Is Your School Ready for Google’s Chromebooks for Education?

| May 12, 2011 | 14 Comments
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At Google IO this week, Google announced a “new kind of computer” and a new program aimed at schools: Chromebooks for Education. These new devices look like laptops, but they run on Google’s new operating system Chrome OS and are truly Web-based and Web-centric. There is no local storage and there is no software. In other words, everything runs through the (Chrome) browser and everything is stored online.

Google’s new Chromebooks for Education program will offer these devices to schools for $20 per user per month. This service will include enterprise-level support, device warranties and replacements, and hardware refreshes upon contract renewal (every three years). Included as well is a cloud management console that will allow IT administrators to remotely manage users, devices, applications, and policies. Although the price tag for these devices may not seem like a huge cost-savings — equipping every student with a laptop for the school year is always an expensive proposition — the ability to bypass software licensing, the promise of a virus-free device, and the power to control all these devices and their various permissions remotely all make this a very attractive deal for schools that are interested in one-to-one computing. And as the hardware will work well with Google’s Apps for Education productivity suite, the program means Google can offer schools both hardware- and software-as-a-service, eliminating a lot of the need for schools to build out their own IT infrastructure.

But regardless of whether Chromebooks are a good deal for schools and whether or not schools can afford such an offer, there are other concerns that schools will have to face.They’re not just financial issues, but technological and cultural ones as well.

1. What’s Your Acceptable Use Policy?

The Chromebooks will have the option for 3G and for wireless connectivity. The 3G will, of course, require more expenditure. But either way, handing students a device that is, in Google’s words, “nothing but the Web,” will force schools to consider what their Internet Acceptable Use Policy looks like. The Chromebooks are designed to give students 24-7 access to Web technology — both at school and at home.

The administrative panel for the Chromebooks will give schools the ability to lock down access to some applications — so that kindergartners, for example, don’t have e-mail access while middle and high schoolers do. And Web filtering at school does restrict access to certain sites. But 3G can bypass that, as can Internet at home.

How do schools address acceptable use of Internet resources when a device that’s assigned a student goes off-campus?

2. What’s Your Internet Infrastructure Look Like?

Is your school ready for every student to have her or his own device connected to the Internet? Can your bandwidth — wired or wireless — handle it? As nothing is stored locally on the Chromebooks, students will have to have reliable access to their files that are stored in the cloud. Google does say that it plans to add offline support for Gmail, Docs, and Calendar this year. But a Web-centered machine will require the Web for everything, and spotty and sporadic Internet access at school will be a problem.

3. Who Will Pay?

In the recent SpeakUp 2010 survey, 67% of parents said that they’d be willing to pay for mobile devices and for associated data plans for their children if they knew these devices could be utilized at school. While certainly the $20 per student per month fee will add up quickly and may well be beyond most schools’ budgets, schools may want to consider alternatives to funding these projects. Will parents be willing to pay all or part of the fee?

Will schools be able to use the Chromebooks and online resources to replace textbooks, as well as other tools like calculators, paper, projectors, etc.? And will this in turn free up other funds that could pay for Chromebooks?

4. Are Your Teachers Ready?

Successful one-to-one computing initiatives aren’t as simple as just passing out devices to each student. One-to-one computing requires rethinking how instruction happens, how resources are accessed and allocated. Are your school’s teachers ready for not just one-to-one computing — a huge shift in itself — but for one-to-one computing that’s solely focused on Web resources? Are you using Web-based applications, for example? How much does your school rely on software installed on machines, and can you make the transition to other online tools instead?

5. Do You Trust Google?

Schools that join the Chromebooks for Education program will likely be (or become) Apps for Education customers. This means that schools are handing over much of their IT — hardware and software and email and storage — to one company. Of course, many schools already have this sort of relationship with another technology brand, Apple.

Educators and parents, what are your thoughts on Chromebooks for Education?

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  • Stanly Martin

    I am remembering the Oracle devices from a decade ago that were nearly useless because they were connecting to services that didn’t exist. I think that we may have come to the point where the internet can provide such services: word processing, spreadsheets, wiki-editing and data storage, but I am still leery.

  • Patirck Maher

    The students are definitely ready for this technology, the younger teachers are ready for the steps necessary and the restructuring that has to happen but most teachers are woefully ill prepared for what this type of transition will require.

    • Stanly Martin

      I disagree. I think that teachers want to do more and better, but that the institutions they work in are inadequate to support the adoption of the curriculum, materials and training to implement technology in any large scale way. The goals that teachers work towards and the curriculum they are supplied and the measures they are graded on do not clearly point towards technology integration.

  • elfsun

    For me I don’t want to try.The web browser I used like Avant browser ,maxthon,firefox have a feature called online store,I use it to store my bookmarks,but occationally It will empty my all  bookmarks.Good news is that there exist a way to let you  find them back Is the chromebooks has this function?

  • Adaho

     The Chromebook has gotten so much press, but this was the first I saw discussing the educational possibilities of the new laptop. It’s definitely another technology with practical application to help our children learn.
     
    We have already begun to see this movement on the mobile side. More and more schools are implementing iPads or other tablets to teach kids more effectively. It’s great to read reports outlining the success of the new initiatives. As for cost, it’s important for school districts to implement the proper tools to keep the devices secured and safe if lost. This will assure that lost, stolen or insecure devices will not compound the initial cost of the hardware fleet. And that holds true, no matter what device the school district decides to use in the classroom.
     
    Stephen Midgley, Absolute Software
    http://blog.absolute.com/

  • http://k12.com Scott Holm

    This is such a great post. I was really excited when I heard about these Chromebooks this week, and I still think the upside is huge. However, we all know that there are considerations (both budgetary and operational) that need to be made, and I think you summed them up nicely here. 

  • Laura

     I’m glad the article addressed #4 – are teachers ready. I think many are and are willing to learn through professional development what’s needed to integrate laptops into their classrooms. But what I’m most interested in is how teaching will and needs to change to allow media to be useful in classrooms to build and enhance lessons. I wouldnt want to spend the money just so each kid can have his or her own word processor. Discussion boards, group projects, interactive quizzes are just some of the things that one to one laptops can facilitate – but it does mean thinking about teaching in a whole new way. I wonder if teaching colleges are preparing their students for this new era?

  • Bellsouth4

    This is where it’s going, like it or not. In the long run it will save districts money, cut back on tech support people, and give students ability to be mobile with their data secured on a cloud server. Those who resist may find themselves out of work.

  • Joe Dan Johnson

    We are going 1-1 (as the fed plan identifies)…cost of a device?  for a 12.1″ with 3G service it sounds very good especially IF WE CAN E-RATE the cost.  If not, the $20 per month is still higher than what we would pay for a non 3G computer ($400 with 4 year replacement warranty for an 11.6″ Gateway).  The complimentary question and thought is $10 per month for families to have the 3G model with perhaps F/R paid for by the district.  Now we may be able to move the whole district into one shortly.  We need a hands on experience with one or two to get our questions about management/web filtering/build answered.   And yes, be sure your policies are in place and enforced.

  • Anonymous

    Great post.  Districts need to be prepared to make this shift.  In many ways, the Chromebook simplifies things for the IT staff, so resources can be redeployed.  For instance, the time and money spent imaging hard drives can be spent elsewhere (like upgrading wireless infrastructure).  Students, especially middle and high school, spend a lot of computer time using computers to do web research and writing papers based on the results.  The Chomebook is great for these applications (better than tablets).  However, schools that rely on curriculum or assessment applications will need to look for web-delivered versions or alternatives.  As I mention in my blog at http://www.conceptuamath.com/blog/chromebooks-and-google-apps-education-time-go-all-web.html , schools don’t need to make this jump all at once, they can fold Chromebooks into their normal refresh cycle and make the shift gradually.

  • Anonymous

    If you are considering Chromebooks for your school, but your students and staff prefer Windows apps, there is a solution.  Students and staff can continue using the Windows applications they are used to – even with the Chromebook, and using nothing but a browser.  Ericom AccessNow, a pure HTML5 RDP client,  enables students and staff to connect to any RDP host, including Terminal Server (RDS Session Host), physical desktop or VDI virtual desktops – and run their applications and desktops in a browser.

    This means that you can use AccessNow for instant, turnkey web-enablement of most any Windows application.  Running entirely within a browser, AccessNow works natively with Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer (with Chrome Frame plug-in), Firefox and any other browser with HTML5 and WebSockets support.

    Ericom‘s AccessNow significantly reduces IT overhead in key ways:
    1. It does not require Java, Flash, Silverlight, ActiveX, or any other underlying technology to be installed on end-user devices
    2. IT staff do not have to manage / maintain separate product versions and updates for multiple clients (end-point operating systems) – an HTML5 browser is all that is required
     
    More About Ericom AccessNow:
    1. Supports client devices running Windows, Linux, Mac, Chrome OS (HTML5 client is the only way to support Google’s Chrome OS and Chromebooks) and any other OS
    2. Runs as pure HTML on netbooks, desktops, laptops and thin clients, and supports Intel x86, ARM or any other CPU architecture
    3. Can also work via Ericom’s Secure Gateway when clients are outside the firewall
     
    To participate in the Beta program for Ericom AccessNow please visit:
    http://www.ericom.com/html5_rdp_client.asp?URL_ID=708
     
    For a video demo:
    http://www.ericom.com/AccessNow_Demo.asp?URL_ID=708

  • BigBear

    One of the most serious concerns is student data privacy, the use of that data by Google (analytics, re-marketing to third parties and unintended uses), and the potential for identity theft. This is being overlooked in the spirit of shrinking school budgets and the fascination with the next “shiny new gadget” … The loss of control, choices and privacy should not be over-looked because the potential for direct harm to our children is real.

    User…. beware!

  • buckofama2010

    Goggle is a direct link to NSA

  • Christian Pilling