Sixth graders receive cost-saving Chromebook laptops custom-made for schools in place of iPads

Benett Sackheim
Sixth grader Vivian Bair views her history homework on her school-issued Chromebook. Middle-school students’ homework handouts are uploaded as PDFs on Dropbox, where students can view them via any device.

Sixth graders have been given new Chromebook laptops, replacing the iPads middle-school students have been using since 2010.

It’s not that the iPads weren’t working well, according to Tom Wroten, director of technology.

“But we’re always questioning the technology,” he said.

The lack of a keyboard, backing up and syncing difficulties, and poor durability were among the problems Wroten mentioned.

So Wroten bought a number of different Chromebooks in January and brought them to a faculty meeting for teachers to try out.

Wroten said that after discussing the pros and cons of the different models and how they worked in comparison to the iPads, the faculty chose the Lenovo N22 model.

“They’re education-built devices, so you can’t go to the store to buy one,” Wroten said. “They’re specifically for schools, built for students.”

According to Wroten, the all-around response has been good so far.

“They’re lightweight, their screen bends all the way down, they have a flipping camera so they can record in front and behind them, they have a keyboard and they’re drop-resistant,” he said.

The Chromebooks also cost only $199, much less than the iPads, which are listed as $500, not including the educational discount. However, Wroten said that their price wasn’t a consideration.

Ed Bolman, a sixth-grade math and history teacher, said he likes that the new Chromebooks can use Google Docs whereas the iPads could use only an abbreviated version. Other advantages, he said, are that the Chromebooks have keyboards and the students like them because they feel that they have their own laptops.

“I get about six to 12 emails nightly asking for help,” Bolman said. “The Chromebooks give the students the ability to communicate, especially since it’s easier over email for some kids.”

However, Bolman added that he “kind of” preferred the “tablet aspect” of the iPads.

“The Chromebooks turn flat, but the physical orientation is different,” Bolman said. “That doesn’t necessarily affect me, but it does affect what the kids are looking at.”

Sandy Lyon, head of the middle school, said that the only problem so far is printing from the Chromebooks, which is more difficult than from an iPad and hasn’t yet been set up effectively.

The Chromebooks also can’t use the same apps as the iPads, but Wroten said that the teachers would sometimes change the apps on the iPads anyway. He also said that he has iPads available for teachers if they need them.

Wroten said that it doesn’t matter to him – and shouldn’t matter to the students – what the device is.

“We’re not teaching a specific device,” Wroten said. “We’re teaching technology efficiency, to use it as a tool.”

By Quin LaComb

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