Last year I got involved with the project at our kids school, Bible Center School, to champion the roll-out of Chromebooks to the 5th graders and up who attend the school.
I wanted to share a series of blog posts about my learning more about them and post some reference and resource links for other parents. This is the first post in that series.
Google’s Chrome Browser
I’ve been a longtime fan of Google’s Chrome web browser, have moved to it after being a Firefox fan (the first tabbed browser with extensions) Google Chrome was just so much faster. Then when Google Chrome was able sync up with your google account – I could have the same bookmarks, passwords, apps, extensions, available on my desktop, laptop and home computer – home run!
Chromebooks are simple and easy
What I came to learn was that for most tasks that just required a browser, you really don’t need much more than Chromebook. And that’s what these Chromebooks are, basic laptop hardware, no Windows License, (or maintenance) a very basic file system – like perfect for 80% of what I need to do. So for $200 you’re in business.
This is the one I bought
It’s available on Amazon : 4Gb (about the most RAM you will find, I’d love 8Gb because I’m a power user and want lots of tabs open at the same time – but that would make it as pricey as a real laptop) The ‘hard drive’ is just a 32Gb SSD card internally. It’s got a spillproof keyboard and its dropproof (4 foot) case. It’s made for kids at school and I love that it’s not fragile like my Macbook air.
I’d tried out a different Chromebook before this one, it had a touch screen, but it was all aluminum, and seemed like the slightest drop or bump and it would crack. The school decided the same thing on their big order and felt it was a good decision to get one that could survive bumps in a backpack.
Getting Started is Easy (3 min video)
What it won’t do…
Must have WiFi
Since it’s pretty much just the Chrome Web Browser, you’ll need wifi to do much – that’s not really a big deal anymore. Alot of the basic google apps like docs and sheets and slides will work offline and sync back up when you get on wifi so that’s pretty cool.
No Mac or PC Apps
Since it’s not really a Mac or PC, you don’t have your dedicated Mac or PC apps – again, think what can I do in my browser. There are lots of smaller, kind of experimental apps/extensions to Chrome that might be helpful, but don’t think you will run Mac or PC apps on it.
Microsoft Office 365 Cloud Works Great
Although local copies of Microsoft office won’t install on a Chromebook, you can still do pretty much anything nowadays with Microsoft Office 365, the cloud version and their OneDrive storage – so legacy access to all the things you’ve done over the years is pretty easy and simple.
Not much power CPU, Memory, Storage
Again, not a big deal if you’re browsing, using gmail and web apps, etc. What you won’t do is huge CPU intensive super large spreadsheets or databases, Photoshop, video editing too off the plate except for some basic tools for small tasks, and of course what you can do now in YouTube is pretty amazing.
Serious production work still requires serious tools
For those hardcore, content-creation, publishing, design, and coding projects I still fall back to a high-powered desktop or laptop. But those investments were $2000-$4000 for that gear – quite worthy for business-related production tasks. But for 80% of day-to-day work the light-duty Chromebook is spot-on – and perfect for students and new learners coming up into the world of technology literacy.
New capabilities in 2018-2019
I’ll share more in a follow-on post, but as of the end of last year, access to 2 million android apps, has opened up for Chromebooks. See more from Google Chromium Project.
Even though Chrome is based on Linux, you had to do alot of tricky, dual-boot workarounds to get a full LInux operating system to run on a Chromebook. No more – now, with a click, you can flip your inexpensive Chromebook into a full Debian Linux operating system. You can also install any Linux app from the repositories and run them just like apps on the Chrombook.
Easy to Manage for Schools / Teachers
For schools – the Google Classroom is a free web service developed by Google for schools that aim to simplify creating, distributing and grading assignments in a paperless way. The primary purpose of Google Classroom is to streamline the process of sharing files between teachers and students.
An Amazing, Inexpensive Learning Platform
I wish I could go back in time as a kid (with time on my hands) and have this little $200 laptop, 10 hours of battery life, wifi, and just dive in. The internet, YouTube, Chrome apps and extensions, free cloud storage on Google Drive and the Google Apps (docs, sheets, charts, slides) wow – what you can do/learn with just that. Put on top of that the ability to play with all of the Android apps and then drop into a full Linux operating system to code/develop – that’s pretty amazing.