It’s Time to Find a Better Alternative to Chromebooks in School


Joe Dimino

Years ago, Revere High switched from giving students iPads to giving them Chromebooks, with the idea being that a laptop is more useful for schoolwork than a tablet is. These Chromebooks were called “Education Edition” Chromebooks. You’d think a laptop that was titled “Education Edition” would be the best possible laptop for schools, but that’s not really the case. While Chromebooks do have their benefits in a learning environment, their flaws outweigh their usefulness by a large margin.

I’ll start off with the first huge flaw with Chromebooks: Chrome OS. Chrome OS is an operating system developed by Google for their Chromebooks. While Chrome OS is still very new in comparison to Windows or MacOS, Chrome OS still lacks a lot of developer support because far less people use Chrome OS. By using Chrome OS, the school locks itself out of using a lot of potentially useful applications that you could get on a Windows PC, a Mac, or even other distributions of Linux. Applications like Photoshop, which can be useful for art classes and offline PDF viewers that can be far more convenient than Kami are just a couple of applications that could benefit students, but aren’t widely available on a Chromebook. Developer support for Chrome OS has gained some traction over recent years, but it’s still in a horrible state compared to every other major operating system. On Chrome OS, if your application can’t run in a web browser, you likely won’t be able to use that application at all, with or without the school’s many restrictions they added to their Chromebooks. Restricting laptop use to a web browser, like Chrome OS forces us to do, makes laptops a lot less useful than they should be. When people are forced to use the internet just so they can do very basic tasks on their laptop, the laptops become far less useful than they should be, especially when we’ve seen in the past that the internet at Revere High isn’t exactly stable.

But why did the school decide to use Chromebooks if this is the case? Well, for one they’re very inexpensive in comparison to other laptops. If someone breaks a Chromebook, they’re a lot easier to replace than the iPads were. There’s another issue here though: you get what you pay for. The Chromebooks the school provides have already been discontinued by its manufacturer, HP, and even when we first got the Chromebooks, their parts were very underpowered. They’re fine for writing a Google Doc, but there are times where the Chromebook will slow down or freeze while trying to load advertisements on a webpage or even while trying to do something as simple as adding an image to a slideshow.

You may ask, “what would be a good alternative?” There are Windows laptops that go for the same price as a Chromebook that would be a lot more useful than a Chromebook that uses Chrome OS. At least with a Windows laptop, you aren’t anchored to only using internet services. Services like Microsoft Word and Powerpoint would still be accessible without an internet connection, and a lot of niche services such as photo editing and music software would be readily available, which they aren’t on a Chromebook. A Microsoft Surface would be far more useful for students than a Chromebook. The operating system is far more useful because it isn’t entirely reliant on the internet. The school has always had days where the internet either slowed down to a crawl or went down altogether, and on those days Chromebooks become a $200 doorstop. The internet is huge nowadays, but being needlessly reliant on the internet causes the Chromebooks to be far less useful than nearly any other laptop.

Someone that supports using Chromebooks might say that the reason we have Chromebooks is to prevent students from getting viruses, but today’s applications across all computers have been getting so good at security that it can take effort to get a virus. For example, Windows Defender, the antivirus program bundled with Windows, has soared from being considered one of the worst possible antivirus programs to being ranked one of the best since the release of Windows 10. It’s getting to the point where it’s difficult to get a virus. There even used to be a possibility of getting viruses just through web browsing, but today’s internet browsers have had so many security patches that it’s very unlikely that anyone will just get a virus browsing the internet normally. As long as someone has a basic idea of how the internet and laptops work, which the vast majority of students do, viruses shouldn’t be that big of an issue anymore. Windows 10 also features many different ways to restrict the device, similar to what the school already does with Chromebooks, which can add even more security measures to the laptop than what already exist on a normal Windows laptop. The security of most modern operating systems makes Chrome OS’s security nothing new.

There really is no great reason to use a Chromebook as of yet. Not only is Google years behind its competition, but it’s simply not the best option for schools. If the school can get laptops running Windows at a comparable price to a Chromebook, they absolutely should. There’s nothing a Chromebook running Chrome OS is better at doing than a Windows laptop at a comparable price.  The school would get so much more value in switching to Windows than they’d get from staying with Chromebooks. The key to buying a laptop is value, and that’s not what the school’s getting with Chromebooks. It’s time to look beyond the luster of “Education Edition” Chromebooks and instead look for laptops that have a more useful operating system.