Chromebooks – the anti-netbook netbook

May 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

So, Chromebooks. A browser-based laptop. Virtually no on-board storage (just like an iPad). Keyboard attached. Webcam attached. Half the price of an iPad. Why wouldn’t someone want this as their every day device?

I think that ultimately, devices with installable apps are going to go by the wayside. Web based apps are going to be the thing that puts cheap mobile devices in every student’s hands. No proprietary hardware or software, just stuff you can access from any web browser, on any device.

Chrome has the right idea. The stuff you can “install” on a Chromebook is the same stuff you can “install” in your chrome browser, and all of that syncs across devices. When I install an app in my browser at work, it shows up on my Chromebook the next time I log in, too.

The argument against netbooks was that they were under powered and didn’t run Windows well. Chromebooks don’t need to run anything but Chrome, so they don’t need a fancy high end processor, or a ton of RAM. The biggest compliment I’ve heard about Chromebooks is that “the device just goes away.”

I think that Chrome OS devices really can be the game changer in Education that netbooks were not. I also think that we, as educational technologists, should have a serious talk about just WHY people feel the need to get the devices they do. I’m sure there are people who have a very compelling reason for getting iPads, but I have always been the “do it for cheap or free” guy. Why would I buy something that costs a lot of money when there might be a solution for cheap or free? I will admit, some of the very expensive solutions to things (and I’m not just talking about devices here, I’m also talking about services) may be more polished or elegant, and if your organization is at a point where they need something that’s polished or elegant, and that isn’t going to take a lot of maintenance, I can understand going that route.

However, when we’re talking about devices, I’m not one to just jump on the bandwagon. I have seen too many people buy a device because it was the trend, but they didn’t really understand the limitations of the device. I think if you were to give people a chance to try devices out and made them think about the cost comparison, I believe that a lot of people, for what they would do with the device, would ultimately choose the less expensive one. Maybe I’m wrong on this. Maybe it’s just me. But convince me. Show me the data that says the more expensive device makes students learn better. Show me how it engages them more. Show me that their engagement can’t be just as high with multiple lower-cost devices as it is with the single expensive device.

I’ve had people say to me, “students tried device X and they just didn’t like it as much as the iPad.” OK, but WHY? Did you really take a hard look in the mirror on that? If you, as a teacher, have a preference for a certain device, don’t you think your students might pick up on that, too? Ultimately, shouldn’t the device be the one thing that matters least? I bet if you tried hard enough, you could make a compelling and engaging lesson with any mobile device a student brings in. It might just take a little more work than googling “ipad apps for education.”

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