Home Education Chromebook vs Laptop - Classroom learning

Chromebook vs Laptop - Classroom learning

The world of education has been forever changed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The phrase "blended learning" would have sounded like gibberish to many teachers only a few short years ago. Today, in a post-lockdown world, it's a foundational tenet for thousands of schools, colleges and other educational facilities across the country.

A method of teaching that integrates technology and online digital media into traditional classroom teaching, blended learning proved to be the canary in the coal mine that struck gold during the pandemic. With students being forced to learn from home, the ability to use online resources that could then be integrated into the classroom once normal lessons resumed was a real lifeline for teachers.

It's a practice that has now become commonplace, but it doesn't work if you don't have access to the right equipment. That's where Novatech stepped in for one school earlier this year. But with so many platforms to choose from when it comes to modern laptops, which is best suited to a blended working program? 

Apple devices are obviously wonderful for a variety of reasons but are far beyond the financial reach of most schools. Windows laptops, however, have experienced strong competition in recent years by Google's more streamlined and affordable Chromebooks. Both have an excellent pedigree when it comes to educational use but surely one has to be more capable than the other?

To find out once and for all, we gave two free ASUS devices to a local school, one Chromebook and one Windows laptop. We then asked them to document their experiences using them based on what they used each device for, how they were beneficial, and what was different about them when compared to the devices they have used in the past.

Here's what we learned.

The Chromebook

The ASUS Chromebook Flip C214 was the device we settled on for our trial. It's flexible enough to be used like a traditional laptop or a tablet, which was certain to prove handy for younger children who were likely raised on their parents' smartphones and iPads.

The versatile touchscreen display, coupled with the built-in stylus, spill-resistant keyboard and overall incredibly rugged 360-degree design makes it ideal for situations where accidents can and will happen. Indeed, ASUS declares the device is "military-grade" and can comfortably withstand drops of up to 120cm (more than the height of a standard desk).

The real standout feature, however, is the "world-facing camera" located on the front and rear which allows students to not only capture photos and videos but also to use advanced augmented reality features. This might sound a little advanced for the typical classroom but there are already dozens of companies using AR to bring digital classroom elements to life.

How did the Chromebook do?

For most Chromebook enthusiasts, the main draw of the platform is that it's "ready to go, right out of the box." And it's this immediacy that made the C214 such a hit with our teacher testers. Across the board, the teachers agreed that it was beneficial to their blended learning strategies, particularly when it came to supporting children with home and online learning.

It's also the device that most turned to when it came to playing educational games, as the device was more durable and immediate than the laptop. The TT (times table) Rockstars and Numbots games were firm favourites and the fact that Chromebook allows access to all Google apps meant there were hundreds of touchscreen games available for nursery children and after school club attendees.

The plug and play nature of the device made it popular for teachers when checking their emails and it was also used heavily as a myON reading platform. This is a service that offers 24/7 access to digital books and has been incredibly helpful in ensuring children are reading as much at home as they are at school.

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The laptop

Most of us will be familiar with the standard Windows laptop as it remains the most popular and flexible platform for professional and home users. There are things you can do with a Windows laptop that you quite frankly couldn't with a Chromebook. It's more powerful, more expandable and, in many ways, more practical.

The ASUS BR1100C is a close cousin of the C214, offering the same military-grade build quality. Whereas the Chromebook runs a bespoke Google operating system, this device can run any operating system you wish to throw at it (barring Apple's, of course) so it's always going to be the more flexible option. The BR1100C is far more than just a typical Windows laptop too, as it boasts a top quality webcam (with a physical shield button for privacy) and up to 1TB of SSD storage.

Hygiene is also a major concern among parents in the wake of the pandemic and when dozens of kids are sharing the device, this can raise red flags. However, the BR1100C boasts an antibacterial keyboard and touchpad that eradicate 99% of bacteria. Also factor in the anti-glare screen, lay-flat design, 10-hour battery life and wealth of connectivity options and you have a device that performs in almost any situation.

How did the laptop do?

Whereas the Chromebook is a touchscreen system, the BR1100C is a more traditional design, meaning it might not be suitable for younger nursery school children. However, when it comes to teachers and older pupils the laptop is always going to outperform the comparatively underpowered alternative.

All teachers agreed it was beneficial to have the device in the classroom as it allowed them to bring up videos to share with the class (thanks to the handy HDMI port) and take care of everything from emails to word processing. Its USP, however, is that excellent webcam.

Not only did the handy privacy slide allow teachers and students to remain private but it was also crucial when hosting Microsoft Teams meetings and accessing Microsoft's cloud-based educational platform. The laptop was also a great way of introducing young children to the Windows platform, which they will most likely all be using in the next few years.

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Column A or column B?

The takeaway here is that both devices are perfectly suited for a learning environment but they excel in different areas. For games and much younger nursery children, for example, the C214 Chromebook is an unmitigated success as it functions as a bridge between the devices younger children might have used at home and the devices they'll be using in their later school years.

For older children, meanwhile, the BR1100C laptop is the archetypal all-rounder. Whether you'll be using it to conduct meetings with staff and parents, checking emails or doing routine work, it's durable and powerful enough to be almost anything to anyone.

Whichever you choose to invest in, you won't be disappointed and with the world moving steadily towards a more normalised blended learning future, now could be the ideal time to upgrade your school's digital infrastructure.

Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can put our leading technology into the hands of your students and teachers.

Posted in Education

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Published on 05 Apr 2022

Last updated on 05 Apr 2022

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