As I traveled over the Christmas holiday, I carried the Chromebook with me through airports, guest bedrooms, and a variety of couches, dining and living rooms. My Chromebook experiment has two facets: On the one hand, I am looking at the device through the eyes of my students, trying to anticipate any snags they might hit if this was their primary classroom computer. On a more personal level, I've also been curious to see if the Chromebook could really function as a replacement for my Macbook, or if it was, as I've fondly started calling it, an 'iPad Plus.'
I am certainly convinced that the Chromebook would integrate seamlessly into my classroom, and after chatting with educators on Twitter it seems clear that the Chromebook also offers teachers a great opportunity to eliminate printing and move towards a model of online editing/grading, etc. My school eliminated paper notices years ago, with all information and fliers disseminated to families via email or the school blog, so paperless paper writing seems a logical next step. As a 5th Grade English teacher I have some concern over how well I can communicate grammatical edits to my students via an online comment, but I'm game to give it a try! Last term my classes spent a month using Google Docs to write personal memoirs, but I had students print out a hard copy of each draft and turn it in to me for a line-by-line editing. At the time I felt pretty strongly that my students needed hard copies, with hard edits, in order to improve their typing and writing skills. Now, I'm not so sure. I have a suspicion that older students with a firmer grasp of writing skills will have an easier time sticking to an online format of submission and revision, but I'll know more soon enough. When we return from winter vacation my students will do a 'mini-publishing' of one of their Writer's Notebook entries, and I plan to use that assignment as a pilot for going green and doing all work in the cloud.
For use as a primary personal computing device, however, I think transitioning to a Chromebook would be difficult, particularly because I have not yet transferred all of my files to Google products. For example, I use Microsoft products for work email and 90% of my word processing needs. My appointments are in iCal, my music in iTunes. While iCloud, Drive and Google Music offer workarounds for accessing these items, it would still require a total commitment to Google in order to make the Chromebook my one and only device (Those Googlers have a killer game plan, here). I'm certain there are folks out there who already use Google for everything, and I'm sure more will move in that direction now that the Chromebook, with its appealing speed, cost, battery life and clean design, is an emerging contender.
While the Chromebook is not yet appealing to me as an actual replacement for my Macbook, it was a much more desirable choice for idle internet usage. When in bed, on the couch, or in need of a quick Google search, I repeatedly found myself choosing the Chromebook over my Macbook, iPhone or iPad. And when traveling, I again chose the Chromebook over my other devices, as it offered a nice balance of the functionality of a laptop (keyboard, large screen) with the size of a tablet. My sense is that right now, Chromebooks are being considered for school devices more than personal computers, but I'll be very curious to hear from folks who switch over to the Chromebook as their main computer (I know one Googler who intends to do just that, and I eagerly await reports from him about the transition). In the meantime, Kevin Purdy at IT World has written a really excellent piece about this very issue, addressing nearly everything one needs to know when considering a Chromebook, including those concerns about iTunes, printing and Microsoft Office. Anyone considering a Chromebook would be well served by reading Purdy's The Big List of Chromebook Work-Arounds and Caveats.