Chromebook and the Future of Educational Computing

May 14, 2011 3 comments
The title of this blog is rather dramatic and “big”… the future of educational computing? Really? That’s a rather bold opinion. Considering Google is mastermind, I am not too concerned about making such a bold prediction. I will sneak preview my conclusion here: The impact on education will be as big or bigger than anything from the last decade because it will be affordable and web-based. It will level the playing field for schools with tighter (and shrinking) budgets.

Chromebook

First, what is a “Chromebook”? Google’s answer:

A Chromebook is a mobile device designed specifically for people who live on the web. With a comfortable full-sized keyboard, large display and clickable trackpad, all-day battery life, light weight, and built-in ability to connect to Wi-Fi and mobile broadband networks, Chromebooks are ideal for anytime, anywhere access to the web. They provide a faster, safer, more secure online experience for people who live on the web, without all the time-consuming, often confusing, high level of maintenance required by typical computers.

Interpretation:  The Chromebook is what used to be known as a “dumb terminal.” Don’t let “dumb” throw you off track.

In the “old days” of dumb terminals, everything was server-based. The machines that sat in people’s offices were just a means of contacting a giant company server, where all the data and software were stored. Fast forward a few decades, and we’re circling back around to a terminal that connects to servers owned by big Internet companies, like Google, where all the data is stored in a “cloud” and web based programs have replaced traditional software.

The Chromebook in and of itself will not have traditional programs installed, nor can they be installed. Everything will be web-based. The operating of the system will be a Linux based (open source) version that Google has written – Chrome OS. The premise of the Chromebook is that everything you do will be either “in the cloud” or available through apps. You will not need email software like Outlook Express. You will not use Microsoft Office, like Word, Powerpoint, Excel. You WILL use everything in Google’s web-based “Cloud” – Gmail for email, Google Docs for word processing (goodbye Word), spreadsheets (so long Excel), databases (adios Access), and more. But what about your photos? They’ll be stored in the cloud.  What about photo editing? You’ll use an app from the Chromebook store.

But what about my XYZ software? You won’t be able to run it. Google does say, “We are developing a free service called Chromoting that will enable Chrome notebook users to remotely access their existing PCs and Macs.” In other words, you would still need another machine to run a specific piece of software that isn’t replaceable through an App or Google Docs.

Chromebook’s Place in Education

For most educational purposes, the Chromebook will be the only machine needed, especially at elementary and middle school levels. This is extremely significant. The Chromebook will likely satisfy all the needs of elementary and middle school users. Depending on the Apps, it could very well satisfy the needs of high school students, as well.

One of the key educational applications that must be addressed are Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as Blackboard, Moodle, and others. Chromebooks will be able to access any LMS because the point of LMS is that they are web-based.

Cost, Licenses, and IT Departments – The Revolution is Coming

Chromebooks for Business and Education includes computers, web-based user, device and application management and 24/7 admin support. Google is offering two computer hardware options:

Option 1 Option 2
Manufacturer Acer Samsung
Screen 11.6″ 12.1″
Weight 2.95 lbs. / 1.34 kg. 3.26 lbs / 1.48 kg
Battery 6 hours of continuous usage* 8.5 hours of continuous usage*
Price (3 year contract term) – $28/subscription/month with WiFi
– $31/subscription/month with WiFi and 3G access card
– $30/subscription/month with WiFi
– $33/subscription/month with WiFi and 3G access card
Additional specs http://www.google.com/chromebook/chromebooks-acer.html http://www.google.com/chromebook/chromebooks-samsung.html

Chromebooks for Business and Education customers pay a monthly subscription based on the number of Chromebooks ordered. Payments are in equal amounts for 36 months. The monthly subscription price includes your Chromebooks, administrator access to a web-based management console, and support resources. Chromebook contracts are available for a 36-month term only. Administrators can manage and set user, application and device policies for a large fleet of Chromebooks from the web-based control panel.

CFOs and VPs of Finance will be scrambling to number crunch the monthly cost, per machine, of Chromebooks to compare against their Microsoft (in particular) license, costs of IT support that will be largely replaced by Google, costs of administering version updates, etc.

Another option is what I’m calling the “hybrid” approach. Purchase end-user Chromebooks with wi-fi only (no data plans needed). Instead of having an educational subscription, Chromebooks can be purchased outright for as low as $349.

Some very key advantages to the Chromebook:

Automatic Updates.

All machines will be updated automatically. There will not be issues of students and staff using various versions of machines.

Your Chromebook gets better and better over time, unlike a traditional PC. When you turn it on, it updates itself. Automatically. All of your apps stay up-to-date, and you get the latest and greatest version of the operating system without having to think about it. Annoying update prompts not included.

Virus and Malware Protection

Chromebooks run the first consumer operating system designed from the ground up to defend against the ongoing threat of malware and viruses. They employ the principle of “defense in depth” to provide multiple layers of protection, including sandboxing, data encryption, and verified boot. Learn more about security.

Some very key disadvantages of the Chromebook:

Data Plans

The 3G version of the Chromebook will be an issue. The dataplans are very limited and can rack up huge bills.

iTunes?!

It may sound silly to pin the failure or success of an entire revolution on one application, but iTunes could be the Chrome-killer. It’s difficult to find data on iTunes users, but ask for a show of hands in any classroom of who use iTunes as their music application. Expect a roomful of hands. How will Google battle iTunes? Google Music will allow for free transfer of iTunes music and free storage of 20,000 songs in the cloud. The benefit? You don’t need a huge hunk of hard drive to host your music, and you won’t need wires to synch your Android phone/music player … it will stream from the cloud. The negatives are aplenty as of now; however, Google’s industry is one of “release now, improve or add features later.”

Conclusion

For this reason, the cloud and Chromebook concept are, I believe, very serious contenders to the Mac/iPad/iPhone (or iTouch/iPod) holy grail. The Chromebook/Droid Phone/Android Tablet clearly are knocking on Apple’s door. They are taking a page out of Apple’s playbook, and they are releasing, early, an imperfect product. They know what the next version of the Chromebook will already look like. They’ll also take user feedback and build a killer 3.0 machine.

The impact on education will be as big or bigger than anything from the last decade because it will be affordable and web-based. It will level the playing field for schools with tighter (and shrinking) budgets. A full Chromebook will be priced at about half an iPad.

I would be remiss not to mention a name that has not come up this entire blog: Microsoft as competitor. They’re so 20th century, and they are, truly, dinosaurs.

Personally, I’m regretting the $2500 MacbookPro I bought last year. Then again, I probably will wait until that 3.0 Chromebook before I’d seriously consider buying one. This does, however, influence my decision on my next phone. I was holding out for the Verizon iPhone. I may, now, accept that Droid is the future and the future is now.

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Categories: apple, education, google, technology

Apple: The New Microsoft?

June 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Jacky Abromitis

I recently read two equally interesting, yet very different opinions, on Apple – in particular, on the iPhone and iPad.

I first read “It’s Apple vs. Google in the New Phone Fight.” I have been a PC user for about 20 years. My first computer was the Apple IIc back in the mid 80s. Many educators will remember the IIc and IIe fondly, as do I. As a graduate student, I coveted the IIe but had to settle for a refurbished IIc. I’ll never forget my first “search and replace.” It rocked my world personally and professionally. I was an advocate of integrating technology in education from that moment.

As we all know, Microsoft came along and Apple microcomputers became the minority. PCs were so much cheaper, and on a teacher’s salary, I caved to the checkbook and went PC. However, I have become terribly disgruntled with PCs over the past several years. I was recently talking to an HP tech who said the rule of thumb was you should reinstall your Microsoft operating system (on laptops) every two years. Seriously. I know from personal experience that my all decked out and loaded for bear computers only last a few years. I don’t have hardware failures; I just get frustrated with conflicting programs, programs that no longer work, fighting viruses, and – mostly – sloooooowwww computers. I get frustrated and buy a new one, spending several days loading programs and transferring data. Read more…

Categories: apple, education, google, technology

President Calls to Modernize Community Colleges

July 13, 2009 Leave a comment

We believe it’s time to reform our community colleges so that they provide Americans of all ages a chance to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to compete for the jobs of the future. Our community colleges can serve as 21st-century job training centers, working with local businesses to help workers learn the skills they need to fill the jobs of the future. We can reallocate funding to help them modernize their facilities, increase the quality of online courses and ultimately meet the goal of graduating 5 million more Americans from community colleges by 2020. Barack Obama, “Rebuilding Something Better

President Obama had an article, “Rebuilding Something Better,” published  in the Washington Post on Sunday, July 12, 2009. The above quote is, to me, the crux of his editorial.  Two year colleges are what our colleagues in the business world call “price performers.”  The term “bang for the buck” is also relevant.

County and two year colleges offer a tremendously affordable tuition rate to their local residents. Why? The tuition is subsidized by the state, the federal government, and the local community or county. Two years at a community college can cost a few thousand dollars. Considering those same two years — to earn the same credits — can cost $80,000 at a private four year school, it’s no surprise students are turning to the county colleges out of both necessity and choice.

In an economy where jobs requiring at least an associate’s degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience, it’s never been more essential to continue education and training after high school. Barack Obama, “Rebuilding Something Better

We are eager to see the details of how the President will help the community colleges with reallocated funding to help not only our citizens, but our country, better prepare for the future.

Best Practices — Creating an Inviting, Warm Learning Environment

July 1, 2009 Leave a comment

In the past ten years or so, I’ve mentored over 50 instructors for Abromitis Online Learning. Some of these teachers, especially in the earlier years, had never taught online. I have shared many “tips” with our instructors, but one that I feel is critical is to create a warm, inviting “climate” in the online class.

In my online readings, I came across this article that hits upon many of the points I have made with our teachers.

Particularly in classes with adult students, it’s absolutely necessary to create an environment that is comfortable, warm, welcoming. Many adult learners have never taken an online class. It can be intimidating and sterile–all in all, a very foreign experience. The class instructor needs to be take extra steps in the first days of class to set the tone and create a comfortable place for all.

I have seen the difference creating a warm learning environment makes in student attitude and success. It is more than worth the efforts of the instructors.

Demographics of Your Online Students

May 4, 2009 Leave a comment

I was recently reading National Online Learners Priorities Report by Noel-Levitz, a private company that specializes in “enrollment and student success.”

The report included some data about demographics of over 68,453 students from 87 institutions. Some of the data indicates results that are tipping the scales in several categories, such as:

  • 68% of the respondents were female
  • 82% of the respondents were 25 and older
  • 83% were completing their education “primarily online”

Many administrators and instructors will be thoroughly surprised by these skewed results. However, national results are often misleading. Looking at the enrollments from our university partners, I recognize some commonalities with this data – but it doesn’t apply to every institution we work with. At one school, the majority of the students are women in their 40s returning to complete undergraduate degrees. Most are parents, often times single. However, those numbers are radically different compared to the population we see through another college partner.

While it’s enlightening to see national trends, as we do in the National Online Learners Priorities Report , it is important for each school to assess who their predominant learners are – in each program.

At Abromitis Online Learning, we provide courses and programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Certainly, we cannot compare the population of undergraduate math students to that of practicing teachers taking a Teaching with Technology Certificate program.

Demographics are very important to assess who the learners are in each program. Take interest in national trends, but look closely at the numbers in each program in order to make sure you are addressing the needs of your students. If you are working with online learning providers like us, be certain to provide data to them on who your learners are. Discuss how course development differs for different demographics. Remember, you are partners in providing the best education for your students. To achieve that, you must be educated as to who your students are.

Online Professional Development Opportunity

May 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Occasionally, I come across an excellent resource online for instructors. John Wiley & Sons Business Solutions Group provides a terrific Professional Development Program that is available free and online — and in asynchronous format for convenience.

BSG Professional Development Seminars address current issues in distance education, and arm instructors and administrators with a wealth of actionable information. Developed by a leading expert in online education, each seminar addresses a specific issue surrounding the delivery of the optimal online educational experience to all of your students.

I highly recommend these seminars to our faculty and to online faculty and administrators at our partner colleges and universities. Check the site periodically for new seminars:
http://he-cda.wiley.com/WileyCDA/Section/id-130133.html

Community Colleges on the Rise — Why Online Courses Will Maximize Growth

February 26, 2009 Leave a comment

–by Dr. Jacquelyn G. Abromitis

Community colleges are rapidly growing during this recession (Kalahar 2009; Lindsay 2009; Sampson 2009; Portland Community College sees growth in tough economic times 2009) due to consumers being far more discriminating about where they are spending their dollars. Community colleges can maximize growth by increasing their online course and programs.

Nationwide, the average annual cost of attending community college is $2,361, compared with $6,185 in tuition and fees for an in-state public school. Average annual room and board at a public four-year school is $7,404, according to the most recent figures from the College Board, which tracks average tuition costs. (Sampson 2009)

How can community colleges parlay the interest and increased enrollments to even greater extents? By increasing the number of online courses they offer. Here are five reasons why a larger catalog of online courses will help the community colleges grow to their maximum potential:

1. The larger a college’s online catalog, the more likely they will be to attract students from out of county. Even at out-of-county rates, the community colleges are “price performers.” Students are often have name-recognition of the county colleges in their state – even those too far away, geographically. Increasing the online catalog capitalizes on name recognition and in addition to competitive tuition rates and will increase out of county enrollments.

2. In county students who are restricted by the times and days that courses are offered will have the opportunity to add courses. Many students have multiple jobs and/or family time demands, making it very difficult for them to come to campus as prescribed times. These students are ideal candidates for online courses. Marketing online courses to time restricted students has the potential of increasing enrollments.

3. The more courses a school offers, the more appealing they are. If your college has a limited number of courses in your catalog, you’re losing students. Students are wise consumers. If only part of their degree program is offered online, they know there is a huge roadblock in their education – getting to campus when the online courses run out. Students shopping for fully online programs or certificates will go elsewhere if your college is not offering your entire complement of courses and programs online. Increase your online offerings – and increase your enrollments.

4. Save on bricks and mortar expenses – you can add an endless number of online courses and sections to your catalog without having to schedule classrooms and physical resources. There are no heating or electric bills, security, or maintenance bills for online courses. And parking is never an issue!

5. A college’s image and reputation are worth their weight in gold. A college that does not have an extensive online catalog is viewed upon as antiquated and irrelevant. The 21st century demands technological skills of all citizens and workers. By not providing online courses, schools are not preparing their students to be competitive.

We at Abromitis Online Learning are experts in developing courses for community colleges. We can provide Ready to Adopt courses for schools like to get up and running immediately. We can also Custom Develop any course you need – whether it would be adapting a current on-ground course and creating a brand new course. Contact Us to discuss your e-learning needs.

References
Kalahar, Jon. Community college enrollment increases in poor economy. Retrieved February 26, 2009, from WLOX.com Web site: http://www.wlox.com/Global/story.asp?S=9 899866

Lindsay, Jacqueline. (2009). Warren County Community College nursing program grows with the times. Retrieved February 26, 2009, from The Warren Reporter Web site:
http://www.nj.com/warrenreporter/index.s sf/2009/02/warren_county_community_colle g_21.html

Portland Community College sees growth in tough economic times. (2009). Retrieved February 26, 2009, from OregonLive.com Web site:
http://www.oregonlive.com/news/argus/ind ex.ssf?/base/news/1235503263196460.xml&a mp;coll=6

Sampson, Zinie Chen. (2009). Weak economy spurs growth for community colleges. Retrieved February 26, 2009, from USA TODAY Web site:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2 008-08-23-economy-comcol_N.htm