Chromebooks; A Student’s Perspective
For the past two months, students in our 7th and 10th grades have been experimenting with Google’s Chromebook as part of a pilot program. Before spring break we had a chance to sit down with Ben Brown, one of our 10th grade students, to get a sense of the pros and cons of the device from his point of view as one of Ravenscroft’s more computer/technology savvy students. We appreciate Ben’s open and honest report of his experience to date.
At present, we are in the process of conducting surveys with all students involved in the pilot in order to generate feedback on the device, their thoughts around all students having them, and the opportunities and challenges they have faced during the pilot program. We plan to share the results of the survey here on Google @ Ravenscroft.
Q. Tell us how you are using the Chromebook.
A. It’s great for notes. For me, being able to type instead of write is much faster. I can have more than one copy (physical and digital) available at all hours of the day. Collaborating on review questions and projects, as well as sharing notes with others is a really helpful feature of Google Docs. You can make folders for anything and quickly organize your documents and make them easy to find and having a Chromebook at the ready makes this process easier.
Q. What apps from the Chromebook Web store have you found?
A. The Chrome Web Store is full of apps of every kind. I have found many helpful ones, and the occasional offline app, which does not require an Internet connection. Below are some of the apps I am using.
Q. Have you found the Chromebook easy to use?
A. Yes. The Chromebook is very easy to use and starts up quickly. I find myself slightly in awe of the less than 10 second boot time. Once the device is online, you simply sign in with your Ravenscroft Google Apps for Education account and all your apps load up in seconds. If you are already signed in, but not connected to the internet, and you lock your Chromebook or put it to sleep by closing the lid, you just enter your account password, and you can access any of your offline apps. If you are both connected and signed in, then you enter your password and any apps can be accessed.
I should also add that Google does a good job of bringing frequent Operating System updates to the Chromebook and has added new features like media players, .zip file extractors, photo viewers, and more.
Q. How have you found the Chromebook’s design? Is it durable?
A. We have the Samsung 5 Chromebook and it is not the most durable piece of hardware out there. The “breakability” is surprisingly higher than I expected. For example I witnessed an accidental drop that led to a cracked/broken screen on a classmates’ Chromebook.
Q. Have you discovered things about your Chromebook that might be useful for other students to know?
A. I found a few built-in features that have proved to be increasingly helpful. For example, pressing ctrl + shift + alt + / brings up an image of keyboard shortcuts. After the popup appears, you can press ctrl, shift, alt, or any other combination of keys to find the shortcuts that available. For example, I used the screenshot tool to take all of my screenshots for this blog post.
The mini VGA port has been helpful. By plugging in an adapter to a port located on the left side of your Chromebook, I was able to connect my Chromebook to video devices that supports VGA. So far I’ve managed to connect to a Smartboard and a computer monitor at home.
Q. Any downsides to using the Chromebook as a Power User?
A. I am not able to install any ‘native’ applications on the device which presents a few drawbacks for me. For example, none of the Microsoft Office applications can be installed, or any alternate browsers (remember, the Chromebook´s operating system is just a modified browser). While there are the apps from the Chrome Web Store that are useful (see question about Chrome Web Store) most of them require an Internet connection which could prove problematic if you are without Wi-Fi access.
In addition, I work on multiple platforms (Mac OS X, Windows, and Chrome OS) so document compatibility is very important for me. One of the first things I noticed while trying to transfer and edit documents between my computers was having to upload files to Google Docs repeatedly.
However, to offset this issue I was able to use Ravenscroft’s Remote Desktop server and a pure HTML5 Remote Desktop ‘app’ to access Windows when I need to do so. I was also able to use TeamViewer to be able to access Mac OS X on my personal laptop.
Editor’s Note: Our students piloting these devices also use many other devices in and around campus and their homes. While the issue of compatibility with documents is an important point to raise, the Chromebook is built to be a cloud-based device only using the power of Google Apps and Google Docs as the main software platform.