According to a new report, Chromebooks, the “computer” of choice for so many schools for almost a decade, are not built to last.
Chromebooks “come with a built-in expiration date from the beginning,” which inevitably forces schools to pay for newer models. The technology’s short lifespan leaves schools in a difficult position as they watch their laptops fail, resulting in piles of electronic waste and “saddling schools with additional costs,” according to a new report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.
The arguments in this report come from interviews with K12 school IT directors and repair technicians about their experience and the challenges they faced trying to repair Chromebooks and how it impacts their schools and students.
“Across the 48.1 million K12 public school students in the U.S., doubling the lifespan of Chromebooks could result in $1.8 billion in savings for taxpayers, assuming no additional maintenance costs,” the report reads.
Shocked! We are shocked! They spent time and money on this research?
Of course Chromebooks have a short lifespan! They were designed from the ground up to be cheap. Because that fulfills the number one requirement for school technology purchases: the lowest upfront cost possible.
They also meet the second most important specification for both those IT directors and school administrators: control. They, and many teachers, really don’t want kids to have any direct control over their computers.
However, let’s face facts: Chromebooks are not computers. They are network devices. Single-purpose web browsers. A 21st century version of the dumb terminals I used in college. Cheap to buy and easy to control.
In addition to being portable, reliable, lightweight, affordable, and with a good battery life, a student computer should capable of doing everything our unimaginative adult reptilian brains think a kid should be able to do with a computer and powerful enough to do a great many things we cannot imagine.
We’ve been promised for decades that computers would transform learning. It hasn’t happened. And one of the major reasons is that we really don’t want kids doing “unimaginable” things with them.
We want students “taking notes, looking stuff up, completing forms”, and basically slogging through the same assignments that teachers were using long before computers (or Chromebooks) showed up in classrooms.
The image was
stolen borrowed from Gary’s post on Medium. I have no idea where he got it from. BTW, go read the rest of Gary’s essay. He has so much more to say about Chromebooks, Google, and classroom computers, all of it provocative and relevant, even six years later.