Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Coming soon to classrooms

I was among the first in line when Google released the Chromebook, an ultra-portable low-cost laptop that instantly connects you to the Internet. The idea behind the Chromebook is that we don't really need to store things locally anymore. Instead, we use the Cloud for email, documents, collaboration, video, and pretty much everything we do. So the Chromebook's goal is to get you online as quickly and easily as possible, and connect you to those Cloud services. As suggested by the name, the Chromebook comes pre-loaded with Google's Chrome web browser.

At work, I often use a Chromebook, especially when I need to be portable. While I have a traditional laptop from Dell that boots both Windows and Linux, much of my work is done via the U of M Google Apps, such as Gmail and Docs. We purchased this Chromebook with department funds so we could loan it out; if you are faculty or staff at Morris, let us know if you'd like to borrow the Chromebook.

Chromebooks have been used in education since they were first introduced. The low cost of the Chromebook (about $250) means universities and schools can purchase more Chromebooks than traditional desktops or laptops, for the same cost. A single Dell laptop might cost around $1200, but schools can purchase almost five Chromebooks. And because everything is stored in the Cloud, there are few security concerns if a Chromebook is stolen or lost.

Along the same lines, Google introduced the Chromebox. This is the desktop equivalent of the Chromebook. Connect your own mouse, keyboard, and HDMI display to the Chromebox, and you are up and running within minutes. The Chromebox represents the changing face of the desktop, another option that organizations might use to support the needs of their users. And at $200, I foresee the Chromebox as a wise investment by universities and schools, particularly as classroom computers. As you plan your organization's IT future, consider if the "classic" Windows or Mac desktop is really what you need. Especially if you find yourself using web-based applications, as many people now do, maybe it's time to take next steps with a web-enabled device.

ASUS is following up the Chromebox with a new device later this year. The Chromebit looks like a large USB fob drive, but actually runs the same system as the Chromebox. Just plug the Chromebit into an HDMI display, and pair a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, to instantly get to work. C|Net has a brief review and highlights the Chromebit will be available this summer for $100. Our department will plan to purchase a Chromebit to experiment with. I'd love to explore this tiny device as a possible classroom computer, or even a lab computer in spaces that don't need specialized software. (In future, I'd also like to leverage virtualized applications or "VDI" to make specialized software available in all our labs—and possibly to small devices like the Chromebit—but I'll describe that plan in another post.)

photo: Google

1 comment:

  1. I received the first Chromebook our district purchased, and it's a blast! Open the clamshell and you're good to go in about 10 seconds.

    We also purchased a Chromebox, which is now living in one of our libraries. The librarian loves it. We have it configured with a public session that opens Chrome to our book search site. But, a student can always sign out from the session and sign in with their GAFE account to get real work done. After the student signs out, the box waits about 60 seconds and resumes the public session.

    I look forward to trying out the Chromebit, and may even buy one for myself. Neat!


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