They use Lenovo Chromebooks which are built like brick sh*thouses with proper full-travel keyboards and touchscreens.
Chromebooks work, and I am a big fan of them in education. I have a pretty good idea how hard our teachers work, and I'd hate to think of the Windows bullshit being imposed them, like it's imposed on me and my coworkers.
Chromebooks free up teachers and IT admins from Windows update administration, anti-virus software install and administration at the computer level, and from most other malware other than browser extension malware.
Google Docs is incredible and a huge step forward to the point that where possible, most of my own notes are accessible to me from anywhere I can get into my Google account.
For a child, this means they no longer have to schlep a laptop around. Just an account and a Chromebook or other thin client are needed.
I'm a big fan of Microsoft's recent changes, and generally a pretty heavy Windows user warts and all, but it's interesting that Microsoft have never been able to make say cross-machine sync'd folders work, despite pushing it for like 15 years, whereas DropBox has built a giant business from it.
Microsoft used to have a Briefcase icon on desktops for offline file syncing. It used to work for those who used it effectively (it was under used of course). But yes, Dropbox went further than anyone else.
Yes, woefully underused. But in those days networked storage was difficult to set up and removable media meant ZIP drives. Today we have The Cloud™, aka PFM that just works.
Months later, everything in there just... disappeared. Gone one day. For reasons that still aren't entirely clear to me. Never (mis)used it again, haha.
Aaaaand this is why non-tech people are terrified that their computers will bite them.
The client is slow and unreliable, had problems with conflicts and the service doesn't do file versioning, thus your files being susceptible to ransomware or random mistakes.
And I am a bona fide Microsoft fanboy former employee of 15 years!
And inaccessible forever if you lose access or get banned from your Google account.
All of our documents and apps (Word, Excel, Outlook, OneDrive) are available in any browser.
An example: To install an app for all students on the iPads, we need to plug them all in to a big USB hub, then connect a Mac with management software to it and run a sync procedure. It fails on about 10% of the devices, so we run it again. Each run takes several minutes. There are over-the-air methods for doing this, but they're corporate solutions not provided by Apple and are pretty expensive.
So given all that, if ChromeBooks promise per-user customization and document storage with much simpler administration, it's no wonder they're taking over.
This is why I have always wanted schools to start using Linux.
When I use Windows or OS X, and I want a program to do a thing, I have to sift for hours through half-baked $20 tools that claim to do that thing until I find the free one that does it well. In Debian/Ubuntu/Nix/etc., there's a package for that.
The goal is to maintain these systems. The least maintainable operating systems I have ever used are Windows and OS X. To contrast: the most maintainable operating systems I have ever used are NixOS, Android, Archlinux, and Ubuntu (in that order).
When I was in high school, all the computers were running Windows (XP to 7 depending on the date) and Deep Freeze. Deep Freeze is a "commercial solution" that runs windows like a Live CD (All filesystem writes go to a tmpfs that disappears at reboot). Every time we went to the "computer lab", we would have to wait ~10min. (not kidding here) for windows to boot. If we wanted persistent storage (to save homework), we would need to use our own (USB storage, email, etc.) I, and a few of my friends, learned the password to disable Deep Freeze, so we could have persistent storage, and secretly abused it. "C:\persis.sys\[Starcraft, Warcraft, OpenLieroX, HaloCE, etc.]" stuck around for a few years after my graduation.
The geek that I was, I eventually moved up to carrying around a flash drive with tinycore, and a floppy to boot it (those systems just predated USB boot). When we went to the computer lab, I popped in my floppy and flash drive, and within a minute had Linux running on a ramdisk, and Chrome at my fingertips. At least 5min. passed before anyone else could log in to Windows.
End Story Time
Windows has gotten much more maintainable, and usable, but still hasn't even approached what Ubuntu was more than 10 years ago. The fact that Microsoft software is the status quo sickens me. We have failed our communities by letting that perpetuate. We have wasted thousands upon thousands of tax dollars on this issue when free software has been readily available, and far superior. There is no excuse.
Sounds like they are old and haven't been maintained properly.
I have experience with small (~200) and large (~6,000) professionally maintained Windows installations. They operate like a finely tuned engine, allowing you to focus on your core work.
And that's the key. There are hacks who call themselves "IT" and there are true IT folks who have the training and knowledge to do things right the first time around.
Prior to my first experience with professionally managed Windows installations I had completely ignored that entire world. We built our own computers --save laptops-- and every installation, save the initial image, was locally managed by the engineer running that machine. Works great. No question about it.
From experience with 20~30 machine installations, I can't remember a single serious issue in, say, 20+ years other than a hard drive failure. No real hardware failures outside of that. No viruses or any such problems in, again, 20+ years and multiple generations of OS and hardware. The key, I'll guess, is to buy good hardware and install good software.
And so, when I read accounts that describe nightmares I have to wonder what people might be doing. I don't understand it at all. I've been using PC's since the very original IBM PC and I can't remember a nightmare scenario, ever.
As for Mac's and iPads. I've had experience with ~200 seat Mac installations. They have the same issues PC's might have. The only "nightmare" I could point out is that, generally speaking, Mac users are utterly clueless. This excludes developers, of course. I saw IT burn time with the dumbest issues, whereas the PC users in the same business (about 200 as well) really only consumed IT time when there were hardware or software installation issues for the most part.
iPad's? I consider them to be useless for but a narrow set of business or educational applications. Cash register? Sure. Authoring documents and doing heavy web work? Nope. In general terms I am pretty down on tablets. I think they've manage to ruin desktop software. The transition of something like Skype from a computer-class application to mobile-first turned the program into a circus act that uses 10x more screen space for everything. Touch, as far as I am concerned, for business and other applications, is bullshit.
Chromebook is a far better choice, one that is easy to manage and deploy.
That is the heart of the issue. Maintenance should not be so difficult. It has generally been a non-issue for most Linux distros for over a decade. Windows maintenance is difficult on purpose. There is an entire economy based on windows maintenance. It's not just a headache, it's like shooting yourself in the foot.
> There are hacks who call themselves "IT" and there are true IT folks who have the training and knowledge to do things right the first time around.
Since we are talking about public schools, I accept the reality that there will, more often than not, be a "hack" employed. Even so, their job should be that easy. The reason that it is not is that Windows promotes a culture of "hacks" and misinformation. GNU/Linux has the opposite culture, and it's free.
And a side note, I was a Windows user for a decade and have now been a Mac user for a decade and the level of maintenance required for a Mac is _easily_ an order of magnitude less than Windows.
That's still generally the case, but it's worth mentioning that over the last decade, Windows has improved significantly. It's still the worst OS, but it's a lot closer to OS X now.
After decades of innovation, we now have operating systems like NixOS and Guix that are inherently maintainable in ways Windows and OS X can only dream of. If we had a user-friendly NixOS (or Guix) for schools, etc. it would be trivial, even for teachers and volunteers, to maintain hundreds, or even thousands of systems.
That said, after reading Dave Eggers' excellent book "The Circle" last year and having watched the movie yesterday, I was reminded of the dangers (even if fictional in the case of the book) of a monopoly controlling knowledge. The book/movie is obviously about Google and information monopolies even if the fictional company is named The Circle. Buying the education business with free/inexpensive services definitely increases Google's chance of being the information monopoly.
Personally I like to pay for services. I pay for FastMail and just use GMail as a backup email. I pay for Evernote instead of using free offerings like Keep. I pay for Office 365 to get lots of cloud storage and the Office apps for the rare times when I need them. I pay for using GCP and I buy movies and TV shows from Google Play and Apple. It is a cliche, but I like to be the customer and not the product.
I understand that School districts are on a tight budget, so it is understandable that they make use of free (or priced under-market) services.
"So from the beginning, kings had an incentive to make the country 'legible' – that is, so organized and well-indexed that it was easy to know everything about everyone and collect/double-check taxes. Also from the beginning, nobles had an incentive to frustrate the kings so that they wouldn’t be out of a job. And commoners, who figured that anything which made it easier for the State to tax them and interfere in their affairs was bad news, usually resisted too."
So this resistance to being indexed has very deep roots! But I think we're way past that point now. Being "undocumented" makes it very hard to participate in society.
The fact that Google is providing a subjectively better alternative isn't remotely new, but if it works better and see lower cost to schools, I'm more than happy to see it happen.
You think this is altruism? It's getting kids hooked early. Everything Google does is about getting more eyeballs on more ads, never forget that.
Who is we? The state? I don't trust the state to be able to fix this. Remember the launch of healthcare.gov? Google employees had to step in to fix it to make it usable.
But I don't feel like it.
Practically guaranteed returns. Just teaching a child to read is probably more than break-even for every education dollar spent on the child.
It makes time traveling to get in on the ground floor of Facebook, Google, and Apple look like investing in treasury bonds.
Google is darn near close to a monopoly on search (at least, Peter Thiel made that the premise of Zero to One), which isn't to say they're also a monopolist in every other field they're in.
I like Google since they're one of the few companies that has a 20+ year record of being careful with user data, but how much they control (or at least facilitate) is pretty scary from an objective viewpoint.
An information good is one for which it's very cheap to produce additional units. Unfortunately, I'm probably abusing the term, since books are listed as an example of information goods. The idea is that most of the cost of producing the book goes into the content (writing, editing, etc.) and actually printing one additional book is cheap. (When I said books are "imperfect" information goods I meant that they still require paper and shipping and retailing and such, but it's probably just a bad use of the term.)
There's a fantastic book about the economics of information goods called "Information Rules" ( https://www.amazon.com/dp/087584863X ). Software is an information good so this covers some topics relevant to the digital economy. My favorite part is the chapter on lock-in. In particular the discussion around the equation:
profits from a customer = quality advantage + switching costs
which puts "(marginal) goodness of your product" on equal footing with "pain you can inflict on your customer for leaving".
If Google is the monopoly in the sense that the OP describes, then a unified Internet itself is a bigger monopoly. Break apart the monolith of the Internet itself, and you have more player contending equally in facilitating search etc.
Google's core technology is search facility. If someone does this better than them, then there will be no monopoly. The core feature of printing press stood as is for longest period of time (even Xerox did not bring anything "new" to the table). That's, until the Internet in fact, was able to put a dent on the core invention of printing press. People are now reading on their screens, where as previously, they used to read only on the paper.
You are stuck with the short-term view of monopolies and privacy issues. We wouldn't be surprised if there was a big brouhaha over privacy during the time of the invention of printing press (ask any religious scholar what they have to say about the history of churches against the advancement of technology and knowledge).
The problem is, this isn't necessarily true. Microsoft used to make the same argument in the '90s. The point is when you get entrenched in so many areas it becomes hard to switch. It's a network effect of information rather than people. There would have to be a significant improvement in order for people to switch (with some other motivation, like political).
In bothe these areas, and others, they benefit by network effects, which I'm coming to see as foundational to natural monopoly and rent-seeking.
I simply don't understand what you're trying to say by mentioning the printing press in this context, though you might want to look up its particular disruptive history. Elizabeth Eisenstein is recommended reading.
Now, your kids are the next product.
Mr. Rochelle, the Google executive, said that it was important for the company to have large, diverse sets of educational users giving feedback — otherwise it might develop products that worked for only a few of them.
Why would they fail to provide that breakdown?
Because then they would have to admit they're building a profile of that child from the minute they start early school, and how strange that would be.
Wow. Back when I worked for Boeing on the 757 design, there were engineers that were "formula pluggers" who pulled formulas out of manuals and used them. Then there were engineers who understood the formulas - where they came from, what assumptions they were based on, and how to derive them.
The latter used the formulas correctly, the former often blindly misused and misapplied them.
Googling for a formula is not how proper engineering is done.
Google and Google products are not commodified and generic tools of thought. In fact they are the exact opposite. They're contextualized and proprietary. We are doing ourselves a disservice in the long run by letting them get a leg up in education.
The best thing that happened to me was learning math in post-soviet Armenia. To this day I still think best with pencil and paper and can put other computational tools in the proper context. Whereas growing up with Google branded products I imagine would have had a much different effect. There was one thing the communists got right and that was science education.
Take a read of the 350+ comments on the NYTimes article to see how thrilled actual parents and teachers are about all of this.
I don't see how letting Google take the lead is fixing that fundamental issue. It is not in their best interest to do that no matter how you slice it. By Google I mean the corporate entity and not the people working within it.
* The longform is fairly complex, so it is non-trivial to remember or recount. You can't just guess it (at least without knowledge well beyond it). So it looks like "magic".
* It is a great introduction to what formulas are. They are non-trivial proofs of concepts that took research and logic to conclude.
Learning logic and learning patterns, especially the non-obvious ones like the qf, are what promote analytical thinking. We need more of that, not less. Maybe the problem is more that kids are shown a magic formula and made to mechanically repeat it on a couple dozen data sets than to actually learn how to reach conclusions like the qf. Making kids proof it would probably be more valuable than making them repeatedly use it beyond a few times to assure them it is valid magic math.
Teaching how to derive the formula, why it works, etc., is very useful (even if one never needs to use it in post school life).
Googling for answers is not learning. It's like lifting weights with a forklift is not exercising.
The point is to understand. Having some software do it for you does not help with that.
A system that cuts out a whole range of career paths simply because as a kid someone didn't like maths, is a bad one. Kids don't know what they need in life. That's why our culture takes decisions away from them until they are 18.
And just to be clear, quadratic equation is basic math, and not anywhere close to 'prepping a kid to be a neurosurgeon'.
“I cannot answer for them
what they are going to do
with the quadratic equation.
I don’t know why they are
This sounds disingenuous to me. There are lots of things kids and college students and adults learn that have no immediately foreseeable application. I'm sure most people on HN have thought about it. I wonder what the consensus is.
My take is that learning how to use technology should not be a classroom priority, for many reasons. One of those reasons is that there is no guarantee that whatever tech you learn will stick around. I had a high school teacher insist that we use Ask Jeeves rather than Google because she "liked it better."
It feels as if the adoption of Google products is driven much more by convenience for the school system than by a strong belief that it improves learning. I'm not an expert, but I remember reading more than once that technology doesn't seem to have a meaningful main effect on learning (though perhaps has a mild interaction effect with the teacher.)
The article itself barely addresses the question of learning outcomes, and focuses so much more on privacy.
In general I think being forced to learn things with no clear application is part of why the school system fails so many people.
"It puts Google, and the tech economy, at the center of one of the great debates that has raged in American education for more than a century: whether the purpose of public schools is to turn out knowledgeable citizens or skilled workers."
I guess over time I've started leaning more toward "knowledgeable citizens," but I don't know why they need to be mutually exclusive.
Continuation of that quote is no better. You wont even recognize utility of quadratic equation in more complicated equation (exercise) if you do not understand and remember it - much less google it. You will simply fail at solving it. There is also big difference between people who know history enough to see something suspicious when they see bad history and people who believe everything they read on random discussion forums.
I think that changing tech school to use because new tech is more convenient to administer is perfectly good reason on itself. I don't know why everyone needs to bs about "transforming education" each time. However, I would much rather have education transformed by people who a.) value learning b.) can explain what quadratic formula is useful for c.) have knowledge of education theory (they dont need to agree with most of it, but they should know what it is they disagree with).
Ok, but there are plenty of aspects of using tech that transcend the lifetime of the actually device you are using. Coding, of course, is timeless, but even the basic idea of experimenting/discovery within a UI is something that many older adults lack from not having tech when they were younger.
Do we really think that 20 years from now students will look back fondly and remember their old Lenovo Chromebook? Or will they remember the teacher that took the time out to make an impact in their lives?
Technology changes, it's impossible to keep up. Human interaction is a constant over all these years and advances.
Ideally you pay attention to the people who have done some teaching and know something about tech like Sal Khan. He understood what tools kids need only after spending a bunch of time teaching kids.
Tech is not magic just like information access is not magic. Libraries have existed for a longer time than schools have but we don't send our kids to libraries cause a good guide makes more of a diff in where kids end up in life than just access and tools.
You can. It has been in Draw and Impress for a long time, and since LibreOffice 5.0 it's supported in Writer and Calc as well. 5.0 was released 2 years ago.
In 2013 only 60% of children had internet access at home in the U.S.
It might not seem like a big deal for HN readers, but computer access is still a really, really big deal for kids in the U.S.
But this way? Sorry, but after the past years you can’t honestly believe this is pure altruism.
Of course it's not. That doesn't mean all parties can't benefit.
Anything shy of pure altruism regarding schools for young children should be considered automatically evil. Making profit with children is always bad.
I have around 15 students, and afaik all of them use Android. Most of them are 13-14 years old. They have absolutely no understanding of how advertising-based businesses work, a poor knowledge of privacy settings or the workings of data deletion, nor do they have any remotely adult conception of why they should worry about those things.
They share everything. Sometimes they even take pictures of my whiteboard doodles.
Google's objective is in plain sight for everyone to see. Imo, this Chromebook move is not good at all.
Ideally they would use a nice maintainable linux distro, but no one is doing that right now, AFAIK.
To me, this is giving Google much more than your privacy, customer loyalty or ad exposure. Your are giving away some of your very basic abilities: if you only learn to search with Google, you will not learn how to reason on your own. Knowledge stored in your brain is of much better use than that on Google, because your brain is capable to perform much more powerful queries on it.
However, using a brain at its maximum power needs years of training, which is what one would really expect to receive in school. This training requires that your brain works on its own, without external help from a search engine, for more or less the same reason you will hardly become a strong cyclist if you train on a motorbike.
Schools should really be wary of too much computer time for children.
Sorry, but this just sounds like propaganda. As an academic, Google is the single most useful tool at my disposal. It doesn't inhibit original thought, but lets me focus on what's actually new by giving me access to things that are already known and available.
No. As long as you understand how a spreadsheet works, and how to use some sort of Word clone, it's trivial to learn the specifics of Microsoft Office.
On the other hand, we are doing the world a service by promoting tools that are more readily available, and less proprietary. It would, however, be more helpful to replace Google Docs with free software like LibreOffice.
Personally prefer Google Apps now.
Btw, kids school they have to use Google as workflow including plagiarism check all based on Google Apps. Pretty amazing and had thought MS Office monopoly unbreakable.
Imagine if Trump decided he no longer wanted to hire anyone for a public sector job, if they are pro-green politics.
Society will come to regret this and I'll probably still be alive to witness it.
Oh, wait, they did exactly that with Gmail.
Well, problem solved! Neither the government nor Google have ever lied to us. ;-)
1. The Google stuff works. I would have loved for that kind of organization and management in my elementary school classes. Google docs is also great and means I don't have to beg my not so wealthy parents for a Microsoft word license (or learn in the 4th grade how to pirate it).
2. Let's not kid ourselves, everyone is going to make a Google account anyway. As long as the school accounts aren't used in collecting ad data (which they're not) this is a non issue.
That still ignores the fact that Google Docs is quality, usable, and much more readily available than LibreOffice/etc.
What we are really talking about here is the move from Microsoft tools to Google tools. That is a move that is entirely positive. Microsoft Office is one of the most - if not the most - prolific suites of proprietary tools in the world right now. Maintaining Windows is an absolute headache, especially when it is constantly being used by hundreds of children/teenagers. OS X is easier, but still not a good alternative. Out of the options most educators find available, Chromebooks are definitely the best.
To convince the next generation not to rely on Microsoft's proprietary software is a huge step in the right direction. While I share your concerns, they are not new, and I welcome this change.
Look at Google Photos now being far better so winning. This is how it is suppose to work.
The only cost is the student's privacy. Gotta get them sucking at the Google teat early, and in to their database as soon as possible.
I wish someone from the GNU/Linux crowd could make a chromebook-like software set that was really Free software.
Also, they've been caught once not keeping kid info private. They'll do it again. But, free.
From [Common questions about Classroom](https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/answer/6025224?hl=e...)
Does Classroom contain ads?
No. Like all G Suite for Education services, Classroom contains no ads and never uses your content or student data for advertising purposes. Learn more about [privacy and security](https://edu.google.com/trust/).
IMHO google is constrained by laws protecting minors here, not because the Google nor even the schools care that much.
That being said, public education would benefit even more from using a consistent, maintainable, and free Linux distribution.
Public schools but a lot of worthless effort into providing computers for students that are (attempt to be) secure and usable. A good Linux distribution (like NixOS, or even Ubuntu) has tools to provide a consistent maintained operating system for tens or hundreds of systems. This has been the case for over a decade, but administrations have assumed that since everyone uses Windows, that they would be swimming upstream to do otherwise.
Happy to answer any questions.
At school, chromebooks and the Macs in the library. At home, whatever we have--we don't get computers to take home.
In case anyone is curious, this video has a good visual explanation of how to derive the quadratic formula:
What are you thinking of? What are the big advances in education that have been made in the past few decades? I have kids in high school right now and I can say they are learning things earlier than I ever did. They have a lot more pressure on them as well. I'm not certain that's a good thing though.
As far as technology goes, I don't see much change other than acceptance of it. My kids are encouraged to use their cell phones productively (calendar, communication, camera, etc...). But the process of education itself seems about the same as it always has been. Gains certainly haven't been exponential.
"Classroom is a free web service for schools, non-profits, and anyone with a personal Google Account."
"Classroom is free for all users."