We have come to a very exciting point in our 1:1 pilot initiative – serious consideration of which Chromebook model to select for a full implementation next year. The adopted preliminary budget includes funding for approximately half the needed devices and for the human resources needed to support teachers and students in leveraging all technology in our schools.
While we pursue the remaining one-time funding that is necessary for initial implementation, we have been testing out some of the next generation Chromebooks. It’s been an interesting process, and led us to a place we didn’t quite expect.
Without getting overly technical, one of the most significant innovations in the newest generation of Chromebooks has been an upgrade in the processors. For the end user, this makes a difference in two ways that are likely to be noticeable. The first is that information and tasks can be processed more quickly. Secondly, these newer chips are more efficient, which leads to a longer battery life, reportedly up to nine hours compared with the current six on our current devices.
So as we have examined some of these newer models, we were excited about creating a bit more wiggle room on the battery life. A six hour battery life isn’t much longer than a six hour school day, after all.
Unrelated to the chip inside, one final element that captured our attention was the availability of a larger screen on some newer models, in particular Toshiba’s offering. Since that machine possessed that large screen and the new chip (along with an SD card slot and HDMI port), and met our target price point of $279, we felt like we were well on the way to selecting it, even before it arrived.
And then we started thinking like middle school students.
Another model we had examined is the HP11. The HP though, despite being in the current “generation” of Chromebooks, has the “old” chip technology (amazing what passes for old these days). So – slower processing, shorter battery life. And a smaller, 11-inch screen to boot.
But then we started thinking like middle school students.
The HP’s small frame isn’t much bigger than an iPad – it’s the same depth, and about two inches longer. Perfect for a middle school desk or table, where space is at a premium. Perfect, too, for a middle school backpack.
The HP’s screen? Yes, it’s small. But it’s a lot bigger than a phone screen that a lot of kids are used to, and bigger than the iPad many of them have used. Sure, it is a lot smaller than the 15 inch screens a lot of us adults use. But that’s us. The other thing about the screen? Well, it’s gorgeous. It feels like a serious device when you look at your work. That’s not unimportant.
Suddenly, the SD slot and HDMI port became less important when we realized all efforts we have made to support students in working from the cloud. And then there’s the hinge. Yes, the hinge. We realized this ancient simple machine might be more important than we thought in 21st century tech. Almost all of our repairs on our current Samsung machines have had to do with the upright hinges jutting out of the body. The hinges on the new Toshiba, while they don’t stick up, are accessible from the bottom of the machine. The HP? Seamless.
This left us contemplating the the battery life issue. Nine hours would be better than six, we thought. And then we thought about our middle school students. When we thought about it, we haven’t experienced problems with the six-hour battery life of the Samsungs this year. We gave students the responsibility of charging their Chromebooks overnight, and they have followed through. It is also important that we have stayed true to the idea that our 1:1 program would mean ubiquitous opportunity, not ubiquitous use of a device each minute of the day.
We still haven’t decided. It might be the HP, or it might be a model we haven’t yet put our hands on. If you have an opinion, we would love to hear it.
One thing is for sure, though. It’s been really important to put ourselves in the students’ shoes, since this all about them and their learning. In fact, we’re headed up to the middle school ASAP to find out what the they think.