Visit the computer lab operated by the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion (BACI), and you’ll find people across the room in intense interaction with one of the latest market innovations, Google’s Chromeboxes.
BACI is one of the first Canadian organizations to purchase the Chromeboxes for its computer lab, which is used by the people it supports.
The lab has seen a significant spike in interest and use in recent years.
“Our computer lab is a really popular spot for people we support. It’s where people often start their day and end their day. When they’re not in a program, they hang out there,” senior manager of technology Lisa Joy Trick says.
People’s top picks for online activity in the lab? Watching YouTube clips, especially favourite musicians. They also enjoy the mix of tools such as e-mail, Facebook and Skype to make friends and communicate with friends and family.
Lisa Joy attributes the jump in the computer lab use to a number of factors, including the fact that BACI has trained many of the people it supports on computer use. Many young people who have an intellectual disability are also just as much “digital natives” as their peers, or at least more influenced by that tribe than their older counterparts.
But as the savvy has grown, so has the demand for more computers — which are also not getting any younger.
And that was another issue.
“We always feel that the people we support should have just as good equipment, if not better, than what the staff have,” Lisa Joy says.
“We don’t want the staff with great computers and the individuals we support working on these old computers.
“They should feel very important, and that they’re being given good quality things to work with, because that reinforces that they’re important and we’re here for them.”
Chromeboxes are a desktop version of Google’s Chromebooks, their key feature being that they run Chrome as an operating system.
They’re much less costly than regular computers, as well as easy to use and maintain.
“They’re very quick. When you press the on button, they’re on in a second or two. They’re very fast, which makes them great for the computer lab because people are coming and going all the time,” Lisa Joy says.
While they don’t have the full capabilities of a regular computer, Chromeboxes do allow for any activity through browser, such as visiting any website, interacting online and opening documents.
Because they link to a person’s Google account, people can create a personalized online “hub” that remembers the places they like to visit, from favourite websites to e-mail accounts. This loads up as soon they log onto the computer, which can be especially helpful for a new user.
They also have some accessibility features.
Learn more about Chromeboxes by clicking here.
— More to Come
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