#edtech for #edleaders: Internet-only Operating Systems

The newest type of device to enter the educational market is the Internet-only notebook. When these devices were first marketed, they had no functionality without the Internet, but later generations have added some offline functionality. Still, however, these devices are most useful in schools when they are connected to the Internet.

The dominant device used in school that uses an Internet-only operating system is the Chromebook which is available from many manufacturers and in several configurations, but that all use the Google Chrome OS. With this device, one logs on to the device and the Internet simultaneously using a Google account. The only application installed on the notebook is Google Chrome, which is the popular web browser. Productivity software (such as the word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software) is provided through the user’s G Suite account; all other productivity tools that are used on the Chromebook must be available via a web service. There are limited options for using peripherals on a Chromebook, and printing is managed through Google’s Cloud Printing service. This service requires an administrator of the school’s Google Domain to configure a computer to be the print server, and it accepts and processes print jobs from any user assigned to the cloud printer.

Managing a fleet of Chromebooks in a school finds an IT professional logging on to the online administrative dashboard provided by Google and selecting for the options available from Google or from third party publishers; Google has a history of providing both G Suite and Chromebook management tools at no cost, but many third party services require a paid subscription. In addition to being limited by the options provided by Google and its partners, the decision to purchase Internet-only devices for students and teachers makes a functioning wireless network absolutely necessary in a school.

Of the three types of devices marketed to school IT managers, Internet-only notebooks are the most affordable. The IT manager making a rough estimate of the cost would likely give $300 as a price per unit. That estimate would depend, of course, on the capacity of the wireless network in the school where to devices were to be deployed. The actually cost of deployed functional Internet-only devices may depend on upgrading network capacity.