Now we’re getting somewhere.
Last month, I wrote that there’s no perfect device for students in the classroom. Laptops (whether Apple or PC) are too bulky. Tablets (whether the iPad or the Nexus 7) aren’t good for content creation. And Chromebooks, at $20 per month per student to lease (or about $450 to buy), offer too little computer for too much.
But this week, things are going to change.
Google and Samsung are announcing a new Chromebook, and this one I can see in students’ hands. Cloud computing — especially with Google Apps at the center — makes sense in the classroom. The computer is not as sleek as the MacBook Air, but it’s nearly as light (2.5 pounds vs. 2.38 pounds), which is a must for students. After all, you don’t want to lug around a behemoth. The battery is a respectable 6 1/2 hours, plus you get 100 GB of free online storage. Better still is the price: $249. Just $50 more than the Nexus 7, the Chromebook is the perfect blend of cheap and functional. The only big obstacle is that schools need a strong wireless connection, which is a major investment. But I’m hoping that the Chromebook’s pricetag will encourage more schools to build Wifi infrastructure. I’m also hoping that Google will reduce its per-month leasing option; $20 a month is unnecessary.
There’s another big tech development this week: Microsoft is launching the Surface. In my opinion, this tablet is the most exciting new product of the year. Not only will the Surface be a fully-fledged computer (running Windows RT), but its innovative kickstand and touch cover feel like something Apple would do. This device is perfect for the classroom: It’s a tablet and a computer all in one. It’s playful and colorful. It’s new.
That is why I am disappointed about the Surface’s price. The tablet without the touch cover (a necessity in schools) will run $499. The touch cover will cost an additional $120. That’s just too much.
(If the tablet and the touch cover both cost $499, schools would go crazy.)
But the good news is that Microsoft has introduced what is needed in classrooms. The Chromebook is a great start, but in a few years, students will be carrying Surface-type devices around. And by then, I hope, they’ll be cheap enough where everyone will get one.