New York City Looks to Google for Chromebooks, Software

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In spite of questions brought up recently about a potential conflict of interest over Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt advising Governor Andrew Cuomo on the use of technology in the classroom, the New York State Department of Education (DOE) approved the use of Google Chromebooks for the city’s classrooms, writes Eliza Shapiro of Capital New York, which will affect a million students in 1,800 schools.

Earlier this year, Schmidt joined a three-person commission which was established to advise New York state on how to invest funds from the $2 billion Smart Schools bond. Naturally, there was concern over whether Schmidt would encourage the use of Google products. The DOE’s chief information officer, Hal Friedlander, posted on Google’s site that Chromebooks are easy to use and are easily customized to the specific needs of individual schools. He added that many Google educational apps integrate well with DOE systems.

Another plus is that Chromebooks are laptops designed for use in the classroom, with built-in education apps. Not only that, but the laptops are built for mobility, having a built-in wifi connection and a very fast boot-up. The cost is $279, but schools which decide to use them will get a special bulk price.

No schools will be required to purchase Chromebooks as a result of the announcement. The DOE has designed a website which schools can visit to get information on using Chromebooks and Google apps.

The fact that Chromebooks are so reasonably priced is one of the biggest aspects of their appeal to schools, says Rex Santus, reporting for Mashable. Beyond that, the laptops are cloud-based which can also save schools money that would have been spent on software. Moreover, because the laptops are being used to such a great extent in the education sector they are increasing in popularity across the board.

“We saw that many schools wanted to use Chromebooks, and in our assessments, found them to be an affordable, manageable option for learning,” wrote the NYC DOE’s chief information officer, Hal Friedlander, in a Google blog post.

Research firm IDC says recent information shows that Google is leading in terms of tablets and laptops being sold to K-12 education institutions. Darrell Etherington of TechCruch reports that in New York, Google will be reaching another 1 million students in 1,800 schools. Because many NY public schools were already using Chromebooks, the customer gain for Google is not as large as it could have been, but it is a huge vote of confidence in the company’s push for having its products used in the education realm. Earlier this year, Google committed to keep Apps for Education user data from being used to sell and target advertising, something boards, schools, teachers, and education departments were happy to hear.

Administrators of NY public schools are giving a thumbs-up concerning the use of Google products because of the increased control over how they can be used outside of school, says Mark Hearn, writing for 9 to 5 Google. They also like the fact that the apps work with existing systems and that user management is simplified.

The DOE also announced that its $95 million student data tracking system will be replaced this year.