Chromebooks – there’s really nothing to say

The joy of following many other education technology people on Twitter is you get to find out loads of tips and suggestions for things to do to make education better in my school. Increasingly though, I find myself following people who, when they blog, post about iPads and how they are using them. That’s all very well, but is becoming increasingly irrelevant to my school, since we do not have any iPads.

Hold on,” I can hear you saying, “I thought this post was about Chromebooks“. It is – kind of. I can hear other people saying, “Hold on! No iPads? How can you sustain school improvement without iPads?

So the thing is, whenever I think about writing a post about Chromebooks, it ends up becoming a post about something else, so I don’t write it. For example when my students used and Blogger to read, listen to and then review a story. They did all that on a Chromebook – but the key thing was the websites they used. Or when my students used Youtube and Google Docs to re-write the lyrics of a well-known song. They collaborated together on the same Google Doc, partly in lesson time, partly over the weekend. They used Chromebooks to do that, but it was Youtube and Google Docs that made the activity work.

I am caught in the trap of wanting to build up a bank of evidence to say that Chromebooks work in classrooms, just as others are doing with iPads. Every time I try to justify that argument I find myself focusing on a particular way of teaching and a particular set of web-based technologies that support that, not the actual Chromebook. Damn Chromebooks – they’re just so faceless, so lacking in charisma – they just let you get on with teaching.

I wish they had more shiny about them. If only they were more complex or more difficult to setup – for example if they took a good day of technician time to setup , then, at the least, the technician would know about them. But no. Not Chromebooks. They just work. The kids use them. For learning. Boring really.

There’s nothing else to say.

47 thoughts on “Chromebooks – there’s really nothing to say”

  1. Thanks for your posting about Chromebooks! I absolutely agree with you – there are lot of resources and Apps been posted on Twitter promoting how you can use iPads in the classroom. In fact it’s not about the devices, it’s about the tools and ideas behind – so thanks a lot!

    Best regards from Germany

    1. Thanks for the comment David – It’s made me realise I need to stop being stuck defending a particular device and post more about what we’re actually doing with our kit. A part of me is envious of other school’s iPads…!

  2. Steve

    Great post & keep on sharing more “nothing” on the Chromebooks as it making it invisible makes what the students & teachers do so much more visible & this is really what it is all about. Thanks Ian

  3. Genius! A succinct post deflating the iPad bubble and answering a question I have posed this very evening about why not spend the budget on a low cost laptop rather than an expensive toy.

    1. Thanks Jonny – I have a post lined up pointing the finger at who is to blame for the iPad bubble – it’s one of my pet-hates too.

  4. I think you will see the chrome book make some significant advances with the newest offerings from Samsung and Acer. It is a brilliant marriage between device and cloud services

    1. Really looking forward to trying the new Samsung – I saw one the other side of a hangout on Monday and they look amazing.

    1. Excellent – make sure you blog your journey with them – hopefully you won’t be blogging about the Chromebooks, but about the learning.

  5. I couldn’t agree more. Our district is in the first year of being 1:1 with all 3,500 of our high school students having a Chromebook, but it’s not at all about the device. It’s all about moving teaching and learning to the Web. Providing our students with 24/7 access to tools like Google Docs, Blogger, OpenClass (our LMS), YouTube, WeVideo, Socrative, VoiceThread, Storify, Themeefy, SlideRocket, Glogster, Desmos, Animoto, TodaysMeet, Discovery Education, GeoGebra, and the numerous other Web tools and resources (mostly free) that our teachers and students have found ways to utilize is changing the way we play the game of school. The Chromebooks are very rarely at the center of our conversations, unless, of course, it’s to mention how easy they are to deploy, manage, and use.

    1. I was shown Socrative at a teachmeet a few days ago – it looks great. What excites me about those kind of technologies is that they can be used on any device, because they require such small bandwidth, making online learning a reality in all but the most rural of communities.

  6. Thank you for sharing. I have recently become very interested in Chromebooks as a 1:1 alternative to more costly Apple products. What was the main factor in your school’s decision to utilize these devices? Can you give a brief synopsis of the learning your students are doing with the Chromebooks? I am looking for more “evidence”, even anecdotal, of the benefits of these!

    1. The main reason I was interested was because I thought my students would gain from online learning both in motivation and knowledge. I could see that there were enough websites out there to engage students in pretty much all areas of learning required in schools and I needed a device to do that on. Chromebooks just seemed the perfect choice. Before we started we had been using Google Apps for a year and had gained a lot from that – engagement was up and costs were down – I wanted a device that would go with that.

      The main benefit for me is the collaboration through things like Google Docs. I’ve blogged about that here: – Collaboration makes learning more fun and teaching more effective. If no other websites existed and Google Docs was the only thing you could access, Chromebooks would still be worth it.

  7. Good post. I’ve been using a Chromebook for about a year now, and have recently upgraded to the new Samsung. You are absolutely right about them being effectively “invisible”, they are more or less about the websites and tools that you access. Interestingly, it is the only device where I’ve gone from opening the box to *actually working* with any degree of speed. I’m not sure I ever actually managed to do real work on my iPad, too much shiny distraction and not good enough word processing tools. A Chromebook is just a tunnel into better things. I like that.

    1. Thanks for commenting. I’m still at the envy stage with iPad, because I’ve never used one, so I’m not really in a position to compare – I just know Chromebooks are working really well for us.

  8. Thx for sharring theese thoughts. I’s great to read a post on what’s really matters: the teaching and the activity teaching makes possible. Not the tech.
    I’ve argued in different settings the necessity to consider devices other than iPads, cause it’s not devices that makes a different. That’s why I now opt for BYOD.
    Thanks again, I’ll share your story to my PLN.

  9. Nice post. My students have begun using Chromebooks this year, and I’m especially intrigued by the new $249 version from Samsung. You’re right that they’re invisible; it’s not about the device but rather what students can do with the device.

    Schools like mine with very limited tech budgets have had a tough last few years (with laptops and netbooks and tablets and iPads). That’s why I like the Chromebook so much. The Chromebook has staying power.

    1. I know what you mean about a tough time. Many teachers don’t have much resilience to technology going wrong and soon stop bothering. Because Chromebooks just work they engage more teachers than the laptops we used to use.

  10. Great post. I am drawn more and more to the Chromebook versus the iPad. One hold up in our district (we have a cart of Chromebooks now that’s available for checkout) is how do student access certain curriculum online using the CB when those services need Java or specific apps not built into Chrome? Specifically we use Carnegie (MATHia) and it requires Java 6. We also use Realidades for our Spanish department and I’ve heard that’s not working well on CB. There was a ‘java’ extension that could be installed (RNDR) but it was pulled from the Chrome Web store recently. I feel like our curriculum we have already chosen is shoe-horning us into what device we have to choose. Thoughts?

    1. Yes we have a similar problem. We use a service by a UK provider called Purple Mash – I’ve had problems with this on our Chromebooks because it is entirely Flash based. However there are enough alternatives out there that no area of our curriculum is disadvantaged – there is something for everyone, although I have to admit this is a Primary (elementary) school I’m talking about.

      I haven’t had problems with Java on Chromebooks, but those Java Applet things like you get on Wordle don’t work at all.

      I think times-they-are-a-changing in the world of the web and as HTML 5 becomes standard we should see less shoe horning in the long term. In the short term, however, if the teachers only know how to use something like Carnegie and it only works on certain devices, then that’s all you can support for the moment.

      1. There are several educational applications that require support for Java, which can be an issue if you have Chromebooks. However, it is possible to overcome this obstacle with a solution like Ericom AccessNow, an HTML5 RDP solution that enables Chromebook users to connect to any RDP host, including Terminal Server and VDI virtual desktops, and run Windows applications or desktops in a browser tab. That means that you can open up an Internet Explorer session inside a Chrome browser tab, and then connect to the applications that require Java and run them on the Chromebook.

        With AccessNow, you can also use a Chromebook to connect to a Windows Terminal Server or virtual desktop and run other Windows-based educational applications.

        AccessNow is easy for IT staff to manage, as there’s nothing to install on the Chromebook itself. Students and staff simply click on a URL to access their applications or desktops.

        For more information about AccessNow for Chromebooks, visit:

        You can also download this white paper which describes the Richland, South Carolina school district’s deployment of Chromebooks with AccessNow for 30,000 students and staff:

        Note: I work for Ericom

  11. Your post really is a compliment to Chromebooks/Google. I’m reminded of a saying I read once, “When you do something right, no one will know you’ve done anything at all.”

  12. Great post. Westwood HS in Westwood MA just decided on Chromebooks for 1-1 next year. You have articulated what I’ve been thinking about Chromebooks perfectly. Everyone in my geographic area is going iPads and Macbook Airs. We did a needs analysis and device comparison and the Chromebook was the clear winner. We’ve also piloted them for a year now and the ‘invisible’ factor is the best part about them. Not to mention, the TOC is amazing. Richland 2 in SC issued 16,000 Chromebooks last year and only hired one additional tech support person to handle the management of the devices. Great stuff!

    1. Wow! 16000 and only one technician – that’s amazing! I wonder what the ratio is for PC laptops and other devices?

  13. Looking forward to my shipment of chromebooks to my school. This is the laptop I’ve been looking for. The two I have at school have been a great success. The biggest reason has been the speed of getting online. Students love them.

  14. I see you have heard it a lot, but this is a great post. Basically, exactly what I have been arguing for the past couple years. Started using Google Docs heavily about 4-5 years ago. I then got to test the CR-48 Chromebook (which I still use heavily). I forced myself to use this device solely for a month. It was a fairly easy transition, but I did have to adjust to being fully in the cloud. It just works. The nicest thing, is my students can easily access all these great, free, cloud based and collaborative learning tools from any web connected device. Chromebooks are perfect for a class setting.

  15. I cannot count the number of times I have buried my head in my hands when hearing of another school who have invested in x number of ipads, but with not the least idea what they are going to do with them. Bit like academies, really. Build a shiny hew building and magically (and inexplicably) the education prospects of all who tread there will be transformed.

    Smart marketing from Apple, but even smarter incisive blogpost from you.


  16. Thanks for posting this and sharing links to previous posts and news articles. I’m impressed with your research and collaboration with others to determine the best 1:1 scenario for your school(s). And it seems to be working! By allowing teaching and learning to take center stage, you have minimized the device for the real showstopper: a well-crafted lesson! Thanks!

  17. I’m presenting at PETE&C in Hershey PA tomorrow. Plan on quoting and giving a link to this blog post. Totally agree with you! Chromebooks are boring, Chromebooks are transparent, and they let you get on with teaching and learning without all the administrative mess.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Social Slider