School sure has changed since we were kids. One of the biggest differences between today’s students and those of generations past is their near-universal access to computers throughout their school day. Where Gen X or millennial students were lucky to log an hour or two per week of typing instruction or Oregon Trail gameplay in their communal computer lab, today’s generation of K-12 students are increasingly getting access to their own Chromebook laptop for all-day classroom use, thanks to a number of 1:1 Chromebook initiatives set forth by school districts. Teachers are able to set assignments for their students that make use of Google’s G-Suite programs such as Docs, Sheets and Slides, as well as research projects that put all the information at students’ fingertips, just a simple Google search away.
You may be asking yourself, “How is this achievable?” After all, computer equipment is notoriously expensive, and public school budgets are notoriously small. A lot of schools’ ability to afford laptops for daily school use for every child in a classroom, or in some cases, the whole student body, comes down to the comparative affordability of Chromebooks. Once upon a time, schools only had the choice between Mac or PC, with neither option being particularly cost-effective. While schools in more affluent districts may have been able to swing at least five of these more expensive computers per classroom, schools in underfunded districts would have a hard time affording enough of them to equip a single computer lab. Needless to say, the idea of affording enough individual computers to issue one to each student in the class was not feasible.
Chromebooks changed all that in 2011, when they were released at a price point that was a fraction of the cost of their Mac and PC counterparts. As a computer that runs on the web-based Chrome OS, makes extensive use of the cloud and is mainly designed for online use, Chromebooks cut the cost by eliminating what makes Macs and PCs so much more expensive—hard drive space, advanced functionality and professional-level performance that may be required for serious graphic design applications. In other words, the Chromebook may not be the best option for everyone, but for K-12 students who are primarily using computers for word processing and online research, it’s the option that makes the most sense.
Thanks to their affordable pricing and user friendly interface, Chromebooks were already a popular choice among K-12 school administrators. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the hasty transition from in-person to remote learning skyrocketed Chromebooks’ status from “nice to have” to “must-have” nearly overnight. Schools clamored to purchase enough Chromebooks to issue to students with no other access to a computer so they could attend school virtually and not fall behind during lockdown. Many school districts used their ESSER funds from the CARES Act to afford enough Chromebooks, headphones and other equipment necessary to provide computers to students on a 1:1 basis.
Now that the pandemic has effectively come to an end and students are back to in-class learning, educators have realized that there is still a place for Chromebooks in their daily instruction, and computers have become more heavily incorporated into the K-12 school curriculum. In our ever-changing world, it is important to give even the youngest students ample experience with the various applications and cloud-based educational programs that can be accessed online. However, as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. Teachers need to be sure they can trust students with their expensive and important investment. Because of this, school districts across the country have implemented Chromebook guidelines for students and faculty members to follow. Here are some of the most common policies set forth by school districts to ensure that Chromebooks are being used responsibly and safely.
#1: No food or drink allowed near Chromebooks
Not surprisingly, some of the most popular Chromebook guidelines involve basic safety to protect both students and the laptops themselves. Students in virtually all school districts with a Chromebook 1:1 learning initiative are prohibited from eating or drinking anything in the vicinity of their assigned Chromebook. Certainly not a bad idea!
#2: Cord and cable care
A common Chromebook guideline involves ensuring that cords and cables are bundled up and well-protected to avoid damage or tripping on the go. This includes any school Chromebook earbuds that a student is using with their laptop. However, a number of schools avoid this problem altogether by having students use their assigned Chromebooks in the classroom only, and then put them away in a protective Chromebook cart when not in use.
#3: Protection from sun and heat damage
Such an important and expensive piece of equipment needs to be protected against the elements. Students in most school districts must pledge not to expose their Chromebooks to extreme temperatures or leave them in direct sunlight, and to always be sure their Chromebook is at room temperature before powering it on.
#4: Preserving battery life
A Chromebook with a dead battery is about as useful as a paperweight when it comes time to do an assignment. To ensure students are being careful about preserving the life of their battery, many schools require them to power down their Chromebook when it is not in use. Again, a Chromebook cart can come in handy for this issue, as it also serves as a charging station for Chromebooks between uses.
#5: Screen care
It goes without saying that the screen is one of the most important elements of a Chromebook. Because of this, school districts’ Chromebook policies for students almost always include rules about proper screen care, including not carrying their laptop with the screen open, poking the screen with a pencil or other sharp implement, placing anything between the screen and keyboard before closing it or placing anything on or near the Chromebook that could put pressure on the screen.
The Bottom Line
Being able to afford enough Chromebooks for a 1:1 student use initiative is just one piece of the puzzle for school administrators; it’s also essential for them to enforce policies that protect their investment and keep students vigilant about taking good care of their assigned computer. We’ll have more Chromebook guidelines to share in the future so you can be sure your school is doing all it can to take good care of your Chromebooks. With proper supervision and easy-to-follow guidelines, you can ensure your students are protecting their assigned computers and keeping them in good condition for years to come.