Yesterday, Google announced two exciting new products. The first was a new Nexus 7 tablet which, owing to a surprising number of leaks on the Internet, came as no surprise whatsoever to anyone. The second, Chromecast, did come as a surprise.
Chromecast is a small device, about the size of a USB stick, that lives in your TV and receives all sorts of content from laptops and mobile devices. And it’s also cheap. Surprisingly cheap.
As a devout follower of all things Google, and as a school network admin, my thoughts immediately turned to Chromecast’s potential in the classroom. Visions came readily to mind of classrooms with Chromecast-enhanced projectors, Android tablets of all makes and sizes, able to share their screens on the whiteboard at a moment’s notice. Easy, lovely, cheap!
Alas, the reality, at least for now, is that Chromecast is yet another device designed and built for consumers. Just as iPads, Apple TVs and Android tablets have always been. The focus is still (maddeningly) on movies and music, and on the user as proud owner of the device: none of that, thank you, we’re a school! We need the sophistication of LEGO Technic, but the big tech companies are only giving us Duplo. Even Microsoft are dumbing down.
Chromecast is similar in many respects to Apple TV, but lacks the screen mirroring feature (the ability to wirelessly project a device’s screen onto a whiteboard, as is). Arguably then, it’d be pointless to install Chromecast devices into classrooms, even if they do only cost £20.
[pullquote]…the future holds great things for Chromecast[/pullquote]
However, I suspect that the future holds great things for Chromecast. Yes, it will likely always be a consumer device, a big block of Duplo sat awkwardly atop a sophisticated machine, but it has the potential to go far beyond what the Apple TV can offer.
The device runs a version of the ChromeOS operating system, so it could potentially be very versatile indeed. As well as screen mirroring, might we enjoy a raft of apps developed with Chromecast in mind? Apps which display one thing for the teacher, but something else on a whiteborad via Chromecast?
A teacher using a tablet might one day be able to have one app continuously shown on a projector, even while switching between apps on their tablet, or even putting their tablet to sleep. That would be go beyond screen mirroring, and could really turn tablets into some fantastic classroom technology.
In Chromecast, and Google’s clear intention to have as many apps as possible make use of it, we at least now have something on which to pin our hopes of wonderful, classroom-specific apps.