Chromebooks: Useless?

This feature is an editorial and represents the opinions of the author.

By: Deanna Mudry

How often do you use your Chromebook during the average school day? Probably not often, or even at all. “Once a day, if that,” said junior Jimmy Pietras

 It seems as if students never get the chance to use the Chromebooks for anything productive, other than constantly reminding each other what day it is, making it seem like the Chromebooks are pointless.

Students have Chromebooks with them all day, but the majority of upperclassman teachers never allow students to use them. Although, some might say this is with good reason.

“I personally like them when I need to look up something during class but they are also a huge distraction,” noted senior Maddie Grafft.

Mrs. Denman, a religion teacher said, “I do use Chromebooks in the class for research – when we’re having a discussion and want an example. When we were discussing Fair Trade in class, I had the students go on their Chromebooks to see which businesses in our area support Fair Trade and which ones didn’t.”

Mrs. Denman continued, “But when it comes to taking notes on the Chromebooks, I stopped allowing it when I realized that ‘typing’ or ‘keyboarding’ while it is very easy, was sort of bypassing the brain. Students could type the words quickly, but had no actual recollection or remembrance of what they had just typed. It was like ‘robot monkeys’ at work, with nothing connection to the mind. If you have to write it out, picture the information going up through the arm and into the brain. The retention rate is much higher.”

Underclassmen teachers use the Chromebooks much more often. “We use our Chromebooks in every class pretty much, except for science,” said freshman Sarah Sweeney.

“Mr. Griswold makes us use them for everything, we have to write blogs and share documents all of the time.”

Other teachers such as Mrs. Parker, an English teacher, do use Chromebooks in the class often; quizzing students via Google forms, blogging, and utilizing sites online. Along with Mrs. Denman she has a website where her students can gain access to class information at almost any time. But unfortunately, teachers like this who use the Chromebooks, as well as they can, are far and few between. The problem is especially pronounced in the 11th and 12th grades.

Even when students are permitted to use them, almost all of the computer’s applications and features are blocked by the administrator, rendering them even more useless.

In-document Google chat is disabled, so that students can’t discuss what they‘re working on. This was one of the original major selling points of getting the Chromebook. Many other features, like Google + and Google meet have been censored or altogether eliminated, disabling the Chromebook of its primary function of helping with education.

“I don’t like that they block Sparknotes and other filters because they block websites that have information you might need,” said Pietras.

“I tried to do a research paper for Religion last year but couldn’t because a lot of Catholic websites are blocked,” agreed Grafft. “Websites also get blocked just for inappropriate ads and not the website itself which could have stuff you need.”

One of the greatest benefits of having the Chromebook is the communication that it allows for. Being able to email anyone in the school is helpful when trying to ask teachers questions or get information from other students, but communication via Chromebook has been greatly misused and neglected.

Students often send obnoxious mass emails which end up becoming like spam. The chaos a few weeks ago when a large group of students was called to the office to answer a routine office question could have been easily avoided by asking through Google form, but for some reason it wasn’t used. Yet again, a missed opportunity with the Chromebook.

Physically, Chromebooks are not that durable and break often. When Chromebooks do have a technical problem it is never an easy fix. There is rarely a repairman in the building. This makes getting your Chromebook working again an agonizing process, which in the end still results in a sub-par Chromebook. Freshmen this year even seem to have gotten hand me down Chromebooks.

“The previous owner of my Chromebook jacked it beyond repair,” recounted freshman Glen Brown. “So, one day in class I opened it up to only a white screen and heard it trying to load. After class I brought it down to the library for them to look at it. They said to come in after the three day weekend to pick it up. After the weekend I came in and they said ‘come tomorrow’ and they kept saying that for two weeks. They said it was fixed but I couldn’t get it, so I persistently came down every period until finally they gave it back. The problem was that the wire that gave my screen color was broken.”

“Mine was broken when I first got it too,” agreed Sweeney. “It took, like three weeks to get it fixed, and I got behind in my classes because of it.”

Despite the fact that Seton- La Salle boasts about having this technology, many students feel unprepared for the technology they’ll be forced to master once out of school because of the lack of tech-ed currently offered here.

The only remotely technological classes currently offered at Seton are the freshman block basic computer class and animation. Computer technology is the industry of many people’s futures, and it’s counterproductive for Seton-La Salle to offer no real programming background.

Regarding how the Chromebooks themselves give students confidence in working with technology after they leave Seton, Pietras said, “It teaches us how to work our way around a computer, and it teaches us to be sneaky with a computer and work our way around firewalls.”

But for students like senior Emily Mattern, who hopes to be a computer programmer someday, the lack of importance that Seton-La Salle places on computer competency is an issue.

“I think that I’m probably proficient with computers, but that’s only because of stuff I did in elementary school and the fact that my Mom’s good with them. I never had a computer class at Seton,” said Mattern.

Seton La Salle’s principal, Mrs.Lauren Martin, explained that the skill of the faculty with computers is not the problem, two of them even hold bachelor degrees in Computer Science; but rather the limited number of faculty and classrooms. Every year, near Thanksgiving, Mrs. Martin and other members of the faculty hold an academic council, during which they look at the current course catalog and try to add or drop courses which are needed in the curriculum, so there is hope for more computer training in the future.

The seeming uselessness of the Chromebook wouldn’t be a debatable issue if they were just a tool offered as a supplement, by the school; but students and parents actually pay for them. So, in the end are they worth it?

“Sometimes they’re helpful and other times they’re annoying. Docs won’t load, internet freezes up, and if too many people are in one room you can’t use anything,” thought Pietras.

In retrospect, I did write most of this article on my Chromebook so they do have some uses, but the bottom line is that Chromebooks have tremendous potential that just isn’t being tapped into. This persistent ignorance and censorship of them does more to hinder education than to help it. This technological negligence has to stop in order to prepare Seton- La Salle students for the future in a computer driven world and to increase the Chromebook’s usefulness and overall value.

 

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