wasting bandwidth since 1999

The Crap That Is Chromebook

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.

So, what’s the alternative to wasting even more money on this crap? Gary Stager laid out the simple specifications six years ago when Chromebooks started flooding into schools.

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.

1 Comment


    Ah, Tim. I am one of those whose district used Chromebooks and for the very reasons you and Stager mention. But I still think it was the right choice.

    At about the same time we were passing out $250 Chromebooks in my MN district, my grandsons in a suburband KC district were given $1200 Macbook Air school computers. Locked down tighter than a drum. When I asked my tech-savvy grandson what machine-based software the schools had then use, he replied “iWork.” That was it. They were not allowed to add their own software. To me this says the kind of computer schools give students matters less than the policies they for computer use.

    Yes, Chromebooks are cheap and are mostly limited to the use of online apps, but they also have long battery life, a fast start time, and are relatively virus-free. And for the same money, I can provide 4 Chromebooks to students for the price of a single Mac. And 7th graders can destroy ANY laptop by just looking at it!

    I was an Apple fan boy since I bought my first AppleII back in 1982, but since my last Macbook Air gave up the ghost about four years ago, I have been happily using a mid-range Chromebook for all my computing needs. What “unimaginable things” am I missing?


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