Not Just a Teacher

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Not Just a Teacher

The Parents Tech Issue and Chromebooks

May 5th, 2014 · 5 Comments · General

Admittedly, this has come a little earlier than expected but to have my daughter’s seventh birthday only a few days away and not being able to decide what technology to buy for her, raises issues I think it is important to share. The most important of these issues is the balance of cost/uses/limitations.

My daughter has no demands from her school to supply her with technology, unfortunately. To date, she has used the plethora of technology at home on a shared basis but there is clearly a demand for her to have her own device. I see a shelf-life of three years for this technology and I do not want to spend an exorbitant amount of money. My daughter wants to and likes to: play little browser games, write stories, develop picture books, draw and make presentations on her own. There are other digital things she does but she has access to an iPad in the house, a fairly high spec laptop and a Surface Pro.

So, I am thinking, why should I look any further than a Chromebook? Won’t this do most things for her? I know there isn’t a device out there that does everything all the time. But, it will surely be reasonably fast with 4Gb of RAM and not much to power really, she will largely use it the house with a decent wireless connection, it’s easy to manage and, to my mind, the exposure to a cloud based way of working can only benefit her. My wife brought up the issue with the occasions when she might want to take the device to places where she has to work offline. Research has shown me that the current generation of Chromebooks can be used offline easily. Is this a true picture? Does a Chromebook allow for saving locally? My wife also talked about the ability to be able to demonstrate her digital creations at school and the only options for this currently are printing and via a USB stick (quite shocking provision, I have to say). The Chromebook we are looking at has USB ports so this would not appear to be an issue but again, how well does the saving locally/downloading concept work on Chromebooks?

Any input and advice from anyone out there who has used or is using Chromebooks would be greatly appreciated. However, one thing sticks in my mind in all this…….if this causes me to ask such a plethora of questions, do we in education really appreciate the issues such decisions cause many parents?

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • IaninSheffield

    Hmm, a dilemma indeed!
    To answer your questions: yes it’s fast enough; yes you can save and work offline (but others have reported it can be glitchy – I haven’t experienced that, but I guess you need to manage your workflow carefully (Could a 7 yr old?)); yes you can save all sorts of files locally and open the common types; yes you can of course export files to a USB stick, saving/downloading locally is no problem – you have a file browser just as on other devices, but understanding which are local and which in the Cloud helps). (I’d argue that this is no more difficult or easy to grasp than the lack of a file system on certain tablet devices)

    I suspect that whichever device you choose, there will as you say, be a time when you want to do something you can’t. It’s also likely that at some point your needs will change in such a way that you have to look for a device which better serves those needs. If you shelled out only a modest amount in the first place, then the hurt is a little bit less.

    You’re absolutely right that these issues will leave a good number of parents floundering, especially when they don’t have your background in these matters. I’m often asked which device they should by and opt to (politely) side-step answering by giving general advice about matching device to needs, reminding them not to forget some of the less ‘sexy’ things like battery life, portability and fragility etc. What worries me more however is ‘pester power’ from offspring who need to have the latest and best ‘cool’ device to impress or fit in with their peers. If you’re of limited means, that must be so tough.

    Glad this is your call and not mine!

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  • damoward

    Hey Nick
    Bought a Samsung Chromebook for £99 on ebay a few months ago (Jan). Mine has a SIM card so I can get online wherever there is a 3G signal. This was important to me mainly for accessing social sites like Pinterest/Twitter etc where no access is available such as work, mother-in-laws etc.

    Pros
    Cheap and build quality (of mine) is excellent
    V simple to use, just Google based apps
    USB ports allow import of files for email attachments
    Integrates with Google drive for saving, some local saving but not much
    Keyboard great for quick typing (as compared with netbooks, iPads and other tablets)
    Auto updates to latest software regularly

    Cons
    Not a ‘proper’ laptop; don’t expect leaps in productivity as is really like a huge phone with a keyboard
    Limited office apps, good but basic, struggles and slows with formatting
    Games and creative apps much more limited than iOS for example
    Video fine on YouTube but graphic card can’t cope with much else; my 9 yr old nephew took instant dislike when his home made video wouldn’t play without the judders
    Lots of software available online is crappy; what do you expect for free?! Seriously; can’t edit photos really. Alright I suppose my digital creations might be a bit more complex than a 7 yr olds.
    Summary: looking at the Pros/Cons you might be surprised to learn that I sold an iPad2 to replace it with the knockabout machine I’m now typing on! The battery isn’t as good and it isn’t as light but for web based versatility it’s second only to a Macbook Air. I would’nt/couldn’t pay those prices for a device to be thrown in a bag to take to school – hence my reasoning on a under £100 price limit. More apps are becoming available offline and the good thing is that when you reconnect they’re backed up instantly. Would I recommend a Chromebook for a 7 year old? Yes! Especially to keep her off the expensive kit when she has clumsy moments. Expect to get something better for her in a few years though as the Sims3 gaming begins as that requires something more powerful. Advice: Don’t get precious about it; anyone who logs on with their Google password sees it as a new machine; it’s disposable tech.
    Hope this helps
    Damo

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