Monday, September 30, 2013

Is Chromebook the Right Choice for Your Subject Area?

Is a 1:1 Chromebook project right for your subject?

Our school is rolling out a 1:1 using Chromebooks as the tool.

I'm applauding the effort.  1:1 in school has been a LONG time coming.  I think the roll-out over three years is way too slow.

But I'm still not totally sold that this system was the way to go.

I think the admin team here is still trying to sell our Chromebook roll-out.  On the weekly staff announcements there is an article about how great Chromebooks are.

"It boots in less than 10 seconds!  Battery life is as long as a school day!"

My personal devices pretty much do that too.  I'm not an engineer, but I would say the switch to flash memory from a traditional hard drive in  a computer does all that for you.

"Google Drive... need I say more?"

I make use of Google Drive with all my devices.  Google apps too.  I have been for years. Not a Chromebook exclusive.

"The device is light and small which makes storage, usage and mobility very easy and convenient."

But is it robust enough to stand up to school usage?  Is it ergonomically a good fit?  Does its size make it hard to keep physically secure?

"From a financial standpoint, the Chromebooks can't be beat...."

True.  But with that logic, we would all be driving Yugos, the car of 100 woes.

"The management system is pretty easy and straight forward from the networking and managing side of things."

It seems to me that the tech department that can manage several hundred staff machines can manage several hundred more.  It is a matter of scale and (probably) staffing.  Is the Google management system robust enough to meet the needs of the school environment?  It has been my experience in life that easy, straight forward and secure do not come in the same package.

"Google has shown it is willing to make and continue making substantial commitments to education, which means even more features and options in the years to come."

Google approved features.  You are limited to what can be offered as a web service.

If you want to install software, you are going to need to add an operating system.  For example, I doubt that SmartMusic (a software that I use) will ever work really well as a completely net service.  Large portions of the management of that software are network based, but most of the magic happens on my computer. The milliseconds introduced by even a screaming fast network add up to perceptible amounts of time for musicians.

I'm not sure how you would teach programming on Chromebooks.  Are you limited to HTML and Java?  Maybe we aren't expecting students to do programming.

This reminds me of the old Mac vs. PC wars.  Really, it shouldn't make any difference what machine you run.  The question really should be does this set-up do what I want it to do?  Do it well?

Chromebooks are just what the teachers of writing need.  They will do word processing and document management for their situation very well.  For now, most writing is done on keyboards and that may change soon.  I'm a big fan of GAFE for this as well.  We should have been  using Google Docs years ago.  The ability to share a document in real time with an editor or collaborator is game changing.

I am not sure about what to say to the math and science teachers, the physical education department, visual arts teachers and music teachers.  There may be better choices for them.  More flexibility on the apps that run on the machines make other laptop options attractive.  Cameras that are useful for things other than web chat and a wide variety of apps for the iPad make that an interesting choice as well.  You get the picture.

If you are at the crossroads of what to choose for a 1:1 initiative, think across the curricular day and make your decision carefully.  1:1 needs to be done.


Ian Nairn said...

Dear Roger,

Really liked reading your comments about the Chromebook project at your school.

I would like to share with you some thoughts from other schools who are using Chromebooks at the heart of their 1:1 deployments but where they recognise that they will also use other hardware, software and services together with the Chromebooks & Google Apps to fully meet the needs of teaching & learning.

Some are from the UK and USA

Hope you and your readers find these sources useful.

Kindest regards


Adam said...

The Chromebook's fast boot-up time is especially important in a classroom environment, as students don't waste time waiting for their devices to finish starting up.

Another advantage of Chromebooks for 1:1 initiatives is the cost, especially given the fact that you're going to see more damaged devices in a school environment than in a business environment.

But what about schools that use Windows applications? Or that access applications that require support for Java?

This can be addressed with third-party solutions such as Ericom AccessNow, an HTML5 RDP solution that enables Chromebook users to connect to any RDP host, including Terminal Server and VDI virtual desktops, and run Windows applications or desktops in a browser tab. That means that you can open up an Internet Explorer session inside a Chrome browser tab, and then connect to the applications that require Java and run them on the Chromebook. It's also possible to run other Windows-based testing or educational applications.

For more information about AccessNow for Chromebooks in Education, visit:

Please note that I work for Ericom