Chromebook Laptops

Filed under: Technology |

By: Anthony Yauch

It is now official, that Seton-La Salle will be receiving Google Chrome books for school use next year. I for one, am thrilled with the update to our classroom technology and congratulate Mrs. Martin on her forward thinking. But, there are some concerns with this upcoming innovation.

In the letters that we received with our report cards, we were told that the laptops will be a “1 to 1 initiative.” So, I went to ask our principal Mrs. Martin what this means for us. Mrs. Martin told me,  “Every student receives a laptop for as long as they are at Seton-La Salle.” I followed up by asking if we will receive the laptops before summer starts. She answered, “No, everyone will receive them before school begins in August.”

I also wondered if students will be able to use their laptops freely at home? Unfortunately, she replied, “No, because the Chrome books are on Google’s cloud based network, it will be followed any time students log into their Chrome accounts and anywhere there is an Internet connection. This means that any website or app that is blocked at school will be blocked anywhere else on Earth.”

Other students have been heard to wonder what will happen if a laptop is broken or misplaced? Mrs. Martin assured me that this problem has been considered already, “We will be on a loaner system. This means that if a student breaks or loses a laptop, they will be given a loaner laptop until it is found or repaired.”

I also wanted to know what her opinion was of the advantages or disadvantages of having these new devices in our classrooms everyday.  Mrs. Martin said, “For advantages, I would say that every classroom now becomes a computer lab. It also gives students unlimited access to student documents. As for disadvantages, I would say that there are no disadvantages, but challenges that come with them, as in; students misplacing it or forgetting to charge it before school.”

As excellent as it was to talk with our new principal and get the truth, rather than rumors and guesses, I still have my concerns with this new system. One of the big problems is that the laptops are extremely limited to what they can do because of the cloud based network.  This kind of computer doesn’t have any of the software we are used to because Google and Microsoft are not cooperative with each other.  This means that the school must still keep the ancient Dell desktops that we all know and love so that students can access certain websites that are not available on the Chrome books.

Also, the new laptops would have the newest versions of Google Doc. This is great because students now have a convenient way to type papers, but it could be time consuming to transfer over old Microsoft Word Documents to the new system, and Google Docs is good, but it doesn’t yet work as well as Word. However, rumor has it, the two programs are highly compatible.

Something great about the new laptops is that now students do not have to keep carrying around loads of paper. Soon everything will be on an electronic file and weigh almost nothing. This is also a ‘green’ ecological  advantage because fewer trees will be cut down. The applications are highly organized on the new laptops so that also means potentially  fewer notebooks for students to lug around. And also as technology gets more and more advanced, they may even develop electronic textbooks that are compatible with the Chrome books which means less weight to put in our dilapidated book bags and much more space in our lockers.

As  students of Seton-La Salle, we should feel flattered to be trusted with a laptop to be used anytime at school. They are a huge responsibility and must be taken care of at all times. I hope we all consider that every time that we use the laptops irresponsibly, we may make the limitations stricter for rule abiding students.

All things considered, I’m excited for the Google Chrome books. They are not perfect, but they could be an innovation that helps students, and they are certainly better than the nothing that we have now.  As far as I can tell, nothing come from nothing.  We either innovate or become obsolete. I look forward to being the vanguard of this innovative technology.

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7 Responses to Chromebook Laptops

  1. Ah…yes. I am not quite a wealthy philanthropist yet, but If do become one I’ll make sure to let you know. Wouldn’t it be fun to give away money as your fulltime job? (I’m directing this question to YOU Bill Gates!)

    Now for the repository of pre-charged batteries for swapping! I’ll admit that this thought did not occur to me, and for perhaps a good reason. I’ve been using Apple laptops for the past few years, and any laptop in the MacBook line does not have a removable battery. They have built in batteries, ones that are not swappable, and ones that have to be taken in and replaced by an Apple technician. It can be done by the end user, except you need a special screwdriver to pop off the bottom of the computer, and then you have to disconnect the cables and pull it out, all at the expense of voiding your warranty. So while it can be done, it takes time, and isn’t something that can be done quickly. Because of this, I kind of forgot at first that laptops even had removable batteries. (OOPS!)

    This made me wonder if any of the Chromebooks have removable batteries. I doubted it at first, because smaller laptops usually have built in ones (in order to get them that small in the first place) and laptops in general are moving in the built in model industry wide.

    I looked at the Samsung Chromebook Series 5, because that is Chromebook I am most familiar with. And after reading a detailed review as well as looking at pictures of the bottom of the unit, I can conclude that it most likely doesn’t have a removable battery that would be conducive to swapping. However, I looked at one more (out of the four available) Chromebook, and it seems that this one (made by Acer) did have a removable battery.

    I can only assume that you are using a model by Acer instead of Samsung at this point, unless there is super secret Samsung one with a removable battery that I couldn’t find via a quick Google search. I guess the questions are whether you know which model you will get, or whether you will get a choice.

    My comments about the app and possible restrictions are based on the fact that I am not sure about the capabilities of the administration software. I thought about time restrictions before; just as on computers you can restrict your kids’ internet usage between hours, I would hope you could do that here. From 8 AM – 2:30 PM the Chromebooks could lock down to prevent goofing off and all of that. All other hours you could do things like Social Networking, which is important in education! In college this year, it was an invaluable tool that made communication in group projects easier, especially when you only meet for class once a week. In high school that argument isn’t valid, but there could still be beneficial uses in high school.

    And I agree about the “endless digital memory”. It’s bordering on stupid and pointless in my opinion. I often say that people spend more time documenting their lives than living their lives. Whenever I go out with friends, they spend all of their time taking pictures. We don’t have to remember every little thing. And the endless Facebook posts! I don’t care that you went “number two” on Thursday at 1:17 PM. (An exaggeration, but still.)

    That’s all for now!

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    Brad Shriner
    May 1, 2012 at 10:55 pm

  2. I’m back! Sorry, but I didn’t see your comment until today as I was busy with finals and move out.

    No Problem. I decided to comment within your comment. We all hope your finals went well and have no doubt you did yourself proud..

    First off, about the USB ethernet adapter. I think you should be cautious there too. When it comes to peripherals, you can’t assume that they will all be plug and play, and if they are they might not be plug and play (or usable) with all operating systems. For example, with the particular adapter that you linked to, it says that it only works with Mac or PC hardware. (Go down to Technical Details, and then click “see more technical details”).

    After some more research on Linksys’ website, I am pretty sure that this adapter will not work for Chromebooks. Here is why. It requires a set up CD to install drivers for either Mac or PC. That’s two strikes right there. Chromebooks have no optical drives, and even if they did, the drivers are still written for Mac OS X or Windows, so they wouldn’t install as far as I know.

    You caught me, Brad. I heard the answer and just linked up without checking. There is a gizmo for this.

    USB adapters would still work (I looked it up online and found instances of people using them), you guys just need to be cautious of which ones you use. If I were SLS, I would compile a list and give it to the students along with information on how to use it (if it’s not plug and play) to reduce complaints and migraines.

    Great Idea!

    Also, what copyright issues are you having? I thought if you claimed “educational purposes” the copyright laws were rather liberal with what you could do.

    I have trouble finding some more recently published text for free on the internet. :) You are right though, copyright laws are pretty liberal for education and non-profit. We are both – winning!

    With the Chromebook apps, I also have more questions. How are you going to regulate the apps? I mean there will be apps that will be appropriate overall, but just not for “inside the classroom”. If you ban every app that could be bad at ANY time, you are going to end up neutering the capabilities of the device. Take TweetDeck, a popular Twitter application that spans platforms, and just so happens to be a Chrome OS app as well. While it wouldn’t be appropriate to Tweet during class, what would the harm be in letting students tweet after hours?

    You know what? TERRIBLE EXAMPLE! Considering SLS’s policy on Social Networking, it might as well be as bad as Satan (at least, that is the policy that Sr. Pat seemed to take). I have no doubt that those apps will be banned first, followed by Gaming apps, and Instant Messaging apps.

    Let’s take the NYTimes app for Chrome OS. While it is clearly not appropriate to be reading the New York Times in class, what would the harm be after school? After all, the NYT is educational! We could learn something about contemporary society instead of playing FarmVille on Facebook with drool running down our chins. Of course this is another bad example because I doubt any high school student would read the New York Times in class (I WOULD), but I am just trying to make a good example (which I hope you get).

    I would expect the administration to just ban all of those things, and say if you want to Tweet or read the NYT to do it on your own computer, but still. I don’t know why I am letting this get to me anyways! :P I have a nice shiny MacBook Pro that I can use unencumbered and will never have to worry about this…

    I also don’t face the limits that we impose on students – and it concerns me as well. I like your characterization of the problem, “If you ban every app that could be bad at ANY time, you are going to end up neutering the capabilities of the device.” The suggestion was made that the filters could be changed after 2:30 each day to allow students to use more of the Apps, still secure from the truly objectionable (pornography and the like) without as much ‘goof-off’ potential. The problem will be the difficulties this presents for the tech administrator. In particular, I worry about Youtube. I have legitimate classroom uses for stuff on there all the time. I would hate for it to be blocked, but it does contain some objectionable content. Twitter is another. The RR is in love with Twitter lately, so we would miss being able to offer it. Part of this initiative has to be educating our young people to use the resources at their disposal appropriately. I’m also concerned with students learning to protect their digital profile – like learning what sorts of things are best kept private and off the internet. Your generation faces challenges with an endless digital memory that no other generation ever faced. You are the ‘beta’ generation. I was 15 once, and did stupid things – (Dyed my hair black!) without everyone knowing about it, complete with pictures, for all time.

    Also, here is a nice list of Chrome OS apps which are supposed to be good.
    http://net.tutsplus.com/articles/web-roundups/50-killer-chromebook-apps/
    Maybe you can look up some of them to put on your list of the best.

    When it comes to the battery life issue, and what to do if students’ Chromebooks start dying, I can’t see what else you could do besides charge them up at school with a mobile laptop charging station. You could have them placed strategically throughout the school. Even then, I am not sure how well that would bode for the electrical system. I can just imagine circuit breakers tripping all the time. From what you said though, solutions (plural), have been suggested. Perhaps you are having more luck on coming up with thoughts than I am. Frankly, the more I think, the more new questions keep popping up about this issue.

    Ahh… the electric. Are you a wealthy philanthropist yet? We are also considering having a repository of pre-charged batteries for ‘swapping’ in desperate situations.

    One final thought: I love the Rebel Report too. The only thing I dislike is the ReCaptcha. It’s a pain in the butt! But, the RR is much more efficient than the SLS Press that preceded it. And unlike the SLS Press, the RR isn’t pathetic to read. I don’t think the writers for the SLS Press knew how to spell correctly…oh the name BUTCHERING! And of course, I miss the blog desperately. :P

    RECapchta saves us from so much spam! Of course you miss the blog. For those who are not my students, I (Mrs. Parker) run a class blog that students respond to either weekly or bi-weekly. It is loveable. This year, my freshman are having a field day with it and are really learning and improving their writing. Writing for an audience – it makes all the difference. I would love to find a blog site that I like as much as Classpress. One that allows me to archive, rather than delete, previous classes would be ideal. Another student was pleased to access his well after graduation because I was able to save 7th period-2011 for one more year. I hope you at least .pdf saved yours.

    That’s it for now!

    Glad you’re out there thinking Brad. I think many people share your questions and concerns but are not able/willing to articulate them. Keep thinking – it helps me at least and have a great summer!

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    Brad Shriner
    May 1, 2012 at 11:40 am

  3. Yay Brad and Carson! Smart people asking smart questions is how we develop (you guessed it) smart solutions. I can’t speak to some of your questions, especially the technical ones, but I’ve referred your query to those who can. The mysteries of the Ethernet port in particular seem concerning. (UPDATE: found the answer – http://www.amazon.com/Cisco-USB300M-Cisco-Linksys-Ethernet-Adapter/dp/B001NLV4TQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335754991&sr=8-1) I know the Chromebook accepts ancillary devices, like cameras and flash drives. The battery problem remains a problem probably – suggestions are welcome and some solutions have already been recommended.

    I can tell you that I will certainly be utilizing the document and scan options to lighten students book bags. The Green “baby” books – 8lbs. 2 oz., are now in the possession of Mr. Mannear and I have assumed responsibility for a single classroom set of a similar text for freshman. This year I’ve been able to find or create .pdfs or .docs of nearly everything I’ve required students to read for class. The exceptions have more to do with copyright issues than anything else. I also imagine more blogging. Maybe Wiki spaces or something like a beta program that I tried out once called ‘book glutton’ that allowed groups to read, and comment in writing, together. Right now some of my students, in their capacity as Rebel Reporters, are hard at work tracking down the coolest, best and most efficient apps for Chromebook so we can make useful suggestions, here on the Rebel Report.

    As you know – I really appreciate technology and remain hopeful about the possibilities. How much do you love the Rebel Report, for example? It is so smart and this, right here, is one of my favorite things about it. A committee of faculty members has been created to learn about the technology and work on the challenges this initiative will present. Speaking casually with my peers (Mr. Kramer and Mrs. Heintz at a Lacrosse game) – we are all anticipating a bumpy road and look forward to the challenge.

    So Brad, and any others – keep asking questions – it is heard and it helps. Also feel free to think of answers. As teachers and students we LOVE answers!

    Mrs. Parker
    Still Teaching the Cool Kids

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    admin
    April 27, 2012 at 4:40 pm

  4. I’m a freshman at SLS this year and I agree with Brad in that someone needs to figure out about the kids that don’t have WiFi at home. I know my house doesn’t have wireless. Whenever my brother(in college) needs to use his laptop at home, he hooks up an ethernet cable to it and it would be fine. But since Brad pointed out that Chromebooks fon’t have ethernet ports on them, it presents a problem as to how they will be useful at home for some kids.

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    Carson Rebel
    April 27, 2012 at 6:49 am

  5. Just to pop back in, it seems that Chrome OS is getting constant upgrades and updates. The newest update, Aura, seems to make it more like operating systems that we all know like Mac OS X, Windows, and Ubuntu. It appears that Google realized a more traditional approach wasn’t the worst thing. You can read more about it here…

    http://www.theverge.com/2012/4/26/2978163/aura-chrome-os-hands-on

    Now just a few comments.

    First off, battery life. I went to Google’s Chromebook site, and took a look at the Chromebooks available. At this point in time, there were only four, and none of them had “expected” battery life of over six hours. Perhaps they are releasing a new Chromebook this summer that has a battery life that lasts that long? Still, I would have my doubts. I am not aware of any notebook computers on the market that have battery life this long besides ones that have gigantic slice batteries sticking out of the bottom. I also doubt that battery technology that gives phenomenal expectancy like this in a compact form factor would debut on a relatively cheap laptop where it is impossible to use the latest and greatest. You would think it would come out first on the $1000+ price range, and as far as I know it hasn’t. Also, these Chromebooks only have a 12.1″ screeen which means a smaller form factor, which in turn leaves less room for a battery. Of course I may be totally wrong. The components in Chromebooks are low end, and as such relatively energy efficient. If you combine that with an OS that is lightweight and resource efficient (like I presume Chrome OS is) then maybe, just maybe, manufacturers can squeeze out battery life that is respectable. As always, I will remain extremely skeptical until I see it done. I just hope that everyone at SLS isn’t banking on this 10-12 hour battery life, and I hope you guys have backup options in case things don’t work out flawlessly.

    Another thing I am curious about is this “leasing”. Since it’s a lease, I can conclude that students won’t own the Chromebooks. So, I am assuming they eventually have the return them. If so, when? Would it be at the end of the school year? Or would students be permitted to keep them through the summer breaks and just return them before graduation? And if they do get to keep them for the four years, how will upgradeability work? The current Chromebooks don’t use components that are very future proof. If anything, tech wise I would say that they are wayyyy behing the times even now.

    And just one more question. As an english teacher, do you foresee yourself using eBooks or online copies of the works you use in class? I know that last year you used to put scans on Edline, so I am assuming that you are considering this in some capacity. The poems that we used can probably be found online in PDF form, and the other things probably wouldn’t be hard to find either. This could completely remove the need for the giant green cinder blocks that were passed off as textbooks last year. :P

    Again, I think that this is an ambitious undertaking, but I think it will be positive and rewarding for everyone. I would just expect there to be a bumpy start until everyone gets acquainted and used to the new tech.

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    Brad Shriner
    April 26, 2012 at 7:21 pm

  6. Hey Brad:

    Wow! What a thoughtful and thorough response. Thanks so much. I share a few of your concerns, but a few are easily answerable. WiFi is to be installed schoolwide this summer, at some expense, but then it will allow students full capability with their Chromebook in school. Additionally, I share your concern about full battery life, but a major sell point of the Chromebook is it’s extraordinary battery longevity. It’s supposed to be 10 to 12 hours. Also, these machines will be essentially ‘leased’ through a program available to schools. Students will have a warranty in case of disaster, malfunction or abuse.

    It’s a step. A big one, but still, we are excited to try and forward beats backward on most days, in my opinion. Some teachers will struggle to develop effective uses for the technology now at their disposal, but students will make the most of it, I think. I’m psyched for system wide document (via Google docs.) sharing, quick and easy reference access, and the possibilities for innovation.

    Thanks again –

    Mrs. Parker
    English teacher to cool kids

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    admin
    April 26, 2012 at 3:54 pm

  7. I see that there could potentially be problematic with these Chromebooks, and I am not sure if SLS has the resources necessary to solve them (basing on what I saw last year; I can’t see how much changed since I graduated).

    First off, Chromebooks need an internet connection to function. If they don’t have one, all you have in your possession is an expensive doorstop. Basing on what I’ve seen during 4 years at SLS, they don’t have the Wifi capabilities that will be necessary. Wifi is sparse around campus, and when you do get a signal, it’s extremely weak. If Chromebooks are to be a success, the wireless technologies at SLS will need to be drastically improve. In addition, you have to keep in mind that you will need to potentially keep hundreds of these things connected to the internet and the Cloud at the same time. It seems like it could be a nightmare in the waiting.

    Also, when it comes to internet access, it needs to be realized that these night not be efficient at home. Even if you can get everything working right at school, there is no telling if people will have the things needed at home to get these things running. Since Chromebooks, as far as I know, lack ethernet ports, they will only be accessible to the internet through wireless. I know it’s 2012, and Wifi is extremely prevalent, and I am sure a majority of students have it at home, but you cannot say that they all do. If they don’t, then again the Chromebook will become useless at home, and any files they have stored on the Google Drive cloud will become inaccessible to them, right?

    Another potential pitfall I see coming is keeping these things powered up. A full school day is around seven or eight hours. Chromebooks don’t seem to have the battery capacity to run the full day. The Chromebooks I have seen say you can get up to six hours of battery life, however anyone who has owned a laptop before knows that you will never get close to that. So, what happens when the Chromebooks run out of power during the schoolday and the student still needs to use it for classes? Will there be charging stations for these, so the students don’t have to bring chargers to school and fight each other for the few power outlets available?

    A laptop in the classroom is a good tool that can facilitate learning, but it can also bring about new ways to goof off. There is no way that SLS will be able to block everything, because I am sure there are websites and apps that are appropriate, but just not appropriate during class. How would teachers combat this? As a college student, I can say for certain that it’s hard for teachers to do so. If you see one coming, you can just change the tab to something the teacher would “like to see”.

    Also, I just can’t see how much they will be utilized in general. During my senior year, I could name only a few teachers that were using the technology at their disposal fully and efficiently, probably because they didn’t really know how to use it. I don’t think that it can be reasonable to expect all the teachers to even understand how to use the tech appropriately. Of course I am assuming that teachers will be using it to electronically send handouts and assignments to students. I might be making an incorrect assumption. Furthermore, I can’t see these being useful in every subject. Math is definitely one subject where you can not rely on a laptop. You really need the paper and pencil to learn it well. Science you might be able to use them more, but not totally. However, I do think that the Chromebooks would be extremely helpful in English and History.

    These are just some of the thoughts that popped into my mind when reading this. Overall, I would applaud the effort to modernize (which is something SLS desperately needs IMO), but I don’t think it’s really the best way. I am extremely proficient and cutting edge when it comes to technology, and I still can’t see how it would be a great thing to rely totally on the Cloud. It’s not ready. If I were making this decision, I would just buy cheap PC laptops for all the students and install the Chrome web browser on it. That’s all the Chrome OS really is. With this solution you could still have access to Google’s cloud and you would still have a file system and much more flexibility.

    Oh, and one more thought…who is going to repair these when they break down (which they definitely will)? Also who is going to pay for said repairs?

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    Brad Shriner
    April 26, 2012 at 12:54 am

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