Is the Chromebook the Future of Mobile Learning?

My prayers have been answered…well somewhat. Google and Samsung’s Chromebook is almost the perfect answer to mobile computing and distance/mobile learning. Although the first Chromebook leaves a little to be desired, I think that Google and Samsung are on the right track in terms of functionality and practically, especially in terms of the use of the device for education. The power of distance and mobile learning is the ability to access lessons, course content, classmates, teachers and colleagues anytime and from anywhere. The key word here is “ability”. One has to be able to gain access. The solution to this seemingly is using the mobile network, which is almost ubiquitous; however the tiny screens and simple operating systems of smartphone devices are just two among several other reasons that limit what a learner can actually accomplish.

In swoops the 12.1 inch screen, 3.3 pound Chromebook tauting 3G connectivity (2 years free Verizon Service),WIFI access, a full keyboard, 8.5 hours of battery life, and the pièce de résistance Chrome (Cloud Computing Champion of the World) Operating System. So what does all this mean for distance learners:

  1. 89.9995% Ubiquitous Computing Capability
  2. Students can not only access course related materials anytime and from anywhere, but they can also create and store assignments that are automatically stored in The Cloud.
  3. For me it beats out the tablet and eReader with similar capabilities for one simple reason…THE KEYBOARD. No touchscreen keyboard to fuddle adult-sized fingers!

Now before you run out and buy one on June 15th, there are few drawbacks that make me want to wait a little while before I jump on the Chrome train.

  1. You cannot install any applications on the device and thus you have to rely on web applications only. Although software as a service is a growing trend…it is still growing and a lot of good software is not available as a web app just yet.
  2. It is does not have a powerful processor and significantly less storage than similarly priced Netbooks. The Chromebook only has 16GB of storage. Even though the premise of the Chromebook is put everything in the cloud thus a lot of storage on the computer is not needed, I think it should be priced significantly lower than Netbooks that offer 320GB and faster processors.
  3. The device is useless if not connected. Although 3G connectivity seemingly should enable the device to always be connected, we all know that there will be case the network is unavailable or slow it may be difficult to be productive on Chromebook.

My Recommendation…
This device has the potential to be great for eLearners or instructors that do a lot of assignments online or assignments that can be completed in GoogleDocs apps for word processing, presentations, or spreadsheets. Since this is just the first release of the product I would like to wait to see if the price comes down such that the hardware cost is consistent with current market values.