Last November, Google launched Google Play for Education, a portal for teachers and schools to more easily buy Android apps, books and educational YouTube video, and distribute them to their students. At the time, the program was solely focused on tablets, but starting today, the team also launched support for Chromebooks.
With the revamped Google Play for Education, teachers can now give students access to Android apps and Chrome apps, books and videos from a single site. According to Google, about 10,000 schools currently use Chromebooks (and some of them use both Chromebooks and tablets).
As Rick Borovoy, Google’s product manager for Google Play for Education, told me earlier this week, the team decided to start with tablets because it was especially interested in the use cases that tablets enable in a classroom. At the time, Borovoy wasn’t completely sold on the idea that schools would be interested in having students read books on their Chromebooks or that they would be interested in Chrome apps for their students. Teachers, however, immediately started asking Google for a Chrome OS version of the store and Borovoy and his team started piloting this program earlier this year.
On the Chrome OS side, Google Play for Education works very much like it did before. Apps are curated by a select group of teachers, for example. Borovoy noted that consumer app stores tend to provide users with an overwhelming number of choices, so the team wanted to give teachers a smaller number of apps that were previously vetted instead.
Just like in the old version, they also get access to Google’s bookstore for schools where they can then rent or buy books for their students starting at $1 per student for 60 days of access. Borovoy noted that most of the interest from schools right now is in trade books and that most aren’t all that interested in textbooks in e-book form.
Schools can also set up purchase order accounts with Google, so that it’s easier for teachers to go ahead and make purchases for their classes or just for individual students who may show an interest in a specific topic, for example. Previously, this often meant that teachers would pay out of their own pockets and then try to get reimbursed — which doesn’t always happen. With Google Play for Education, schools can simply give teachers the ability to make purchases (up to a set limit).
“Our goal is to find the pain points and untapped opportunities,” Borovoy told me. By offering support for both tablets and Chromebooks, he said, “schools don’t have to think device first.” They also don’t need to involve IT when they want to add an app to their students’ laptops or tablets, something that can be a major hassle and take away any spontaneity from teachers, especially in school systems where the IT departments are often understaffed.