Ask a Tech-Savvy Teacher: Help me with dongle-land!


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We received this message last week, via our “Ask a Tech-Savvy Teacher” page here on the Tech-Savvy Teacher blog:

“Hello Tech-Savvy Teachers,

My kids bought me a beautiful new Chromebook for Christmas, and I love it! I have all but abandoned my old Windows laptop for the speedy Chrome interface and have found great web tools for nearly all of my daily tasks. Thanks for introducing me to your Chromebooks in Portland in 2015!

Here’s the problem: the Chromebook has almost no ports on it and instead features ‘USB C’ ports. I am a little confused. How do I plug in a projector to present? What about the network at school? Can I pull pictures off my digital camera? All of the websites refer to dongles, but, I don’t really understand what a dongle is.

Help me love my Chromebook even more!

Signed,
No Dongle in Idaho”

Hello, No Dongle!

I am totally jealous of your new Chromebook! With all of the new Chromebooks choices for power users, I hope to update to a new Chromebook myself in the upcoming year. Please let us know about your experiences with your new tool!

You are correct. USB Type-C is a little confusing. However, it is the wave of the future. Many new computers and tablets, including offerings from Apple, Lenovo, Acer, and Dell, include these new ports. USB Type-C replaces all previous ports with a universal adapter that can carry video, networking, and even power to recharge your device.

However, we are in early days of USB-C. Few devices feature native USB-C connections. While I have no doubt that most mice, monitors, projectors, docking stations, network adapters, and card readers will be USB-C a year or two from now, in the meantime, you will need to use dongles to connect to most hardware platforms.

A dongle (yes, I know, funny name), is a cable that plugs into your USB-C port on your laptop to connect it to older USB devices, a monitor, even a fast wired network.

For some, this has been a difficult transition, even for some power users.

Luckily, Lon of the Lon.TV YouTube Channel released a well-done USB-C “Survival Guide” this past weekend that walks you through how you might use a dongle to bring whatever connections you need to your new Chromebook:

As more users update their laptops and tablets in the coming year, I believe USB-C devices will become more commonplace, but, until the USB-C revolution occurs, you’ll need to build a collection on dongles to be sure of connectivity.

Good luck!

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