I don’t usually write about hardware as my main interests lie in digital learning and trying out new activities with digital devices. The issue of the ideal device in classrooms is still hotly debated. Less so in the United States where approximately 60% of all classroom devices are chromebooks, but much more so in Europe where chromebooks are virtually unknown.
The truth is, that every type of device has its trade-offs. I personally find iPads way too limited, Surface devices too expensive and cheaper Windows devices too underpowered. With the addition of Android apps (as well as Linux apps in the near future), Chromebooks are much less limited than they used to be and can be bought for as little as $249, e.g. for one of my favourite classroom devices, the Asus C101, which is truly fantastic value for money.
One of the problems with chromebooks in Europe is, that there aren’t many models available. So when Acer came out with the Chromebook Tab 10, I decided to buy it, despite having doubts about the usefulness of tablets in the classroom.
Specs-wise the Chromebook Tab 10 is in the same league as the Asus C101, with the same OP1 processor and 4GB of memory. It doesn’t come with a keyboard and is therefore much lighter than the C101. It does come with a better screen resolution and a stylus and is a bit higher priced.
My first impression of the Chromebook Tab 10 was not overly positive: it often lagged and sometimes even crashed. So I uninstalled most of my Chrome extensions (which were synched from my other Chrome OS devices) and put the device into beta channel. That made it much more fun to use.
Not having used a stylus a lot, that was one of my first interests. The stylus, while not as perfect as the the ones for the Surface or the iPad, is included in the price, is very easy to use, does a reasonably good job, fits nicely into the device and doesn’t need charging. The Tab 10 comes with inbuilt Google Keep note-taking functionality, which isn’t bad, but could use some more features. I tried several Android apps and my favourites turned out to be Xodo for PDF markup and Adobe Photoshop Sketch for drawing. While perhaps not the first choice for artists, the tablet works great for students who have to fill in worksheets and teachers who want to grade homework by hand.
My biggest concern, however, was typing. Even though external keyboards might be a bit inconvenient to use, you can connect any USB or bluetooth keyboard you prefer using. You might need a USB-C adaptor for that. I bought a cheap dongle that provides three ports: USB-C (for charging, connecting other devices), USB-A (e.g. for flash drives) and an HDMI port (for connecting to a TV or external monitor).
The dongle provides all necessary ports to turn the tablet quickly into a small laptop computer
or even desktop computer if you use an external monitor and change the settings to primary device
My takeaway: while not the fastest tablet and in a way still unfinished (Google is working to improve the tablet experience of Chrome OS by the end of the year), it is a great tablet for reading (the stylus is useful for highlighting passages), note-taking, drawing, working with PDF files. When connected to a USB keyboard/mouse the Chromebook Tab 10 works like a full-fledged chromebook and when connected to an external monitor like a chromebox, which make it ideal writing homework, preparing presentations, etc. It even doubles as a smart-TV when connected to a TV.
Teachers can use the device for grading homework by hand in the staffroom and as as primary display device in the classroom. It connects to projectors via HDMI cable or wirelessly via Chromecast (a cheap chromecast dongle might be necessary if the protocol is not supported by the projector). The stylus comes in handy as it does not only have markup tools, but also a laser pointer function which can be used in any app or any website.
Currently is a bit hard to recommend the Tab 10 for use in schools though, as it does have a distinct beta feeling to it. It is, however definitely a device worth keeping an eye on.