Google chromebooks now available for the Canadian classroom

chromebook-canadaThe official Google Canada blog made an exciting announcement today (Tue Mar 19, 2013). Google Chromebooks are now available in Canada.

Up until now, if you wanted a Google Chromebook and lived outside of the US, you had to buy it on eBay, go to the States yourself, or find some other way to get your chromebooks across the border.

Now, you can just go to Best Buy or Future Shop to buy a Google Chromebook in Canada. (Actually, right now, it looks like it’s just available online, but hopefully that changes.)

What does this mean? It’s now easier for Google chromebooks to be a serious contender for use in the Canadian classroom. (Chromebooks are Google’s version of a light-weight laptop / netbook.) A lot of classroom technology use revolves around internet access and word processing. Google Chromebooks are a cheap way to do this.

  • Chromebooks are relatively cheap – around $250 Canadian. (The HP model is $330.)
  • Chromebooks integrate beautifully with Google Docs and if your school runs Google apps for education, this is a great thing.
  • Since students login with their Google Docs account, if you are Google apps administrator, you can restrict which apps or websites student access. (You can white list or blacklist websites and you can preload and deploy apps to all of your school Google chromebooks.)
  • Chromebooks auto update. You don’t have the headache of having to manually upgrade class sets of iPads.
  • It goes without saying, but Chromebooks have a keyboard. I know a few students and teachers who have been frustrated when it comes to doing some serious typing on their iPads or tablets.
  • Great battery life. A Chromebook could easily last for an entire day in the classroom. 10 hours ain’t bad.
  • Incredibly fast boot time. Open the device, and a couple seconds later, students could be typing away into Google Docs.
  • The chrome web browser is familiar to students. Plus, you can run flash-based websites. (You can’t easily run flash on an iPad. Yes, there are some apps, but websites you load through these apps always seem to lag.)

On the other hand, there are some downsides to using Chromebooks in the classroom.

  • It’s cloud-based computing; it only works when you’re connected to the internet. If your school has Wi-Fi problems or you have a slow network, Google Chromebooks are going to be a frustrating experience for your students and teachers. (On the other hand, a standalone PC running Microsoft Windows or OpenOffice will work just fine without the internet.)
  • There’s a culture change from going from a Windows-based computer to a Google OS-based computer. When Chromebooks first rolled out, they didn’t have a start button, but now the operating system looks a little bit more familiar to computer users.
  • Also, you can’t install a lot of educational programs that teachers and students may be familiar with. For example, you can’t install Microsoft Word, geometer sketchpad, or Photoshop (even if your school board has licenses for the software.) There are some cloud-based alternatives, but I really do prefer SMART ideas mind mapping software to cloud-based Lucidchart. Also, I haven’t found any good WebCam or Photoshop alternatives on the chrome web store.

I used Dragon Naturally Speaking 12.5 Premium (Windows 8) to type this post. Find out more.

  • Dragon correctly understood 97.2% of the words. There were 536 words in the first draft of this document and Dragon only made 15 word mistakes.
  • The speech software also made 1 additional capitalization and punctuation mistake. If you include this mistakes, Dragon Naturally Speaking got 97.0% of the words correct.
  • I used the new enhanced Dragon 12 wireless bluetooth headset (Plantronics Calisto BT 300 II) when dictating this post. Works fine if you don’t ask Dragon to correct any errors. (Actually, I find dictating using Dragon naturally speaking a lot quicker if I don’t try to train Dragon and fix my mistakes. Instead, I simply highlight the mistake and say the words again.)
  • Click here to find out more about the Dragon NaturallySpeaking Student / Teacher educational discount.