Hardware Review: Chromebooks

Guest Blog by Andrew from Match Next

Google Chromebooks now have 3% of the K-12 market for school computers.  The other 97% remain Windows and Mac.  Are you old enough to remember these clunkers?

 

Match Next bought 50 Acer Chromebooks.  They’re laptops.  We’re trying them out in our 4th grade.  They cost $250 per computer.  

Overall, I’d rate the Chromebooks a 9 out of 10. These laptops are cheap and good.  The main upside is the sleekness of Chrome OS. It’s smooth, boots super fast and makes distribution of material very, very easy.  If you’re thinking about buying laptops for your school, you should consider these. 

Chromebooks run on Chrome OS, a Linux-based operating system designed to work mostly with web based programs.  That’s one reason they are cheap – no royalty to Microsoft.  All you can really do with these things is access the internet and the Google apps collection—it’s deliberately barebones.  Note to Mike G’s parents: Google has their own versions of software similar to Microsoft Word, Excel, etc, that are available for free. 

 

How We Use Them at Match

1.     These laptops can’t do much without Internet access.  However, one nice feature is the ability to work on a Google app “offline” and then sync your files with Google Drive or Gmail when back online. 

2.     The Chrome OS doesn’t allow you to store anything on the laptop itself.  Anything you need, from programs to files, live in “the cloud” – via internet. 

The Chrome OS makes it really easy to access Google apps—we’ve discovered all sorts of neat tricks with the Google programs. Google Drive has been a pretty huge win for us because it’s allowed us to send out reading materials, assessments and videos*. We’ve been able to cut back on our paper consumption and save time on things like copying/sorting files. Plus kids love reading on the screen—happy kids = happy classroom.

*Btw, logging into a Chromebook requires a Google account. Match uses Google Apps for Education, so we just created a Google account for each student and created a listserv so we could send files en masse.

These things may speak more to the Google software, but the Chromebooks play a huge role in our ability to use Google apps by facilitating the process of accessing materials. Once the computer boots (which takes <10 seconds), everything you need is right there. Not having to go to www.drive.google.com and entering login credentials is a huge bonus.

Outside of the Google software itself, we haven’t found program-limitations to be an issue. All the programs we’ve considered introducing into our curriculum are web-based anyways.

 

The Hardware

We began using the Chromebooks extensively over the summer. Now our 4th graders use them most days for about 1.5-2.5 hours. What they do on the computers depends on the subject they’re working on and the program we’re using. The students might be reading a text, practicing Math facts, learning how to program…the list goes on.

The computers themselves are pretty light and transportable. However, the screen area seems a little flimsy. We’ve had 2 or 3 drops over the last few months with no breakages or cracks, but we’ve had two glitchy screens. All in all though, 48 out of 50 computers without any major issues after 3 months is just fine by me.

Besides the screen, we’ve also encountered some issues with the trackpad. Every once in a while it’ll “stick,” meaning the mouse pointer on the screen won’t move with the finger motion on the trackpad. We found the quick and easy fix was to pull out the battery and force the laptop to restart.

 

Upcoming Blogs:

We’ve continued our Kindle reading program. You can read about its inception here and here.

We’re learning a lot about how to get kids to read more and the challenges. Finding books they want to read, kids at different reading levels, etc. Stay tuned.