So I'm sat here looking at a shiny new gadget that is thinner than the sandwich I am eating at my desk and lighter than the tankard of coffee I am sipping. Unlike its name, it is not shiny, and it's not until you get going do you realise how clever it really is. I used to run a website about a decade ago, webtoolsforschools.com, which was all about how everything you want to do in education can be done “for free”, “on the web” and “in the cloud”. Webstoolsforschools went on to become New Ways to Learn. This device does exactly that. It places a phenomenal number of free tools in the hands of the user, in a manner that does not get you bogged down with making choices about “what you are going to use”, instead “about what you going to create”. I'm obviously sat in front of a Chromebook.
I'm not going to focus on which one, just why it needs to be a very serious contender when thinking about an upcoming investment, refresh or replacement programme.
So here goes. The top ten reasons why Chromebooks need to be on that list headed “what should we spending our money on next” which includes tablets, laptops, desktops, ultrabooks and hopefully not, Netbooks anymore. Anyone trying to sell you the latter should be ignored. That fad is over and no longer supported.
#1 - they are cheap. Simple. The most you'll spend is £250, the least around £180. For that you get a clamshell device with a keyboard and a mouse. No fancy touch screens, no point really. Sure that'll be the next area of development though, which will inevitably push the price up.
#2 - they easily last the full school day and beyond. Averaging 7 hours and easily optimisable to 8.5 and beyond, a Chromebook is better on battery than a laptop, and ultrabook and many tablets. Consumes less power on charging than a laptop too.
#3 - you can do everything you do on a laptop, but remember, over 80% of what you do is online. Want to edit a MS Office document? Sure. Want to edit a video? No worries. Want to check email and sync calendars? Ok. Want to create an original music score? Cool. Need something that feels like an interactive whiteboard? Done. Want kids voting? Easy. Want to create screencasts, podcasts and stop animation? Sorted. Ask yourself “what are we going to do with the kit” first, rather than “we should buy these as the school down the road has them”.
#4 - you can stop the harassing the network team, all day long. With remote management, easy deployment and the ability to manage user privileges in seconds, the Chromebook will definitely reduce the amount of support needed on a day to day basis. Guaranteed.
#5 - you find yourself saying “wow, that was quick”! Boot up takes seconds. Logging in takes seconds. Drawing down a bespoke desktop and apps takes seconds. Getting into an app takes seconds. So, you walk in, grab a Chromebook and you are doing something productive in less than 20 seconds.
For those of you old enough to remember the crazy police robot in Robocop, the one programmed to say “you have 20 seconds to comply”, with a Chromebook you'd be fine in his lesson. Just about :) Compare that to today. Right now. Tablets aside, very little else in schools today is that quick at getting kids focused and productive with technology. Your laptops have NEVER done it that quickly. Go on, admit it. Never.
#6 - if you have good wireless and a decent internet connection, don't buy laptops, buy Chromebooks. Why not? If you really took the time to audit how technology is used in the classroom or what the outputs are, the likelihood is that outputs will be dominated by MS Office documents with the odd Moviemaker video thrown in. If that is not your school, excellent! If it is however, time for a change?
#7 - nearly all the apps for Chromebook are free! This is a big deal. It is the same reason why tablets are so popular in schools. The stuff you pay for is pretty good. For example add Launchpad and Hapara to your Chromebook experience and what you have is the ability to create bespoke launch platforms and also see what every student is doing with their Chromebook, live, on the teachers laptop. Surveillance sure, but even better as a peer assessment tool and a mechanism for improving the pace of learning in the classroom. Add Chromecast and you've got some ability to push multimedia content to a screen, akin to AppleTV. A proper Virtual Mirror won't be too far away on the roadmap.
#8 - you don't actually need a Chromebook for the same experience. Well, you don't! I use Google Chrome on my laptop and have pretty much (without some of the integration that makes the device so cool) the same overall experience. You could, spec and an upgrade pending, redeploy ageing laptops or Netbooks with ChromeOS and get a similar experience. You wouldn't get the battery life or performance, but you will definitely see an improvement in engagement and boot up times.
#9 - it will get students doing more at home. Whatever they start at school can be continued on at home via the browser. On pretty much any device too. This has the potential to transform home school access and improve learner engagement outside of school hours.
#10 - single sign on. Set up properly, and that is a critical element, GAFE (Google Apps for Education) in a school environment will enable students to use a single email account to authenticate nearly all the apps available. There are nearly a thousand relevant apps for education available via the ChromeStore. The same email account will get them access to the same apps from any location and on any device pretty much. Oh and the devices play Flash content too.
So, still need some convincing on whether Chromebooks make a good laptop alternative? Really? Happy to provide a demo, organise a demo unit, make sure you are setup properly and of course we run a series of workshops on getting the most from web apps and Chromebook. Shout if need some support and guidance.
Sanjesh Sharma @ New Ways to Learn