K-12 Google Chromebooks Get a Facelift With Styluses, Cameras and...

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K-12 Google Chromebooks Get a Facelift With Styluses, Cameras and Android Apps

By Mary Jo Madda (Columnist)     Jan 24, 2017

K-12 Google Chromebooks Get a Facelift With Styluses, Cameras and Android Apps

Back in of spring of 2016, Futuresource Marketing reported that Chromebooks were the most popular K-12 device out there, with Chrome OS accounting for more than 50% of the market. Around that same time, the Google Education team announced that Android apps would eventually be coming to Chromebooks for Education. Representatives reported that the release would happen “sometime in the 2016-2017 school year.”

Well, that sometime is now, and Google is hoping the update will contribute to Chromebooks capturing even more of the market. As of this morning, in accordance with the annual BETT conference in London, Google has put its money where its mouth is—rolling out Android apps in beta on a selection of managed Chromebooks for Education.

But that’s not all. For all those schools and districts beginning to whip out checkbooks and purchase devices for the new school year, here’s a potential item for your checklist—the newest tablet-inspired Google Chromebook, complete with a stylus, a camera, and USB-C charging.

Meet the Newest Chromebooks

Talk to Rajen Sheth, Google’s Senior Director of Product Management for Android and Chrome for Education (also known as the "father of Google Apps"), and you’ll find that Google’s not quite satisfied with its reported 20 million Chromebook for Education users. “We want to make a bigger impact in the classroom,” Sheth said.

Simultaneously, Sheth’s been hearing from teachers for years that a laptop with a keyboard doesn’t have “everything that they need to be productive in the classroom.”

“People are looking for a device that can do everything for a student—something that can be a tablet, a textbook, and a notebook,” he says.

As such, Google had answered the call with two newly-designed Chromebooks—the Acer Chromebook Spin 11 and the Asus Chromebook C213, scheduled to arrive in late spring in time to purchase for the 2017-2018 school year. Pricing isn’t available yet, though Sheth reports that the pricing structure is “designed to be affordable.”

The Acer Chromebook Spin 11 with stylus. (Google for Education)

In addition to all of the expected features of a Chromebook (including the tablet-like touchscreen that so many of the devices now possess), three new elements make their way into the design:

  • Stylus capability: Sheth says that he and his team heard from students that “the stylus is important, but they often have to be charged or are very expensive.” This stylus, available for a “low cost,” allows for drawing and note-taking. Handwritten notes are indexed and searchable on the Chromebook.
  • A new camera: “We worked with Acer to build a camera into the keyboard so that you can turn the devices into a microscope, or a video camera,” Sheth says. Translation: When a Chromebooks is flipped, the camera faces outwards for students, just as it would on a tablet.
  • A USB-C charger: This allows for quicker charging than what Chromebooks have had in the past.

Hello (Free) Android Apps

Google also reports that “in the coming weeks,” Chromebook administrators will have the ability to install Android apps on select Chromebooks. According to Sheth, this means that “we’re bringing the largest and fastest growing application system to Chromebooks.”

Timed with the release, Adobe is releasing its Creative Cloud Android apps (think Photoshop Mix, Lightroom Mobile, Illustrator Draw, Photoshop Sketch, Adobe Comp CC, and Creative Cloud Mobile) for free for any Chromebook user.

With the launch of the new Chromebook devices and their Android capabilities, Sheth hopes that the new features will “expand the Chromebook market” to include individuals who crave all the traditional elements of tablets beyond just the touchscreen.

“This will be great now for younger grades, especially because they’re using touch-based tools more frequently,” he says. “These devices can be scalable and versatile.”

For more information, visit the Google education blog.

Mary Jo Madda (@MJMadda) is Senior Editor at EdSurge, as well as a former STEM middle school teacher and administrator. In 2016, Mary Jo was named to the Forbes "30 Under 30" list in education.

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