Friday, April 15, 2011

Move Over iPad! Google Chrome Notebooks are Going to Be the Game Changer in Education

iPads are all the rage in education.  I have my iPad and iTouch too, but after several months of exploration, I’m not convinced they’re the right device for education...at least when it comes to secondary education.  Despite the protests of Apple to the contrary, I see them as great devices for consuming information and even drag and tap interactions, but for real creation, the full functionality of a laptop with flash access reigns number one.  Today, there’s a new device in town, and this one has me more excited for education.  

If you're like me and you already love Google for education (Apps, products, marketplace et.al.), than you’ll be excited to learn that Google is entering the educational computing market with Chrome notebooks which are built and optimized for the web, where digital natives want to spend their computing time. Because it is browser based, you get a faster, simpler and more secure experience without all the headaches of ordinary computers. The devices come complete with webcam for video chat, a vibrant 12-inch LCD display, full-size keyboard and an oversized touchpad which let you enjoy the web comfortably. It weighs in at just 3.8 pounds, provides over eight hours of active usage and a week of standby time.

Here are some of the advantages it provides over other computing options:


  • Experience waitlessness.
    Google cleverly promises users the experience of waitlessness, meaning you never have to wait for the web. 
     
  • Instant web
    Chrome notebooks boot in about 10 seconds and resume from sleep instantly. Your favorite websites load quickly and run smoothly, with full support for the latest web standards and Adobe Flash.
     
  • Same experience everywhere
    All your apps, documents, and settings are stored safely in the cloud. So even if you lose your computer, you can just log into another Chrome notebook and get right back to work.
     
  • Always connected 
    Integrated Wi-Fi for home and work, and 3G for all the places in between. 100MB of free 3G data every month* on the Verizon Wireless network. Affordable data plans with no commitment required.

Here’s a video that shows how Chrome Notebooks make computing simpler.  


Related Reading

  • Here is teacher feedback from one school that has launched these devices.    Here is teacher feedback from a second school. 
  • Here is a piece inspired by this post written by Steve Kinney. He does a much better job than I did of evaluating this device.  Check it out here.  
  • Here are words from Google CEO Eric Schmidt about price point and future of the device.
  • And, if you’re not sure why it’s all that important for Educators to Get Their Heads INTO The Clouds read this

12 comments:

  1. My district is one of the district's Google chose to test the machines. We have been very pleased with what they have allowed our students to do and how it has changed the way some of our teachers are teaching. We are testing in a number of classrooms with students in 9th through 12th grade.

    The one negative we have run across so far has been the inability to run Java (which we have been told will work when it is released full scale) which has really hindered some of the things that our math teachers wanted to do. So many of the math and science simulations and websites are Java based.

    As we move closer to a 1:1 in our district, I am starting to really be of the opinion that it shouldn't be a one-size-fits-all answer. I still believe that a device like the iPad is better suited for math and science classrooms - not a laptop. And while the Google Chrome machine or a laptop are great for the language arts and maybe social studies, an iPad might not be the answer.

    It's not a matter of picking the silver bullet of devices, but being thoughtful in the device we put in the hands of students so it is the best tool they can use for their particular task.

    I would be interested to hear the thoughts of others on this matter.

    But overall, I am really pleased and excited about the possibilities of the Google Chrome machine.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Devin, thank you so much for your insights. I have a few questions. Do you know the approximate price point for the machine? That could be a factor. Why doesn't it run Java? Are there plans for it to run Java going forward? Can you elaborate on why you think the iPad is better for math/science and Chrome machine better for language arts/social studies.

    Finally, on a different note, perhaps rather than put devices in students hands, we could let kids use the devices they already have in their hands and supplement as necessary.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Chrome notebook still has the shape of a laptop. I think one of the best things about the ipad is it's flat and it takes away that barrier "wall" from teachers being able to see what the kids are doing. Laptops remind me of when we were in elementary school and we were taking a test, so we'd put up two folders so no one could see our work. I think that kind of mind set keeps so many people in fear of integrating technology... you can't see what the kids are doing.
    Consciously or not, Apple's iPad removed that fear with a meer change in structure. That will change education!

    ReplyDelete
  4. @Alison, that is a good point. I wonder why it is that all laptops don't do what Tablet PCs do...have the ability to covert to laptop or tablet mode. The reality to me though is that when using a keyboard, even with an iPad, it's best to go external and then the iPad has the same barrier.

    The other question is, what are teachers so afraid of students doing? We need to support students in being appropriate and responsible which works much better than feeling like you have to be spying on what they're doing at all times. If I was a student I'd get one of those screen covers that don't let others see their computers. I don't like people looking over my shoulder and I appreciate being empowered and responsible for my work...at any age.

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  5. I prefer a blended environnent Of iPods, iPads and MacBooks for the best creation experience. Why Flash?I find one can save so much time and get much better results with iLife or Final Cut. not that you cannot do good projects with other tools, but it requires so much more time most of the time... And a single device is not always the solution. Consume on iPods and iPads, do basic creation on iPads and more intense creation on mobile labs of MacBooks.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Randy, sounds a little mac centric to me. I agree multiple devices, ideally those owned by students too, are the best bet, but we can move beyond Apple to get positive results.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm on the fence with the Chrome netbook. The battery life sounds pretty good and if I'm not mistaken it has solidstate storage (hard drives are always the first thing to break) Price is going to be a major determining factor.

    Old Chromie's got to be cheap. I can get a MacBook for about $950 and a decent Lenovo for a bit less—I believe that I paid $708 for the last batch I ordered. Traditional computers can run Chrome, but Chromie can't run traditional applications. Honestly, I'm fine with that. Outside of our dedicated labs and studios, it's safe to say that 90% of the computing is web researching and word processing. I wrote about this at length before. If I buy Chrome notebooks, it's going to be for the same reason that I bought a ton of iPads: because I could get twice as many iPads as MacBooks (or Lenovos). Not because I'm looking forward to setting up 250 iTunes accounts. Not because I want to find a sane way to push out provisioning profiles to them. And not because I'm in the mood to deal with my colleagues asking me a zillion questions about what they can and can't do compared to a traditional PC. I bought iPads because I wanted to get as much technology into the hands of my students as humanly possible.

    Also, if you're rolling out technology on a small scale then it comes down to the merits of an individual device. When your army of computers starts to grow, you have to worry about the infrastructure of your school and managing multiple platforms. We're rocking a Google Apps for Your Domain Education Edition account (they really need a better name) and I like the idea that they'll be ready to go with a username and password, but I'm worried that the reliance on the cloud is going to bring my network to a screeching halt. On the plus side, students (and teachers) won't be able to muck around with system files and whatnot. My (hideous) Google Apps dashboard will be able to manage all the important aspects of the account similar to what I do with Mac OS X Server. But the price point has got to be there in order to make it work.

    My other hesitation is that as a nerd, I don't trust other people's servers with my data. If Google changes their policies and decides to start charging an ungodly fee (unlikely, I know) then they have my data hostage. That's pretty neurotic, I'll own that, but the inner-nerd in me still has some reservations about trusting a company that suggests teenagers might have to change their names when they become adults with my (and their) data.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm on the fence with the Chrome netbook. The battery life sounds pretty good and if I'm not mistaken it has solidstate storage (hard drives are always the first thing to break). Price is going to be a major determining factor.

    Old Chromie's got to be cheap. I can get a MacBook for about $950 and a decent Lenovo for a bit less—I believe that I paid $708 for the last batch I ordered. Traditional computers can run Chrome, but Chromie can't run traditional applications. Honestly, I'm fine with that. Outside of our dedicated labs and studios, it's safe to say that 90% of the computing is web researching and word processing. I wrote about this at length before. If I buy Chrome notebooks, it's going to be for the same reason that I bought a ton of iPads: because I could get twice as many iPads as MacBooks (or Lenovos). Not because I'm looking forward to setting up 250 iTunes accounts. Not because I want to find a sane way to push out provisioning profiles to them. And not because I'm in the mood to deal with my colleagues asking me a zillion questions about what they can and can't do compared to a traditional PC. I bought iPads because I wanted to get as much technology into the hands of my students as humanly possible.

    Also, if you're rolling out technology on a small scale then it comes down to the merits of an individual device. When your army of computers starts to grow, you have to worry about the infrastructure of your school and managing multiple platforms. We're rocking a Google Apps for Your Domain Education Edition account (they really need a better name) and I like the idea that they'll be ready to go with a username and password, but I'm worried that the reliance on the cloud is going to bring my network to a screeching halt. On the plus side, students (and teachers) won't be able to muck around with system files and whatnot. My (hideous) Google Apps dashboard will be able to manage all the important aspects of the account similar to what I do with Mac OS X Server. But the price point has got to be there in order to make it work.

    My other hesitation is that as a nerd, I don't trust other people's servers with my data. If Google changes their policies and decides to start charging an ungodly fee (unlikely, I know) then they have my data hostage. That's pretty neurotic, I'll own that, but the inner-nerd in me still has some reservations about trusting a company that suggests teenagers might have to change their names when they become adults with my (and their) data.

    ReplyDelete
  9. The biggest game changer isn’t going to be the chrome netbooks, they are just a byproduct of moving completely to the cloud. It’s the whole idea of moving completely to the cloud that is the real game changer. When someone can sign onto any device and access all of their data it really changes how a school would think about future devices because there wouldn’t be compatibility issues. The Chrome OS devices just force you into it.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi,

    The google Notebooks is a nice concept as you really can work easily anywhere. However there is still a huge bottleneck for me. I was visiting a middle school here in Switzerland, last Thursday. It is well equipped with new technology (PC and Macs, interactive whiteboards, wifi...).

    But when I came, they had a big internet issue. No connection for the last 4 days (mostly due to some street work). With such technology, how a Google notebook would run, with no internet for at least hours or days ?

    To rely 100% on the net isn't a good idea for any work. You should be able to still work offline when needed. Google notebook never explain how they can achieve this, if this is possible.

    Until the internet connectivity is as reliable as a fixed phone line, I will select products or service which can be off- and on-line :)

    However, thanks for your article !

    Olivier

    ReplyDelete
  11. Nothing to do with being Mac-centric actually. If a teacher already knows how to integrate whatever tool that's fine with me. But the fact is, most teachers are still afraid of tech and learning the intricacies is too much still. The Mac, iPad and iPod simply make it _easier_ for them to integrate. The stuff just works. If other tools are as simple to help create rich content in a way to allow students to increase their self-esteem, that's fine. But my experience says that teachers still do not let go of control easily and enabling them with the simplest tools allows them to let go more easily. I just don't think just a browser is there yet. Functionality in a browser is just not the richest experience. Like web mail is sub-par compared to a real mail client. Worse for movies, music, podcasting, etc. Students deserve the best tools.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I do not know officially what the price-point will be, but I have heard around $200. I have also heard that they are going to be on kind of a cell phone kind of plan where you pay a monthly fee and then refresh the machine every couple of years.

    I don't know why Java doesn't work right now, but I know that it doesn't. We have heard that Java is suppose to work when the mass release starts.

    There are a couple of reasons why I believe a tablet of some kind, like the iPad, would be better for math and science students.

    First, the tablet idea lends itself to manipulatives, where the students can physically move items around on the screen using their hands. I know this can be done using a mouse, but it is more powerful when you can more fully replicate the actual experience as if the items were right in front of the students.

    Secondly, and I think more importantly, math and science problems do not lend themselves to being solved on a laptop/Google Chrome machine. Completing math problems, and using the appropriate symbols and nomenclature, is not easy to do on a computer. But, when you take a tablet, and turn it into a white board as well, students can solve problems using their finger or a stylus.

    The beauty of this is that the "white board" also has access to the internet. A student can solve a problem using the white board on the tablet, they can save/record that solution and share that solution.

    Students can also access all of the tools to make authentic math and science problems come alive. I could create a scenario where the student, or a group of students, is led to a location in the school where they scan a QR code using the camera on the device, and follow a set of instruction to solve a real-world problem. I could have them record the set up and the procedure when the students experiment with how to solve the problem. I can then have them access cloud applications (Google Docs, Typewith.me, etc.) to show understanding of the process and do some writing. They could also, in theory, use the Skype App to chat with an expert.

    I think that is way more powerful than using a laptop/Chrome machine. They are simply not doing as much word processing. They need to have a device that aids in solving problems and conducting experiments, along with researching and writing.

    ReplyDelete

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