Monday, July 1, 2013

Chromebooks in K12 – An Update

With the recent launch last year of Chromebooks, and the delivery of new models designed primarily for the K12 market, there’s been a lot of attention and discussion on this topic. There is also new news about Chromebooks in K12, and as we move into another school year in August/September, it’s worth reviewing the new information that has become available.

Many districts are looking at Chromebooks as an alternative to laptops or the expensive tablets offered by some vendors. Given that the majority of work is now done via the internet, the Chromebooks are definitely exploiting a need.

Recently, IDC wrote a research paper on the economic value of Chromebooks in K-12. There are some very interesting findings in this research. One of the most intriguing facts in this study is the 82% reduction in administration time for Chromebooks as compared with traditional laptops. Some of this is undoubtedly due to the fact they don’t have the same level of functionality, but it’s intriguing nonetheless. Additionally, IDC forecasts a $590 reduced cost of ownership for Chromebooks over a three year period. This makes a strong case.

This may be one of the most frequently asked and in some cases confusing part of the Chromebook decision for many districts. Given the budget realities, the most common approach is to evaluate which of these other two devices may be replaced by Chromebooks. I’m not so sure that this is the best way to look at the issue. Traditional laptops are clearly better suited where running courseware locally is necessary, and tablets are a touch only/small screen environment. To me, the Chromebook represents a new class of device that may be better in some use cases than either of the other two such as libraries, shared informal usage scenarios, and auditoriums. In fact, Lenovo recently created an infographic that compares the ThinkPad X131e Chromebook to the Apple iPad.

A final point that has become important in the Chromebook discussion is the ease of sharing a Chromebook that basically is a “fresh” system each time a new student logs on. Without the traditional operating system approach, of either tablets or laptops, there are fewer problems with issues from prior users. This will also help you consider use cases for Chromebooks.

Like any new tool, the Chromebook brings new capabilities to EdTech. Some of these may be very useful in broadening the availability of computing to students, or providing lower cost options to existing usage scenarios. Regardless, it’s important to stay up to date on what the Chromebook can do for your district.

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