Oct 30 2023

Transitioning K–12 Teachers to Chromebooks

Once considered student-only devices, new Chromebooks deliver simpler management and stronger security while offering greater productivity and creativity for teachers.

When Google released its “Future of Education” report in late 2022, it noted the need to “elevate the role of the teacher” through the use of technology; that is, to give them the time they need to invest in themselves and in their students, and to support their roles as “choreographers” of student learning.

As school IT staff think about equipping teachers with technology to meet their evolving needs, they may want to consider outfitting teachers with devices that many are already very familiar with: Chromebooks.

K–12 IT Departments Should Consider Chromebooks for Teachers

Chromebooks dominate the market for student devices, but for educators? Not so much.

“One downside to our early success with Chromebooks is that these devices were thought of as only for students,” says Kevin Kells, global director of Google for Education. “But this thinking does not match the reality of our device portfolio. We want to showcase the variety of Chromebooks available, which include some that are designed specifically to meet the needs of teachers.

EXPLORE: Learn how Google Chrome supports educators in the K–12 classroom.

High on the list for teachers is Google’s newly announced class of devices: Chromebook Plus.

Compared with the ubiquitous student devices, these higher-end Chromebooks provide larger screens, faster processors and double the memory. With these new devices, teachers gain access to the full suite of Google products, including Cast Moderator, Screencast, Classroom and Workspace for Education, empowering them to create engaging lessons, collaborate seamlessly with colleagues and provide personalized learning experiences for their students.

Additionally, files saved on Google Drive can now be accessed both online and offline, ensuring that teachers stay productive even when they are not connected to the internet.

How Chromebooks Lead to Simpler Rollout and Management

From a management standpoint, equipping educators and staff with the same devices as their students yields multiple benefits.

First, IT staff can administer all devices from a single pane of glass, so deploying new apps or features is a breeze. “You use the same admin console,” explains Chris Hanson, Google Chrome sales specialist team lead for CDW•G. “However, teachers can be set up and managed in separate organizational units, allowing for the appropriate user policies to be pushed out to them. This can include when and how software updates, which are provided by Google every four weeks, are pushed out.”

LEARN MORE: Google implements security controls for users under 18.

Device rollouts are simpler as well. Between 2018 and 2023, Kentucky’s Jefferson County Public Schools — a district with 100,000 students and 6,300 teachers — executed a rolling deployment of Chromebooks to its educators.

One takeaway from the rollout was that device training time was reduced. “The district reported that moving staff to Chromebooks saved two hours of new-device training per teacher,” says Kells.

IT staff can also take advantage of Google’s scalable zero-touch enrollment feature, which allows a district’s pre-provisioning technology partner to communicate instructions directly to Google to automatically enroll new devices into the school’s domain after they’re turned on and connected to the internet.

Chromebooks Provide Strong Security with No Ransomware Fears

Chromebooks’ security features offer additional management value for IT staff, especially when it comes to ransomware threats.

“Ransomware attacks can be very damaging to schools,” says Kells. “It can take years to recover. Thankfully, there has never been a successful ransomware attack on a Chromebook. This provides peace of mind about the challenges of ransomware.”

When starting up a Chromebook, a feature called Verified Boot is automatically activated, ensuring that the system hasn’t been tampered with or corrupted in any way. And Google recently announced that all Chromebooks produced from 2021 onward will be eligible for 10 years of software updates, including security patches.

This offers relief to teachers and IT staff (not to mention budget-minded admins and school boards), knowing that these devices will be supported and protected for the duration of their use.

IT Considerations for Transitioning Educators to Chromebooks

IT teams considering a move to Chromebooks for teachers and staff can do a few things to make it a successful process. First, they need to make a case for the transition.

“You have to put your sales hat on and get everyone on board: teachers, the leadership team, the teachers union, the school board,” explains Hanson. “Make the business case, educate and explain the benefits.”

Then, plan out a pilot program with tech-savvy early adopters. Hanson suggests IT teams “pick several devices for consideration. Have staff try them out. See what works best for the end user before committing to the move and deciding on specific devices.”

Click the banner to find the resources you need to manage devices in your K–12 schools.

The timing of a device rollout may depend on other factors, such as the school’s adoption of other Google ecosystem products, including Google Workspace for Education, Google Classroom, Gmail and virtual desktops that can help stream applications that are not native to the Chrome browser. It’s beneficial to have these other pieces in place prior to making the transition.

While it may be challenging to change hearts and minds on the devices that educators use every day, Chromebooks enhance what teachers most desire: the opportunity to deliver more personalized, one-on-one learning, such as supporting project-based learning, customized assessments and much more.  

Chromebook Benefits: Troubleshooting and Professional Development

Moving teachers onto Chromebooks drives management benefits that reverberate both within the classroom and across the school.

In the classroom, being on the same operating system and device as students allows teachers to gain better familiarity with how Chromebooks function.

“Classroom teachers are often on the front line of troubleshooting if a student device goes down,” says Hanson. “When they are already familiar with the operating system and device, they can more quickly assist students in getting their devices back up and running.” This leads to fewer interruptions to student learning in the classroom.

Across the school, having everyone on the same operating system and platform leads to improved professional development and knowledge sharing. “When everyone is on Chromebooks, you can build and share expertise across the district among staff, admins and teachers,” adds Kells.

LEARN MORE: CDW Amplified™ for Education offers more insights on Chromebooks for teachers.

No matter the scale, transitioning students and teachers to Chromebooks drives improvements. Chicago Public Schools, home to 350,000 students and 25,000 teachers, rolled out 300,000 Chromebooks over several years. CPS reported that the widespread adoption helped the district centralize device management using the Google Admin console and inspired teachers to explore new technology options for classroom instruction.

While Chromebooks have long been seen as student devices, there is no doubt that the Chromebook Plus can do so much more, especially for teachers. Technological advancements now mean that teachers can also share the inherent benefits of Chromebooks that students already enjoy and can reach higher levels with the new, more powerful devices. When schools standardize on Chromebooks for everyone, the devices can help elevate teaching at a speed and scale like never before.

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Photograph Courtesy of Google

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