Chromebooks Carve Out a Niche in School Districts

by Ostatic Staff - Jun. 12, 2014

Last year, the Sioux Falls, South Dakota school district in the U.S. purchased a fleet of Chromebooks--portable computers runnng Google's Chrome OS--for use by students, and now, a year later, school district officials are out with a review of the experience. Specifically, the Sioux Falls School District spent over $4.5 million on Chromebooks to arm students in third through twelfth grades with, and the School Board is heralding the program's success. 

It's yet more evidence that Chromebooks and the cost-saving cloud computing model they include for running applications have a bright future in education.

According to KELO in Sioux Falls:

"Board President Doug Morrison says teachers report greater opportunities in classrooms.  He says the Chromebooks opened up a whole new world to manage classrooms with the students.  They offer many more learning options for the students. The District reports that almost 18% of the Chromebooks given to students needed repairs which is much lower that other districts according to the Sioux Falls' provider...The devices are part of the public school's Student Technology Initiative." 

There have been some strong signs that Chromebook sales are driven heavily by purchases within school systems, a trend we called out previously.

Traditionally, school systems, especially in the U.S. have turned to Apple computers, and Apple has focused on the education market. But new Apple systems are expensive, especially MacBooks and other portable computers.

As reported by Mashable, noted Silicon Valley analyst Tim Bajarin, who has covered Apple for many years, said: "There are no governments or IT departments running out to buy these products — they would be underwhelmed. Instead, this growth is being driven by education."

And, as a matter of fact, Google officials have attended education-focused events to get a sense of the market.

Meanwhile, school systems around the U.S. are purchasing Chromebooks for students, a trend that Google could subsidize and one that is reminiscent of Apple's strong focus on the education market from years ago. Westwood High School in Massachussetts is buying Chromebooks to issue to students who will return them once they graduate. The Bell-Chatham school board has approved Chromebook purchases for students, as has the Sumner School District.

One of the reasons that Chromebooks are experiencing healthy sales in school districts is that applications that reside in the cloud can now be taken seriously. If you use google Docs, a cloud-based storage option and other cloud-centric tools, you've experienced this. When Google developed Chrome OS, it was betting on this viability of cloud applications.

If Chromebooks continue to succeed in schools, a generation of students could emerge that is more used to running cloud applications than local ones.