Recently, in an investigation for a technological tool, I was handed a Samsung Google Chromebook. (I’m typing this post from it now.) I had seen these on blogs, on my G+ feed, and even on a few website reviews. I had never touched one nor did I particularly expect to like them.
My IT chieftain was hoping to make LaGrange College a Chromebook campus–an idea that I wasn’t immediately particularly wild about. But, the device was the same price as the Google Nexus 7 tablet (which I was favoring for handing to teachers of online courses), it had a forward-facing camera, and (big win!) a keyboard. I decided to give it a shot–boy did I ever.
My Opinions on the Google Chromebook
Running natively everything in the cloud meant that little processing power had to be used. Basically, the Chromebook runs a Linux with a small footprint–just enough to run a bare window manager and run Chrome. The philosophy works well as long as you’re around a solid Wifi connection OR use the apps that will allow offline access.
I teach, and with our campus moving to the Google Suite, I had access to Google Drive. I had started using the “Presenter” software to make lecture slides, etc. It worked. (I love the ability to share in Drive, but the point of this post is about the Chromebook!) What I immediately noticed was the lack of hardcore processing: no graphics and no LaTeX. But what I also noticed was 1.) battery life and 2.) no hot laptop on my legs.
LaTeX was an easy problem to address. The website http://www.sciweavers.org/free-online-latex-equation-editor lets me include well-typeset equations into my presentations. This is extremely important.
Because I use a handful of computers, tools like LastPass were important. I’ve also found Clipular to be nice. Tools like Dropbox and Astrid make this small computer an excellent option.
Much like other tools, this one isn’t perfect. The body is flexible but functional–it is very light. I won’t be running code on it for hours on end. But it seems to work well for conference travel, email, and pretty much any travel that has Wi-Fi.
Would this tool work well in the academic setting? With only and HDMI out, people on less well-to-do campus, may have a hard time hooking up to projectors. The return may be that we find better ways of integrating our students to the classroom rather than boring them to tears with presentations that are online.