Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Chromebooks are Winning

How quickly things change. A month ago, Obamacare was doomed. My bet is that it will largely survive. I also thought Hillary would win in a blowout once the Entertainment Tonight video was released. That though proves my point about how quickly things can change. Ebooks were going to replace paper books. MOOCS were going to challenge higher ed. And iPads were going to transform education. MOOCS haven't changed anything; print books are doing more than fine against their electronic competition; and more and more school districts are moving away from the iPad. Be warned that trends change and change again quite quickly and that the iPads demise in schools may be exaggerated. Apple was left for dead before.  

I have two devices. I no longer have a computer in my house, my desktop is a relic and my last personal laptop broke three years ago. I have work issued iPad and  Chromebook. I remember when my school took away my laptop and gave me a Chromebook a half dozen years ago. In my defense, Chromebooks were in their infancy but I remember thinking, "Why would you want a device that only connects to the internet?" I thought it was going to be a tool for pleasure and not for work. I thought the whole idea of a internet only machine was stupid. My school was one of the very earliest adopters of the Chromebook. In some ways, we were on the bleeding, not leading, edge. We were so cutting edge that it hurt us a little bit. Maybe the idea was too new.

A couple of years later we migrated to iPads. I remember the fanfare and excitement of iPads. It seemed they were all the rage. Drop seem. They were all the rage. 

Thus this remarkable change  from  4 years ago is something to behold. Last year, Chromebooks alone accounted for 58% of the shipped devices to schools. Apple, which once dominated the school market, is falling behind and falling behind rapidly.

I love my Chromebook. I like how quickly it works. I love the many extensions and add-ons to the chrome browser and google apps that make it ever easier and quicker to use. Mostly, I like it because it always works and it's on in seconds.

As much as a Chromebook fan as I am, I'm a little disheartened to see Chromebooks replace tablets, especially in the elementary grades. The iPad, if utilized in ways that maximally leverages its media creation capabilities, allows us to think about school differently. The Chromebook is better suited to traditional schooling. The Chromebook can be used in cutting edge ways, but it isn't a media creation tool.

When I taught 5th grade, I loved the iPad. My kids made movies with iMovie, used iMotion, Telligami, Book Creator, Aurasma, among other tools and we all became quite facile with them. I liked the media rich environment that we created together. 

As a high school teacher of 11th and 12th graders in a 1 to 1 iPad school, about half of my students use a different device than their school issued iPad because it makes more sense for their workflow and workload.  If I were asked, I would suggest that we pivot to a device with a full browser and hope that device is the Chromebook. But part of me will mourn the untapped potential of the iPad.

At some point, literacy will have to mean more than reading and writing. Digital literacy is still mostly just a catch-phrase in schools. Yet, when will a basic understanding of knowing how to present data visually or creating multi-media presentations become expected in the workplace and in colleges? How long will the paper reign supreme? Every attempt at predicting is likely wildly off, but I can't imagine the colleges of my future grandchildren will only expect papers. Will companies still have a separate crew of tech experts and media people or will basic understanding of diglit become an expectation? Maybe the iPad just came too soon. Or maybe it didn't do more traditional education well enough. Part of me is sad to see it losing, but I too do very little of my work for my job on my iPad. 
My boss in his more sanguine moments thinks the answer is 2 to 1. He suggests that students should have a tablet/ iPad and a Chromebook. It isn't the craziest idea and has some practical merit. I'll miss my iPad. But I'd really miss my Chromebook. 

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