Google’s Chromebook laptops have become more popular in the classroom than Apple’s iPad. IDC reported third quarter Chromebook sales of 715,000 versus Apple’s 702,000 iPads.
There are four reasons that 2014 was the year of the Chromebook. First is that they are really cheap. The web appliances have most of the features of a laptop but without expensive memory of laptops. You can buy a Chromebook for as little as $199. Even an entry-level iPad with an education discount can cost between $300 and $400.
The second reason for the emergence of the Chromebook is easy management. With the Chrome management console, admins can easily control users, devices and apps across a fleet of Chromebooks.
The third reason for the rise of Chromebooks is Google Apps for Education, free cloud-based email, storage, collaborative documents and presentations, all in a cloud-based system. Districts like Kettle Moraine, “Have quickly learned how these tools can open doors to new collective, instructional and organizational opportunities.” Teachers share Docs, Forms, and Presentations. Teachers in the small Milwaukee area district benefit from seven certified Google trainers.
The fourth reason Chromebooks have become popular is that they have the instant on function and battery life of a tablet with nearly all of the functionality of a laptop.
For all these reasons, NYC DOE added Chromebooks to the list of approved devices in November.
The rap on Chromebooks was limited offline functionality but that has improved.
“They are a solid piece of technology at a very reasonable price,” said Erin Mote, co-founder of Brooklyn Lab. She noted, “Some limited challenges with plugins from educational software and they need a strong network infrastructure to support a 1:1 deployment.” For budgeting, Mote suggested a loss/damage rate of 25%, “The exterior case breaks and cracks easily, we have had some challenges with the battery in a limited number.”
Chromebooks are made by folks like Samsung, Acer, and HP (collectively they account for about 75%), so Google isn’t making money on hardware. Because they’re giving away apps, they’re not making much from the edu vertical but they are building a really big user base.
Rich video, game-based and adaptive content initiated in the last five or 10 years often used Flash and didn’t run on iPad–giving Chromebooks a distinct advantage for schools that want to anchor a blended learning program with an adaptive learning. However, that’s starting to change. Mind Research Institute, rewrote more than 900 games ST Math to for iPads. In November, Dreambox Learning released an iPad version of its popular adaptive math program.
Microsoft is doing its part to give the Chromebook some tough competition. New products such as the HP Stream costs about the same as a Chromebook, run Windows and include a free one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal. For a little perspective, total Chromebook sales in 2014 where about 4 million while 300 million Windows machines were sold. And Windows OS devices held a 68% share while Chrome OW was about 5%.
The good news is that with $200 student access devices, it is affordable for every school to provide a device for every student. With all the free apps and open resources available, it is less expensive to go digital than to buy a stack of textbooks. While teaching and parenting matter more than ever, the advance in 1:1 connectivity is helping to narrows the digital divide and expand learning opportunity.
- Google Apps Summer Camp: Chromebooks
- 7 Trends That Shaped 2014; 7 Problems We’ll Solve in 2015
- Why Three Districts Chose Chomebooks Over Tablets
Dreambox Learning and MIND Research Institute are Getting Smart Advocacy Partners.