Would you send your child to a school with a one-to-one technology component, where all homework was assigned and completed on a tablet or laptop? Does offering an aghast “absolutely not” mark you as a Luddite, or might your child actually benefit from some old-fashioned pen-to-paper skills in addition to that oft-touted “digital literacy”?
There are obviously plenty of great unknowns in the never-ending debate over the goods, or evils, of technology’s impact on impressionable young minds (to say nothing of the gaps in Internet access among poorer students). There are the studies showing that readers had far worse plot recall with e-books versus paper books, and then there are the reports about the failure of the “digital apocalypse” to materialize as fully as feared, with digital book sales falling by 10 percent in the first five months of the year.
But while we chatter, the high-tech takeover of American classrooms continues apace, with more and more school districts incorporating laptops and tablets into everyday instruction. The newly insurgent king of this exploding education-technology market is the Google Chromebook, with Google announcing earlier this week that there will be “more Google Chromebooks in American classrooms by the end of the year than all other devices combined,” according to a BuzzFeed report.
The speed of Google’s conquest is remarkable, considering that, in 2012, Chromebooks represented just 1 percent of the education-technology market share, compared with Apple’s 50-plus percent. BuzzFeed cites some pretty inarguable reasons for the search engine’s rapid ascent:
Chromebooks were able to overtake iPads in education because they’re far cheaper—sometimes under $200—have keyboards, and don’t require additional software because they only run Google’s Chrome browser.
And, as more and more kids log work on their Chrome books, Apple continues to stumble: Last week, to avoid a lawsuit, Apple agreed to pay back $4.2 million to the Los Angeles Unified School District for its embarrassingly botched “iPad for every student” program launched in 2013.
The primary problem was with the software, which Apple contracted to education-content and testing giant Pearson: Teachers immediately complained that the preloaded curriculum was light on content, heavy on bugs, and just incredibly difficult to operate. As part of the settlement, Lenovo, which also used the Pearson software, will not charge LAUSD for $2.2 million of laptops the district recently purchased.
The FBI has launched a criminal investigation of the bidding process that handed Apple the contract, which originally had a $1.3 billion price tag. Just think how many Chromebooks you could buy for that cash.