When Google announced Android apps were coming to Chromebooks, I was not enthused. Chromebooks are great for learners and teachers because of the Chrome OS’s simplicity and lightning-fast boot-up. I was defensive about Chromebooks and not excited about change.
My love of Chromebooks for education is not universal. Joe Wilcox, citing kids’ love of iPhones, argues, “The PC, whether desktop or notebook, is obsolete in the classroom… If the fruit-logo company doesn’t seize the moment, a competitor will—and almost certainly selling devices running Android.”
But what if Chromebooks incorporated Android apps in a way that did not compromise the OS while giving teachers and learners the best of all worlds – mobile apps, keyboards, and touchscreens?
I recently purchased the ASUS Flip C302 which has Play Store access in the beta channel. My wariness of Android on Chrome OS was mistaken. Even though the device is not in the default stable channel, everything works great, including Android apps.
Long term, I hope companies make convertible flip touchscreen Chromebooks with a world-facing camera above the keyboard. This gives the device full tablet functionality. ASUS has done this with its C213. Time will tell if these Chromebooks are iPad killers. In the meantime, here are five educational Android apps to consider using with your students.
- Very mouse friendly. It actually works better with the mouse rather than the touchscreen.
- Ability to embed directions and content using the webcam and/or mic.
- Enhanced notifications.
- The Android app allows teachers annotate on student work and saves it as a PDF.
- Why doesn’t Google Classroom’s web interface allow teachers to use their webcam and mic?
The Google Expedition Android app renders beautifully on a Chromebook. I made this screencast with it:
- Teachers can search for and preview Google Expeditions from their Chromebooks.
- Teachers can lead Google Expeditions from their Chromebooks.
- Students can view Google Expeditions from their Chromebooks like they would with iPads.
- None I have encountered yet.
- Its simplicity of use.
- Graph and lined paper in the free version.
- Annotate images in the free version.
- Notes can be exported as PDFs, JPEGs, and PNGs for free.
- Premium is relatively cheap – $1/month or $10/year.
- The highlighter is a premium feature.
- Importing PDFs is a premium feature.
- Writing does not work with the mouse.
- On my Chromebook, the only input that works is “Finger,” meaning it does not recognize pressure sensitivity with my stylus.
The Adobe Illustrator Draw Android app is a wonderful tool for art and sketch-noting:
- The mouse works for a lot of features.
- It’s free!
- So many beautiful options for colors, shapes, and brushes.
- Images can be saved as PNGs – with transparent backgrounds if desired.
- Shapes cannot be manipulated by the mouse.
Google Jamboard is a $5,000 piece of hardware marketed at businesses. The device looks very fun to play with but at that price point, it is likely a non-starter for education. However, the hardware is powered by an Android app available for free in the Google Play Store. The app renders well on Chromebooks. While not perfect, it has great potential for students to collaborate in a fun way:
- Real-time collaboration.
- Very fun!
- Handwriting recognition.
- Nice ability to clip anything from the web and add it to a jam.
- Jams can be shared as PDFs and images to Google Classroom. This makes me hopeful there might be more education integration coming for the app in the future.
- A touchscreen is essential. The mouse does not play well with Jamboard.
- The app renders nicely on Chromebooks but is not very useful on phones and rendered very darkly on my wife’s Samsung Galaxy Tab A.
- Only five colors available for drawing.
- Shape recognition not perfected.
- Difficulty grabbing objects. Notice the difficulty I experienced in the video.
- Google Drive files render very small.
Thank you for reading. Are you curious if your Chromebook can run Android apps? Here is the list of Chromebooks that support Android apps. How would you use Android apps with your students? Please comment below or tweet me, @TomEMullaney.