Chromebooks cause more harm than good

By Fiona Ashury, Opinions Editor

The typical school day includes going to class, listening to lectures and taking notes. But what if that giant backpack full of papers and notes disappeared and was replaced with one computer?
This is a reality, CHS, and it’s called a “Chromebook.” Chromebooks, Google drive accounts, and Google classrooms are driving through CHS—Big Brother style. We’re talking about a 1984-style computer that keeps track of every word you type, every website you visit and every single thing you do.
According to a July 2014 memo from Joshua Starr to the Montgomery County Board of Education, MCPS will be rolling out 40,000 devices throughout schools in the 2014-15 school year in order to enhance “collaborative, Cloud-based learning.”
In theory, it is a good idea because it would make it easier for students to collaborate and communicate with their teachers without the mess of papers. However, it should not get past the pilot program because Chromebooks and the hijinks that come with them are overly intrusive, confusing, inconvenient, expensive and harmful to the student-teacher relationship.
The Chromebooks also have a very eerie anatomy. Not only do they work through the Cloud, where teachers can see every keystroke, they also feature a webcam, an unnecessary component for a school-sponsored device.
Teacher controls can even extend to controlling students’ sleep schedule indirectly. By setting inflexible electronic deadlines, teachers can force students to complete assignments before a designated deadline. Gone are the opportunities to finish up leftover homework at lunch and catch that precious extra hour of sleep. Instead, students are going to burn the midnight oil and hopefully make up that sleep somewhere during the school day.
It’s common knowledge that CHS students average five hours of sleep on a good night, so why inflict added pressure and rob them of much needed rest for the sake of an assignment that could have been turned in during a normal school day?
Students aren’t the only ones who have to put up with Chromebooks’ complicated system either. Chromebooks have made life problematic for CHS staff as well.
Teachers now have to change teaching styles and lesson plans to integrate the Chromebooks. Courses are always evolving and changing, but the added variable of Chromebooks throws a wrench into the structure.
In addition, Chromebooks are incredibly expensive, and the money to pay for the laptops would perhaps benefit other priorities at the school.
According to the memo, the 40,000 Chromebooks will require $15 million in funding from the Operating Budget for the upcoming school year. Instead of pitching in tons of money on Chromebooks, why not update the computers we already have or put the money towards the underfunded Arts programs There’s no need to waste money on devices that provide a watered-down version of basic computer functions.
Chromebooks are merely going to impair student learning in the long run. While it seems like typing is the way to go— it’s faster, easier to read, easier to access and even easier to use in group projects—writing by hand offers benefits that virtual learning cannot begin to replicate.
In addition, typing up notes weakens students’ ability to remember significant material over time.
According to, a website dedicated to discussing the science behind psychology, students who type their notes are less likely to remember conceptual material than those who hand wrote their notes.
Looking purely at the testcentered classes that many CHS students take, it’s more beneficial for students to hand write their notes. Typing them up might be easier now, but come AP and exam time, CHS students are going to feel the burn.
Cheating is also likely to ensue from this change to electronics. It’s easier to access the assignments, but now it’s also easier to access the vast vault of information the Internet offers, making it much easier to copy and paste answers rather than formulate original responses.
Although Chromebooks are meant to enhance our education, they do far more harm than good.