These days, everyone in education tech is talking about Chromebooks. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re really just inexpensive laptops running a Chrome OS. These devices are designed to be used primarily when connected to the Internet, though they have some functionality even offline. If you’re wondering whether you should buy them for your school, here’s a breakdown of the top pros and cons so you can better understand what these devices do or don’t offer.
- Very fast startup time. The newest models start up in less than 5 seconds, which is faster than any other laptop (Mac, Windows, or Linux) on the market.
- Long battery life. Since a Chromebook is Web-based, it lasts as long as 8 hours with continuous use – longer than the typical full school day.
- Offline support for popular Google apps (Gmail, Calendar, Google Drive, Google Play Music, and others). Contrary to popular belief, a Chromebook is not a brick when it’s not connected to the Internet. Even offline, Chromebooks use a number of Google apps, like Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentation and Drawing.
- Minimal cost and effort to implement. No setup is required.
- Automatic free updates. Because the Chrome OS is upgraded on the fly, updates are added instantly. And because updates are free (unlike Microsoft Windows), you have a very low cost of ownership
- No need to worry about pesky Trojans or viruses. Every model comes with a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip inside, which ensures that the Chrome OS is difficult to hack. There is also no need to install antivirus software, which typically slows down desktop operating systems and adds to the overall cost of ownership.
- Cost, cost, cost. Chromebooks go for as little as $250.
- Free cloud storage for 2 years. The 120 GB of storage is like a $120 rebate, if you are purchasing this service anyway.
- Not optimal for teachers. Chromebooks may not support necessary school software systems (LMS’s, grade-book systems, etc.) that run only on the desktop (Mac/Windows/Linux).
- Not a great front-of-the-room solution. Chromebook driver support for classroom hardware devices may be limited since they require custom drivers that have been developed for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
- No MS Office or desktop productivity tools. This may not be a problem if you are happy with Google docs.
- Less useful when offline. While there are google apps that let you perform some limited editing, there are plenty of other apps that are not accessible offline. A quick, economical solution would be a wireless hotspot available from most phone companies for ~$15.
- Not as useful for younger students. Since typing skills are not typically acquired until middle school, younger students tend to respond better to tablets and touch devices.
- Finger and pen input is limited. This is more of a problem for STEM fields, where freehand writing is very important. Students who use Chromebooks still have to use pen and paper when it comes to math and other STEM fields. It is possible, however, to purchase a Chromebook with a touch screen or graphic tablet (e.g., Wacom).
- Cost savings may be shortsighted. For a little more money, users can get a full-blown Windows/Linux PC that has the same functionality as a Chromebook, as well as the ability to support most hardware, etc. Why buy a Chromebook for $250 when you can get a full-blown PC for $350 and run any and all software (Web or desktop)?
So there you have it – the good and the bad about Chromebooks. For teachers who need to interface with classroom technology, Chromebooks may not be the best choice. But with school budgets limited and the Common Core Assessments looming, Chromebooks could be a good solution for schools that want to implement a 1-to-1 on a budget. We hope these pros and cons will help you make a more informed choice about what is a good for your school, district, or classroom.
Looking for more ways to use your Chromebook? Learn more about Mimio’s expanded MimioMobile™ app.