Tech GEARS Overall Score
3 out of 4 stars
University of Idaho
Screenshot for Chromebooks

Chromebooks are marketed as inexpensive laptop alternatives. Typically lightweight and sporting a keyboard, flash memory, and 11.6" screen, Chromebooks can give students and teachers quick access to the internet and a variety of web applications. Built by a number of manufacturers, including Samsung, Lenovo, and HP, Chromebooks run the Chrome operating system (as opposed to a Windows- or Apple-based alternative), which is similar in functionality and user experience to the Chrome web browser. As a result, Chromebooks cannot install and execute traditional programs (e.g., Microsoft Office) and rely upon web applications and Chrome-specific extensions to provide functionality.

In general, Chromebooks are useful devices for avid, always-connected internet users who can get by on low-level computing like e-mail, word processing, etc. The greatest strengths that Chromebooks bring to education are 1) providing a low-cost means of performing the most common educational uses of internet-connected devices (e.g., conducting internet research, word processing, sharing files) and 2) offering a means of easily managing students and devices at scale (through the low-cost Google Admin Console).

Most struggles associated with Chromebooks in education stem from limitations for high-performance computing needs (e.g., 3-D modeling), incompatibilities with common computer applications (e.g., converting Microsoft Word files back and forth to Google Docs for editing), a fairly high dependence upon bandwidth, a moderate learning curve for first-time users, less durable hardware components (when compared to some more expensive laptop alternatives), and fledgling buy-in from industry and the larger culture.

Tech GEARS Area Scores

Technology General Educational Application Rating System (Tech GEARS) Area Scores
Compatibility CM The technology is almost universally compatible with existing infrastructures and practices and should not be susceptible to major difficulties with implementation.
Relative Advantage RA The technology has some promise for improving efficiencies or transforming educational practice for the better, but care will need to be taken in establishing expected outcomes and evaluating impact.
Sustainability ST The technology is almost certainly sustainable in an educational setting for a reasonable length of time.
Scalability SC The technology is readily scalable beyond the classroom.
Chromebooks have a high scalability score, because the Google Admin console and low cost of hardware allow the devices to be deployed and managed on a much larger scale than practically any tablet or laptop alternative.

Tech GEARS Detailed Item Analysis

Tech GEARS Detailed Item Analysis
Accessibility The technology's design prevents some individuals from being able to effectively use it, but add-on features can be utilized or adjustments may be made to compensate for this lack of accessibility.
Classroom-Friendliness The technology might work well in existing K-12 classroom cultures with minor cultural adjustments.
Cost - Add-Ons The technology will not require add-on items to effectively support learning.
Cost - Initial The technology does not cost significantly more than alternative methods or other brands of the same product.
Efficiency It is certain that the technology will improve efficiencies.
Flexibility The technology is flexible for a variety of purposes.
Infrastructural Compatibility The technology will function well within existing infrastructures without making significant changes.
Lifespan The technology would be expected to last between two and three (2-3) years in a typical K-12 classroom setting wherein it was used daily.
Management Ease It would take a tech-savvy classroom teacher to effectively manage this technology.
Measurable Outcomes The technology cannot readily be connected to any measurable student outcomes.
Management Scale A single administrator may effectively manage technology users beyond the classroom level.
Security With little effort, the technology can readily comply with FERPA and other privacy requirements and utilizes industry standards of information security.
Tranformational Value It is somewhat likely that the technology will transform school or classroom cultures in valuable ways.
User-Friendliness The technology is easy to use and has little (if any) learning curve.
Zeitgeist The technology is of great interest to one or more subcultures (e.g., business, engineering), but not the larger culture generally.
Chromebooks are an inexpensive alternative to a laptop, do not yet suffer from viruses, and have many management strengths when compared to systems using other operating systems (e.g., no disk imaging, no separate operating system licensing).
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