Chromebook app building discoveries

Originally posted at Endless OS Foundation

50 million students & educators use Chromebooks worldwide, but these devices are limited without broadband at home – a problem for up to 16 million students in the USA. Here are 6 things we’ve learned so far as we test making the Endless Key available as a Chromebook app.

  1. Most education-focused Chromebooks have limited storage, 16GB or 32GB internal disk – a major challenge for making our normal 128GB of curated Endless Key learning and discovery content fully available.
  2. Chromebooks distributed through schools ordinarily block installation of additional apps. Typically only the school (or district) can explicitly permit further app installation. This already limits what after-school clubs can access through the school’s devices.
  3. Some education-focused Chromebooks lack SD card slots, or have limited USB ports – a major challenge for storing additional content to make it easily available to offline students.
  4. Chromebooks distributed through schools are ‘managed’ and tend to include a high degree of monitoring and filtering. Both human and automatic reviews of what is being accessed on the device happen.
  5. Chromebooks support apps in two main formats: pure webapps (PWA) or Android apps (running inside a container).
  6. There are many deployments where students can take devices home, but they are generally required to return them to school at the end of the year, and won’t have them over their summer break.

We’re working through these challenges and more with Learning Equality, starting with Kolibri process management and access to external storage. Porting an app from one platform to another is rarely straightforward, and usually requires some architecture changes.