UK schools are starting to move to the cloud, and Google, making its BETT debut aims to help them
Google Apps logoUS technology giant Google will present a healthy challenge to UK education's ICT status quo in its first year as an exhibitor at the BETT educational technology event at Olympia, London.

It will be certain to ramp up competition when it shows how its mobile Chromebook computers, coupled with its Google Apps cloud services, can deliver substantial savings for schools (see "'Google it' takes on fresh meaning for UK schools").

“We may only be at the beginning of our work with Chromebooks in education, but we know that we have a compelling proposition for schools,” says Google’s head of education, William Florance. “Chromebooks put the power of the web in the hands of students.”

Chromebooks look like netbooks but are designed to work with cloud services. They are a perfect complement to Google Apps for Education with powerful features that are highly relevant for use in the classroom: the devices boot in just eight seconds, have built in security features, automatically update and the battery lasts for the duration of the school day. “All in all the devices offer a dramatically lower total cost of ownership by automating or eliminating many time intensive IT tasks.” says William Florance.

Schools can buy the Chromebooks individually but the most attractive option would be to purchase them in bulk on one or three-year contracts, a deal which includes a "control panel" management system and prompt replacement for breakdowns.

This reflects a trend in schools ICT to offer schools solutions that can come from their revenue funds, fixed costs that allow schools to feel comfortable about the complete cost of ownership of their ICT. Microsoft approaches it from a different position for its "School in a box" proposition.

The key points being presented by Google about its Apps are that they are:

  • Free - Google Apps is free (and advertising-free) for students, faculty, and staff.; 
  • Secure - Your data is private and secure, with 99.9 per cent up-time and best in class disaster recovery; 
  • Anytime, Anywhere - All browser-based, it's easy for teachers and students to work from any computer; 
  • Protected - Define filters to limit messages within school domains and configure content for school-only sharing;
  • Collaborative - Increase classroom engagement and assessment with real-time collaboration tools.

 William Florance says that schools have been carrying substantial management costs above the cost of their hardware and software licences. Google Apps remove them as they are easy to use and manage on multiple platforms (including mobile devices), and automatic updates and virus protection mean that users can always use the most up-to-date and safe versions. 

The Chromebooks are for people who can do everything they need on the web. The only software is the Chrome browser and the apps that users select (these preferences are remembered and managed by the cloud-based administration console). The software update is normally on a six-week release cycle – users just reboot their machines.

Two Chromebook models currently available for schools are an Acer with Intel Atom dual-core processor, 11.7-inch screen, six-hour battery life, wifi weighing 1.34 kilos for £13 a month (£15 with 3G), or a Samsung with Intel Atom dual-core processor, 12.1-inch screen, 8.5-hour battery life, wifi, weighing 1.48 kilos, at £15 a month (£17 for 3G). The Chromebooks have USB connections and video output, and a slot for an SD card allows downloads to be exported and materials imported for use with browser apps.

William Florance says the strong points of the Chromebooks are:

  • More productive users – technology that "just works";
  • Easy to manage – cloud-based management;
  • More secure – a new, effective security paradigm;
  • Lower total cost of ownership – dramatically lower costs.

A month's use of the Samsung Chromebook revealed an extremely capable machine. Offline writing could be carried out by simply using the Gmail offline app. No wifi access? This Chromebook allows you to insert your mobile phone SIM card to get G3 internet access (subject to tariffs of course).

“The Chromebooks offering for Education is the foundation for a 100 per cent web classroom," concludes William Florance, "especially when combining the benefits of Google Apps for Education with the hardware, operating systems and device management. This marries the most current developments in cloud solutions with a pricing model that meets the requirements of today’s environment.”

More information

Google for Educators – Apps for Education  
Chromebooks for Education and Business
More on Google Apps and Chromebooks – "'Google it' takes on fresh meaning for UK schools"

BETT logoBETT 2012, January 11-14
Olympia, London
Google: stand E70


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