We recently reported on the positive impact 3D printers can have on education. An even stronger technological influence in education is the use of laptops and tablets, especially in elementary and secondary (K-12) schools. Microsoft’s PC tablets and Apple’s iPad both have had a significant portion of the education market, but in the last year Google’s Chromebook is clearly the favored choice. According to an estimate by Futuresource Consulting, Chromebook went from having less than 1% of the education market in 2012 to nearly 20% in 2013. And of the 2.9m Chromebooks made in 2013, Gartner reported that the U.S. education sector bought 85% of them.

Over the last several years, many U.S. K-12 schools have adopted a one-to-one laptop program, primarily for high school students or in wealthier schools. In the program, students are issued a laptop to use in class and, in some cases, at home. The iPad was the top choice for many of these schools. However, as reported by Meghan E. Murphy in The Atlantic, iPads may not be the best choice now. With the adoption of Common Core in many states which requires a computer with a keyboard for online testing and an overall tech-savvy mindset of teachers and students alike, more K-12 students are getting the opportunity to be a part of a 1:1 program – thanks in large part to Google’s Chromebook. The Chromebook is an affordable option and this is an extremely important factor when schools on limited budgets consider which mobile computer to buy and how many. Google’s Chrome product page boasts its cost-effectiveness and says that,

Deploying Chromebooks can save schools, on average, over $5,200 per device over three years.

In addition to having inexpensive upfront costs, Chromebooks have additional advantages over the competition. Chromebooks can be configured quickly, require little training and need very little maintenance – in turn providing more overall cost savings. Each Chromebook comes complete with multiple layers of security, a long battery life, built-in cloud storage, a browser-based operating system, a keyboard and access to many apps including Google’s Apps for Education and a suite of offline apps. Overall, teachers and administrators find that Chromebooks helps inspire students to learn, to create and to collaborate in real-time. Conner Forrest wrote in TechRepublic that Kentucky Country Day teachers saw "explosion of student creativity" from students using Chromebooks and even noticed "a fundamental shift in the way they taught." With students having access to content on the web, KCD teachers found they could "focus on teaching students learning skills and how to apply facts and figures to real-world applications."

Computer skills and being adept at using a laptop like a Chromebook also help children prepare for college, future employment and to lead more productive lives overall, as reported by Boston Public Schools:

"This is the kind of investment that will pay long-term dividends," said Mayor Walsh. "By providing low-cost computers to our students from elementary to high school, we are preparing them for the future. Watching students this morning at the Mildred, I witnessed the learning potential these laptops hold."

Agencies have spent over $82M on Chromebooks and accessories since December 2011

Onvia has a large database of procurement activity from more than 80,000 State, Local & Education (SLED) entities in the U.S. and, as expected, according to Onvia’s Term Contract Center and Project Center, there are a plethora of Chromebook-related contracts and over 10,600 purchase orders for Chromebooks in Onvia's Purchase Order Analytics; virtually all of them are for education.

Most Chromebook contracts include the purchase of the Chromebooks (about $200-350 each), Google Management ($26-30 each unit) and carts to store, charge and transport the Chromebooks (about $1500 for a cart that stores 32-40 units). The average contract value awarded by school districts, city and state agencies is $658,000. There are a few outliers in the larger cities - like the New York City Department of Education in Brooklyn, NY that awarded a three year term contract ending in 2017 to CDW Government for $22,985,520 to provide 20,000 Chromebooks, a Google Management Console and a three year warranty on each unit.

Samsung and Acer, the first PC manufacturers to invest in Chromebooks, dominate the market. HP, Lenovo, Dell and Toshiba are also now producing low cost Chromebook devices. According to Onvia’s database, the top 10 vendors selling Chromebooks directly to government agencies and school districts are:

Top 10 Vendors Selling Chromebooks Directly
to Government Agencies and School Districts
CDW Government
Microcomputer Systems
Newmind Group
Gov Connection
SHI International Corp

Examples of recent Chromebook awards and awarded term contracts are:

Recent Chromebook awards and awarded term contracts

Looking to the future, Gartner reports that "sales of Chromebooks are set to nearly triple to reach 14.4 million units" by 2017. Onvia’s Spending Forecast Center confirms the increased demand. There are hundreds of proposed and adopted capital improvement plans, budgets and programs that include the purchase of Chromebooks. Nearly all are for K-12 education.

FY2015 adopted budget for Chesterfield County Public Schools

Examples of typical future spending include the FY2015 adopted budget for Chesterfield County Public Schools in Chesterfield, VA. The district will provide middle school students with Chromebooks as part a “blended learning” initiative - the combination of traditional face-to-face instruction with technology to enable anytime, anywhere learning: “This approach allows teachers to use technology for instruction and student evaluation. Teachers can receive real-time feedback on student performance, and students can learn individually at their own pace. By combining technology and traditional best practices, instruction can be differentiated to meet individual student needs. Instantaneous feedback and individualized instruction will also empower students to take ownership of their learning.”

Another example is the approved Technology Plan for 2014-2017 for the Bow School District in Bow, NH. In the plan, Roy Bailey, Director of Information Technology says, “We are very excited to have discovered that due to the price point of Chromebooks, we believe we can now implement a 1:1 environment without significantly increasing our current budget. Thus we will use the 2014-15 school year to develop any policy and additional infrastructure required to roll-out a 1:1 Chromebook initiative, and then start the roll-out for grades 5 and 9 during the 2015-16 school year. We believe we can have 1:1 fully implemented for all students grade 3-12 by the 2018-19 school year.”

Technology Plan for 2014-2017 for the Bow School District
Hackensack Public School District Technology Plan for 2013-2016

In the Hackensack Public School District Technology Plan for 2013-2016 in Hackensack, NJ, it was proposed to spend $130,000 on Chromebooks to facilitate the 8th grade math and science education (STEM) initiative “by providing a mobile tool for conducting research and working collaboratively on projects.” And in the elementary schools Chromebooks would “augment the curriculum while simultaneously strengthening students’ knowledge and understanding of 21st century themes and skills.” The plan emphasized that, “These initiatives will also support the District’s PARCC-readiness goals by providing technology that could be used for assessment purposes and developing student technical knowledge and skills necessary for future online testing.”

One final example of future plans is the proposed Oakland Unified School District’s Technology Plan for 2014-2018 in Oakland, CA to implement 7,000 Chromebooks across all schools by June 2015. The district’s goal with the acquisition of Chromebooks is to provide equity of access based on Common Core test takers. By June 2018, the objective is that 100% of students in the district will use Chromebooks and mobile technology to meet their individual needs.

Oakland Unified School District’s Technology Plan

Chromebooks have an ever growing presence in education. They are affordable from the initial purchase to ongoing maintenance. They are the one device that is versatile enough to accommodate the technology needs of nearly all K-12 students. Kate Russell, Research Analyst at Futuresource Consulting says, "Chromebooks are filling an important gap within education. Along with the inherent reduced cost and the ability to accommodate set specifications, Chromebooks allow schools to provide devices that give students a portal to an ever-growing array of content. As well as website-based content, the devices also allow the user to create individual content."

Even if Chromebooks are purchased as a complement to schools that also purchase iPads, Chromebooks will play a leading role in Common Core, STEM and PARCC initiatives. They can potentially have an enormous positive impact on students’ futures. There has been a lot of press about the rise of Chromebooks for education and the Onvia database confirms this with evidence of increasing procurement activity. The continued success of Chromebooks in schools provides many opportunities to vendors selling Chromebooks in the SLED market.