Google Chromebooks Make Their Way Into Classrooms

Google's Chromebooks may not be catching on with consumers, but schools across the country are adopting the lightweight, Web-based notebooks from Samsung and Acer.

High-tech watchers won't find many Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chromebooks outside of users who received test model Cr-48s or picked up Samsung Series 5 Chromebooks from attending Google I/0 last year.

Google is having better luck hawking Chromebooks in classrooms around the country, with hundreds of schools using Chromebooks in 41 of the 52 U.S. states.

That includes Chromebooks for each of nearly 27,000 students in school districts in Iowa, Illinois and South Carolina, Google Chromebook Product Manager Rajen Sheth announced at the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando, Fla.

Students, faculty and administrators appreciate the ease of use of the lightweight machines with little local storage that boot up in seconds. Chromebooks let users access Web applications through Google's Chrome browser.

With Google handling all of the software maintenance in its cloud, including upgrading Chrome OS monthly, IT administrators are freed up to apply their time and resources to other IT tasks.

Google "rents" the Chromebooks to schools on a monthly basis. The Samsung Series 5 and Acer A700 models each cost $20 a unit per month, plus $3 a device per month for built-in 3G. Schools may also buy the Samsung model for the year at $449, or $519 with 3G.

Here's how the schools in Iowa, Illinois, and South Carolina have gone Google with Chromebooks:

  • Iowa's Council Bluffs Community School District is hashing out a Chromebook initiative for all 2,800 students in its two high schools. The district will use an additional 1,500 Chromebooks in two middle schools.
  • Illinois' Leyden Community High School District pledged to roll out the devices to 3,500 students in its two high schools.
  • South Carolina's Richland School District Two is seeding Chromebooks with 19,000 students.

"From my perspective, Chromebooks couldn't get any simpler; setting up this many laptops would have typically taken our team at least three months," noted David Fringer, executive director for information systems at Council Bluffs Community School District.

Sheth compared this Chromebook momentum to where Google Apps was five years ago when it launched in February 2007.

"At that time, educational institutions were the most interested, and it was inspiring to hear the different ways schools and districts had begun using Gmail, Calendar and Docs," Sheth wrote in a blog post.

"At FETC we've been similarly excited to see how teachers have formed communities around professional development for Chromebooks, districts all across the U.S. are piloting Chromebooks in their classrooms, and more and more reach out to us to learn about Chromebooks for education every day."

Samsung and Acer launched Chromebooks last summer. Sales have reportedly been limited to the tens of thousands among consumers. Both OEMs have discounted their machines.

However, Samsung is far from giving up. The company is refreshing its existing Chromebook line and teased a Chrome desktop box at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month.