20 Mar How Chromebooks Are Driving Major Trends in K-12 Technology Budgets
The affordability of Chromebooks may inspire struggling school districts to stretch tech hardware budgets while letting them save resources where it really counts.
It’s safe to say that Chromebooks aren’t just “test machines,” as Apple CEO Tim Cook recently implied. While computers are required for schools transitioning to PARCC testing, the impact of Chromebooks goes far beyond any quantitative test score. They are changing the landscape of education and providing equalizing technology to students who once struggled to keep up with affluent districts, simply because their families and schools lacked the money to buy expensive laptops and iPads.
Cook, and many others like him, often criticize Chromebooks for their affordability. Apparently, money shouldn’t be a big deal for overpopulated schools that can barely provide enough books. In “State of the K-12 Market 2015,” education research firm MDR reports that 46% of districts projected a budget increase for technology hardware—a 21% jump from 2013. Chromebooks are the reason disadvantaged districts are able to make this leap.
(1) are low in cost and start around $200.
(2) don’t require separate keyboards that jack up the price.
(3) are simple in design, allowing districts to use in-house teams to perform fast, cheap repairs.
(4) don’t require expensive security or antivirus protection.
(5) allow teachers to personalize learning even when juggling large classes.
Districts are willing to muster the funds to make the initial Chromebook purchase because they recognize the potential to save money in the long run. While hardware budgets are rising, districts are planning to spend less on software, tech support and tech training for teachers.
Chromebooks are the most scaleable tech solution for schools, allowing technology coordinators to make mass changes from administrator accounts. Tech support teams have the devices ready for use in hours and, they replace broken screens and keyboards at minimal cost. Districts can employ small teams to manage thousands of student Chromebooks, which means they can focus resources on what matters most: education.
MDR noted that Chromebook implementation in school districts increased by 17 percentage points in 2015. The study also states that Chromebooks are a priority for 49% of districts, while tablets are becoming a lower priority at 31%. Instead of making educators feel like they never have enough resources to go around, Chromebooks empower teachers and administrators to do more with less. So, it’s no surprise that 77% of districts budgeted for Chromebook purchases in 2015.
While Cook denies that his comments were specifically aimed at Google, his remarks support the misguided and elitist idea that innovation comes from spending more money on trendy gadgets. Educational technology is about creating tools that help educators improve their engagement with students and push growing minds to reach their potential.
Ballpoint pens were once a new technology. Projectors were new technology. VCRs and whiteboards were new technology. They are all mere tools that aid the educational process, so smart schools would be wise to choose the most cost-efficient devices and optimize their resources. After all, true innovation comes from educators who find creative ways to integrate the technology.
And that’s why Chromebooks are more than test machines. Students at Chromebook schools participated in the Hour of Code event right alongside their peers with costlier laptops and tablets. They win STEM competitions and create impressive media presentations. They start caring about what they learn in class, and they gain a realistic experience of what it means to collaborate and be inspired by peers. In short, they get a taste of the privileged education every K-12 student in America should have. Now, that’s innovation.
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