Google debuts Lenovo ThinkPad x131e, the first Chromebook just for schools

Are Chromebooks the future of the classroom? Google is says it is serious about the education market and now Lenovo has the hardware to match.

The first Google Chromebook to be specifically aimed at school children, the  Lenovo Thinkpad X131e Chromebook , has been launched in the US.

The ruggedised $459 (£295) device is designed to handle the rigours of school life and will be exclusively available to the education market

Lenovo Chromebook
The Lenovo Thinkpad X131e Chromebook will only be available to schools

The 1.8kg Chrome OS machine is kitted out with a reinforced cover and hinges, rubberised edges and corners, and a battery life of 6.5 hours, which should just about last for a full school day. It is powered by an Intel Celeron processor and comes with 16GB of built-in storage to compliment the 100GB offered through the Google Drive cloud platform for two years. 

It also has an 11.6-inch display and a webcam, and also boasts ports including three USB, an ethernet, an HDMI and a VGA. Samsung, Acer and HP have released machines running the Chrome OS operating system but up until now none have been targeted specifically at the education sector.

Google has very high hopes for Chromebooks in the education.

"I think the Chromebook for the Lenovo ThinkPad is the most interesting one so far," Google global education evangelist, Jaime Casap, told ZDNet.

The company announced earlier this month that  2,000 schools are using Chromebooks  in the classroom, although it would not say how many of those were paid for by the schools. 

He said school children of all ages can use Chromebooks in the classroom and at home as a learning tool for doing research and collaborating with classmates using the preinstalled Google Apps for Education, such as Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar.

Casap said IT administrators can roll out Chromebooks in schools using the web-based management console which allows them to set up and manage users, apps and policies across a fleet of Chrome devices. "It doesn't matter which device a sixth grader logs into; they're going to get the experience set up for that sixth grader," he said.  

Many key functions on the  Chromebooks now work offline  but in order to get the most out of the devices a reliable internet connection is required. "We need good broadband in our schools even with the offline capabilities," said Casap. "We have to look at broadband the way we look at electricity, cooling and heat. It's part of our infrastructure now and we have to build it."  

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