Google did their version of an Apple announcement last month. (No seriously. They talked about how they shaved 3 mm off the bezel of the Nexus 7 and acted like it was the Renaissance.) They announced some expected updates to both the Nexus 7 and the Android OS. Then they came out with something new: Google Chromecast.
If you haven’t heard yet, Chromecast is a small, thumb-drive-sized stick that plugs into an HDMI port on the back of your TV. It doesn’t have a remote control; it depends on your iOS, Android, Mac, or PC to control it. You can tell it to play YouTube, Netflix, Google Play, and Chrome itself. And…it’s only $35.
Well that’s cool for my house…where I already have multiple devices that can do all that…but how does this impact education?
Enter the idea of the connected classroom (I like to call it the Programmable Classroom, hat tip to Wired). First we’ll look at K-12. Many schools are launching 1:1 programs. Two of the biggest players in the 1:1 space are Apple and Google.
Apple’s solution provides an iPad for each student and instructor. They sell a suite of office applications (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote). You also buy an Apple TV and hook it up to the projector in the room. This allows the instructor and students to project their work to the class.
Google’s solution provides a Chromebook for each student and instructor. You set up Google Apps for each person as well, providing email, documents, wiki, and more. A missing piece to Google’s solution is the projector. Instructors have to plug into the projector, which is cumbersome. And allowing students to share their work is cumbersome as well.
Chromecast completes the Google solution. Schools can buy the inexpensive device and plug it into all of the projectors. Now instructors and students can wirelessly share their chromebook with the rest of the class, without dealing with cables that are geographically limiting.
Higher education institutions can utilize Chromecast as well. Provide professors more freedom to move around in large lecture halls. Provide students easier access for presenting group work in smaller classrooms.
Chromecast is built on Google’s new Cast protocol. It’s currently limited to a few applications, but anyone can implement Cast into their product. The possibilities here are endless. In the future, every app could be made to stream to the Chromecast. You could even have students build it into their own projects as part of their work. Think about a computer science course that can incorporate wireless streaming as part of a project.
I bought a Chromecast the day they came out and received it a few days later. It is a nifty device with cool features. The screen sharing feature lags a bit and is not as good as Apple’s AirPlay to the Apple TV. Google can improve that, though.
This is an exciting time for education. This is yet another device that can be plugged into the Programmable Classroom.