If Santa delivered just one present to your school, what would it be? I’m sure lots of schools would maybe choose one of those big fancy LCD touch screen TVs that seem to be replacing Interactive Whiteboards in some schools. Others might choose a class set of iPads; some would choose something non-techie but this web site isn’t for them! Me? All I want for Christmas is a year of tech support!
Unfortunately for me, my wish will probably be unfulfilled but Richard Bruton’s elves are sizing up a small gift after Christmas for all schools, a few thousand euro to spend on whatever technology we want. My school is lucky to have a very good wifi set up and all our classrooms have a projector, a number of laptops and other bits and bobs. Recently, we invested in a dozen Chromebooks and this is where I think we’ll be investing our money.
Chromebooks, I feel, give the best of all worlds to teachers who are toying between laptops and iPads. Where laptops lack in battery life and speed and iPads lack in keyboard and Flash, the Chromebook comes to the rescue. Chromebooks are lightning fast and have a fantastic battery life. They also have keyboards, (which are still not dead!) They also run all websites on Chrome, which means all the wonderful Flash-based web sites that primary schools use, work on them perfectly. Many Chromebooks also run Android Apps, which covers about 90% of any app you’ll ever need as a primary school teacher. If you are a school that runs Google Apps for Education, it is even better! However, the best thing for me with regards to Chromebooks is that you can’t really store anything on them so that every time you open one up, it’s like the first time you’ve done so. This means that they are highly secure and don’t slow down due to things being installed.
There are a couple of drawbacks, of course. Firstly, you can’t install traditional software to Chromebooks so you either have to make do without or use some sort of alternative. For example, you can’t install Microsoft Office on a Chromebook but you can use Office 365 nicely or even switch to Google Apps, which are getting better all the time. Printing can be slightly troublesome but, overall, most printers work well with Chromebooks. A final niggle is that there is no VGA port, which means they can’t be hooked up to most projectors.
In terms of apps, I would argue that Apple and Android are almost on par in terms of quality of apps. Yes, Apple have the advantage in terms of more fancy things like Osmo, but I don’t think this is a dealbreaker. However, one thing that iPads do have over Chromebooks would be anything in terms of multimedia. Chromebooks are not great media devices, in that it is not a great device to record music or video and edit them.
I think Chromebooks are the ideal solution for primary school classes and if Santa doesn’t deliver a few this Christmas, hopefully Minister Bruton will give us some funds to invest some time early in the new year.