In education, the Google Chromebook has been rather quietly gaining market share. Reportedly, the Chromebook in 2013, as reported by Forbes, accounted for 21% of notebooks and 10% of all computers and tablets sold. The cloud-based, inexpensive notebook is gaining attention from many schools looking at broad adoption programs.
The Chromebook is really a web browser; a persistent internet connection provides access to all information, while software programs and user generated content is stored in the cloud. The bulk of use is supported using an internet connection, although there is limited functionality available while offline.
A major consideration for schools must be available bandwidth despite internet connections in schools being common. The potential cost of extra bandwidth, including routers, switches, and servers might prove to be excessively expensive, thus cancelling out the low per device cost despite the price of the Chromebook being so attractive.
According to Mark Taormino of examiner.com, the cost of the Chromebook is a big driver for its success given a sufficient network infrastructure. Students are offered the ability to create content more efficiently with a full sized keyboard in a lightweight laptop package than with a tablet. Tablets offer limitations when it comes to productivity and content creation despite being great consumption devices.
According to Tim Bajarin, “Education is still very keyboard-centric. It’s driven by the concept that you want students to create and not just consume. The iPad is great for consumption and areas where touch can be integrated, but when it comes to writing papers or making comments, there are challenges.”
Chromebooks appear to the filling an important void in education by delivering the right amount of technology/functionality at a price point that is reasonable and affordable — but it isn’t perfect. Because it uses the cloud to access programs and stored content, Chromebooks are somewhat limited in offline use, and it does not connect to all peripheral devices as would a traditional laptop and cannot be loaded with traditional PC software such as Microsoft Office. Despite there being plenty of work-arounds, they must be clearly identified first, and not after purchase.
Libre Office is one work around for Microsoft Office. For secondary level students, both Google Docs and Libre Office are perfectly suitable. In December, Libre Office announced the availability of the Chromebook compatible suite of software that rivals Microsoft Office’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
A site specifically for education, with many apps that are reviewed by teachers and academic experts, has also been created by Google. Based on peer reviews, is a great venue for teachers to select apps that are potentially valuable for the intended use.