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Chromebooks face off against laptops in Kingsport City Schools

Kingsport begins technology switch from laptops to chromebooks

DEVICE FACE-OFF. The differences in size between chromebooks and laptops are startling.
Kingsport City Schools will use chromebooks in the future.

Ella Miller

DEVICE FACE-OFF. The differences in size between chromebooks and laptops are startling. Kingsport City Schools will use chromebooks in the future.


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This year, Kingsport City Schools has decided to issue Chromebooks to not only sixth grader students, but to fourth and fifth grader students, as well. Since seventh through twelfth grade students continue to use laptops, but fourth through sixth grade students now use Chromebooks, many questions have been raised.

“The decision to switch was made in conjunction with the Curriculum and Instruction department,” Scott Pierce, the Director of Technology for Kingsport City Schools, said. “We found that most curriculum resources were web based and the Chromebooks are a great fit for web tools.”

Since humans are used to adapting to their surroundings, it is common for us to prefer what we are used to. The same goes for computers. Most sixth grade students seem to prefer Chromebooks, whereas most seventh and eighth grade students seem to like laptops much better.

A computer switch was arranged between seventh grade student Hope Fulkerson and sixth grade student Autumn Headrick.

“I liked my laptop better because it was bigger and more adjustable,” Fulkerson said.

Fulkerson simply liked the laptop better because it was her original computer, so she did not take a liking to the Chromebook.

Headrick had the opposite opinion.

“I liked my [Chromebook] computer because I knew where everything was, but the laptop had better keys,” she said. “I liked the Chromebook touchpad better.”

Headrick preferred her Chromebook because she felt that everything was more organized.

Even the teachers at Sevier Middle are divided on this topic.

“I like the Chromebooks much better,” Abbie Kilgore, a sixth grade science teacher at Sevier, said. “I think they keep students on task since there are less options.”

“Right now, I prefer laptops because I know more about them,” Kathleen Donnellan, a seventh grade language arts teacher at Sevier, said.

Donnellan does not yet know much about Chromebooks, but she did go to a class on an in-service day to learn more.

“We still have to transition and learn how to use the Google apps,” Donnellan said. “I think in the long run, Chromebooks will be better.”

Many seventh and eighth grade teachers do not feel very prepared for this transition to Chromebooks, but Norie-Anne Young, an eighth grade language arts teacher at Sevier, feels more prepared than some.

“I am not as familiar with this transition because all of my eighth graders have laptops, however, my daughter has a Chromebook, so I have been able to see her work on that,” said Young. “I’m definitely not an expert, but I am comfortable enough with technology in the classroom, Google Classroom, and other online platforms that this transition should go smoothly.”

Students also have mixed feelings about the transition.

“I think it’s a pretty good decision,” Mattie Gamble, a sixth grade student at Sevier, said. “I mean, I don’t really know why they did it, but I like Chromebooks better than laptops, so that’s why I think it’s good that they switched.”

“I think they’re more advanced, so this is a good switch to Chromebooks,” Lauren Haun, a seventh grade student at Sevier, said.

Some students even have theories as to why the switch occurred.

“I think the decision was made to prevent students from having to pay $600 for a lost or damaged laptop when there is an alternative that is less expensive,” Emma True, an eighth grade student at Sevier, said.

As it turns out, the cost was a big part of this change.

“Costs to purchase and maintain a Chromebook are about one third of a laptop,” Pierce said.

Most students seem to prefer the computer they are used to, but there are some who like the alternative option better.

“I would probably go with a Chromebook,” said Carsen Simpson, a seventh grade student at Sevier. “They’re easier to carry,”

Karlie DeFord, a sixth grade student at Sevier, disagrees.

“I like laptops more,” DeFord said. “They are a lot easier to use because they are bigger.”

There is also the matter of hard drives and storage. Laptops usually have a lot of storage space. Chromebooks work mostly online, so they don’t have as much.
“Chromebooks have a hard drive for the operating system and 16gb of storage space,” Pierce said.

Although many teachers and students like Chromebooks, problems frequently occur.

“Internet problems throughout the school and students not using the chromebooks correctly are the main issues,” said Kilgore.

Laptops seem to have many more problems.

“I’ve had kids drop and break them beyond repair, and we have a horrible internet connection,” Donnellan said.

Young agrees.

“They cannot get logged on because it says there are not enough servers,” she said. “They won’t connect to the internet, they will go to black screen with tech type that I don’t understand, and I wish that students had printing capabilities from their laptops.”

Even the smaller size of Chromebooks divides Sevier.

“I think the smaller size is beneficial because students have so much stuff,” Kilgore said. “Chromebooks are not as bulky, and are easier to carry.”

“It would be nice to have a bigger screen, because a lot of times, the screen seems too small on Chromebooks,” DeFord said.

“Weight and size do make an impact on students,” said True, “Laptops are available in smaller sizes, and the large cases provided for the Chromebooks cancels out the bulkiness of laptops.”

One of the things that is significantly different about Chromebooks is that they don’t generally run Windows applications. Although many people view this as a problem, is it really?

“No, we do not think this will be a problem, because if a Windows application is critical for the success of students we can look into virtualizing the app and still run it on the Chromebook,” Pierce said.

Chromebooks have an automatic file backup, which means it is rare for a file loss to occur. While this makes a huge difference for some students, others don’t really need it.

“The automatic file backup helps me a lot because I know I won’t accidentally delete or lose something important that I use for school,” Gamble said.

“It doesn’t really help me personally, because I don’t really have many actual files since I’m not in anything that would require that,” said Deford.

Many students and staff wonder if there are any actual differences in the capabilities of a laptop versus those of a Chromebook.

“Everything that can be done on a Chromebook can also be accomplished in a chrome browser on a laptop,” said Pierce. “The google apps docs, sheets and slides all have offline capabilities. Also, items such as PDFs can be downloaded to the Chromebooks.”

Some students don’t really care about the differences.

“I am just thankful for the chance to use technology at all,” True said. “If we didn’t have that privilege, we wouldn’t be where we are with our learning opportunities today.”

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Chromebooks face off against laptops in Kingsport City Schools