Michael St. Jean ● Think (Ed + Tech)

Assistant Superintendent, Academic Data and Technology.

Typically, photographers use Macs or PC's, with programs such as Photoshop or Lightroom, for digital image management and post processing. On my photography blog at http://photo.stjeanm.com, I explore using a Chromebook and Google+ Editing tools instead:

It is has been about a year since I switched from a Windows laptop to a Chromebook and web-based applications to perform my daily work. Today I estimate that about 95% of my work is done using a Chromebook or Chromebox with about 5% of my time requiring a Windows-based applications not available for Chrome, but still accomplished on a Chromebook through a Windows remote desktop client.

The Hardware:

Away from my office I use whatever Chromebook I am sent as a demo or purchased at a deep discount to test for possible adoption by the school district. I've used Chromebooks from just about every manufacturer. My favorite so far is the Lenovo Yoga 11e Chromebook purchased at a 60% discount though Lenovo's Seed Program. The Yoga 11e simply has the best build and screen quality I have tested in a Chromebook.

My office desktop consists of an ASUS Chromebox attached to an ASUS 24 inch monitor. Total cost about $350.

Since dropping Microsoft Office and wholly adopting Google Apps as my primary productivity suite, I no longer care about what device I use.

At Work:

I work though Google Apps for Education, using every bit of it, and not feeling deprived for any tool or capability.  Google Drive is my work hub.

All my "stuff" accessible from any device with an Internet connection

I have not used MS Word for several years now, preferring to write and plan in Google Docs. At first I was annoyed by what I considered to be formatting limitations for Docs vs Word. Now, I don't focus on format, rather my attention is content and collaboration. Google Docs excels at collaboration allowing me to publish my documents to the web or share docs and folders with colleagues.

Hundreds of docs always accessible 
Moving from Word to Docs was an easy transition. Because of the data intensity of my job, it has taken me longer to give up Excel in favor of Google Sheets. But I did transition. Today I rarely touch Excel except to specifically save something into an older Excel format for upload to my state's department of education. Instead I prefer to work with CSV export files or create new spreadsheets directly with Google Sheets. Fortunately Skyward, our district's web-based student management system, exports its data as CSV files, which I save directly to my Google Drive. I use Google Sheet's filters and pivot table reports to manipulate the Skyward exports. These files can be further shared or downloaded or  published or distributed in different formats, or even imported back to Skyward and other web-based data and assessment systems.

Export CSV from Skyward straight into Google Drive and Sheets
Skyward data exported as a csv file to Google Sheets and viewed as a Pivot Table Report

Rounding out my web tools for work are Google Slides for presentations and tutorials, Lucid Chart for organizational diagrams, and Google Forms to gather data, poll, or survey the faculty. Google Mail keeps me accessible and Google Calendar and Google Keep helps me stay organized. I also use a few Chrome addons and extensions for work: Snagit for capturing screenshots for training or support, and Cloudy Calculator to crunch numbers on the fly.

I use Ericom's AccessToGo, a Windows remote desktop client to access the district's Windows Servers for hardware, directory, and system maintenance. What is important to me is that I can still administer the the network though a Chromebook. I also use a remote windows desktop for the occasional Excel spreadsheet and to make corrections on district's Timeclock application.  Any Windows application can be run on a Chromebook or Chromebox through a free Windows remote desktop client assuming you have Windows Servers or Windows 7 or 8 Pro version desktops available as Remote Desktop Hosts.

Excel on a Chromebook via a Windows remote desktop client
At Home:

From the Chromebook, email, Internet, Blogger, Netflix, Amazon Prime, social media, are all there. Streaming music and my digital music library are present. Web-based information and entertainment are absolutely no problems with a Chromebook.

For years I have used Lightroom to edit my photos but lately I've been discovering the power of photo storage and editing using Google+ Photos. While I still access Lightroom running our home's media and gaming PC thought Ericom AccessToGo on the Chromebook, I am increasingly using Google + directly from the Chromebook to upload, tweak, and publish photos.

Editing vacation snaps in Google+
For gaming, the Chromebook is okay for casual games. For intense gaming, however stick to the PC or dedicated gaming console.


I can summarize my year using a Chromebook as lightweight and liberating. Through Google Drive my "stuff" is accessible from any desktop, laptop, any operating system, and even my phone. Google Apps provide a powerful suite of productivity applications giving me just enough capability to do my job without overloading it with unnecessary features and functions, and in a pinch I can access Windows desktops and servers though a remote desktop client. Am I satisfied with my new workflow? Yes. Will I ever go back to a traditional Windows laptop or desktop? There really isn't a need to.

Starting in January 2015, every Central Falls Public School student in grades 3 to 12 will be provided with a Chromebook. Students will have access to Chromebooks 24/7, and are permitted to use the device outside of the school building.....Visit the Central Falls Schools Chromebook 1:1 Readiness Page.

Since I have managed to switch my daily work needs to Google Apps for Education and other web-based applications and services, I have moved away from a Windows laptop into a Chromebook. Well, mostly. I still need Excel and an occasional csv editor. While Google Sheets is more than suitable for my budgeting, planning, and organizing needs, I often need to manage and analyze very large data sets in a variety of formats. This is where Excel (and csved) excels (get it?).

Remote Windows Desktop running on a Chromebook

While our initial Chromebook trials with the Samsung model have been very successful, before we committed to Samsung, I wanted to test a few contenders.

Into my office arrived a 4GB and touch screen Acer 720p along with a very sleek looking pair of HP Chromebooks, the 11" and 14" models.