Last May, Google announced that you would soon be able to run Android apps on your Chromebook. Well, okay, maybe not your Chromebook. If your Chromebook is like mine, it is several years old and will most likely not know what it is like to run Android apps. But if you happen to have a newer device, then it may just be possible.
You should know, too, that just because you go buy a new Chromebook at Walmart, Best Buy, or Amazon, that doesn’t mean that it will run Android apps. Be sure to look on the Chromium Projects site to see a list of those that are capable of running the apps. According to the Chromium Projects, starting this year, all Chromebooks that become available are supposed to work with Android. Even if you don’t see your Chromebook on the list, it will still receive updates until its Google-determined end-of-life, which should be about five years after it debuted.
Enabling Google Play Store on Your Chromebook
So, you’ve checked the list to identify a Chromebook that runs Android and you are ready to purchase it and use it in your classroom. Right? Wrong. You need to also check with your Google Suite for Education domain administrator to make sure that the option to access the Google Play Store on your Chromebook is enabled in the dashboard. You can check your Chromebook by going to Settings. Scroll down until you see the Google Play Store (beta) section. If the option is greyed out, then you’ll need to bake a batch of cookies to take to the domain administrator and ask if they can enable the feature. (Giving cookies increases the chances of having this feature enabled by 64 percent.) If you log in with your personal Google account on the Chromebook, you’ll notice that it is already enabled. But you do NOT want to use your personal account with your students and other teachers. For safety reasons, you always want to use your district account, even if that means bribing the domain administrator or waiting a few days for it to be enabled. Once the option to enable is made available, you’ll be able to enable it in Settings and manage Android preferences (similar to if you were setting Android preferences on an Android phone or tablet).
Yippee! You have it enabled. So where it it? Click on the Launcher icon which, by default, is the icon on the bottom left on the shelf. You will now see the Play Store (beta) icon. This beta Play Store is currently a stipped down version of the Play Store you would see if you accessed it through the browser. And yes, you will need to use the beta Play Store to install Android apps. When accessing the store via the browser, your Chromebook will not be an option in the dropdown list of compatible devices. Once you click on the beta store, you will recognize the various categories to help you narrow down what type of app you are looking for. If the developers have not completely finished updating the app in question, it may be available as a beta version. When I spot checked several of the Android apps I have on my phone, almost all were available and ready in the Play Store. You might even find that some app developers have made their product available as a Chrome app (that you install via the Web Store) and an Android app (that you install via the beta Play Store). Either way, once installed, they will appear in your launcher window.
Finding Android Apps
Now that you have that feature enabled and you can access the beta Play Store, let’s talk about finding Android apps for your Chromebook. If you are wanting educational games or drill-and-kill apps, those are fairly easy to find; just search the store for the content area and/or skill you are interested in. Always be sure to install and play with the app before recommending it and allowing students to use it. Besides checking that it meets the content standard(s) you are reinforcing, you will also want to pay attention to any advertisements that might pop up.
If you want to be on the cutting (or bleeding) edge, you can try new Android apps before they are officially released; just click on the Early Access button in the beta play store. Remember that apps in the early access area are experimental versions and are not ready for prime time.
Here are a few open-ended apps that can be used for a variety of content areas. At this time, no web address is provided when looking for Android apps. So you’ll need to search for the name of each; an icon has been provided to help you more quickly identify the correct app.
Autodesk SketchBook – Whether it is illustrating, diagramming, or sketchnoting, you’ll find this to be a simple app to use. When done, save the image to your Chromebook.
Trello – More than just a to-do list app, Trello can help you keep track of projects. You can work alone or collaboratively with classmates to keep track of project-based learning activities.
Trading Cards – This isn’t your traditional trading card maker. Templates provided include fictional person, real person, fictional place, real place, object, event, and vocabulary. Once you enter information on the front and back of the card, you can share it as a photo to your photo gallery.
Pic Collage – Share your message with pictures! Pic Collage lets you start by selecting your photos and then adding them to a grid with templates (start with a themed background) or freestyle (begin with a blank slate and add to it). You can also easily add text and search for photos on the internet to add to your collage.
Running Android apps on your Chromebook definitely increases the productivity value of Chromebooks in the classroom and allows students to be more creative in their learning and sharing. So if you have a Chromebook that can run Android apps, try one of the apps shared above and let us know what you think. If you have installed other Android apps on your Chromebook, we’d love to hear which ones you’ve found engaging, helpful, challenging, or just down-right fun.