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I'm a HS teacher. I was so happy when my school finally phased out iPads as the designated device for our year 7 students. It's such a rubbish device for content creation. The touchscreen is a POS for anything other than web browsing and casual games. Teaching coding, image manipulation, file manipulation was utterly painful or impossible.

Typing on them is beyond painful and of the hundreds of students I taught, fewer than a dozen actually bought a physical keyboard. This meant that every task took 3x longer than necessary.

On top of this they are expensive. To anyone even remotely IT savvy it was clear from the get-go that this was going to be a failed experiment. Unfortunately education, like most other things follows the fashion of the time and everyone had to learn the hard way that a traditional computer is superior in every conceivable way.

Chromebooks are rubbish too, so I don't really see the move to them as a positive either.

> Chromebooks are rubbish too, so I don't really see the move to them as a positive either.

What to your mind would not be rubbish? I'm a Microsoft employee, so I have a vested interest in Windows devices being the dominant choice for schools, but I don't see anything realistic students at the high school or below level couldn't do on Chromebooks.

Also, where do you live/teach? "Year 7" is not high school in the US. That is distinctly junior/middle school.

> Also, where do you live/teach? "Year 7"

I'm in Australia. Nationally we are transitioning to a R-6 = Primary School, 7-12 = High School model.

My school is a little unorthodox. We're a private school with a 6-12 shared campus which is why I had experience teaching younger students even though I am HS trained.

> What to your mind would not be rubbish?

Either Mac or PC is fine in my books. Anything that allows them to install native software is fine. I recently did a small unit on binary data. It was really handy for students to install a hex editor, inspect a flat text file in binary mode and map out the ascii table for themselves. I don't think that's possible on a Chromebook.

I also teach Web dev. We use MAMP which is cross platform. We install VSCode, interact with the FS, create a local DB, file uploads, programmatic image resizing etc. My understanding is that this is not possible without jailbreaking (is that the right term?) a Chromebook.

I'm also opposed to any device that hides away the file system from the user. It relegates a computer to the dumb appliance category which I think is unhelpful.

This is so nice to read after having seen my sister's children receive laptops at school. No one was actually giving them any system knowledge. No programming, no "how does a computer work, what is a file...", no support/teaching on how software can help when e.g. writing an essay. Nothing. They were carrying 10+ kg (no joke) in their bags every day because of course they were forced to bring the (heavy) laptop to every damn lesson. There was no ultimate plan, no knowledgable teachers, just "the kids should have computers, right?".

They could have received iPads, Windows or linux setups... Wouldn't have mattered since there was no plan in place.

I'm at a point where I strongly believe schools should just hand out Raspberry Pis to students to tinker with instead. Add a proper curriculum and let the students fail, mess up their RPIs to get to know the system. Let them write simple scripts. Anything. RPIs are easy to restore.

Maybe other schools are doing better over here, but when my nephew (growing up with minecraft/pokemon go on mobile only) didn't dare to touch most of the stuff on his school laptop due to being afraid of messing up I tried very hard not to scream.

> Maybe other schools are doing better over here, but when my nephew (growing up with minecraft/pokemon go on mobile only) didn't dare to touch most of the stuff on his school laptop due to being afraid of messing up I tried very hard not to scream.

Considering how school should be the arena where you're allowed to mess up (and thus learn from your mistakes), this is so ass backwards (and sad) as it can possibly be.

When a school is no longer a safe zone for learning, you can pretty much just consider that generation pre-doomed, irrespective of topic. What a waste.

Same with my kids' schools. iPads handed out to every kid, but incredibly, they were incompatible with the online Math textbook selected. Millions spent on technology for its own sake, without any real plan.

Honestly I think paper, pencils, and books are still the most effective tools for most primary education.

+1 for pen and paper at school. Didn't touch a computer until I was 15 and didn't do me any harm.

Sounds like the "online Math textbook" was the main problem. How on earth would that not be compatible with an iPad. What the hell was it?

The textbook was the big red flag that this was all a theater production. "See how modern we are, all the kids have iPads"

It likely was Flash-based. All I know is it didn't work in iPad Safari.

My kids didn't use them for much else other than games at home.

Probably Flash. Or may be some JavaScript using mouse or keyboard events not provided by iPad.

I bet no one told you how to code though. I imagine that you probably had some proto computer some time in your past and spent a long time figuring it out?

That the school system wasn't equipped to teach you anything but you somehow did just fine?

It doesn't have to be like that of course and I suppose that there is some neuro elitist aspect to kids just fiddling with the things that interest them...

I couldn't call myself a programmer - most of what I've done are smaller things that help out at work - but I'm slowly improving. If you are implying that there is an abundance of resources out there, you are of course correct.

It was quite different when I grew up. [Home] Internet was not a thing that existed and most data was analogue. When home computers became common I had to learn a bit about the system if I wanted to get some use out of it. I'm not saying user friendliness is somehow bad, it's what we should always aim for! We've come a long way and I like it here. I'm not that old, it's just that I had a childhood before home computers and internet were a thing.

The school system back when did in fact teach me a bit about computers. In my case, in [the equivalent to] high-school when home internet started to take off, our curriculum came to include (very) basic computer science, (very) basic coding in ... prolog? (prolog might be incorrect) We created home pages in class from scratch in html. Not by choice, as most of this concerned every student at my school. Maybe I was lucky?

In my nephews case, they were handed a computer, then absolutely nothing. And I mean nothing. They are still forced to bring the computer to every class but report hardly ever touching it at school. Maybe their bad experience is an exception. I hope so. Back then my teachers definitely weren't the best - or even good - at computer science but they were prepared to try and to learn together with the students.

I apologise, and thanks. You're right we should be doing better. I'm a little ashamed of myself. You're right we should do the best we can for everyone.

I'd like to see RPis in schools - they're cheap, just $5 or $10 for the wireless models. Providing the accessories required to use it is more costly, but kids can't really hack screens and $3 keyboards. RPi's are ideal for learning basic computer usage and programming, IMO. Slow though, but the RPi 3 should be fast enough for that too.

The $5 and $10 models are limited to one per customer and out of stock much of the time - not something you can equip a classroom with.

If a state decides to introduce RPis in all classrooms, I suspect that they could get a nice deal.

Also the entire purpose of the Raspberry Pi project is education. I'm certain they would work with anyone using them for that purpose.

Education and a 1:1 program are vastly different usage models.

You're not going to be able to take a Rasperry Pi, a monitor keyboard and mouse home with you in your backpack to do your homework on.

You could take home a pi, keyboard, and mouse though. Assuming you have a TV you can plug your pi into.


Personal attacks tacked onto generic dismissals are not a thing we need more of on Hacker News, so please leave these ones unposted.

There are Chinese knock-offs which are available.

Thanks for clarifying.

I agree that Chromebooks are not the ideal learning device for coding. I was thinking general schooling and glossed over your earlier comment about teaching coding. I think they can probably work there, but you're right that a "real" computer is a better choice for that.

We are possibly entering the age of thin clients for coding soon. With ssh and remote desktops being the best use of laptops and Chromebooks for coding. I do that now with a personal server that I remote into when coding at different locations.

There is a HUGE divide between production and consumer devices that keeps increasing every year. People don't have multi-use devices. Many of my peers use their iPad for everything or even just their phone.

Other than coding and video editing Chromebooks are pretty just as capable as a laptop in terms of production.

Example: I needed to re-image my laptop at work (I have 3 desktops, 2 iPads and one laptop) and I realized that my use of the laptop is the same as a Chromebook. I had absolutely no files on the computer that I needed to get off before re-imaging. Everything was Bit Torrent Sync and Git and the rest were just a few programs that were easily installed or on the "cloud" aka Google and Amazon's computers.

My own use of computers has always been desktop for video, image editing and coding (I need that screen space and a reference screen). I find laptops to always be very limiting for my production and that a Chromebook becomes a thin client with ssh and remote desktop. My $1,000 laptop is used like a $300 Chromebook.

But will the average school be able to afford and administer servers For every student to ssh into?

One server and one instance could easily do one class if not hundreds of students. Actually to have it done with a container would be very cheap and wouldn't require a high tier server. So it would cost less to do Chromebooks with a server for instances when they need more horse power or build tools.

Why would they need to? https://c9.io

It should be cheaper than giving full desktops/laptops to students. After all, it consolidates all the computer power. The pendulum is swinging back to mainframes. Have 1 server for all the students and spin up VMs or a single Linux instance.

I'm running a coding class right now that is almost entirely run over ssh on chromebooks to a linux server. Works beautifully.

No fancy IDE, but lots of actual learning to code.

I have found that notebooks like Jupyter (http://jupyter.org) and especially JupyterHub (http://jupyterhub.readthedocs.io/en/latest/) are made to teach languages with a REPL from the browser.

> "With JupyterHub you can create a multi-user Hub which spawns, manages, and proxies multiple instances of the single-user Jupyter notebook server. Due to its flexibility and customization options, JupyterHub can be used to serve notebooks to a class of students, a corporate data science group, or a scientific research group."

I have grown less and less fond of Python but I still use Jupyter with other languages and I have it running on my personal server.

Have you considered online tools such as Cloud9, replit etc.? If so, is the problem missing features, workflow or pricing?

FWIW, amid the talk about Raspberry Pis, the (fully open) BeagleBone Black/Green has a default experience for casual-tinker-friendly programming where it spins up an on-board Cloud9 instance for the user to poke around.

It's slightly more expensive than its Pi contemporary, but that's expected when everyone keeps flocking to the Pi and the alternative can't make use of the same volume discounts and self-fund engineering to put new board revisions out every year. And even for all that, it's a popular alternative—you're not left hanging out in no-man's land with some exotic hardware. Check the hackerboards.com surveys from over the years that show it trailing the Pi(s).

Eclipse's Che is also very interesting. I hate the name, but it was super when I tried it.

If I were teaching, I would definitely look at something like Cloud9. I'm in the process of going through Michael Hartl's Ruby on Rails tutorial based on Cloud9 and I'm blown away by how good it is.

What are they writing code with? Is it lots of learning to code, or lots of fighting with vim? Or are you using a REPL?

Does X forwarding work? Or has someone got some kind of screen-scraping client that runs in a browser?

I have never used chromeOS, does it have a terminal or is there some sort of ssh as a service?

There's a chrome extension by Google that provides a supported way to ssh on ChromeOS, from the device. There's limited support for SSH keys built in, and there's also a mosh extension.


(It's pretty easy to enable developer mode in order to allow unsigned code to run, and then Ubuntu/other Linux can run it in a chroot, though education/corporate deployments can/should prohibit that by policy, so isn't relevant to the larger discussion, though it means personal ChromeOS laptops can be quite functional.)

It has a built in terminal called crosh, which might have an SSH client built in (I'm not sure). What most people do is download a chrome extension like Secure Shell[1] that lets you ssh from a tab.

[1] https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/secure-shell/pnhec...

Sadly, ssh was removed from crosh just recently.

    crosh> ssh
    The 'ssh' command has been removed.  Please install the official SSH extension:

Me neither, but this looks interesting:


I might pick one up at Fry's today just for giggles.

Update: Tried to run the NaCl Development Environment on my macbook to get a taste and it just crashes on launch. Seems like a lot of people have the same problem on chromebooks too: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/nacl-development-e...

So maybe I'm not so excited to run out and buy a chromebook for development just yet.

There's an ssh client in the chrome store($0, I think it's published by google). It runs as a chrome tab (one tab per connection), which means you do waste some screen space for browser UI that doesn't make sense, but it's workable.

You can (or could, anyway) force it to open in a window (right click the app icon and select "open in window"). This allows you to go really fullscreen and fixes control keys (C-w works again rather than closing the tab).

I would expand coding to include general computer use. Sure, you can teach biology or physics or English using whatever device is most convenient. But if you're trying to teach the workings and use of computers (i.e. what most people will have on computer classes), using iPads and Chromebooks is teaching them lies that come from user-hostile pseudoabstractions.

> using iPads and Chromebooks is teaching them lies that come from user-hostile pseudoabstractions

Absolutely. Most 12 year old kids don't know about file size units. Relative file sizes, converting between units etc. There's so much incidental learning that occurs too. The other day i was discussing file sizes with a student and we observed that there was a difference between a file's reported size vs size on disk. This led to a great little segue about physical disk structure, tracks, sectors and clusters. The boy was fascinated with some lower level detail. All that learning would have been lost if we were using a gimped cloud based FS.

> This led to a great little segue about physical disk structure, tracks, sectors and clusters.

These days, those are abstractions as well. That's basically the API that the mass storage controller presents to the OS. I'm not sure you could explain a hard drive to a lay person anymore. Most of the time, I'm kind of surprised that they work at all.

> using iPads and Chromebooks is teaching them lies that come from user-hostile pseudoabstractions.

Only if you are using them wrong; while I think iPads are poor tools forany purposes, including that one, from a UI perspective (or, at least, inefficient by the time you address the interface issues), iPads and Chromebooks don't restrict the ability to teach full-spectrum computing, as, they are perfectly capable tools for accessing and interacting with general purpose computers.

Now, clearly, the exact details of how you use them in that teaching and th supporting infrastructure might be slightly different than if you were giving students PCs, but then, you need a network environment with educational infrastructure if you are teaching full-spectrum computing with modern relevance anyway, and the detail are going to vary by what you use on the front end. That doesn't rule out any front end choice, it just means that the front end choice impacts other choices.

Someone has undertaken getting VSCode builds for Chromebooks.[1][2][3]

I understand that you're (probably) not on the VSCode team, but if you have any influence to get somebody who can reach out there, that'd be swell. Anyone using VSCode on Linux seems to be relying on MS's freely-downloadable-but-technically-not-OSS builds, and just building wrapper installers around that. I might be wrong. Something like diverse builds that aren't dependent on Microsoft would be the first step to getting VSCode into various distros' system images so you can do "sudo apt-get install vscode" on Debian or possibly find it in the default install on Ubuntu.

1. https://headmelted.com/why-we-need-the-best-tools-on-chromeb...

2. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12956597

3. https://github.com/headmelted/code-builds/issues/10

There are a couple of Chrome apps that can run offline and do coding. I've used Caret and Advanced REST client on occasion for things. It gets a bit tricky if you need something that can't work without a real webserver but there's a lot of beginner stuff you can do with it.

crouton unlocked a bit more functionality giving you the possibility of a Linux base layer, albeit likely not a great idea to have kids put the machines into dev mode. But that might be workable if staff did it.

I've dogfooded a bunch of the Web Development content we make at Udacity using either a pure Chromebook or Chromebook + Crouton.

> crouton

Correct me if I'm wrong but is this not the hack where every time you boot your system it tells you to press a key to reset it and if you press that key it instantly blanks the partition.

This seem absurd even for an expert user to use full time let alone school kids.

That's not crouton. That comes from Google's coreboot-derived firmware. See https://www.chromium.org/chromium-os/2014-firmware-summit

It's true, though, that the whole process needs to be made more straightforward and easily circumventable. It's just not a part of crouton.

Ok but one press of space during boot on this scary looking screen [1] and the whole system will need to be reinstalled and all data on the linux partition will be lost correct?

Just finding it ridiculous that HN users suggest this with a straight face every time we have this discussion.

[1] https://www.howtogeek.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/os-veri...

Yes. It's stupid and is worse than it needs to be. See my last paragraph. I don't know what else I can say.

Please describe your PURE Chromebook setup to take the Udacity Web Development Course.

Also is there a PURE Chromebook (or Chromebook+Android apps) setup to take an Udacity Android course?

Apparently ChromeOS devices are so useful that everyone has to force developer mode with Crouton to make use of them.

Never got the point of a browser based OS.

A browser only OS isn't for everyone, but it does work well for the many people who literally never use anything other than their browser. If you know someone who never uses office applications and is always ending up with three layers of malware, a chromebook might be good for them. Video chat is a bit iffy too, if you don't care for google hangouts.

No, everyone does not have to force developer mode on. If you need the extra functionality then it's an option for some people. As for the point of Chrome OS, well, it's for people that don't need the bag of hurt desktop OS's provide.

A cloud IDE like Cloud9 (https://c9.io/) works well on a Chromebook.

If I were teaching programming today, I'd probably start with something like GoMix (https://gomix.com) or Scratch (https://scratch.mit.edu/) - neither of which require a download.

Not saying there isn't value in installing native software... but it's amazing what you can do in a web browser these days vs. 2010 when I was teaching middle schoolers intro programming.

To be honest though, I think these environments make new programmers go through the trouble of learning a platform which they can never ship a real application in; except maybe Cloud9.

Scratch has been around for about 15 years now, and 12 years in a workable state. And while it seems superficially to be helpful (none of that fussy text editing!), I have never met a programmer who got their start in Scratch.

I think what you're saying is true in a sense but misses the point of this part of their education. I think the idea is less about making grade school students into career-ready programmers and more to expose them to programming concepts in general. They're increasingly useful in a wide variety of fields, even if you don't end up being a programmer or touch code again.

I'm not saying it absolutely prevents people from moving forward. I just fondly remember my first programming environment being an HTML file with a script tag.

It was a real environment, people were doing real things, and I learned based on the (at the time, quite bad) example of professionals. It also made it easy to go on Wikipedia and directly transfer concepts into my program from the pseudocode or C. Learning first in a real language gave me the opportunity to read many real programs very quickly.

I think GoMix and, to a lesser extent, Cloud9 give you a real language environment. I think that's a good step, though I have some minor qualms about the quality of the integrated text editors (which is really the web's fault).

Forget career-ready, I want naturals to never need to be told or convinced to program.

just teach traditional logic. programming naturally falls into those basic concepts. School is about basic education and thinking. Yes its fine to be exposed to the current modern tools but a mistake to be teaching current tools as they are always constantly changing anyways.

I got my start in Scratch! And so did everyone else whose first programming experience was CS50 (http://cs50.tv/2016/fall/).

Don't want to threadcrap too much, but I deeply believe that most programming in the future will happen in environments like GoMix, in the same way that a ton of programming today happens in Visual Basic.

Do you mean Visual Studio?

GP means Visual Basic, probably as in the VB macros that you can write within Word/Excel/Access etc., in which there is surely a huge amount of code written by otherwise non-programmers.

I started programming through Scratch (then I shifted to Python).

I think the key reason tablets were chosen wasn't that it was the best learning tool, but it was the best learning tool that won't cause a maintenance nightmare for school IT when kids go crazy with viruses and bricking their laptops whenever they were late for a homework assignment. Ipads are relatively hard to fuck up fron a software side, and if they do you just do a reset.

This does match my usual experience of IT philosophy in educational institutions that says that the easiest way to maintain infrastructure is to not let people use it. That it defeats the whole raison d'être of that infrastructure is apparently beyond their care.

It's like a city would give a company a long-term contract for repairs to a stretch of important road, and the company started by locking it down and deciding that they'll profit more and work less if the road is not used and thus won't require so much repairs.

Educational institutions ? I currently work for one of the biggest resource companies in the world. It generates many billions of dollars of revenue each year. It spends millions on infrastructure and then refuses to allow anyone to actually use it.

A thousand chinese state hackers on adderall can not disable a network so thoroughly as "Infrastructure Security" can, I don't even...

It is my personal belief that the same thing happens in big companies. I decided to elide that thought in my previous comment.

At a company where I used to work, we jokingly referred to our Networking Support office as "Notworking Support", since the policies they had to implement pretty much all involved making sure we could not do our work.

Back in my day (this was like 10-15 years ago), the Windows machines at an elementary school I worked at for a bit had a piece of software installed that undid any changes done to the computer after a reboot. IIRC that was more effective than locking the system down with all kinds of hacks.

(we famously circumvented a block on using the browser in a very locked down windows machine by opening up Notepad or whatever, opening a file, right-clicking and managing to open an Explorer screen, which changes to IE when entering an URL)

I'm going to guess that was Faronics Deepfreeze. I was a big fan of it as a student and later as a part-time admin, simply because it seemed a better relationship between administrator and user.

Windows XP had Windows SteadyState software that did the same thing.

I suppose the utility of this depends on your definition of learning.

No one I know "produces" content on an ipad but it's fine for HN comments or management emails. So maybe that's what we want to teach, not sure.

In theory I suppose the lesson is that if you are a "regular" user, IT is brutally unhelpful, and put your content on removable media or cloud storage.

This is not such a bad lesson, and the kids who care about owning their data will eventually figure the other side our for themselves.

I still think using general purpose computing devices in general education has value, mainly because then the kids who don't see that at home will get a chance. When you do it's like the whole world changes if you're made like that.

"No one I know "produces" content on an ipad but it's fine for HN comments or management emails. So maybe that's what we want to teach, not sure."

Yet there are thousands of content creation apps on the app store, many of which are very successful. An iPad Pro with keyboard and pencil is extremely capable at content creation. On mine I regularly use mine to write long form fiction, do web development, do iOS prototyping in swift playgrounds, draw and sketch art (pixel and comic book style), sign and annotate pdf's, and sometimes produce electronic music. I'm a software engineer by day and a indie game dev at night. For many of the content creation tasks I need the iPad Pro is among the best tools available.

iPads with Apple’s stylus are amazing tools for illustration, hand-drawing diagrams, sketching out ideas, proofreading PDF files, taking technical notes, doing mathematical scratch work, and so on.

Think of it like a notebook/scrapbook with pens/markers that doesn’t take any consumables, takes up less space in a bag, allows undo/redo, and makes sharing the products digitally a snap.

Works best when used alongside a laptop, rather than as a replacement, at least for me. I certainly wouldn’t want to write code on it full time.

Agree, it's wonderful except for thinking clearly about things and clearly expressing them in other terms than a diagram. And in the iPaid view of the world, if you write a responsive comment, only paid subscribers will see it. Because that's "premium content".

I have no idea what you’re getting at with “iPaid”, “responsive comment”, “only paid subscribers”, etc. Seems like a weird off topic rant that has nothing to do with my comment or the thread in general.

For pen input, the iPad (display, stylus/digitizer, software) is better than anything you could buy for 50x the price a decade ago. For me, it’s not as good a general-purpose computer as a 10-year-old laptop, but it’s also not really supposed to be. There’s room in the world for more than one vision of computing to exist side by side.

Yep, this is exactly what I do with my Surface - except then I do code on it, which is why I picked it instead of an iPad pro. This one device has replaced my MacBook pro while still letting me sketch and draw and annotate.

I tried a few versions of Surface, but I found the Apple stylus to have about half the latency (or maybe less), with better precision/accuracy, and the signal processing done by the software I tried to convert pen inputs to strokes/lines seemed more polished/effective.

I’m sure there are some customers / use cases where those differences aren’t a deal-breaker. Personally I really appreciate it. I have been very impressed with the iPad pen input. It’s clear their hardware and software engineers collaborated closely to make a really impressive device and experience. (Again, as long as you mainly are using pen input.)

It’s possible there’s other software out there that does a better job than Microsoft’s first party stuff or the couple of third-party apps I tried.

It's not very enterprisey, but Tiny Core Linux works great for this -- runs completely in memory, doesn't even mount the partition with the OS on it. Real Linux, but also pretty hard to do permanent damage by mistake. (Easy to make the system not bootable on purpose, but just as easy to restore.)

I think jailbreaking is for when you're doing something the device manufacturer deliberately tries to interfere with.

There's a package called "crouton" which makes it fairly simple to run a full Linux distribution alongside Chrome OS, as long as you switch it into developer mode (which is simple*). The trouble there is that it's not the sort of thing you would want to administrate in bulk.

Chromebooks are capable of running custom operating systems by design. Granted, you need to void the warranty (take out the firmware lock screw) to make another operating system the default boot option, for security reasons.

And of course, to manage custom images on Chromebooks for a general classroom environment could be hard.

Personally I think that the idea of the "school computer" is terrible. Schools should issue laptops which are maintained and administered by the student; otherwise students are just being taught helplessness. The only problem with this is that school boards typically buy a wide range of abysmal proprietary packages which are usually locked to a single OS vendor.

jailbreaking is when you thwart a freeBSD style jail. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FreeBSD_jail

> install a hex editor

> I don't think that's possible on a Chromebook.

First google result for "web hex editor": https://hexed.it/

Took me 10 seconds to open, including googling for it.

That relies on a Node.js back-end... don't think it's possible to install it onto a Chromebook. You'd have to have to go to the web page.

If you have any experience with a large class of children, I'll bet you can guess how long most will be patient sitting in front of a web browser at school without thinking about loading another page.

This doesn't seem like a tech problem, then.

Not being able to install apps to a machine absolutely is a tech problem.


Doesn't seem necessary on any level, though. Nothing about hex editing needs to be an app instead of a web page. If that were true, my computer education would have been crippling--especially in high school. I think you're projecting on your students.

> I'm also opposed to any device that hides away the file system from the user. It relegates a computer to the dumb appliance category which I think is unhelpful.

Depends on the use case. So in your case where you teach programming, it makes sense, but there are legitimate cases where it makes sense to not expose the filesystem directly and disallow native apps. This has the benefit of better security.

> there are legitimate cases where it makes sense to not expose the filesystem directly and disallow native apps. This has the benefit of better security.

I always found the better security argument to be a red herring in a school environment and always pushed back against it. If a computer breaks then re-image it. malware spreading? Wonderful! There's an amazing learning opportunity!!

The point is moot at my school now though as all students are required to bring their own device (Mac or PC), and of course they have full control over their own system. As it should be ;)

That's a much better situation than I've seen at many schools. Good on 'em. The school computer has been the worst one since the home computer started being practical.

It's a school, and people are there to learn. Knowing how to maintain a computer is a pretty darn useful life skill.

Indeed but in a class on geography it can make the teachers life easier if the students can focus on the 3-7 applications you want to use throughout the year and those are 1 click away rather than a download+install procedure away. Not every class will want/need to teach computer maintenance.

If you want teachers & students to use tech it needs to be truly frictionless.

I love my daily typing with the elevator. (me)->floor[6+1]

The schools I went to we had 1-7 in a primary school, and 8-12 in high school. Sometimes there's also college which is for years 11-12 (and sometimes 13), so it depends on which state and schools you go to.

Also we never really did any programming at school what so ever when I did it, I learnt it all myself at home hacking around doing useless things on my home computer. The closest we got was learning a few features and formulas for Excel, and a bit of databases in Access. There was a tiny bit of Visual Basic as well but that might have been tied together with the Access stuff.

What I found about your story most interesting is how you teach them how to look inside files with a hex editor. That sort of stuff seems like fundamental knowledge for people that use computers, and learning it could de-mystify computing somewhat.

I'm not sure if that's something people should have to learn though. For example, not everyone knows how the engine of a car works, and that's okay. For using computers, I feel like getting comfortable with a phone or tablet is useful at a younger age, and maybe get introduced to a mac or windows machine when they're a bit older, provided those are still main stream by the time they get there. Not everyone needs to be a developer. Though maybe I'm wrong with the way automation is going :)

I know, I had the exact same thoughts while writing it, so it's heavily influenced by what I do.

But on the other hand car engines aren't that complicated either, not a lot of people tend to look under the hood and tinker with their engine either. But at least knowing the components of a system gives you some confidence in using it. It's not necessarily the engine but knowing how to change a car tyre, or a light bulb is helpful and can feel empowering.

> I also teach Web dev. We use MAMP which is cross platform. We install VSCode, interact with the FS, create a local DB, file uploads, programmatic image resizing etc. My understanding is that this is not possible without jailbreaking (is that the right term?) a Chromebook.

Sure, you can't do that locally on a Chromebook without breaking out of the default system paradigm (I'm not sure it's technically jailbreaking, but that's not really important to the point.)

OTOH, if you aren't attached to locality, you can do most of it from a Chromebook without doing that, if you are running appropriate software on the backend to support it (e.g., for pretty much all but the "install VSCode" part, running something like Eclipse Che.)

If I can ask you, what do you find the benefit is of teaching this as a standard curriculum? It makes sense to me for people wanting to get into development or IT. But not everyone is going into tech, and may not benefit from it. Most non tech people I know only use a computer at work, and get by. Otherwise they use phones, tablets, etc. I agree that the iPad is awful for the kind of things you're teaching, but for standard school work, I feel like it or the chromebook (due to price and a keyboard) are fairly good choices.


By the time you get to your second half of schooling, isn't the point more to expose you to a variety of topics to broaden your base and allow you to explore what you like and what you don't?

You could ask "what do you find the benefits of teaching this as standard curriculum?" about pretty much every middle/high school class:

- Trigonometry? Most people don't need to know how to calculate the pythagorean theorem, only need to occasionally measure stuff with a tape.

- Chemistry? Most people don't need to know the periodic table, only not to mix bleach and ammonia.

- World History? Most people are never going to use all that Byzantine knowledge, just stick to more recent events.

- Foreign Language? Most people are never going to need more than enough to get by on vacation for a week.

- Music? You're never going to pick up that instrument again after graduation.

Now that computing has become an enormous part of life, doesn't it make senses to pull back the curtain a little? It's not like it's going to do them any harm.

Well, it appears that you teach something more akin to CS basics, which is definitively not suited for being taught on an iPad or a Chromebook, indeed... For the rest, I think both devices are fine, especially for younger students. The big issue is content created by the big players in school publishing, that might not be up to par or just come from a quick porting job of older paper content to digital.

I use a Chromebook as my primary college as a CS student in college. Look up Crouton, it lets you chroot into Ubuntu and Debian distros. From there, you can install native programs with ease, and you still get the Chromebook price.

Wow, that's impressive. Computer education in the 80-90s in the US seems somewhat lacking by comparison. For me 3-5th grade was Oregan Trail, 6-8th was Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, and 9-12th was typing using the Edit command in Dos and saving to a floppy.

I think it depends on where you were. I was in Minnesota and we had these guys: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MECC

We had LogoWriter in elementary school. We were programming at a very young age without really knowing that's what we were doing. (We also had this typing software with monsters or something that was easily gamed; it didn't check for errors. So you could type quickly, erase everything you typed, then type it correctly and you'd get something like 350 wpm.)

(I moved to a new district between elementary and middle school.)

In middle school I vaguely recall doing some kind of programming on commodore 64s.

In high school we had a BASIC programming class and also an AP Computer Science class in which we learned a little bit about programming Pascal. Some students did an independent study to learn C, but failed miserably - probably had no real support.

But honestly, I learned the most when I would stay overnight at my cousin's house and hack away at my uncle's computer (PC w/ I think MS-DOS) unsupervised. I broke it a few times, but was always terrified enough to figure out how to fix it. He had a few manuals, and I went through trying all kinds of commands. Figuring out why UNDELETE never worked taught me a bit about how hard disks were used by the OS, stuff like that.

For me, (rural PA, early 1990s) it was exactly that, but we had one teacher who was kind of into computers and they let him run--for grade 12 seniors only---a very, VERY basic programming class consisting of old (for the time) IBM PCs and UCSD Pascal. As the rest of the class was struggling to put the floppy disks in the right way, I spent the first week finishing up all of the year's worth of assignments so I could use the rest of the year to screw around and try to make games, write joke programs to mess with fellow students, etc. Fun class, got me excited about structured programming languages as opposed to BASIC, but pretty inadequate if your goal was to prepare future software engineers.

> "Year 7" is not high school in the US.

Maybe we could all agree to just use pupil age in these discussions, to avoid the international confusion between "year 7", "4th grade", "primary 6", "middle school", "6th form", and all of the other country-specific nomenclature.

I don't think that's entirely reasonable in a discussion about schooling as curricula in different countries differ considerably. A 17 year old Chemistry student in Victoria, Australia might be learning about how to read NMR spectrograms and some common industrial chemical processes [0], a 17 year old Chemistry student in Texas, USA might be learning about the chemical processes involved in genetics [1].

0: http://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/Documents/vce/chemistry/Chemistry...

1: https://www.kleinisd.net/users/0138/Chemistry_Scope_and_Sequ...

Different places teach different things at different times, so I don't think equating ages works very well.

Can't speak for OP, but in Australia we only have Primary (K-6) and High (7-12) school.

Edit: Yup, their website lists them as being in Adelaide.

"Year 7" is not high school in the US. That is distinctly junior/middle school.

Year 7 is also the first year of secondary school (high school) in the UK.

High school in the US == 6th Form in the UK.

No, 6th form is from 16 to 18 years.

Which is almost exactly what high school is in some parts of the US (that is, in places where it is 10-12 grade.)

The thing is, while the US tends to have the Elementary/Middle or Junior High/(Senior) High split in most places, the grade levels aren't the same.

I've seen (and this may not be exhaustive) the splits with the following grade levels:




Two more splits: In my hometown (in Tennessee), the split was originally K-3/4-8/9-12, but around 2000 they completed the construction of a new high school, so the old high school became the new junior high and grades 4-8 got redistributed so that it was now K-2/3-5/6-8/9-12.

While you could always run python on windows have the WSL is a big deal for education. You can get away with running a pretty modest system and still be able to run ruby on rails and mysql or postgresql on even a modest atom based laptop.

His user profile shows he is in Australia.

Chromebooks are the best, my school has them, and they're 100% usable in all non-tech classes. Battery lasts forever, great for typing, and everything is a web app anyway.

We had iPads at one point, but luckily the school realised those were bad and I haven't seen them this year at all.

I also see comments about programming on them, that'd be painful. For everything else (that matters at school) though it's 10/10.

Isn't programming on a chromebook just a guacamole session away?

I could see giving kids access to a unix system via guacamole or a similar shell-in-browser solution and letting them run riot.


For younger programming classes I try to lean towards using Scratch which is in browser. For the older classes I'll usually set up a terminal server and let them login to it.

To help smooth the process of having them program on their own, I send home a writeup with how to install everything on a home computer for different operating systems, how to ask questions on StackOverflow and give an email address I have manned by other students that like responsibility.

I've worked off of them a few times, they're basically useless without internet is the only major drawback - if you connect to a RDP session the battery will last forever.

> I also see comments about programming on them, that'd be painful.

There are plenty of programming-in-a-browser tools available that are far from painful, plus now that they support Android apps, there's plenty of Android-based programming tools that are non-painful.

Not really. It's quite easy with Crouton installed.

Crouton is not ChromeOS.

I didn't say it was. It's an option you can explore if you need to extend the functionality of the Chromebook.

Surface RT's were an amazing step for our school. Had full office suite, a stand with a magnetic detachable keyboard, usb port, and was the same stuff we'd be using on the desktops. So, we could write up essays right on our desk, or do research, right there. Could then transfer that data to another computer at home if we wanted, or plug in a mouse to do some quick research.

But, Microsoft refused to fix the problems with them. Sometimes you'd push the power button to put them to sleep/turn off the screen, and it wouldn't come back up without turning it off, losing your work. They refused to allow domain policy, so the school had to manually configure each one of them. For our small school, it was doable, but a larger school I could not imagine that.

They were cheap, productive, compatible, and problematic.

Microsoft had their chance at education, and they shot it down, hard.

That's a big one. How do you sell a computer in an enterprise or institutional environment and not allow that.

Wife is a HS teacher that has access to Chromebooks (CBs): Yes, they are useless. Even if you could get the 35+ kids per class to stop sending each other pics of their sex-organs during class the CBs are still futile. The district has mandated that you cannot use a CB without logging into the main district server. That is fine and dandy, but the wireless routers only have so much bandwidth, so you can only have ~15 kids per router logged on until they are auto kicked off. That then starts a ring-around-the-rosy of kids trying to log back in and kicking others off the wireless. Bonus points because there is only 1 router per ~5 classrooms. The CBs are also on a cart to be used and so my wife has to push that to each class she is in, so trying to get all the CBs out, set up with the lab, logged into, made actually useful, then logged out of and put back, charging, and ready to be pushed to the next room is difficult to do in the allotted class time. There are not enough classrooms in the school for the kids, so they have many 'lunch' periods that kids alternate in so some can be in class while others sit in the hall. Again, this clogs up the wireless routers too. Also, the Mirai botnet clones are still attacking the central district server and causing havoc with trying to log into it to make the CBs useful. As such, its a total gamble if the CBs will function at all on any given day and between classes or within a class period.

Maybe the CBs are not the culprit, but the whole system has made then useless to everyone but the company that sold them to the district. iPads are just finessed off to pawn shops for cash by the kids, so they never really took hold to begin with.

What I find the most frustrating on ipad is content selection. Particularly in the browser, where I do that a lot when I want to google what I read about. The text selection in safari is absolutely useless.

...and non-existing in many apps. I really hate how it is up to the app maker to allow/dissalow text selection.

There's two strong separate issues here:

1. pricing, no-brainer.

2. The two sometimes noticable conflicting goals of making no/low-effort admin computers and teaching kids to handle computers/do general things with them

nr2 there's no all-around answer to but my bias is towards something like the chromebook atleast even if execution might be flawed.

If chromebooks had the option of plugging in a usb drive that could open "portable apps"-style programs + save files it would be a really great option for classrooms (or, really, anything)

Those crazy web-only restrictions hit fast

The biggest problem I saw was the inability to mass-create Apple ID's for all the iPads. Leading the classroom through doing so was very frustrating.

Our kids just brought home a sheet of paper together with the iPad, detailing the instructions for creating the Apple IDs, which was left as a home exercise with parents. I don't remember it being especially difficult; but no idea how many families ended up contacting the teacher to get over a problem.

You're probably right about the schools, but I want to disagree with you about content creation in general.

I'm using my iPad for painting, writing, video creation every day. It is extremely useful and convenient for my purposes. It has a specific niche, and might not be for everyone, but I very often prefer it for specific tasks.

At this point, writing(in Editorial) for me is pretty much as convenient as writing on my laptop. I wouldn't code on ipad, but for notes(which I take a huge amount of) and fiction it's perfect.

And since they've introduced the stylus, it's insanely great for painting(in Procreate). I have a wacom tablet, but I still use my ipad all the time. And I can record the video tutorials, or stream my painting process on twitch, it's really cool.

And if I need to, I can use Pinnacle Pro to edit my videos, narrate voiceover over them, and publish them on youtube.

So the whole creative process - script writing, video recording, editing - can be done entirely on my tablet. I find it extremely cool.


For example:

- Here's a video I've made entirely on the ipad:


(sorry for the annoying voiceover, I'm working on getting better at it)

- And here's the collection of my favorite art made by other people:


Fiction writing on touch screen keyboard is as good as your laptop's keyboard? I can sort of understand the painting/video creation even though I don't do either. But I would guess you would be a special minority in the writing department.

He probably has a keyboard, but students don't.

Even then, he's wrong. There are power tools such as Scrivener which have no equivalent outside the PC ecosystem.

What? Scrivener has LONG had a iPad version


Also Bear is another amazing iPad writing app. As good or better than anything on PC IMO. Clearly he's not "wrong", it's almost like people who like the iPad for content creation actually may know what they are talking about.

Leaving aside that I'm on Android...

That's still version 1. It won't even open my files.

The versions are different across platforms. Version 1 on iOS WILL open desktop version 2 files. Here is their site where they talk about that: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener_ios.php

Also we are talking about iOS and Apple in this thread not sure what Android has to do with it.

I borrowed an iPad and tried it. The app crashed on trying to open one of my files.

What they claim to support, and what they actually do support, are not necessarily the same thing.

Yes you're absolutely right, the IPad is great for creative/artistic work. My comment reflects my own bias. I'm an IT teacher so I'm teaching computing fundamentals, coding, game dev, web dev etc, and for those activities an iPad/Chromebook is not up to the job.

My kids used iPads at a previous school and I was initially thrilled, but that faded immediately when I saw one of them trying to type an essay on it. I think iPads can be useful tools for some things (reading, studying, learning), but even with an external keyboard they suck for writing/creating anything.

> Chromebooks are rubbish too, so I don't really see the move to them as a positive either.

You get what you pay for with Chromebooks. The school my kids are at now started giving Chromebooks to older kids and the initial ones were seriously underpowered with terrible low-res screens. We ended up buying my oldest an Acer Chromebook for $300 (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MHX6TIA/). It has a full HD screen and can actually handle multiple tabs and apps running in the background.

For anything other than a serious programming class I would highly recommend Chromebooks for schools, but you need to push for a usable one.

Anecdote on keyboards & iPads: My brother was attending a high school that was experimenting with iPads for students, and humanities classes especially felt this. I bought him a decent external keyboard case and he told me his friends all followed suit, as it was like the "missing link" to making the iPad accomplish like 90% of what he needs.

Separately, I think that the better market opportunity would be for a cheap-ass Surface model -- essentially sitting below the Surface Pro line -- that could be marketed at the education market. I know MSFT has been pushing OneNote for classrooms, agnostic to the medium for how it's accessed, but the Surface pen + keyboard + tablet combination is something I WISH i had in high school

So the Surface 3, then.

Too bad Intel canceled development on that processor line so they can't make a new one.

In my children's schools, I get the impression the iPad is meant to replace textbooks, and not to be used as a general computing device.

Now, it doesn't replace a textbook with an eBook or iBook, but rather with a plethora of crappy web pages.

My kids use chromebooks and for writing papers, managing accounts, etc I can't think of any better option.

>Chromebooks are rubbish too, so I don't really see the move to them as a positive either.


But what's the point of that ? Why not buy any laptop if you want to run linux ? If all you are worried about is cost, a thinkpad from a couple gens ago will cost about as much, and will do a lot more than a chromebook with a shitty processor and possibly soldered ram + hard drive.

To have the benefits of ChromeOS full time and the option to use Linux part time.

What are the benefits of ChromeOS compared to standard GNU/Linux ? The main benefits are 1) Better security model and updates 2) Easier to use. 1) Goes out of the window once you flip that developers switch. Not to mention crouton/vm/dual-boot etc. are fine for mucking around. You can't use that in any sane way if you have to deploy and maintain hundreds of machines for a school. Regarding 2), I can't comment on usability since I haven't used ChromeOS, but I don't think there's going to be a world of difference compared to a modern distro.

Yes, a mass deployment of Crouton may not be feasible, but in edge cases where a teacher wants to use the additional capability of Linux for their curriculum then it's certainly a manageable and viable solution. And the ability to instantly flip back and forth between the two OS's is icing on the cake.

If it isn't running ChromeOS it isn't a Chromebook experience any longer.

Actually, it is running ChromeOS. You can switch back and forth between Linux and ChromeOS quite easily because they're both running simultaneously.

That Linux experience isn't a ChromeOS feature, rather something that one with developer experience needs to dig on Google forums and not exposed to the regular users that buy Chromebooks.

No one said it was a ChromeOS feature. It's an option for the more technically inclined to expand the functionality of their Chromebook with the added benefit of being able to switch back in an instant.

Have you tried EndlessOS ? I haven't, but I would be curious to know what people involved with education think. It is probably better suited for places which don't have good internet, but that aside, I still think it looks promising. I saw their promo video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgUzdb3S2uA), and it has that vibe that Ubuntu originally had when they were new (with the whole linux for human beings thing and free CDs). It also has some new ideas regarding package management with ostree + flatpak.

For the topics of stuff like coding, image manipulation, file manipulation, etc... would a raspberry pi cover your teaching needs (That IS what they were made for).

The pros I see would be: size, price, similarity to desktop environment vs iOS

The potential flaws I see would be: Linux isn't windows, speed (maybe for image manipulation an issue?), not mobile (this would have to be an a computer lab), would require someone to set up.

My mother's school toyed with iPads for a few years. According to her, the biggest problem is that trying to print from them was a nightmare. I dunno whether that is a lack of driver support, the school IT being too ignorant to set things up properly, a combination of the two, or something else, but it didn't Just Work.

I've been skeptical of mobile devices in the classroom for awhile now. They just seem like distraction machines. Which I admit sounds weirdly luddite for someone who makes a career working with technology.

I think you are right to be skeptical. In my experience (sitting near/behind students with laptops in class), the laptops are used more for web browsing than for note taking. This distracts multiple people because your eyes can't help but look at the laptop every time the screen changes. My experience is from college and graduate school. But, I can only imagine that high school students are more prone to distraction and will always be able to find the next chat/messaging client before administration blocks it.

Yeah, typing on glass screens is probably the worst thing about tech today. Autocomplete is pretty good, I'd say, but it doesn't matter.

If you see iPads as a hindrance to education, you are a terrible teacher. If I had been given access to an iPad at age 10, I would have been completely, endlessly obsessed with the possibilities of it. As it was, I had access to a TRS80 at that age, and I had to fight the fussy old math teacher to get access to it, let alone any meaningful instruction or encouragement to match my curiosity. Meanwhile, the same teachers kept an Apple II in their office strictly off limits from students except their favorites. Even if it isn't your favorite tool in 2017, an iPad is literally the kind of thing I dreamt of when I was a kid. If you can't make that work in the classroom, you're failing.

Can you code (and teach how to code) on an iPad in an efficient and effortless way? The "terrible teacher" didn't just bash on the device, they listed some use cases for which it is clearly not the best tool around.

> If you see iPads as a hindrance to education, you are a terrible teacher.

Personal attacks are frowned upon here.

People who live in glass houses...

> If I had been given access to an iPad at age 10, I would have been completely, endlessly obsessed with the possibilities of it...

You could have very well made the rest of your point without the personal attack, which was quite unnecessary and unfounded.

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