While reading a retweeted article about another school (this one an elementary school) going all Chromebook in stages (gradual rollouts based on funding), I came to a new realization: why in the world are schools buying Chromebooks for students?
I’m a bit skeptical about the applicability of Chromebooks in music education until we see our first Chromebook like the Microsoft Surface, or the computer I’m trying to buy, the Acer T-100. These devices have a tablet with a keyboard that detaches, allowing you to use the device as a tablet, or to use it as computer. We’re starting to see new Chromebooks, such as the Acer C720P, that is a $299 touchscreen Chromebook. One Chromebook supporter that I follow has dubbed the C720P “the perfect Chromebook.” I’d say that might be true–unless you want to use it in music and the electives–but I see where the future is going here. (Note: as of today, the C720Ps that I see are $399…perhaps demand has driven up the price).
I personally own (and am using) one of the Samsung 303 Chromebooks, which is the most common Chromebook in schools.
At any rate, these Chromebooks do update themselves, they use software that is overwhelmingly free, and the accounts students use to log in would be managed by a GAFE (Google Apps for Education) system.
So…why are districts buying these devices for students? If the device is worth having, and in general, is under $200 (or $300, like the C720P), and performance really doesn’t matter (a Chromebook is a Chromebook is a Chromebook), why not move the cost of the device to the family/student? We do so for things like Graphing Calculators (over $100), and kids are walking around with a number of portable devices that cost far more (e.g. most smart phones). If a student were to use a Chromebook that they bought themselves for their four years of high school alone, the cost would average $50 to $75 per year. Tell me, as a parent, that I won’t have to spend that $50 to $75 per year on school supplies, and that the Chromebook will be used in place of school supplies, and I’m sold.
Of course, school districts could provide devices for families with financial need. That goes without saying. But the majority of parents could handle the $5 per month to $9 per month that a Chomebook would cost.
Put another way, our insurance policy for our iPads–at a pretty good deal–is $25 per year. Wouldn’t it make sense to just pay $25 more per year and get the device (And would insurance even be worth it?)? And certainly, wouldn’t some company be willing to step in and lease the devices for those four years?
Now…the resale value of a Chomebook after four years will be basically nothing (basically supporting the claims of the Windows ad against Chromebooks featuring Rick and his dad from Pawn Stars), whereas an iPad will have some retail value after four years. But all the money spent on apps on the iPad (admittedly, overall less now that iWork and iLife are free) would not have to be spent on Chromebooks. If you’re into GAFE, the need for a keyboard, and BYOD, doesn’t BYOC make sense?
So, who will be the first district brave enough to simply require students to bring a Chromebook as their sole device and learning tool, without stipulating the model? Doesn’t this make sense with this device?
Again, this is because I read yet another article about a school planning to gradually roll out Chromebooks. Forget that. If you are going Chromebook, take a stand, require the purchase of a Chromebook, and let your tech funds go towards the creation of curriculum and other needed tech in your district (such as making sure that your wireless network can handle four devices per student). This might even leave enough money in your tech budget to purchase specialized hardware for your STEM and Music classes.