As a Google Certified Innovator, I spend a lot of time talking to teachers about the benefits of Chromebooks, which have recently surpassed all other devices as the top choice for bulk purchases for schools and districts. For the first time, Chromebook sales surpassed 51% in the K-12 market nationwide in the third quarter, according to a 2016 report by market researcher Futuresource Consulting.
A Chromebook is a laptop that runs Chrome OS, Google’s operating system, which is centered around the Chrome browser. Since we spend the bulk of our time on computers browsing the internet, checking email, and composing documents in the cloud, Google eliminated all extraneous software in Chrome OS. Chromebooks allow your students to get on the web in seconds and sign in to access all of their work and personalized settings stored in Google Drive and their Chrome profile. These streamlined devices also offer an attractive price tag, with most Chromebooks priced at or below 250 USD.
What you can and cannot do
Many teachers are disappointed when they realize that a Chromebook does not operate like a PC or Mac. But there’s hope! There are reasonable alternatives for most of the functionality teachers use on a daily basis. Here are some key differences to note:
- You cannot install applications from a CD or USB drive to a Chromebook. You CAN install apps from the Chrome Web Store.
- You cannot run Microsoft Office. You CAN create documents, spreadsheets and slideshows in Google Drive with the added functionality of sharing for synchronous and asynchronous collaboration via the web.
- You cannot run Adobe Creative Suite (yet) to use editing and publishing apps like Photoshop and InDesign. You CAN use free and premium editing apps available on the web to edit photos and create print/web media. One popular example is Pixlr. Another is Canva.
- You cannot install ActivInspire or SMART Notebook to a Chromebook to use it with your interactive whiteboard. You CAN connect your Chromebook to your whiteboard via USB and to utilize touch functionality. Free web-based whiteboard apps allow you to write on the board as well. My current favorite is available at awwapp.com.
There is definitely a learning curve for teachers and students who are just getting started with Chromebooks. Luckily, Chrome has been the most popular web browser for several years, so remember that almost everything you know about the browser also applies within Chrome OS. Happy surfing!