How Educators Can Make the Right Choice: A Comparison of Windows 8.1 laptop and Chromebook Features
The massive growth in technology has released a wide range of choices for convenient mobile devices. With so many different options to choose from, how do you make a decision? Two of the most popular options, especially in the education industry, are Chromebooks and Windows 8.1 laptops. Price used to be the deciding factor—with Chromebooks being so reasonable, it made it easy for schools to afford such an investment. However, the prices have since leveled out, causing this decision to boil down to what you want to be able to do or achieve with the device.
A Chromebook is a laptop running the Chrome OS (Operating System) that is primarily used while connected to the Internet. All applications and much of the data reside in the cloud. Chromebooks use Google apps and the Chrome browser only. With this device, you will need to be connected to the internet virtually all the time, and be okay with a less functional device when you are offline.
These are great for schools, especially smaller ones without IT departments. Chromebooks are ready to use in seconds, run updates automatically and provide a Google Management Console that allows teachers the ability to manage their classroom’s Chromebooks with ease. With this feature, teachers can assign devices to users and get configuration and usage reports, control what their students have access to by pre-installing and blocking apps, control who can use the Chromebooks by disabling the Guest Mode, and setup network and proxy settings to make it easy for their students to get up and running and ensure they’re protected by web filters and firewalls.
There are a few issues with the Chromebook, however. Because these devices are designed to be used when connected to the internet, it can cause problems when connection is lost or when trying to work offline. In a classroom setting this can cause a problem when students try to accomplish some work at home or on the bus. The school network must also be prepared with enough capacity for the addition of these devices. Printing or connecting to other peripheral devices can be a huge issue with Chromebooks; they only work with Google Cloud Print-ready printers and usually cannot connect directly to scanners or many other devices you might already have.
A Windows 8.1 laptop operates on a more traditional PC (Personal Computer) level. Software and data can be downloaded and stored directly on the device, and cloud services can be accessed through an internet browser. With this device comes the familiarity of the Windows desktop, including the start screen, ease of organizing files, and access to Microsoft Office desktop applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.), along with the ability to continue working even when you are offline. However, Office licensing can be expensive, especially when compared to free Google services.
Skype is another application that is only available on a Microsoft device. It was acquired by Microsoft in 2011 and is an application that enables people from all over the globe to connect through text, voice and video calls. In the classroom, Skype can be used as a brilliant learning tool. Your class can collaborate with other classes no matter where they are, find quest speakers and invite them into the classroom without travel, and take a virtual field trip anywhere in the world while remaining in the comfort of the classroom.
Longtime users of Windows struggled when Microsoft decided to unveil Windows 8, which included a change to their familiar interface. This led to the release of Windows 8.1, which brought back the long lost and extremely missed start screen options, along with some nifty features like the Boot to Desktop that detects whether it’s running on a traditional PC with a mouse and keyboard or if its running on a tablet or slate (a notebook computer that accepts input from an electronic pen).
Order of Business
Make sure to diligently research your options and determine the device that will perform how you need it to. First, determine what you need the device to be able to do. These would be your requirements and ultimately your “deal breakers” for devices that do not have those capabilities. Then you must determine what you want the device to be able to do; features you would like to have but are not crucial. With the list of needs and wants, it makes it easy to go into a store and have a salesperson point you to the device that encompasses your requests.
Posted By: Tony Robison, Director of Technology