Chromebooks are becoming more utilised in schools, until recently I had thought them to be:
- Limited functionality (who can do everything they need to do, within a chrome browser)
- The next netbook (remembered those? If not, there is a reason for that)
- Limiting a students and teachers ability to be creative.
Cheap laptops have been around for a while, there is nothing new about a sub $350 notebook running Linux, Asus built the EEEpc around 2007 in order to put laptops in developing nations. These took off around the world and formed the netbook category, however they were extremely limited in power, storage and the build quality was generally terrible not forgetting to mention the tiny 9″ screens.
Subsequently we wanted more from these and they began running Windows, either XP, 7 or 8; and did they slow down!
So here we are today, cheap notebooks running Linux again, in the shape of ChromeOS. But it’s different this time, the manufacturers seem to have learned from their mistakes. We have much larger screens (11″ – 15″), faster processors and a connectivity has developed around “Cloud Storage”, so having a 32gb drive is no longer limiting, not to mention the incredible battery life of up to 10 hours.
The ChromeOS is an operating system based off the open source Linux system, specifically Gentoo. It is ultra light weight and importantly very simple. Google have designed ChromeOS to be a simple OS to use and cause as few issues as possible. Essentially anything in your google account gets synced with the Chromebook, Google docs, Google Drive, Google calendar and Gmail amongst many other 3rd party apps.
Like every modern OS, it has an App Store, in the way of Google Chrome Browser extensions. There are over 1 billion extensions in the store ranging from safe browsing to video editing, it’s these extensions which bring the real power and innovation to Chromebooks. The store leverages on a new technology called HTML5, this brings in greater integration between the user and web browser and also some new features such as offline website storage (so that apps can run without the internet) and the ability to stream video without Adobe flash (check out http://YouTube.com/html5 ).
Being based on the Unix OS, there are no known viruses, making them even safer for children and adults especially when paired with web filters and ad-blockers. You also don’t have the added expense of those costly anti-virus programs. Should you want to wipe the Chromebook, you can perform power wash which takes only a few moments and put it back to a factory state.
To login to the Chromebook, users just need to use their Google account (this is the same as your gmail login), parents can set up kids with their own accounts and be able to manage these through supervised accounts http://goo.gl/oFyk1c .
So when would you buy a Chromebook, and when would you buy a PC/Mac? Well, like anything it depends on what you do and need it for. The Chromebook is perfect for kids, grandparents and adults who just want a computer in order to access the Internet safely and are confident in using the Google suite of apps (Docs, Drive, Calendar, Gmail).
If you have large photo libraries, require the Microsoft office programs or rely on specific PC/Mac apps then this is probably not the machine for you.
Chromebooks can be a fantastic way to get students and teachers comfortably and safely using technology in the classroom, especially when it is paired with apps such as Hapara , where teachers can monitor students and ensure they remain on task. Chromebooks offer extremely quick bootup times and have lower maintenance overheads and fewer chances of issues arising, allowing your students to use technology when they need.
Whilst the Chromebook may not suit every school and you may be skeptical, I would definitely try one out and experience it.
You can read more about Chromebooks here https://www.google.com.au/chrome/devices/
Do you use Chromebooks at your School, workplace or even at home?