Friday, 13 December 2013

My Thoughts on the Chromebook for Elementary Education

I have been using a Chromebook for a couple of weeks now at school. Students in my Grade 3/4 class have been using it to do research, upload pictures to their blog, and write posts. I was curious what the limiting factors would be in our Elementary class, so I have been trying to use the Chromebook as my only computer.

The 11.6 in. screen is reasonable, and helps to keep the form-factor small, and light. I have previously owned a 10.1 in. netbook, and found the screen to be too limiting. The keyboard was also cramped on that netbook. The keyboard on the Chromebook is full size, and the trackpad is quite good as well. The learning curve was short, it took me a while to figure out I can tap with two fingers to "right click", and that was about it. Out of the box the trackpad reverse scrolls webpages like a Mac. If you are used to a windows machine, this is easily changed in the Settings menu. 

The iPad is famous for "there is an app for that". Well I imagine that Chromebooks will use "there is an interactive web app for that". In the two weeks I have been using the Chromebook I have had few issues that couldn't be easily worked around. 

It plays most video files, music files, reads and copies files from SD cards, easily connects to both a LCD TV, and a projector, and accepts usb flash drives, hard drives, mice, and keyboards. Bluetooth is reasonably good, but I did find some minor issues with lag on one specific bluetooth speaker. The great thing about all the things that work, is that they just... work. No loading of drivers, no searching, no 3 minute delay. It just works, or it doesn't, but at least you know right away.

I love how quickly it wakes up when the lid is opened. There are exactly 0 programs working in the background when I am on the internet, the computer doesn't want to update in the middle of a Twitter chat, and no virus apps are running a scan when I least want them to.

I have been using Google Drive for a while, so for me it was an easy switch. We have used online apps to edit photos, play and mix songs as virtual DJs for our Christmas concert, brush up on our math skills, create a slideshow, and take screenshots. I will admit that the Chromebook is less useful if you are unwilling to move your workflow to the cloud. 

It doesn't replace an iPad, which is a terrific device for many activities. Many creative tasks seem to be easier to produce on an iPad. The more traditional work tasks: word processing, spreadsheets, slideshows, and building websites are easier to accomplish on a Chromebook with a keyboard and trackpad. 

Offline apps are starting to show up in the Chrome Web Store, allowing access to, and editing of work when no wifi is available.

It doesn't work with external cd/dvd drives, and it doesn't really print at this point, in many ways it is a hybrid between a tablet device like an iPad, and a traditional computer.

The battery life is as good as its claim at about 6 and 1/2 hours. More if you keep the screen brightness down. Overall it has been a very positive experience. The students quickly acclimatize themselves to the two finger scrolling, and the two finger tap to "right click". They don't see any difference from a computer, except that it is "much faster to start doing things". 

I will post about apps that we are using with the Chromebook that work well for school purposes. If you have questions, leave them in the comments section below.


  1. Thanks for the information. I have been interested in getting an online tutor for my kid but would elementary ed tutoring still be effective? You know, it's difficult handling kids.

  2. For printing, look up Cloud Printing for Chromebooks. If you have a computer connected to printer, install Chrome and setup cloud printing.