Chromebooks in schools loved? Maybe not by the students


I was listening to Windows Weekly and Paul mentioned that the Admin, Teachers, and students all loved chromebooks. My sample size may not be huge, but from my experience Admin loves them, teachers love/like them and students are indifferent at best or dislike them often. The reasons that the students have for being indifferent or disliking them are not really the chromebooks fault, but they seem to blame them anyway.

Recently the district I’m in was doing school wide testing and a lot of the students were getting frustrated that their chromebook kept “crashing”. The chromebook didn’t crash, the wifi at the school couldn’t handle the load and the test was online. Each time it happened a teacher had to come log them back into the test. This was not the chromebooks fault, but perception was that it was the reason.

The chromebooks the district buy are cheap for good reason, but the quality and lack of a touchscreen puts students off also. Some of the software that is used shows multiple choice options to be selected. Students often select the wrong answer on accident trying to scroll down but the slider on the side is hard to select. I try to get them to use the arrow keys but they don’t always work and trying to get them to change is hard. Again, not the chromebooks fault but has an effect on the perception of the students.

A parent asked their kids if they’d like a chromebook for Christmas and they laughed and said no because they can’t do anything fun on them and that chromebooks were only for school. They can’t play Minecraft or Fortnite and this seems to be consistent feeling among most of the students . The perception is that the chromebook is locked down and used to do schoolwork and not much else. They ended up with iPads instead and fully expect that they’ll end up with a Macbook when they go to college.

As I said, small sample size and would say that most of the students appreciate that they have the chromebook for school work but have no desire to own one themselves. I would say that most do like Google services though and Google Docs which is probably more important to Google in the long run but they’d rather access Google docs from a PC laptop or a Macbook.

Comments (42)

42 responses to “Chromebooks in schools loved? Maybe not by the students”

  1. karlinhigh

    trying to scroll down but the slider on the side is hard to select.


    • waethorn

      In reply to karlinhigh:

      The trackpads support two-finger scrolling, among other gestures, and most name-brand Chromebooks have exceptional trackpads compared to similar budget-priced Windows PC's. Ditto for speakers.

  2. PeterC

    Up here in the north of England it’s iOS iPads and windows laptops in schools. No Chromebooks. None. All student education office 365 stuff.

    I feel the schools chromebook issue is very much a USA thing.......

    • Vladimir Carli

      In reply to PeterC:

      It’s not only the US. I have been working with the department for education in the UK. They have huge open space offices with docking stations and every single employee has a surface book. I guess they have a huge deal with Microsoft that includes schools too. Here in Sweden. schools have iPads for younger kids and then only chromebooks. They did have macbook airs in the past but they are all switching due to cost. I have never seen a Windows computer in any school here.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to PeterC:

      It definitely started in the US, but it's no longer US-only.

    • jbinaz

      In reply to PeterC:

      I believe iPads are losing ground. I can understand why; the cost is so high that when you have limited resources, something has to give.

      • PeterC

        In reply to jbinaz:

        I can only speak about my little part of northern England, and certainly not other uk regions, but the schools funding crisis means they’re not buying any new equipment.. What they’ve got is in consumer terms already old but curiously as its iOS and windows seems to be lasting better. In theory so would chrome os too I guess. But at some point there will be a cost barrier to upgrades and replacement. I suspect this issue will be the “ hunting ground” of the various brands.

        But google has has a real problem that’s really growing with the UK govt and various law enforcement areas, as do amazon, Facebook and Twitter etc. I can’t see any of them overcoming this barrier easily to supply schools here until they “ bend the knee” in game of thrones style to uk/eu govt and law enforcement. I’m pretty sure at EU level too google are confronted with the same cross roads choice of, change/adjust your business model and you can comply to bid for these contracts or don’t and we legislate and regulate until you do.

        Google are learning theres consequences of their business business model and simply using its sheer size to force through barriers is no longer working.

        in my opinion it’s why a windows lite/ chrome edge office 365 laptop type of product offering from a trusted company like Microsoft who aren’t infringing copyright laws and in theory respecting schools and children’s data privacy etc etc etc will do very well indeed........

  3. Tony Barrett

    Even if there's any truth in that - students (and young people) are fickle. The Chromebooks they use are probably locked down, so if they can't get to the sites or services they want, they 'won't like them'. I know many who think Chromebooks are great - fast, secure, lightweight (free of bloat) and quick to update. I can totally understand why schools like them - they make sense.

    • Sprtfan

      In reply to ghostrider:

      I totally get why schools like them, but my statement was about the students and I get why they aren't impressed. From their standpoint, there really is nothing fun they can do with it. They are low end locked down devices that do not support popular games.

  4. Bats

    SO basically....what you are saying "students" don't want Chromebooks because they would be forced to use mostly for school purposes.

    Is that correct? (lol)

    So what? They're just kids. Kids know nothing. I even have co-workers and colleagues complaining how some of their kids are so addicted to Fortnite that they even go to bed at 3am or even rarely sleep because of it.

    All in all, nice story, but what's the point? Is the point that kids need to be happy with tech at school? This kinda reminds me of when a friend of mine told me when she bought her daughter a pair of Nike sneakers that she bought at an outlet for about $60. Her kid didn't really like it, because wanted a Yeezy (Kanye West brand) that costs over $300. The point is , kids should never be listened to, unless they are in any form of danger whatsoever. Kids are in school to learn how to read, write, do math, science, etc...... LOL...not to play Fortnite or Minecraft. There is no "real" learning from those games.

    • Sprtfan

      In reply to Bats:

      You missed the entire point. To summarize, it was said that students generally love chromebooks. I stated that most are indifferent or dislike them. The reason they disliked them went way passed not being able to play games and was only an example as why they didn't want to buy one for home use.

      Later in the thread I even stated that what the students want doesn't really matter since they don't get a say.

  5. StoneJack

    I have a chromebook which I received as a gift few years ago. Never used because it is that useless. Everything chromebook does, Macbook and iPad do miles better.

  6. Vladimir Carli

    Most of the chromebooks that schools buy are 200$ crap machines. Students don’t like them at all because they cant do anything else than schoolwork on them. However they have no decision power and the schools love them for opposite reasons, they are cheap and give little distraction.

    Where google really has the edge is gsuite. Microsoft is very proud of office365 but I think they have a huge problem with it in the long run. It suffers from very similar problems as windows, being an over bloated legacy platform that is not functional for who needs basic work and especially collaboration. Working together on the same documents is something that is done a lot in school and offices and Microsoft products suck at it. We pay office365 business subscriptions because word is a de facto standard in the field but we need 20% of the features and very often we move to free google docs and spreadsheets whenever we need to collaborate. It works so much better than office. It’s difficult to understand why Microsoft updates office every month by adding new features that nobody wants instead of focusing making the products work better.

  7. Paul Thurrott

    This should have been a comment to my Windows Weekly post.

    Also, I said "not literally," but generally.

    • wright_is

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      I'm glad he posted it outside the WW post. It is an interesting topic in and of itself and I get my WW through my podcast app, so I never look at the post on the site - because I've already heard it.

    • Sprtfan

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      I didn't think you meant literally, I was questioning if generally was accurate for students. They seem indifferent at best in my experience.

      In this case what the students like really doesn't make a huge difference since they don't get much of a say.

      The post also seemed way to long for a comment but will try to remember that is preferred when posting here.

  8. jedwards87

    I am seeing exactly what you are seeing. I work with lots of schools here where I live (US) and most use Chromebooks but nobody wants one outside of school. Everyone agrees they make great school devices but have no interest in owning one personally. My own kids laughed at me when I asked them if they wanted a Chromebook. Both asked "Why would I want one of those". They want a nice gaming computer. For everything else they prefer using their phones.

    • Sprtfan

      In reply to jedwards87:

      Paul has mentioned in the past I believe that there are a lot of PCs out in the world, but the engagement is low. People see them as something they use for work and not something to get excited about. I see students viewing chromebooks in a very similar way.

      People loved their iPhones and demanded the ability to use them driving them into the work place. I've seen this used as an analogy of what will happen with chromebooks. People will want to use what they like and are used to. This may hold true for Google services, but I'm not seeing it with chromebooks at the moment. Chromebooks may push themselves into the work place but I believe it will be because it makes good business sense to do it, not because the employees demand it.

    • Greg Green

      In reply to jedwards87:

      I was with my son when we picked up the mail from the mailbox. My issue of MaximumPC was in there and he asked What would MinimumPC be? I said a chrome book and he laughed.

      He used a chrome book in grade school two years ago and has never asked for it again once he got to leave it behind.

  9. sabarrett

    Both my daughters and myself hate the chromebooks we were given. According to the school(I don't see how this can be true, as its almost virtually unusable now), they are to be used until graduation. The unit they have is a cheap Acer 11 inch unit and it has been used for 4 years now. The resolution is horrible, and the kids spend way more time zooming in and out of a page, and going from tab to tab so they can answer the questions than actually answering the questions themselves. The kids would be way farther ahead to use paper and pencil again. They surely don't need these to create a generation comfortable to use computers any more. The mechanics of using them is unbearable.

  10. Alexander Rothacker

    My son was rather disappointed that the high school that he's going to next year has decided that everybody must use a chromebook, he was hoping that this would get him a (somewhat) nice Windows laptop, just like what his older sister has.

    Also, these chromebooks are purchased by the school, but parents have to pay $50 a year and after the 4 years the chromebook is his. My guess is, it will be a rather underpowered machine and after the 4 years it'll end up in the abandoned e-junk pile.

    I see the management benefits for the admins and teachers, but don't think this is a great preparation of the students for the future, especially since he picked this high school for the engineering program they have, especially the programing classes.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to earlster:

      One of the supposed benefits of all students having Chromebooks is the level playing field.

      Programming is possible on Chromebooks, especially more numerical programming on which an engineering prep school would presumably focus.

      Speaking as a curmudgeon, if NASA could land men on the moon 50 years ago using only 8-bit computers and slide-rules in space capsules, Chromebooks with several orders more processing power and even web apps to exploit that processing power even if an order of magnitude less than Windows PCs or Macs should be usable for learning the basics.

      Besides, if your son does go on to an undergrad engineering program, if his program is anything like the applied math program my son took, most of the software your son would use would be web apps, MatLab, and more single-purpose software. Indeed, if your son goes to a large university, odds are near certainty the university would provide access to all software needed for STEM coursework via Citrix, VMWare, maybe other remote virtualization systems, and Chrome's clients work the same as Windows and Mac clients.

      • skane2600

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        I guess it depends on the school and the specific program, but usually there's less emphasis on solving problems numerically but rather learning how to solve the problems through "magic numbers" that don't require a lot of calculator work.

        I think the man-years it took to do the necessary calculations to land a man on the moon scales pretty well with the calculation capabilities of that era but I don't think it offers any insight into this discussion.

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to skane2600:

          In my experience, granted quite dated by now, math and physics may avoid undue calculations, but engineering doesn't. As for NASA, my point was the fundamentals of Newtonian and rotational kinematics and dynamics and the pleasures of the rocket equation and gimbal angles don't require much computer power.

    • gregorylbrannon

      In reply to earlster:

      The school district that I live in has 3 high schools. All three high schools issues their students a Macbook Air at the cost of $50 per school year my daughter being a student from one of the high schools. However they use all Google services. It's frustrating to no end for me when my daughter ask me questions regarding formatting issue or any other random issue using Google Doc for her reports.

      I use Windows and Office products for work and use to use Mac OS X at home for Final Cut but back in 2015 I purchased a Surface Book and now use Windows not only for work but at home for personal use such as video editing with Premiere and light Photoshop work. So I get frustrated when I have to deal with her Google Doc and other collaborative Google products from her school district.

      I understand why school districts uses Google products and services for it's cost savings and simplicity. But I worry next year when my daughter goes off to college and have to learn to use Word, Excel and PowerPoint. However she's already said that she wants a new Macbook upon graduation. So hardware wise Apple got her. I can't even get her to use the touch screen HP Windows 10 laptop I got her a year ago. Luckily for her she'll be getting a degree in secondary education which means that when she graduates college in four years she'll likely come full circle back into the Google fold since she'll be teaching. Assuming that Microsoft with Windows Lite or whatever it will be called can make great in-roads into American school system.

      • minke

        In reply to gregorylbrannon:

        It depends on the college, but many of them are very Google-centric too. My daughter recently graduated from a top college and everything was done using G Suite for education. I manage hiring and I find that some young people with top educations are not all that familiar with Office stuff, yet they are completely at home in the Google world.

  11. minke

    "Students don't like XXXXX used in schools." Fill in the blank with whatever you want: food, desks, books, toilet paper, you name it. It is the nature of a product being associated with a place people don't want to be for long periods of time. I wouldn't put too much into a few anecdotes on the subject.

    • Sprtfan

      In reply to Minke:

      It was stated that students love chromebooks and I was pointing out that in my experience they don't. So, I guess you are agreeing with me?

      I'd also like to point out that most students don't hate everything about school and is a tired cliche. Most do seem to like Google Docs

      • minke

        In reply to Sprtfan:

        I was just pointing out that students have always complained about whatever the system is, and they will always continue to do so. When my kids were in high school they had PCs and Macs that were used in certain courses, but a lot of them would be out of commission for one reason or another. Luckily, we were a family that could afford to provide our kids with nice computers at home, but not everyone is so lucky. Chromebooks are a great way for school systems to provide every student with an inexpensive but very functional laptop that is very easy to manage, and also very easy to swap out for another when the inevitable breakdowns, thefts, drops, losses, etc. occur. Just sign in to a new one!

        • Sprtfan

          In reply to Minke:

          Great examples of why admins and teachers love them. I still think that they are not building any loyalty with the students that is going to carry on into adulthood. I do see "love" or loyalty being built with Google Docs, ect… and that might be more important long term for Google anyway.

          I think chromebooks are great for schools too but I also get that the kids in general are not particularly found of them.

  12. skane2600

    If it's the OS that is responsible for the slider being hard to select, that's pretty much the OS's fault, right?

    • jimchamplin

      In reply to skane2600:

      Or the developer of the page. Perhaps they shouldn't design it with a need to scroll. A great deal of this software used for education is utter crap with the same level of care and design as your average LoB application.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to jimchamplin:

        . . . same level of care and design as your average LoB application.

        That much passive-aggressive user hostility, eh?

        • chaoticwhizz

          In reply to hrlngrv:

          As someone who has used LoB apps both in call centers and the general business world, I can attest to them normally being horrible. Most LoB apps are farmed out to the cheapest developer who doesn't care about things like user interface and how efficiently the app does it's job. In my experience, exceptions to this have been rare.

      • skane2600

        In reply to jimchamplin:

        I don't really buy that excuse. If one assumes that developers should avoid including scrolling in their applications because of the way the OS implements it, than the OS shouldn't have included it in the first place or should have made it better. Given the fact that software programs have used scrolling for decades without a lot of problems suggests that this is a Chromebook-specific problem.

  13. hrlngrv

    Exams shouldn't be online. It should be possible to handle them as fully downloaded web apps, launched locally, with no need for network connection. If so, crappy wifi wouldn't matter.

    • Sprtfan

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      I'm sure it is possible, but is obviously not the case. Also not the fault of the chromebook but it seems to catch the blame from the students. I also believe the test questions change depending on the answer given to previous questions so might not be easy to have local either.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to Sprtfan:

        If your school can't afford better wifi, then it'd be a trade-off between the adaptability of dynamic exams with flakiness and potentially many students suffering many interruptions vs lack of dynamics but no interruptions.

        Gotta ask: if student A gets question 1 right while student B gets question 1 wrong, would they get different questions 2, with student A getting a more difficult one than student B? If so, doesn't exactly seem fair.

        • Sprtfan

          In reply to hrlngrv:

          The test is an assessment picked by and required by the state. It is supposedly used to track the progress of individual students and not to compare one student to another so being fair shouldn't be an issue. I don't know how the test is created and how they decide what questions the student gets next.

          Part of the issue with the wifi is that most of the schools in the district are overcrowded. One of the schools that was having issues was designed for 450 students and they are a little over 700 right now. I do believe they are doing the best they can with what they have funding has been an issue around here for several years.

  14. rririrr

    I hate Chromebooks, there are so bad.