How Chromecast can be used in the classroom and how to test it without the actual device

While few people haven’t even heard the name Chromecast yet, Google’s latest device has made quite a splash within the tech scene and has sold out on the first day of its availability. It is a little $35 computer stick which runs a lite version of the Chrome operating system and allows you to reroute media from a variety of devices (smartphones, tablets, PCs) to a big screen (TV or projector).

The device was mainly presented as a home consumer device for streaming movies, music, YouTube videos etc. onto your TV. Even so, it has a great potential for the classroom. Particularly in classrooms which haven’t been equipped with a class computer it could serve as an extremely cheap substitute for one considering its price tag of $35. The ingenious idea of chromecast is that you make use of a mobile device (smartphone, tablet) as computer (interface) and let chromecast do the rerouting to a big screen. An even if there is a classroom PC the device would avoid long log-in and startup procedures and foster the use of online media the classroom through its ease of use.

What you need:
  • Chromecast dongle
  • a big TV or projector
  • Wi-Fi
  • a smartphone(/tablet/laptop)

What you could do in the classroom

  • show educational videos from YouTube
  • show photo slideshows
  • give presentations using online presentation software such as Google Slides/Microsoft PPT 365
  • stream music
  • play foreign language listening exercises
  • read web sites (news, stories, etc.) together

In theory it could also be used to do real time collaboration in the classroom as any web 2.0 service would be included via the chrome web-browser cast (currently in beta). Among them could be:

  • creating a mindmap
  • working collaboratively on a prezi
  • using an online interactive whiteboard

Google has made Chromecast open to developers, who could come up with lots of more interesting uses in the classroom.

Of course Chromecast has been compared a lot to Apple TV in the press. What would be the advantages/disadvantages of Chromecast over Apple TV in the Classroom? Here are the main points:

+ Chromecast is a much cheaper solution
+ Chromecast can be operated with the cheapest android phone and doesn’t require an expensive iPad
+ it is platform independent, which makes it ideal for BYOD classrooms
+ it saves WiFi bandwidth (often critical in schools) by effectively halving Wi-Fi traffick
- no mirroring of your screen (in apps that don’t support Chromecast)
- no playing of local content

The disadvantages might seem quite big ones as that means teachers can’t give app tutorials and students can’t immediately show content that was not created online. These disadvantages, however, start to disappear as more and more students are getting familiar with tablets (no need for tutorials) and starting to use online services (just upload media before presenting them).

Unfortunately Chromecast devices have sold out for the time being. It is still possible to test the functionality at least with YouTube though. In fact it has been around for a while now. I have had it on my Google TV for a couple of months. And even if you haven’t got a smart TV you can test it simply by signing into the leanback mode of YouTube on a PC and use your smartphone as a remote control. Go to:

  • Go to the settings (cog wheel)
  • sign in
  • activate the leanback service
  • pair your device(s) using the qr code or typing in the code manually

you are good to go.

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