Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Day With a Chromebook

One day last week I decided to do a little experiment. What would my day be like if I only used a Chromebook? In full disclosure, I am an iPad/iPhone guy.

The Positives
The Chromebook was nice because it is pretty much like a small laptop computer.  I loved the ability to type much better than what I am used to on the iPad, even with a keypad connected to the iPad.  I could get to pretty much everything I needed to on the internet as well.

Our school is a Google Apps For Education school, so I was able to use Google Docs and Presentation to do any word processing that I needed to do.  Had I still been reliant on Microsoft Office, I would have been in a world of hurt, but since I have already made this leap, it was no issue at all. I even tested out Google Hangouts and the video and audio quality were perfectly fine.

The Negatives
When I encountered something I wanted to take a picture or video, I was out of luck.  I'm sure there is a way to do this, but it is not as easy or convenient as shooting with the iPad.  I feel one of the positives of the iPad is the creativity possibilities.  In my opinion, the Chromebook is not on the same level there.

Finally, and depending on where you need to use it, without WiFi, the Chromebook is pretty much a paperweight.  I did have an issue where I lost internet connection for a few minutes, and there was not much I could do with the device.  I could see a student using their iPad on the school bus, but could not see that happening with the Chromebook.

This may shock you, but I loved the Chromebook because its positives were in areas I would normally say are negatives with the iPad.  What I really discovered from my one day experiment is that technology is a tool, and a craftsman needs different tools.  Sometimes you need a hammer and sometimes you need a drill.  That does not make one any better or worse.  I could could see where making Chromebooks available to our students would be a huge benefit.  However I would also want some iPads (or other technology) at their disposal so that they can use the appropriate tool for the appropriate task.

UPDATE:  Part of the reason I posted and shared this was to get some feedback, specifically telling me I was wrong about the WiFi/paperweight comment.  Many people have told me ways that this is not true.  I look forward to exploring those possibilities.


  1. Interesting thoughts here. I have found many of the same pros and cons to Chromebooks as you have. I love the native integration of Chrome and my Google accounts. I haven't tried downloading a Word Doc from my email and then uploading into my Drive so I can edit, but I'm hoping they can handle that. Where the Chromebook really lacks is the video while the iOS devices excel at media capture & editing. Cloud editing just isn't there yet. I think the Chromebook would be a sweet device if users could swivel the screen and lay it flat so the device could be used like a tablet, however I don't see that happening if manufacturers want to keep the attractive $249 price point. I'm wondering if you think you'd use the Chromebook for administrative tasks like observations, data collection, formative assessments, especially if you had OTES stuff built out in Google Forms. I'm guessing you'd probably just stick w/ iOS. I found another guy that isn't sure about Chromebooks...

  2. Chromebooks are a great entry level device, but I think in a couple of years, districts will be moving on to something else. The iPads are in the same boat. Both excel at certain tasks, but you start to bump into limitations pretty quickly.

    For the Chromebooks, it's when they're used with the 12 and under crowd. Teachers are then faced with the dilemma of breaking the terms of service or getting parental permission.

    For the iPads, it's the difficulty using them efficiently. Dropbox is an almost necessity, which you then run into problems with the 12 and under students. Google Drive can sometimes replace it, but more apps support Dropbox. It's also cumbersome to switch apps. I used to enjoy working on my iPad, but the hoops I have to jump through are wearing thin. And don't get me started on how Apple has priced themselves out of the market! :-)

    We're going with Linux laptops. We get all of the advantages of the Chromebook, plus we can run programs locally.

    P.S. Please don't take pictures with an iPad. :-)

  3. I use a Chromebook as my everyday device and disagree with your assessment that it's a "paper weight" without internet. If you sync your Drive or selected folders then you have offline access and offline access to gmail as well. But most of the time wifi is available far as video and photos...I use my phone and sync to my G+ photos. A Chromebook is a device for those who use the Google ecosystem...the many Chrome Apps and Extensions offer many productivity and creativity tools which are mostly free. WeVideo for editing, Pixlr or PicMonkey for photo, thousands of other apps to choose from.

    1. Thank you. I was hoping for feedback such as yours, because I was hoping for a work around without WiFi. I will look into your suggestions. Thanks again.

  4. You need some lessons on using your Chromebook. I have the Acer C720.
    When you Enabling offline access you can:

    View Google documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings even when you don't have an Internet connection. You're also able to create and edit Google documents, presentations, and drawings offline, as well as spreadsheets, edit photos and read email.
    For offline storage on my Chromebook I have 16 GB internal, a 64 GB SD card, 64 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive and a 64 GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive.

    1. Thanks Harold. Appreciate the comments. Looking forward to checking these things out.

  5. Comparing the Chromebook to an iPad will inevitably lead to frustration. Most schools, as with mine, will make room for both devices, understanding that, yes, they are just "tools", with each appropriate for certain tasks (I'm not aware, for example, of any notebook/laptop with a rear-facing camera).

    As others have noted, Docs offline does the trick when the Internet is not available. Additionally, Chromebooks support USB flash drives and external disk drives.

    One might also look at the "For Your Desktop" section of the Chrome Web Store. It offers a small but growing number of Chrome apps which need no connectivity. If the past is any guide, we'll be seeing Chromebooks with 32-64 GB storage to keep up with an increasing number of "desktop" apps.

    My school also runs a large number of Linux/Ubuntu netbooks and laptops, but portability, flexibility and battery life trump everything; Chromebooks and iPads are not "entry level" devices, and I suspect they and their ilk will find increasing use in schools and districts for a long time to come.


  6. Hallo,

    I'm from Kenya and I wanted to give my own perspectives on this. In my opinion chrome books are devices that very few people can use. The device has to have internet connection to work and not just that but unlimited connection any time anywhere and without racking up huge internet bills. This is possible in very few places in the world.

    Secondly, you have to hope that every application that you would wish to use comes as a browser version with full functionality as the desktop version. None of my applications in my laptop meet this requirement and I shudder to think what would happen to me if I was restricted to using a chrome book or a tablet

    That being said, how to mitigate problems caused by wifi going out.

    I'm a student studying electrical engineering and one thing we have learned is that there should always be a backup plan. If your wifi goes down (and it will, every time, if my experience with them is anything to go by) then you should try getting other ways

    One is by using plug and play USB modems/dongles. These are the most common way of accessing internet for Kenyans with computers.

    Second option is to use your phone as a modem via USB or Bluetooth or Wifi tethering. I use this option a lot in case of emergencies like sending an e-mail. It can be expensive if you don't have an unlimited data plan that is cheap. We mostly have fixed data plans

    Third option is to use a LAN cable, plug it in. If you don't have many of these cables, then you can use software that broadcasts the internet being received by a laptop to surrounding devices by wifi. Applications such as connectify work nicely. On the other hand, I don't know if you can install that in a chrome book

    As for not being able to use MS office, that isn't true. You can access and create your documents via office web apps and skydrive. They are similar to Google Docs and Drive.

    I’ve used my laptop in a bus and so do many other people. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. As long as your laptop has a decent battery or there’s power in the bus, it should work fine.

    I had written this reply before and when I had clicked on reply, the reply just disappeared. If I had written the reply on word and then copied it, I wouldn't have had to type it up again

    Final thoughts, use a chrome book if you are absolutely sure you will have access to very cheap, completely unlimited internet everywhere and any time as well as access to all your applications in the browser.

    If not, then better get a laptop that can do much more

    I hope I haven’t gone off track with my reply.

    Thank you,


  7. I live in the USA and internet/WiFi is very abundant so I can't imagine what computer life must be like in Kenya or any other country such as this. However, If having access to the internet is a main concern, you can get a 3G/4G Chromebook with 2 years of free data service , It costs a little more than a WiFi only version but as long as the data service they offer on them is compatible with your country's offerings then I think it may be a suitable option.

  8. Great review! I feel that you've given a fair comparison of the "book" with the "pad". It has some interestingly good points, like the ease of access to Google apps, though I agree with you that the biggest weakness for the book is it's restricted capabilities when it has no web access, as with all other netbooks out there. I'm sure they'll have improved versions of these devices, addressing their various negatives and that's the best thing about living in the age of I.T.

    Jannette @ TLink Broadband