Back in March of 2013 I wrote about my initial experience with a Chromebook. Since then I have continued to use the device and in doing so have become increasingly impressed with it given the low cost of ownership. I have also enjoyed the benefits of a cloud based device and the multi-user experience this brings.
For me the advantages of the Chromebook are its lightweight, low cost and ease of editing and sharing documents. As mentioned in the previous post the experience of using services such as Evernote and Google Docs is excellent and I have not found a situation where the devices dependence on cloud storage has been an issue, after all I can always use my phone as a hotspot for WiFi. The Chromebook has good battery life for sporadic use and I am never that far from a power point. The screen is good enough for the intended purpose and the keyboard is nice if not spectacular. I like that it starts quickly, is not a burden to carry and that after a little tweaking go my Google profile it makes access to my digital life across devices seamless. It was the Chromebook that led me to discover the joys of Google's sync services and I am happy for that.
My class found the device intriguing from day one. It was not the typical laptop they were used to and thanks to the low cost I was happy to share it with them. A number already had Google accounts and used Docs and GMail. For these students using my Chromebook was just like using their laptop. They logged in with their details, had access to their files and their applications. Once they were finished they passed it on to another student and the Chromebook was instantly ready for them. Given the choice many of the students prefer the Chromebook to other computers, particularly smaller Netbooks but also the class set of slightly ageing iMacs. This is partly the novelty of using the teacher's computer but they also like how quickly it becomes their computer ready to use just they way they like. For those who have fully embraced the cloud lifestyle they even have access to their music and games and photos.
We have also enjoyed the ease of sharing that comes with our move to the cloud. A student working on a picture book can easily share his work with me before printing and I can see the edits and drafting as they occur. We can confer in real time on documents and will choose to do so in a range of ways empowered by us both having access to the document in question. As I speculated the Chromebook is well suited to users who are not tied to a legacy of Microsoft Office Documents, for the students Google Docs does exactly what they need with the flexible access option they need between home and school and across devices.
The little Chromebook has become such a hit that for some students it has become the birthday gift or preference and the class is graced with multiple Chromebooks now with others expected. For the parents the cost of the device is tempting as an initial outlay and with a reduced replacement cost should the worst happen.
So after several months the Chromebook is increasingly earning its keep. Yes it is plasticky and it doesn't meet all my computing needs but it does do most of what I need and in so many ways makes sharing easy. Now if I can just get a small stack of them.
By Nigel Coutts