UPDATE:  I’ve carried out further trials and blogged about them here

I think I’ve discovered the perfect laptop computer for use in schools.  It’s a Chromebook.  I’ve been trialling one for about 6 months now in a Cornish classroom in the UK.   I’ve found that it ticks many of the boxes when it comes to the use of computers in an educational setting.

POSITIVES

  1. The biggest issue I find with students is the need to be able to have access to their files wherever they are.  A student who is working on an essay or assignment in Geography may wish to carry this on later in the library and then pick it up again at home.  Because of the fact that the operating system is essentially a web browser and students simply login with their Google Apps password everything is automatically saved onto the school Google apps domain.
  2. No wait of boot up.  From complete  poweroff to the login screen is 10seconds.  The login takes a couple of seconds.  The average time for a school networked windows machine in a school environment is between 2 – 5 minutes.  This is to a login screen which then requires a login and can take another 1-2 minutes to login once all the drivers and file set up process takes place.  This is too much time for a student to be bashing, crashing, poking, fiddling, pulling cables etc and the average teenager is pretty impatient!
  3. 8-10 hours battery life!!  I was sceptical of this at first but am truly amazed at how good the battery life is.  This means that a laptop fully charged at the start of the day will still have a good 25% left at the end of a typical school day even with intensive use.  I can vouch for this through practical experience at Bodmin College.  Your average Windows/Macbook laptop needs recharging after 2-3 hours.  Not practical if you want to move them quickly from one class to another and you can’t have power cables running across a classroom.
  4. Chromebooks can be completely figured to fit in with your school network environment.  See here
  5. No virus updates required as all is driven from the browser
  6. No costly licence fees for software such as Office/Virus Protection / Back up solutions / Network software
  7. No need to worry about backups as everything is on the Google Cloud and lets face it if Google can’t get that right then no one can
  8. Updates seamlessly done so no need for any downtime due to patches/upgrades etc..
  9. It has a keyboard.  Try typing an essay on an iPad..

NEGATIVES

  • On Amazon UK a Chromebook is £349.  In the US on Amazon.com they’re $349 which is £225!  That’s a lot cheaper.  
  • The education version being sold to the UK which includes an administrative panel, is supposedly of a higher build quality and includes a no questions asked returns policy if the Chromebook fails, is £540!  This is too expensive especially when you compare it to a Windows Laptop despite all the issues with regard to them (slow boot, not cloud integrated, poor battery life). Come on Google start subsidising these especially to schools.
  • The current hardware is on the lightweight side and I have noticed that You Tube on occasion can be a little choppy however more recent models are better specced apparently.  
So come on Google, you could be sitting on a potentially superb product perfectly placed for an educational environment.  Get it to a competitive price particualry to the UK market before their gazzumped by schools going down the iPad route with all its limitations.
I’d be interested to hear of any other experiences of Chromebooks in the UK so please comment below!