Startups are scrappy and need to save money. One major trend in Silicon Valley that follows this is the practice of web development companies to issue Chromebooks ($249) instead of the typical Macbook Airs ($999). While schools don’t need the advanced BSD functionality to teach computer science to middle/high school students, typically, computer science programs still required paying for overpriced Windows hardware because it’s a “must have” thereby reserving full-fledged computer science programs for only the most affluent schools.
Like the Silicon Valley startups using Google Chromebooks for their web development initiatives, high schools should adopt the same practices of using Chromebooks in the classroom to make computer science accessible to lower income schools–– especially since computer science is one of the most level playing fields, even a simple app can make millions.
Examining the cost of supporting a computer science program through chrome shows that hands down, it is the best option for schools who are looking to implement computer science courses but are on a tight budget.
For a 30 person classroom, Google says you can expect to pay only $30k over the course of three years while you would have to pay closer to $190k for PCs. While that may be a gross overestimation of how much to pay for PCs, it is true that the easy enrollment process of Chromebooks means set up takes two minutes, and it’s easy to wipe and re-setup meaning you don’t need to consult an IT professional for everyday problems in the classroom. Plus, with easy to use software, set up even for a computer science classroom should not take more than 20 minutes.
Using a Chromebook in the classroom also requires different setups for different purposes. For high schools, the primary subjects that could good classes focus on Web Development and Basic Java programming. As far as tools go, for java development using an online IDE like Shift Edit or Cloud9 is as simple to set up as adding an extension to the Chromebook. Plus students can easily edit code at home and easily share with the teacher (you) for feedback. Plus you can even get android plugins and help kids make their own phone/tablet apps!
If you are looking to do a class more on web development, I would suggest following the same model that Stanford’s CS 184 class uses by setting up a Secure Shell extension (by Google), and then SSH-ing into a free EC2 ubuntu server through Amazon Web Services and then using the combination of GitHub and Heroku to push your and make apps and websites. All of which, at least for a year, are free and easy to set up.
So, if your school( district)’s administration is on the fence, about starting a computer science class at your school because of the costs, advocate for a Chromebook driven program. Not only is it a great way to get students inspired about technology and programming, but the use of production grade software will get students one small step closer to becoming fully employed with job security. Plus you can skip the setup and get straight to the teaching.
About the author:
Quinn Winters is a recent high school graduate who will be studying Computer Science, Political Science, and Mathematics at Case Western Reserve University starting in the fall. In his free time, Quinn loves learning about edtech and law (IP, Civil Liberties, and trial advocacy). Quinn currently serves as the National Director of Membership for Compass Point Mentorship, works as a content marketing intern at InstaEDU, and has started contributing student views to EdSurge. You can reach Quinn at @quinn_winters or on Google+.
Note: Quinn, the author, is not affiliated with any of the programs or websites linked in the article body and is only offering a personal opinion on the best set up for easy computer science classes.