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Top 3 priorities when choosing a Chromebook for your district

This is part 2 of a series called Choosing Your Device, in which we explore the process of determining your district’s device needs and finding the best hardware fit for meeting them.

So you’ve decided to go with Chromebooks. Whether you’re already working with them, or you’re new to the world of Chrome OS, there are a few things to look out for! Brian Dittfeld, IT Director for Indian Valley Schools, and Katrina Kelly, Principal at Mullan Trail Elementary, share their pros and cons to consider when settling on Chromebooks for the district.

Repairability

Repairability is one thing that most other Chromebook guides won’t tell you to look at. When you’re shopping around, talk to your sellers about how easy it is to get replacement parts! Brian ensures me that more often than not, the repairs will need to happen either way eventually:

“Compare the Lenovo N21 with the Dell Chromebook 11. The Dell is a very durable device, and even pretty affordable, but it’s still about $50 more than the Lenovo. That price adds up quickly. You have to know that just because it’s a durable device doesn’t make it indestructible—students find a way.” —Brian Dittfeld, Indian Valley Schools

Damage like picking a key out of the keyboard or screen breakage should just be expected, especially with younger students. If you keep your initial cost of purchase low, it won’t hurt so much when the time comes to fix broken Chromebooks.

Management

This priority is unique because it can come with any Chromebooks you decide on: the Chrome Management Console—a tool that Brian describes as “absolutely critical” to schools using Chromebooks. Access to the console gives you access to 78 additional policies and settings which are indispensable. Rather than individually touching each device to make changes, you can control policies and updates on any (or all) of your devices remotely.

“As principal, I have admin control to manage our Chromebooks, and so does our IT staff. Oh my gosh, it’s so helpful how quickly you can make changes” —Katrina Kelly, Mullan Trail Elementary

Both Katrina and Brian told me that the Management Console pays for itself almost immediately, just in the sheer number of man-hours saved while maintaining devices, updating them, and adjusting settings. Learn more about the Chrome Management Console in this post.

Keyboard and Trackpad

Not all keyboards and trackpads are created equal! Look for qualities that indicate breakability, like thin, easily depressed keyboard surface, and a recessed tray around the edge of the keyboard, to prevent the keys from contacting the screen while the Chromebook is closed.

“For the keyboard, I make sure it is comfortable to type on and is solid. Prime example of a unit that was awesome, but had a flawed keyboard that made the usage experience undesirable (especially in student use) was the Asus C201. When typing on that model, the frame actually bent down with the key presses.” —Brian Dittfeld, Indian Valley Schools

Also look for qualities that indicate breakability, like thin, easily depressed keyboard surface and a recessed tray around the edge of the keyboard, to prevent the keys from contacting the screen while the Chromebook is closed. With a trackpad, check for responsive movement and make sure it won’t be too difficult for younger students to press and click.

Bonus Tip: Don’t sweat the small stuff

When you’re buying for a school or district, certain qualities become less important, because they have little impact on most classroom activity. These include:

  • Screen Size and Quality
  • Speakers
  • Durability
  • Battery life >6 hours

It seems easy to cross high quality screens and speakers off the list, because they aren’t essential the student experience, but there are two other qualities that can be ruled out when you’re close to making a decision: durability and an extended battery life.

Katrina Kelly tells me her school’s Samsung 303s (an older model from 2012) have just the right battery for a school day.

“We store our Chromebooks in charging carts overnight and when they’re not in use, and we’ve never had trouble with batteries dying.” —Katrina Kelly, Mullan Trail Elementary

Katrina’s story is the same for many schools—unless you’re buying much older Chromebooks, like the Acer C710, we’ve gotten to a point where battery life is already beyond what we need for a school day, so it’s not really a worry anymore.

Is your school close to planning a device rollout? The next step towards a positive Chromebook experience is selecting the right partner to work with. Newmind Group is a certified Google partner and value-added reseller, and if you’d like to learn more about VARs, you should read on in this post, as well as our success story from International Academy.



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