Chromebooks in the Classroom

At First Glance

I have been test driving a Samsung Chromebook for the past week and have been very impressed with how easy it is to use. If you haven’t had a chance to see what a Chromebook is, check out Google’s 3min video explanation.

Most of the productivity work I do on computers is online (Google Apps and Web 2.0 tools), so I didn’t have to go through the learning curve of how to share and work on the internet. As a result, I was quite at ease with having Google Chrome as the only program on the computer. I also discovered that there are quite a few differences that makes Chromebooks great for a class.

1. 8 Second Start-up. My colleague, Darin Johnson, was telling me about a class he was observing where it took the students twenty-four minutes before they all logged on. I am sure we have all had the same experience, and our Primary teachers are well aware of the age:login coefficient. The Chromebook went from open to on to login in 8 seconds, though it would take a bit longer if I couldn’t spell my name and password. This may seem like a small thing, but to a teacher with a class of 20+ students, an easy login is a huge time and stress saver.

2. Pushing out Extensions and Apps. One of the coolest aspects of Chrome OS is that if there are any updates, apps or extensions that apply to every student in the district, they can be added to everyone’s profile all at once from our IT department. No more waiting two weeks for the tech to come out and install new software on everyone’s computer.

3. Profiles that follow the student. When I set my preferences in Chrome, they are stored online so that it doesn’t matter which computer I use, my preferences will follow me. I don’t have to always have the same computer. If the computer breaks, I don’t have to reset everything. If a student needs to use a larger font, that font size will follow him, even if he changes schools within the district. This has some excellent implications for UDL (Universal Design for Learning).

4. Easy Individualization with Shared Devices. This is an extension of the previous point. One of the problems currently facing iPads is that they are highly individual devices, and public schools are used to sharing resources. iTunes had made it difficult to legally operate a class set of iPads, and some of the information collected on the apps that get past from student to student may have FOIP issues. However, a Chrome profile avoids those issues. You get to individualize a profile and have the ability to share a computer between classes. If you have read my blog before, you will know that I am a big fan of tablet computing. When we see Chrome OS for Android tablets I’ll really be excited.

There are, however, a few things we need to keep in mind about Chromebooks. A Chromebook needs a Gmail account to work, and many of the Google Apps for Education involve elements of social media. For students to be doing all their work online, our teachers need to be up to speed on their digital citizenship and fluency. Also, even though the internet is more ubiquitous and reliable, our internal wi-fi security systems can sometimes drop or block a connection and negate any of the bonus gained by Chrome OS. Given that everything students do on a Chromebook is online we may need to update our wi-fi security policies and procedures.

I am very excited about the prospect of Chromebooks in the classroom and I am looking forward to the exciting ways we can integrate it into our teaching.

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14 thoughts on “Chromebooks in the Classroom

  1. I’ve been wondering what the district has been doing when I heard about Chromebooks a year ago. Getting purchasing and district technology on board is a no-brainer in my opinion. Getting teachers and old-school teaching on board is the tricky part.

  2. I am also amazed at the quick start up time on chrome books. For me the real power of the Chromebook is that if you use one you are working in the cloud… Period. No more working locally then saving to the cloud, or working in the cloud then saving locally. It is the first device I have used that requires a wholesale investment in cloud computing to use and that may make it a game changer for those that use it.

  3. Will I completely agree. I, like many of us am stuck in two worlds: Office and Post-Office. As long as the district continues to go status quo we will all be stuck in some way, shape or form with local servers. I am having my students use the cloud for EVERYTHING. And that is a choice I have made. ChromeBooks and unplugging those ethernet cables will force the masses to assimilate. We will be a part of the revolution, not the devolution. I would love to see EPS take a bold step in the direction of the cloud. The schools have the Google Apps. Let’s get more and better devices in the kids hands…

    On that note, what is the approximate cost for ChromeBooks? Find a price online and multiply by 3 to factor in ITS? Seriously the cost of ITS has to be a leading factor and reason for the district to move forward. I think they are spending oodles of $$$ on maintaining the old infrastructure. At least they could use those savings to transfer costs to upgrading Wi-Fi in the schools. (Our wireless ports are already obsolete according to our tech.)

  4. I’m STILL waiting for Wi-Fi at my school – soon, I’ve been promised. Then I’d be very interested in trying out a set of Chromebooks with my class – we use Google Apps for some things but this would encourage a shift from Word and Powerpoint to Google Docs and Presentation. It’s a struggle to get extra lab time when doing projects/research with class. Would love some idea of cost compared to Netbooks.

    • I don’t know the absolute costs, but I have heard it is around $600-$700 over three years. It has a full replacement warranty, which would be good for shared computers. Students aren’t known for their gentle handling of school owned devices.

  5. Rick, great post. I`ve been looking for someone else locally who is giving Chromebooks a go. We just got one yesterday and are interested to see the potential. My big wonder right now is whether they are worth the cost, since many see them as a laptop with the ability to only run chrome and no other software (apps not included). If Google was pushing them for $200 a piece, I would be jumping all over them, but the jury is still out with me. I`ll see in a month or so.

    • If cloud computing is not part of the tech culture at your school, then I would agree that the return on investment is minimal. However, if you have a tech infrastructure with easy access to the internet as well as staff and students who are comfortable working with online apps (Google or other), then the cost savings in tech time alone is worth it. Using word processing as an example, if your students are using Google Docs, updates are free and happen “automatically,” appearing the next time the student logs in. To update MS Word, you need to purchase a licence for the District, then get a tech to come out and re-image every machine. Some older machines may not have the proper hardware which would also need updating or replacing. When comparing the price of Chromebooks to netbooks, be sure to consider the external costs of upkeep.

  6. Thanks for the great summary, short and sweet…that’s great. Two questions:
    1. Does Google use their usual ‘tracking methods’ for advertisers in cases that students/schools are using their OS? Is there a strict policy of some sort on this?
    2. In the future, do you see schools still purchasing a lot of devices? Or do you see more desktop virtulization…students using their own computers to access a virtual (Google OS??) desktop from their school?
    Jeremy

    • Thanks, Jeremy. I am glad you enjoyed the article.
      1. Google does not use tracking methods with their Apps for Education platform. Their privacy and security policy is pretty tight, which is obviously important for educational institutions.
      2. This is a great question, and I really don’t know how this will play out. Desktop virtulization is definitely on the horizon, but there has not been enough debate about student owned devices vs. district owned devices to be able to get a sense of where the dust will settle in the future. Is it fair for Public Education to ask students to provide their own devices? Can Public Education justify the cost of 1-1 computers? I will keep my ear to the ground and follow (and, perhaps, blogging about) this topic.

  7. You raise interesting points about the benefits of the Chromebook for education. However some institutions will still require access to Windows applications. In order to extend the benefits of Chromebooks schools will need to provide quick and easy browser-based access to these Windows applications and also to virtual desktops. Ericom AccessNow provides this support and enables Chromebook users to connect to Terminal Servers, physical desktops or VDI virtual desktops – and run Windows applications and desktops within a browser window, without having to install anything on the user device.

    Download this white paper to learn how a school district is implementing BYOD by capitalizing on innovative clientless HTML5 technology to empower students using Chromebooks and other devices with quick, browser-based access to Windows applications and virtual desktops.

    http://www.ericom.com/wp-chromebook-byod-education.asp?URL_ID=708

    Note: I work for Ericom

  8. Biggest road block right now to compiuter use is internet speed. Everything is moving to the cloud. It is amazing. I am want to purchase 200 chromebooks for next year for our school but I am afraid it will kill what is left of our internet. With 2300 students I am not sure what kind of connection we are going to need.

  9. Pingback: Reflecting on Teaching with Chromebooks | Heeding Thamus

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