Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Why Chrome OS is better suited for the classroom

I want to reiterate in this post on just why the Chrome OS in a tablet form factor makes sense. The key, in my view, is the versatility of Chrome OS that can run on different form factors. Previously I noted my skepticism that a tablet running a mobile operating system can function as a laptop replacement (Apple marketed this idea when it first released the larger iPad Pro). However, with Chrome OS now supporting Android applications, I think it can serve the dual purpose of a laptop and tablet.

Apple's iPad Pro essentially runs a mobile OS and Microsoft's Surface 2-in-1 devices runs a desktop operating system with some tablet features built-in. In contrast, Chromebooks that come in diverse form factors are better suited to make use of two different focuses of a mobile and desktop interface. When required Chromebooks can now run mobile-based applications and for other tasks, there is a desktop interface.

This cross-pollination between a mobile-centric operating system and web-centric desktop operating system offers the best of both worlds in education. In the case of Android, there are useful applications for the classroom, e.g., Google Arts & Culture and Google Expeditions. Further, many Chromebooks now support touch and pen input that could make use of the different features in these applications. The desktop interface, on the other hand, works better for multi-tasking between tabs and extensive writing in Google Docs.

Another issue to consider is that many Chromebook are ruggedised and spill-resistant. In contrast, the Apple iPad requires the extra purchase of a rugged keyboard combo if it is to be feasibly used in the classroom.

Chrome OS has matured into a versatile operating system that works across different form factors. Neither Microsoft nor Apple offer anything similar to Chrome OS and I predict Chromebooks to continue to dominate and expand in the education sector.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Chrome OS in a tablet form factor

Acer released the first Chrome OS tablet: the Acer Chromebook Tab 10. The tablet is directed at education and supports a Wacom pen. I like the idea of a Chrome OS tablet and can realistically envisage it to be a laptop replacement (of course, many users may prefer a larger display). In contrast to the iPad Pro series, Chrome OS runs a desktop PC environment that also supports mobile applications via the Google Play store.

The problem with the Acer Chromebook Tab 10 is the high-end specifications that means a relatively high price for a device targeted at education. If these tablets are to be adopted in schools then it is important that vendors make the right compromise between pricing and specifications. For example, a good camera, long battery life and stylus support are necessary but a resolution beyond full HD is not. This is the first Chrome OS tablet and more affordable ones are a strong possibility.

Apple's recently released iPad with Pencil support is another attempt at gaining access in education. Apple aims to take on Chromebooks that are now gradually dominating the sector. Apple's size means that it will always have a place in education; however, what makes the Chromebook model a better fit is the simplicity of deployment and affordable hardware. The latest iPad may be priced lower relative to other iPad models but the pricing, after introducing the Apple Pencil and external keyboard, makes it a costly option even when compared to the high-end Acer Chromebook Tab 10.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Amazon adds extra features to online content management

I have noticed that Amazon supports online management of collections. It is possible to create a new collection and add/remove Kindle e-books and personal documents from an existing collection. In addition, if you have a large library, the restriction on selecting a maximum of ten documents at a time has now been removed. I still think Tolino’s online content management interface is more intuitive and easier to use. Tolino's web reader is integrated into online content management and it is possible to view/change e-book covers.

Update: I forgot to note that Tolino's online content management allows the uploading of documents from a local hard drive. As far as I can tell, Amazon doesn't support the feature. The only way to send documents wirelessly to a Kindle e-reader is via either the Send to Kindle application or email.