Providing students with a Chromebook rather than a proper laptop computer is akin to replacing your school orchestra instruments with kazoos. We live in one of the richest nations in all of history. We can afford a cello and multimedia-capable computer for every child.

Gary Stager continues,

...If Chromebooks were sufficiently powerful, durable, and reliable, I’d endorse their use. When better computers are available at approximately the same price, disempowering kids and confusing teachers seems an imprudent option.

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I think the pi-top offers a solid alternative to chromebooks. Heaps more capable. Get to build yourself, and available for a similar price point. I could foresee an entire curriculum built around this device itself, not merely its use.

Kicks Condor


I’m not an expert on all grades—and I’m only three years deep into my research on the grades I specialize in, which is 1st through 3rd in the U.S. I have spent a bit of time in 4th and 5th—Chromebooks are very useful to these grades and are a step forward. (From no computer 😆.)

I have such a different perspective from articles such as Stager’s that I just don’t know where to begin! And since this is an off-handed comment, I’m not going to dig up citations—but hope to do more of that soon on my blog.

On the topic of laptops:

  • Trackpads are a huge problem. Childrens’ hands get extremely tired trying to manipulate them. So an article that mentions a laptop without emphasizing a mouse—I realize this seems like a small thing, but it isn’t!
  • To say a Raspberry Pi is better—I just can’t imagine. I did RPi stuff in after-school clubs but the setup and takedown is insane. And you don’t want your kids behind giant glowing tombstone-sized screens. They also are totally underpowered—they take longer to boot and get going—so it seems funny to criticize Chromebooks as not being beefy, then mention… RPi?
  • To say that a Chromebook can’t fulfill Papert’s and Solomon’s list smacks as disingenuous—it’s just that there is a lot of elitism around what is proper technology. Just off the top of my head: Sphero, Twine and Voxel Builder are legit tech. Scratch and Scratch Jr. are legit—but are aging. I looked down on these, too, until I saw what kids were doing with them.

There was also a project that Linden Labs was doing on iOS called Blocksworld that was fantastic, but everyone ignored it (and their in-app purchases were awful.)

Since my focus is young kids, I feel (and the research seems to be showing more and more) that tablets are the sweetest computer at that age. A pre-reader just cannot navigate a keyboard yet. And a tablet is not a computer for mere consumption for them—armed with the right software, they will write, record, create visuals of all kinds, it totally opens them up. I hope to show more of the projects that I do with the kids because I think it will be eye-opening.

For me, the hardware issue is pretty easy at present: iPads for up to 3rd grade; Chromebooks thereafter. The more interesting discussion—the software—is where we should spend our time. And also, there is a limit to how much time you can spend with technology in the younger grades, for motor skill developmental reasons.

If I am off, I am always glad to be directed to papers I’ve missed!

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