Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What the heck is a Chromebook?

What the heck is a Chromebook?
Basically, it's a web-based laptop that runs Google's Chrome OS (Operating System).  Using a Chromebook is like doing all your work on the Chrome browser.  Everything has to be Internet based because you don't add any software to this device.  You can add apps and extensions, like you do on the web browser, but you don't download or install additional software on a Chromebook.

You must have a Google account to log onto a Chromebook.  You simply enter your Google email address and password, then your account is opened and you can get started.  You have a main icon in the bottom left corner that allows you to see all the apps associated with your account.
The icon that shows all your apps is open in this image.
You can drag the app icons onto the shelf (which is located on the bottom of the screen by default) to create shortcuts to your frequently used apps like Gmail, Evernote, Google +, etc.

Why a Chromebook?
Last year, my tech director and I started hearing about the Chromebook at the monthly Tech Integration Group and Nerds Group that we attend.  We even got to play around on some Chromebooks!  So, we decided to purchase three Chromebooks and pilot them in the Tech Department.  We wanted to check the functionality and durability of the various models.  We did do some pilot testing with a few elementary teachers and have decided to pilot more Chromebooks this year with our upper grades.  While the Chromebook doesn't do everything I need it to do on the job, I can perform at least 50% of my job related tasks on the Chromebook.  Personally, the Chromebook might be a nice switch for my home computer when the time comes, but there are a few things I can't do that might become an issue.

What can't I do on a Chromebook?
I can't sync my iDevices through iTunes as that software doesn't go on a Chromebook.  There is also no place to insert a disc, so uploading music or watching a DVD are not an option.  I'm also a huge fan of Comic Life and I haven't found a good alternative that I like yet.  I would also have a little trouble with not having Office products, not because I'm married to Word and Excel, but because of the professional organizations I work with on documents and spreadsheets.

Finally comments on the Chromebook?
I've been working with the Chromebook on and off for almost a year and have learned one key fact - you have to be willing to rethink how you work.  Here is a prime example:  One of the elementary teachers was having her students type a document in Google Drive, but she wanted the students to add a photo they found online.  She is accustom to dragging & dropping the image onto her desktop when she works on the Mac, but couldn't figure out how to do that on the Chromebook.  So we learned the keyboard shortcut for copying and pasting an image.  We also learned how to save an image into a file on the Chromebook.  For myself, I like to listen to music as I work.  I could easily connect to Pandora, but I like some of my own music that I have in iTunes on my Mac.  So, I learned how to use Google Play.  I was able to upload my iTunes music through the Mac and now I can play those songs when I'm
working on the Chromebook via Google Play.  I do not foresee our district switching totally to Chromebooks, but if the Mac computers are being used for basic computer work that could be completed with a Chromebook why buy the BMW when the Ford can get the job done.

Have you gotten to "test drive" a Chromebook yet?  What did you think of it?

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