Safer students. Better learning.

Why Use Chromebooks in School?

Kevin Wendland May 18, 2016


So why a Chromebook? This was a commonly asked question whenever a discussion about buying a Chromebook came up. Today, I think the better question to ask is why not a Chromebook?

I am a high school math teacher who has a class set of Chromebooks. I am also a Google Certified Educator, but I was not someone who always saw the potential of Chrome OS. In fact back in 2012, I was eyeing Windows 8 as the next big thing. One user interface across phone, tablet, and desktop. All apps syncing on every device when you logged in was amazing. I remember reading about it when our IT guy came in a gave me a Samsung Chromebook to play around with. I was the typical skeptic. I remember looking at it and thinking it's just a browser. Fast forward to 2016 and without a doubt (cue The Monkees)  I’m a Believer.

I have been using a Chromebox exclusively for over a year now and haven't missed Windows at all. We all know the perks of using Chrome OS by now, fast boot time, timely updates (that don’t take hours), total integration with Google Apps, etc. If you have never experienced life on a Chromebook, do yourself a favor and try it.

In education, we are lucky to get new computers every 5 years. As you can imagine things start to slow down after awhile. When we hit that 3 year mark our machines start coming to a crawl. How slow? How about 15-25 minutes from hitting the power button to actually being able to open something up, that was with XP. With Windows 7, it takes about 10 minutes before we are able to start working on our computers. With Chromebooks (Chrome OS in general) your boot time is about 8-10 seconds. I remember when I started using my Chromebox exclusively I was shocked every time. With my laptop, I could power it on, go to the refrigerator put my lunch away, walk to the office to check my mailbox, and have a small conversation. And when I got back, it might be on the login screen. With Chrome OS, power on, boom 8-10 seconds later you are working.

As educators we don’t have time to wait around for our computers to start up. So our solution was simple, never turn off our computers. Sure we might have to wait 3-5 minutes while we logged on, but it wasn’t 10+. But heaven help you if you accidently turned off your computer. That’s right, the dreaded updates. Windows is notorious for long updates. With Chrome OS, you see that little update arrow in the bottom right and click it to update. I am sure I am not the only one that when I saw a Windows notification to update, I clicked ignore. Not with my Chromebox. The update is applied and booted back up in 10-15 seconds.

Just those two reasons alone might be enough to switch to a Chromebook or other Chrome OS device. But as an educator, I need it to be able to do actual work. And that is where Chrome OS has grown over the years. I can type up documents and if I need to email them, I can easily convert it to Word and it is good to go. If you are sent a Word or Office document, you can edit it in Google Docs or convert it. Conversions are about 99% accurate now. Installing programs via cd or download are becoming obsolete. Most companies are pushing out web based versions of their programs. Everything I need for teaching has a web based program, Geogebra & Desmos for example. We just adapted new textbooks this year. Each of the publishers really talked up how their book & extras could all be accessed online, no cds required.

And that, to me, is the selling point of a Chrome OS device. Why go through the hassle of long boot times, longer updates, risk of viruses and malware? Chrome OS devices don’t have any of those issues. Don’t let the naysayers tell you otherwise either. Printing? Easily done through Google Cloud Print or even better if you have an HP printer. They have a dedicated Chrome App for printing to their printers.

I could go on for days about how wonderful Chrome OS is and all the benefits of it. I could tell you about all the school projects I have done with Forms & Sheets that couldn’t be done in Office. I could talk about the benefits my students have experienced with Chromebooks, seeing 3d images, exploring with Desmos or Geogebra, or collaborating on projects together. But you have to just do it. Try using your Chrome browser exclusively for a week. If you are ok doing that, then you are good to go with Chrome OS.

Topics: Learning

Written by Kevin Wendland

Kevin Wendland launched the award-winning Chromebook Challenge blog to document an educator's experience switching from Windows to Chromebooks. He documents the successes and challenges of grappling with an always-on device.

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