The Truth About Chromebooks (Good and Bad)

**Updated March 2017

Chromebooks, The Pros, the Cons, and the Ehs!

One of the major devices that has entered into the educational world is the chromebook. While this device is cheap and relatively quick, it does come with several limitations. For the past years our school has implemented 1-to-1 solutions in isolated classrooms. We are using a device cart model and have not ventured into letting the devices off site with but a few exceptions.

Pros

  • Price – Chromebooks need to be licensed when managed by a school IT specialist, teacher, or administrator. The cheapest ones start at around $170. If you get a cart of 25 (cart and chromebooks with shipping included) you are looking at about $6K-$7K on the low side. Remember that each device will have in addition to its cost, a $30 management fee. The good thing is it is a one time fee. Device licensing is specific to manufacturer and model. For instance. A Lenovo N21 can be licensed but if that device fails, then that license cannot be used on the newer Lenovo N22. You will need to buy a new license from a google partner. 
  • Fast – With just a 10-20 second startup time you can really get more done because you have more time. Certain features can be turned on and off to optimize this time. 
  • Management – You don’t need to work through the server or with any special equipment. Google makes managing Chromebooks quite easy. You just need to have a G-Suite account for your organization (formerly Google Apps for Education). G-Suite is free to educational institutions. Figuring out the administrator’s console for G-Suite takes some time but it doesn’t require any special training or expertise. Take a week, learn the console, and then you will be good to go with Chromebook Management.
  • Size – While some consider the smaller nature of the devices hard to work with, many teachers love it because they fit on desks, they don’t take up a lot of space in the classroom, and they still have a full keyboard so students can type without compromising their typing style.
  • Closed System – This may seem like a con, but closed systems like Apple operating systems and Chrome OS are less likely to get bugs and viruses. This make the devices safer and less prone to malicious software.
  • Kiosk Mode – If you have a school wide test, website, or program you want used (and nothing else) chromebooks are great for this. With the prevalence of online testing it is a pain to install programs on multiple computers. With a chromebook you can “Push Out” a program to all your devices at once and if you want you can force each one to default to only one application. This feature known as Kiosk Mode can also be set so that users don’t have to have a google account to use it. This can be great for form data collection or testing programs that use a unique login (like those from Pearson and McGraw Hill). For more click HERE.

Cons

  • Programs – Chromebooks like iPads are a closed system (see above pro). This means that you can’t install third party software, nor can you really download games/software from CDs or DVDs. You need to either stream content from the chrome browser or through approved apps like netflix and youtube. Now, we have been running ours for two years and really haven’t run into any issues with this. With everything moving to the cloud this has really been a non-issue.
  • WIFI Dependent – Chromebooks are cloud based. They store all information in the cloud. While some consider this a huge pro (because you don’t loose files, or need flash drives) it can be a negative because the device is very WIFI dependent. However, contrary to popular belief they still work without wifi, but no work can be saved (to the cloud) until a wifi connection is restored. It will be stored “locally” on the device. Note: If you want to use the device offline, the student, teacher or other user must have signed in when the device was online. The reason is, Google authenticates every login. 
  • Space – Chromebooks have very little internal space (the equivalent of a 16GB iPhone). Therefore, if you are not comfortable with the cloud this is probably not the right choice for you. 

Eh

  • Printing – Because you can’t install third party software, chromebooks require the use of Google’s Cloud Print system. There are really two routes to take in this department. The classic printer setup requires a Windows, Mac, or other computer connected to your hardwired network. You then install the chrome browser and follow these instructions to set up and share your printer. This is NOT the most reliable system. We have experienced intermittent failure with this system. I recommend that you have a device that is Google Print Certified on your network. Most newer copy machines (Lanier, Ricoh…etc.) have firmware upgrades that make them work with the Google Print Network. If your copy machines are too old, get a Google Certified Printer. You can find some example models HERE. Getting a certified printer is the most reliable and it does NOT require a network engineer to set up. You will need to add the printer, once installed, to the Google Admin console. If you have any questions about how to share it out effectively feel free to contact me using the contact tab at the top of this webpage. 
  • Microsoft Office – If you are an exclusive Microsoft office user, this may or may not be for you. PCWorld put out an article explaining how you can use a version of office with Chromebook. For more details CLICK HERE. However, office is moving to requiring office 365 which is compatible with Google Chrome (the web based version).

NEW! – Warranty and Leasing

Chromebooks have really been influential in the educational world. With better wifi and internet access, this is a more optimal and realistic choice for schools and 1-to-1 deployments. If you buy a classroom set of devices, I recommend you consider a budget for buying replacement devices or getting a warranty. If you know your student population is hard on devices, I would recommend the warranty. Chromebooks are cheap and they almost always will have device issues and failures. However, because they are so cheap, buying a replacement device is not only feasible but usually cost effective. Repair and warranty can be a lengthy process. Of the 75 devices I manage we have had to warranty over 30 of them. However, other than that, we have really enjoyed having the devices. 

Overall, Chromebooks are a great resource, if for no other reason than price, speed, and deployment. They aren’t fancy, but they are good workhorse machines that can word process, access the web, and everyday the Google Marketplace is coming out with more apps that make chromebooks more useful for everyday use. Don’t expect the quality that you have with higher end computers. But, for what students do on a day to day basis there are really quite good.

Please see the list below for more articles and options to enhance your chromebook experience!

Resources

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