Photo by Jeremy Chung.
Chromebooks: small, slow and unreliable laptops all WCHS students must use. When students returned to in-person instruction, they had to adapt to numerous changes implemented by the WCHS administration. One of these changes was students were told to bring their school-issued Chromebooks to school every day instead of having Chromebook carts in every classroom.
Some students obtained “newer” Chromebooks at the beginning of the school year with the cool touchscreen and iPad-like features. Still, most of these new Chromebooks were issued to underclassmen, and many freshmen and sophomores were stuck with the older ones. Plus, some of those high-tech features are unnecessary and excessive. No matter new or old, though, one thing is certain: students should have the right to bring their personal computers to school.
This idea is most surely popular among WCHS students. Out of the students who responded to a poll conducted by The Observer’s Instagram account, @wchsobserver, 82 percent said that they believe students should have the ability to bring their personal computers to school, emphasizing that the majority of WCHS students want to be able to bring their laptop, and the WCHS administration should consider that.
The key issue Chromebooks present is that it takes students forever to load a page and switch between tabs. After opening at least five tabs, the Chromebook becomes very laggy, and it is not just the Wi-Fi that makes the computers slow.
The Intel processors inside the Chromebooks, the Intel Celeron, are outdated, making everyday life harder. Intel’s website states how the processors help computers work efficiently in “uninterrupted classroom learning” and supports “fast web and online app browsing.” However, these processors are intended for affordable and entry-level PCs. Students use multiple applications on the Chromebooks every day, and the processors can not process that usage, making them slower over time.
Students also might not be comfortable using the Chromebook. The keyboard and other settings may be a change that is hard for students to assimilate to after using their personal computer for the entirety of last year. The keyboard and touchpad are also not reliable, and the screen is smaller than most personal laptops.
If students were to bring a laptop that they feel comfortable with, it would be easier for them to do tasks at school instead of being frustrated over something not working. Personal computers will also be more reliable as there will be no blocked apps and students could work on assignments that are not school-related. Plus, loading pages will not be as slow as the Chromebook.
Now we know about the problems, what is the rationale behind bringing the Chromebooks? The supposed reason is that if students obtain the same laptop, it will make everyone feel equal, but if students don’t wear uniforms or bring the same phone to school every day, what’s the point of making everyone feel equal?
Some would also believe that bringing personal computers to school will cause distractions during class time. That could certainly be the case unless teachers can make a rule enforcing all students to close their screens unless you need to work. Also, what difference will it make if you block some sites but not YouTube, a site students can easily get distracted on?
Overall, the fundamental takeaway is that WCHS should give students a preference on what computer they want to use during the school day, similar to how MCPS offered students the option to attend the Virtual Academy.
The idea is not for MCPS to eliminate Chromebooks but to provide flexibility for students. The goal is to let students have the opportunity to use their preferred computer, whether it is the Chromebook or their personal one. Should students forget to bring their laptops, do not have their own or believe the chromebook is much better than their home one, then the Chromebooks will come in handy.
For now, though, all we can do is ask the administrators to consider this option. Students used to use Chromebooks pre-COVID, but things have changed. Overall, WCHS has made the right decisions that impact students’ wants and needs, and the desire students have to choose which laptop to use should be no different.