Samsung version of the Google Chromebook
Samsung’s Chromebook (called the Series 5) has a 12.1-inch display, will weigh 3.26 pounds
and will cost $429 for the Wi-Fi-only model and $499 for the Wi-Fi and 3G model.

“Reality,” shares Danah Boyd, “is always in the details.” As an avid Chrome notebook user–I carry it to work every day when I have a meeting because it is light, instantly on when I need it, has great battery life, and I use it for note-taking in my Knowledge Management wiki (powered by, checking email, doing research–I’m still not convinced it’s the perfect device for education. But it works so well…and therein lies the challenge. 

The assumption is that your files will be stored in the cloud. If you have word-processing documents, you can store those in, say, Google Docs, or Microsoft’s SkyDrive. Your e-mail messages no longer live in an Outlook or Mail application, but on Gmail or Yahoo Mail. Photos are on Picasa or Shutterfly or Flickr. Read more

But then, I have to inventory my biases against devices that lack hard drives usable by the computer owner, store data in the cloud, don’t allow me to create Truecrypt encrypted virtual storage, and force me to use apps in the cloud.

Stallman, as cited in this article reflecting on Chromebooks, hits the nail on the head:

“It’s just as bad as using a proprietary program. Do your own computing on your own computer with your copy of a freedom-respecting program. If you use a proprietary program or somebody else’s web server, you’re defenseless. You’re putty in the hands of whoever developed that software.” Richard Stallman as quoted in The Guardian 29 Sep 2008

What’s hard isn’t inventorying the biases, the problems one can think of about Chromebooks but hanging onto privacy ideals. But I suppose that IS what makes Chromebooks so nice for school districts…according to many technology directors, and by law, there is NO expectation of privacy when you use a school district device. Students’ work, their lives and what they do are transparent to the adults who work to educate them. 

Should they be?

 Google is making these sound very east to support and manage….and that may be very appealing to schools … opposed to iPads which are not at all easy to manage. I guess if Google can overcome some of those limitations you mention, it may eventually have a real contender on it’s hands.
Source: District Technology Director Facebook remark

Therefore, the devices they use should not be opaque, but transparent. We shouldn’t have to worry about students storing data (e.g. images, video/audio) they’ve acquired in ways that adults frown upon. Instead, our vision of the future is one that is very much what it is now, though the technology prevents that vision.

Chromebooks may actually serve as a way to control the device students use, to make squirreling away content that is unwanted in school settings on eRate funded devices impossible. “…privacy” reminds Danah Boyd, “isn’t about hiding; it’s about creating space to open up.” Are schools using technology to accomplish that?

Will there be outlaw web apps or places where students can store data that isn’t blocked by school district  white hats, where students can open up without adults looking over their shoulders and is that desirable? How will students create ad hoc networks for sharing content using these school purchased devices, or, will they forego them altogether using their own mobile devices? 

And, in a world of haves and have-nots, will public schools have the option to role model digital privacy or simply embrace transparent tyranny?


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure