The Chromebook, essentially a browser built into a thin-ish client, has not been wildly successful in the marketplace because many people find it limiting compared to thick clients but there are exceptions. Education has some unique requirements:
- Young people are young and inexperienced so a limited environment is a perfect way to protect them from themselves as well as a lot of other dangers in an anything-goes environment.
- Schools and educators are not IT experts but need to serve in the place of parents when children are at school.
- Students don’t need the latest version of every feature-bloated app. In fact, it’s much easier to teach the important principles of IT using stripped-down minimal software. The important uses of IT in education are efficiently finding, creating, modifying, storing and presenting information. A thin client can do those things better than a thick client because servers can be beefier than thick clients and still fit the budget (and just about everything is in RAM except users’ data).
- Oh, yes. Thin clients like Chromebooks cost less to acquire and cost less to maintain simply because they have fewer parts.
- Students have wide ranges of ability and a client system that is simpler will be usable by just about every one.
- Schools can set up their own servers or web portals as start-pages and make every web application and database in the school system easy to find.
- Using thin clients means schools have fewer machines to configure/maintain/upgrade. That costs much less, performs more reliably and is much more secure.
Google has expressed surprise that Chromebooks are popular with schools. I’m not surprised. I’ve been there and done that. Thin clients work in education. A bonus for everyone is that the software is based on Linux so it works for the users/owners and not M$ which provides software to schools to lock-in students and keep revenue flowing, something that is not part of an educational system’s mandate.