Feb 10, 2013

Thoughts on Chromebooks

Fans of Google’s Chromebooks are expert at making compelling arguments for their use in schools. Apologists regularly sacrifice reason for simplicity, focusing on how easy the devices are to manage for the adults in the organization, rather than on the capabilities of the software to meet more than just rudimentary needs or the device’s capacity to grow with students’ desires/passions/interests, both in and out of the classroom. While Chromebooks are certainly better than tablets (don’t get me started), the typical use case represents a rather shallow view of the power of computers and computing in the learning space.

In the past, the argument for Chromebooks was tempered by cost, as the devices typically ran between $400 and $600, making them a rather expensive proposition for what they could do. Google’s failure to compel corporate buyers, coupled with scathing review after scathing review led them to shift their gaze to the education sector, where they have been able to realize a modest hint of momentum and positive feedback. Still, as of last fall uptake had been light overall. So in a rather bold move, Google took to subsidizing the cost of Chromebooks, driving their prices down to extremely compelling $200-$250, in a significant effort to build market/mind share for their device. While the perils of relying on corporate subsidies to fund educational programs are obvious, the new pricing model can be extraordinarily compelling to those wishing to get technology into the hands of more students in schools.