Google has announced there will be 40 new Chromebooks available in 2021 and outlined some of the new Chrome OS features to expect in coming months.
Low-cost Chromebook sales surged during the global pandemic as schools across the globe turned to remote learning. And as remote learning continues in many places through 2021, Google has revealed dozens of new Chromebooks are coming along with key features that should make remote learning easier for teachers and students.
The top new feature is a built-in screen recording tool in ChromeOS that lets students and teachers record lessons and reports, rather than only teachers recording lessons for students. The new screen recorder will be available in March, according to Google.
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"Teachers have long recorded lessons to help students do homework and study for tests, but in the past year it's become downright critical for virtual learning. Which is why we've built a screen recording tool right into Chrome OS that is coming in the latest Chromebook update in March," Google says in a blogpost.
Google doesn't reveal much about the 40 new Chromebooks, but says they will include convertibles with a stylus and touch screen, as well as dual cameras for students to create content and record screencasts.
Also, all new Chromebooks will come pre-bundled with Google Meet and Zoom and will be available with optional LTE for using on a mobile network. The current lineup of Chromebook consists of only eight models with optional LTE.
The arrival of new Chromebooks in 2021 follows a record year for worldwide Chromebook sales as schools and governments scrambled to buy affordable computing options to support remote learning for teachers and students.
The UK government has also purchased one million laptops to support disadvantaged families through remote learning. Last month, it announced it will buy 300,000 more laptops for schools and is working with mobile providers Vodafone, 02, Three and EE to provide free access to specific education sites.
IDC's 2020 PC sales figures via Geekwire revealed that Chromebooks overtook macOS marketshare for the first time in Q2 2020. While Mac sales grew in the first half of 2020, Chromebooks took share from Windows PCs and in the process pulled Chrome OS notebooks ahead of macOS.
IDC's numbers show that in Q1 2020, Windows PCs accounted for 87.5% share of the PC market, while macOS and Chrome OS had respective shares of 5.8% and 5.3%. But in the second quarter, Windows share fell to 81.7%, while macOS grew to 7.6%, and Chrome OS almost doubled to 10.0%.
Google also highlight that ChromeVox, the ChromeOS screen reader, has improved tutorials, searchable ChromeVox menus, and smooth voice switching that automatically changes the screen reader's voice based on the language of the text.
Google also provided a roadmap of upcoming features coming to Google Classroom, a tool for managing lessons and assignments, and grading tests.
Google is introducing a marketplace for add-ons that teachers can select for the platform. Also, coming later this year to Classroom is a student engagement tracking system; offline features for the Classroom Android app; and an easier way for students to attach and submit photos of paper assignments from the Classroom Android app. For example, students will be able to combine photos into a single document, crop or rotate images, and adjust lighting, Google notes.
Teachers using the Classroom mobile app can expect easier ways to grade papers on Android, rich text formatting in notes shared with students, and better tools to detect plagiarism.