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Mobile Computing | News

Google Chrome OS Pilot Program Provides Free Laptops to High School Students

Google delivered a truckload of free Cr-48 laptops to Astoria High School in Astoria, OR earlier this month as part of its Chrome operating system (OS) pilot program. Astoria is one of several high schools in the United States selected to be part of the pilot program.

As part of the program, every student and teacher in the pilot schools will receive a free laptop. In return, Google wants the students and teachers to integrate the laptop into their classroom, homework, and personal lives and provide feedback on the experience. Google will use this feedback to refine the Chrome OS before it becomes available to the general public.

Chrome OS is Google's new browser-based operating system. The Cr-48 is a special test laptop designed specifically for the pilot program. It boots in 10 seconds and connects instantly to the Internet through either WiFi or 3G. It is designed for cloud computing exclusively because, while it has a small amount of internal storage for Web apps (16 GB), that storage is not meant to be accessible to typical end users.

As part of the pilot program, students and teachers at participating high schools will use the Cr-48 laptops and Web apps instead of traditional computers and software. And because every student will have one of these laptops to use in class or at home, teachers can fully integrate the technology into their instruction without worrying about the digital divide.

The ways the laptops can be used in the classroom is limited only by the teachers' imaginations. Teachers can set up online groups using Web apps like Google Groups where the students can interact and collaborate even when they're not in the classroom. Students can e-mail assignments to teachers using online e-mail applications like Gmail. Students can collaborate on projects using Google Docs or other Web apps. Students can start working on an assignment at school, save it to the cloud, continue working on it at home, and then access it again at school the next day, thereby eliminating excuses about forgotten homework. And because students can take the laptops home with them at the end of the day, those who had no home computer or had to share with other family members now have unlimited computer access whether at school, home, or the local coffee shop--anywhere there is an Internet connection.

The Chrome OS pilot program is open to individuals, businesses, schools, nonprofits, and developers based in the United States. For more information and to apply for the pilot program, visit the Chrome OS pilot program Web site.

Editor's note: This article has been modified since its original publication to clarify details about the laptop's internal storage. [Last updated Feb. 15, 2011 at 12:04 p.m.] --David Nagel

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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