networks (and proxy settings)
  • Wallpaper
  • Allowed app types
  • Homepage
  • Bookmarks
  • Privacy

Possible trip hazards

Couple of things to watch out for that when setting up your Chromebooks. Nothing major:

  • The Chromebook has a guest account that gives Internet access without a login. We had trouble getting this to work reliably on networks with a proxy as it doesn’t remember the ‘allow proxy on shared networks’ preference between sessions. Our current options on this are either disable guest account or setup transparent proxy. Working on a better idea…
  • Be careful with your management settings. Make a typo in the network settings and save them and they’ll deploy. If that results in the devices not being able to connect it gets a bit harder to deploy a correction.

And that’s it, you’re good to go. In the next post on the topic I’ll cover deploying apps, and how you could delegate app deployment to your teaching staff.