Chromebooks have a lot going for them, but they aren't entirely issue-free. You'll need a solid network infrastructure, a creative approach to problem solving and time to get everyone up to speed. Here are some of the biggest challenges.
1. Need for Speed
Chromebooks aren't the best solution for every computing situation, notes Bryan Weinert, director of technology for Illinois's Leyden High School District 212. "We never intended Chromebooks to be used for CAD, graphic design, video or any app with heavy processor requirements," he says. "We always knew we'd still need a lab full of PCs for those courses."
2. Bandwidth Blues
Though it is possible to work offline in most Google Docs, Chromebooks generally need a reliable network connection. Schools are wise to upgrade their wireless infrastructure before purchasing Chromebooks.
Before beginning its one-to-one rollout, Donna Teuber, technology integration coordinator for Richland School District Two in Columbia, S.C., upgraded the district's bandwidth and wireless networks, placing an access point in every classroom, she says.
3. Accept Application Substitutions
Google's Chrome Web Store may not have the specific apps teachers are familiar with, Weinert says. Part of his job is finding acceptable substitutes that do the same or similar things.
"Members of our science department like their students to use web-based simulations based on Java applets, which aren't supported on Chromebooks," he says. "We managed to find another solution. There were very few things teachers came back to us with that we couldn't solve in some way."
4. Prepare for Learning Curves
Chromebooks can be a challenge for people who are used to working in Microsoft Office, notes Dr. Roland J. Rios, director of technology at Fort Sam Houston Independent School District in San Antonio. His advice: Get everyone up to speed on Google Apps before transitioning to Chromebooks.
5. Expect Resistance
One of the most common arguments against going Chrome is that students need to learn Microsoft Office if they want to get a job after graduation. But Jason Ramsden, chief technology officer at Ravenscroft in Raleigh, N.C., says that isn't as true as it once was. According to a U.S. News & World Report survey, 66 of the top 100 colleges use Google Apps for Education.
"We want to prepare [our students] for any technology they're likely to face," Ramsden explains. "My ultimate dream is to move them away from 'I'm a Mac' or 'I'm a PC' to 'I'm a technology user.'"