To Chrome Or Not To Chrome?
Photo via Google.com/Chromebook
It seems that, every time you look at education technology publications, the hot topic of the day is Chromebooks. Schools around the nation are making the switch from laptops and iPads to Chromebooks. But why? What is the appeal of Chromebooks, and should your school jump on the Chromebook bandwagon?
Natalie Dolan, BoardShare’s sales and marketing coordinator, recently spoke with Marina Nuckles, a K-12 account executive at ScholarBuys. ScholarBuys is a BoardShare partner and education reseller that specializes in Chromebooks. Marina provided some in-depth information about Chromebooks, and why they are appealing to so many educators.
Natalie: “What is the difference between a Chromebook and a laptop?”
Marina: “A Chromebook is a cloud-based device that runs on a Google Chrome operating system rather than a Windows or Mac operating system. Chromebooks are designed to be used primarily with internet-based activities, though there are a great deal of other applications that can be downloaded and used on the device. All in all, a Chromebook is essentially a slimmed-down version of a laptop.
“Like laptops, Chromebooks are available in different models. Chromebooks offer touch screen models, 2 in 1 (a convertible model that allows you to use it as both a tablet and with a keyboard), and a detachable keyboard model that will be released soon.”
Natalie: “Why do you think so many schools are making the switch to Chromebooks?”
Marina: “There has been a technological boom with schools in the past few decades. Educators continue to look for new solutions that will save their schools money and heighten student learning. Chromebooks are a much cheaper device than a laptop or iPad; a standard Chromebook model can be purchased for around $200 or less. Even though it’s cheaper than an iPad or laptop, Chromebooks offer many of the same features. With the money that these schools save by purchasing Chromebooks, they’re free to purchase a great deal more technology.”
Natalie: “What are some other advantages of a Chromebook?”
Marina: “There are several advantages that Chromebooks offer. First and foremost, they are incredibly secure devices.” Chromebooks manually update their security software, encrypts all data that is stored on the cloud, and does a self-check that is referred to as a “Verified Boot”. If a Chromebook detects any corruption, it quickly repairs itself. Marina referred us to a Chromebook support page that gives details on what makes Chromebooks so secure.
“Another advantage of Chromebooks is that they’re easy to manage. The Google Management Licenses that can be purchased for an additional $30 allows a teacher to manage all of the Chromebooks in his or her classroom from one centralized location. Because it is cloud-based, students can quickly access lesson plans that a teacher has posted and easily share things with one another; it’s a great collaboration tool.
“They also have an incredibly long battery span (about 10 hours on average), and quick loading time – you can have a Chromebook up and running in 9 seconds, which saves time having to wait for the device to load.”
Natalie: “What are some important things to consider before purchasing a Chromebook?”
Marina: “The most crucial factor to consider is that Chromebooks do not allow you to download software from the Internet. If there is a software that you want to download (including if you need it to use in conjunction with another device), then a Chromebook will not be ideal for that. They do have Bluetooth capability, but it can often be difficult to connect hardware to Chromebooks. While many programs are available as a downloadable app, if you want to use a program that is not available as an app on Chrome, you will need a laptop to do so.” Some schools we have spoken with have purchased Chromebooks and wanted to utilize a specific program that was unavailable as an app; they ended up returning the Chromebooks and purchasing laptops instead.
“Another crucial aspect is to make sure that your school is ready to make that decision before diving in. Most teachers are used to a Windows or Mac operating system, so making the switch to a Chrome operating system may be challenging for them. A lot of teachers are resistant to new technology or change. Technology directors need to make sure that teachers feel comfortable using that different operating system. I would highly recommend implementing a professional development session for schools making the switch so the teachers are comfortable navigating the device and trying out different apps.
“Depending on how many Chromebooks you wish to purchase, network bandwidth is another aspect to consider. Some schools will purchase a great deal of Chromebooks because they are cheaper, but they don’t have the bandwidth to support their usage.”
Natalie: “Who are Chromebooks ideal for? Might they be better for a student but not a teacher?”
Marina: “Chromebooks can be used by both teachers in students in different ways. I typically say that they’re better for students to use, but teachers can certainly utilize the device for their classroom as well. A lot of people are under the impression that Chromebooks block you from accessing Internet content, which is not the case. With the Google management license, you can set up settings for certain users. If you have a teacher using Chromebook, you can set their personal settings and make sure they can visit any site. For students, you can change the settings to block certain websites as well. What’s great is that all of that can be done from one location, meaning you don’t need the physical device to change these settings.
“Although there are programs that are not available as a Chrome application, there are some major programs typically seen on most laptops (i.e., Microsoft Office, Adobe, etc.) that can be downloaded as an app.
“Chromebooks are also great because you can print with them as well, which is another fact that many people are unaware of. Many printers today are cloud based, so you can set up cloud printing and connect the Chromebook that way to print.”
Marina also mentioned that Chromebooks have been the go-to device for computer based testing. A lot of states are now requiring schools to move towards computer based testing, and Chromebooks typically meet the testing device requirements. They are secure and you can disable students' access to browse the web during the testing period. Other features that can be disabled during this time include: external storage, screenshots, and the ability to print.
While laptops and iPads are certainly ideal for some teachers and students, Chromebooks have a number of key features that make them an affordable and smart classroom device. Chromebooks are great for students, as teachers can control students’ access to various applications and websites. Marina recommends the Lenovo N23 Series as well as the HP EE versions, as these Chromebooks are ruggedized and built for the classroom. Chromebooks are less ideal for teachers, as there are certain limitations for downloading software and different programs.
- Heightened security
- Lower cost
- Quick loading time and long battery life
- Cloud based, leading to heightened collaboration
- Management of all devices from single location
- No software downloads
- Difficult to use with various hardware
- Longer learning curve for teachers unfamiliar with Chrome OS
- A lower cost means opportunity for more Chromebooks in the classroom, but this can also mean insufficient bandwidth to support them