Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reasons an innovative educator likes the Google Chromebook and some things I'd like improved

I have been using Google’s Chromebook for the couple months, and while there were some things I don’t like, overall, it has moved up as my top recommendation for a learning device for a number of reasons. Schools will love that it eliminates the need to purchase software licenses, servers, costly security solutions, and maintenance plans. 

The total cost of owning a Chromebook is up to 70% lower than the ownership costs for a traditional PC. After 3 years, schools receive a whole new set of Chromebooks and can keep their original set (without cloud management or ongoing support) at no charge. Currently Chromebooks go for $449 per device with service for one year ($519 with 3G) or $20 per month per device with an optional $3 per month cost for 3G. Schools should have some of these on hand for students without internet at home. The monthly option includes the hardware and operating system, updates, cloud-based management, and complete support. The one time purchase provides this for one year. This eliminates the time-consuming maintenance tasks like imaging, installing patches, and data recovery which schools often are not equipped to handle.

It’s fast!
If you’re like me, you don’t like to waste time. My previous laptop took 8 minutes to start up. Not with the Chromebook where you can enjoy “instant on.” You open it, it's on. You close it, it’s off. Additionally, the Chrome browser is faster than any other I’ve used.
A production machine
Provided you're comfortable working in the cloud (and you should be), creating content is quick and easy with Chromebook.

The production apps I use most often include the following:
  • Word Processing and Spreadsheets - Google apps
  • Presentations - Prezi or Google Presentation
  • Video upload and editing - YouTube
  • Blogging - Blogger
  • Social media: Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus
  • Working offline: Scratchpad
Because of speed and ease of use, I find the Chromebook my go to device surpassing my iPad, iTouch, or traditional laptop.

Google App Marketplace
The Google App Marketplace has a ton of free apps that are great for productivity and education. You can see which ones I like best at The Innovative Educator's Picks for the Google Chrome Extensions in The App Marketplace.

You don’t have to go to a search engine to search. You just type what you’re searching for right in the box where you typically type in a URL.

Worry Elimination
  • Bugs and viruses
    Because the device is in the cloud, you don’t worry about bugs or viruses and you don’t get those annoying McAfee Antivirus warnings and advertisements.
  • Machine won’t slow down
    On a traditional device, before you know it, it has been slowed down with a bunch of software that you never wanted permanently and slows down your device. For the truly sophisticated user you can engage in re-installing the operating system, updating your registry, clearing your cache, etc.
  • Image
    You never have to worry about updating your image. It’s tied to your Google Account and you or your administrator can customize it to your liking.
Device interchangeability and indestructibility
For those who’ve been responsible for one-to-one deployments, it isn’t uncommon to hear it isn’t quite the panacea it is touted to be. Today, what’s important is that students can access “their” work anytime, anywhere. Providing ubiquitous access with Chromebooks rather than the traditional one-to-one not only eliminates imaging issues, but now, customizing a device is no longer a problem since you log on with your Google account. As a result, the devices become nearly indestructible. Additionally, many of the inventory issues that have become a nightmare and burden for some one-to-one schools are virtually eliminated.

Battery Life
The Chromebook lasts a full day. That’s right. You can go 8 hours straight. This means you don’t have to worry about powercords and having outlets available all around the room. I love having a device that doesn’t require me to travel with a clunky and weighty powercord.

I was surprised to find that the browser crashes a lot. When this happens you have the option to “kill pages” or “wait." My advice: always choose "kill." If you don't the machine typically freezes up and you have to restart...though with the quick start up time, that's not so bad. What I don’t like is that there is no ctrl alt delete / force quit. The device seems to crash about once every three hours even after following troubleshooting directions for extensive crashing. I am hoping this is an issue that Google is working on.

Thing you can’t do
There are several programs that I use often that I can’t access with the Chromebook. These include the following:
  • Skype
    While there are alternatives to Skype like Google Video and Google Hangout, Skype has become the standard that most people want to use to connect.
  • Webinars
    I hosted two webinars and was surprised to find neither webinar provider runs on Chrome. I had to get another device.
  • iTunes
    I think it is ridiculous that iTunes is not a cloud-only service. I believe it is moving in that direction but Apple doesn’t play nice with Google, so we’ll have to wait-and-see if this will become available for Chromebooks.
  • USB for Wireless Internet There may be a way to make my wireless usb work, but I haven't figured it out. If it can be activated, it is not intuitive, and my hunch is that it can not. A MiFi card however, does work.
  • No Java or Silverlight support This means I can't do things like screencasts. This will be a big issue for some educators.
Google has decided to reconfigure parts of a keyboard which I don’t appreciate. Here is what’s missing.
  • Caps lock
    In place of caps lock is a search button. I hate this as I keep forgetting and then get launched into a search in which I had no interest. You can achieve caps lock by holding down both shift keys.
  • Delete
    I love my delete key. In it’s place is power off. I hate this as well because I forget and inadvertently shut the device off. Fortunately it comes back on quickly. You can achieve the delete function by using alt and backspace which is okay, but I prefer the one-finger option of the delete key.
Right Click
I want my right click button back. I hate the two-finger touch. It’s awkward and glitchy. Additionally, scrolling is a nightmare because it is easy to accidently engage unwanted menus and commands.

Pen Functionality
I miss the pen functionality of my HP Tablet.

Because of it’s speed, ease in maintentance, and functionality as a great production device, Google Chromebooks are the device I recommend for primary use by students and professionals. However, whether used in the school or office, you will want access to other devices for the times you want to engage in activities unsupported such as Skype, webinars, iTunes, and sophisticated video editing (you can do basic editing in the cloud using YouTube).  

You can keep the Google Chromebook conversation going at Chromebook Central - The Official Group for Chromebooks.


  1. Our school district (Clarkstown Central School District, Rockland County NY) was fortunate to pilot the CR-48 pre-release Chromebooks and they were used extensively each day. The feedback was terrific, and our middle school chose 90 Chromebooks to replace 90 outdated desktops that were in three traditional computer labs. Many of our teacher take advantage of Google Apps powerful resources, and the impact of combining the Chromebooks with Google Apps is synergistic. Though we are currently working out a few networking issues (Google's support has been proactively engaged), we look forward to continuing using this tool with the students and teachers we serve.

  2. I'm a teacher at Leyden District 212 in Franklin Park, IL. We are going 1:1 next year with Chromebooks and are super excited! To take care of the Java issues, download Cloud Internet Explorer by Ericom. I was able to use ScreenR. Hope that helps!

  3. If using Google+, Hangouts with extras allows for screen sharing.

  4. I forgot to mention the one downfall of Could IE by Ericom. It can bypass the content filter and firewall!

  5. I tried to use that so that I could access GoToMyPC, but I couldn't do so. Any other suggestions. (I think it's actually a citrix server itself and I can't Citrix from that to my deskotp). ...or not!

  6. You raise some interesting points about the benefits of Chromebooks for education. However some schools will still require access to Windows applications. Ericom is working with several schools to address this requirement.

    Ericom AccessNow is an HTML5 RDP client that enables students and staff to use their Chromebooks to connect to any RDP host, including Terminal Server, VDI virtual desktops and physical desktops and run their Windows applications and desktops in a browser.

    Ericom‘s AccessNow does not require Java, Flash, Silverlight, ActiveX, or any other underlying technology to be installed on end-user devices – an HTML5 browser is all that is required.

    For more information visit

    You can also read our new white paper about Ericom's solutions for Chromebooks and Education:

    Note: I work for Ericom