How Google took over the classroom

isotopp image Kristian Köhntopp -
June 13, 2017
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Using electronic devices in the classroom seems to be a topic older than time, and the implementation often involved a lot of tedium. The problems and possible solutions are well understood in Germany (report about LTSP among other things), but the (purposefully) fragmented market for education in Germany is getting in the way here. Biggest problem usually is keeping the machines clean and orderly, and keeping the data available across device loss.

Children and teachers seem to be installing a lot of questionable software and extensions, and getting rid of these by setting up the machine seems to be the only way to be sure. So any school installation usually focuses on automatic fast imaging of the machines, and on server-side data storage for everything to make sure nothing is lost when a machine is lost or re-imaged.

In the US, 2013 saw the introduction of a lot of iPads, for example in LA . That did not work so well: Apple is a company that until very recently focused very much on data storage on the device itself with an optional cloud sync - for them, it’s a sales tool for more storage. Also, expensive devices.

Chromebooks seem to be taking US education by storm, and it makes a lot of sense.

Chromebooks are cheap devices and while they cache data locally, all data is agressively stored upstream in a cloud. That makes devices actually interchangeable - the important part is the login, not on which device you are. They can be easily restored to a default state with the aptly named “Powerwash” option, and they are mostly based on open technology - HTML5 for content and a powerful browser all the way.

For pupils and teachers, using a device with a proper keyboard is a big plus over a thing such as an iPad, as well. Plus, the device is not really important. As long as you can run Chrome and login to Google, the device in fact does not matter at all. It can be a Chromebook, or any PC.

For publishers of educational material, it’s also a nice thing. Materials are made in a well defined open format with good tooling (HTML5, again), and it is usually bound to an account and not permanently stored on a device. That makes licensing easy, updates a breeze and the tooling question is a solved issue.

Communication between teachers, pupils, and parents is also easily done, and integrated into everything. Admin tools for classes, accounts, and everything else exists, too.

Of course, #neuland is not looking at this at all, because fragmented market.

Also, Datenkranke! Kugelschreiber!