A Chromebook is a web-based laptop that runs Google’s Chrome Operating System. They have become widely used in the education industry for some of the perks listed below.
We went through all of the pros and cons of a Chromebook vs a desktop purchase and, for the reasons and thoughts shared below, we chose the Chromebook with a unique setup for homeschool. We added accessories over time to make it a better experience for a younger child. I’ve had more than one visitor who has asked me to help them create the same setup so I decided to share it here.
- Chromebooks are an affordable option for younger kids who are still learning how to use and care for devices.
- Chromebooks are great for Internet and web-based activities.
- Chromebooks are durable for the price if treated with a reasonable level of care.
- Chromebooks have the basic features needed for school assignments.
- Chromebooks are lightweight and easy to transport.
- Chromebooks have a good battery life.
- Some Chromebooks models have touchscreen capabilities.
- Most Chromebooks have bluetooth capability.
The biggest limitations of a Chromebook (in my opinion) is that it is very Wi-Fi dependent and there’s a steep learning curve to find your way around on it if you are used to keys and functions on a desktop or laptop.
Chromebooks are a good option for school assignments for a 3-5 year span. They are not a long-term solution. They actually have what’s commonly referred to as an “end of life” date or AUE, Automatic Update Expiration. This means once the device reaches this date you will no longer to be able to update it and problems will follow when you want to do tasks or use apps that require the update.
You can actually tell from the numbers on the bottom of the device the date it was manufactured and add 5 years to that date to determine the “end of life” for that device or you can find the automatic update expiration in settings as shown in this article from How-to Geek.
They are typically around $200 (at the time of publication) and you could likely end up buying three of them over the course of upper elementary, middle school and the high school years.
The other option would be buying a desktop or laptop for about the same price as two or three Chromebooks and trying to make it last as long as possible. That’s not easy to accomplish with the even the most careful kids!
In order to get the best performance out of a Chromebook, they need to be updated regularly to the latest operating system. This task is pretty simple since the device will prompt you to click for an update. Aside from updating them, regular care can help make sure you get a Chromebook that lasts to the fullest extent possible.
We set up our Chromebook for homeschool needs as a work station rather than making it portable. This made it less likely to be dropped, misplaced or damaged from spills or accidents.
We added an external monitor, speakers, a Webcam, a microphone and a keyboard/mouse, all for around $100. This was an investment for us to be able to utilize it for interactive and real-time learning, telemedicine on occasion, and to teach keyboarding skills. We can continue to use these accessories for the next Chromebook.
Update- We’re on our second Chromebook since this post because our first one reached AUE. Our new one is a HP Chromebook 14-inch HD Laptop, Intel Celeron N4000, 4 GB RAM, 32 GB eMMC
Our setup and accessories remained the same with the new Chromebook and luckily all cables worked too!
As stated below, #1, 5 and 6 are the accessories I would recommend the most. We do use the webcam but could rely on the device’s camera if needed. That was just our preference so that we wouldn’t have to disconnect the external monitor each time the camera was needed.
1- External Monitor for Chromebook
This was the most expensive accessory we added (at the time- around $59) and it has been worth it! It is a much better picture and makes it easier to play games and watch videos. It helps reduce eye strain and has been fun to set different desktop pictures when it’s not in use.
It was super easy to set up. It did not come with the right cable that we needed so we had to order that. Every Chromebook has different ports and cables needed are different depending on your device, but a quick web search for your model should tell you what kind of cable is needed. There was a setting to adjust on the Chromebook device and then it was good to go! We have not had any issues with it in over a year now.
2- Speakers added to Chromebook
External speakers did not turn out to be an essential accessory but they did make the audio a little more clear and easy to adjust with the dials.
They were connected with a USB and a simple adjustment to the device settings.
3- Webcam for Chromebook
A Webcam had to be added for interactive learning experiences such as classes on Outschool or telemedicine meetings. This one clamps on the top of the monitor. It did take some trial and error to get the settings right for this piece, but now they are saved and it works well.
4- Chromebook Microphone
We thought the microphone might be needed for telemedicine or Zoom/Outschool classes, but it turned out to not make much difference and is not really needed.
5/6- Keyboard & Mouse added to Chromebook
We love the keyboard and mouse additions to the Chromebook! Much easier for smaller hands to navigate, type and learn keyboarding skills. It was also very affordable at $15 for both (at the time of purchase)!
Connector hub with 4 USB ports-
On top of the Chromebook is a hub that makes it possible to add additional accessories. None of our additions would work without this piece and one special cable that connects the monitor to the Chromebook. A Chromebook does not come with enough ports to add accessories so this makes it possible.
This set up is working well for online resources and having it set up like a work station helps us designate a specific time for computer work and it’s much easier to monitor! Hope this helps with some ideas or for anyone else looking at a Chromebook their homeschool!