Google Chromecast – little tool with lots of potential!!!
I have been fortunate to get my hands on a Google Chromecast over the Christmas period and have been exploring what the potential of this device could be for use in the classroom.
Google Chromecast is Google’s attempt to make it easier to bring web video to your TV via the use of their dongle.This plugs into an HDMI port on your telly and projector and allows you to send videos, music and other files to it via Andriod & iOS devices and using Chrome browser on you computer. There are a limited amount of apps that take advantage of the Chromecast (YouTube, Netflix, Google Music to name a few) however this list is increasing. The function that I am quite excited about is the ability to stream an open tab in the Chrome browser and the potential for this. I will explain more about this later but first I am going to look at how to setup the Chromecast.
What’s in the box –
Setup – The setup for the Chromecast could not be easier and it can be done on smartphone. tablet or computer. Firstly plug the Chromecast into the HDMI port on the TV/Projector. If your TV has a USB port the Chromecast can draw its power from that otherwise you will have to use the power brick that comes with it. Once connected it creates its own mini network for you to join via your tablet, phone or computer. You will have to download the Chromecast app which allows you to detect the dongle and go through the setup process. This involves knowing the details of the WIFI network that want to connect to. Once this is done, you are ready to go and send videos to it with devices on the same network. (NB. I am waiting to try this through a proxy server and I know that are issues with this so will update once I have tried)
Apps – As mentioned there are apps on Android and iOS that come with the capability of sending video to the Chromecast. Google have said that new apps will be added but at the moment they are thin on the ground – notable apps include YouTube, Netflix and Google Music. When using these apps a Chromecast symbol will appear which allows you to send the video to the dongle. The nice thing about this is that you tablet or phone becomes a remote and as the Chromecast is streaming the video from the web and not your device you can continue to use it without interrupting the stream.
Chrome Browser – Now this is where I feel that there is lots of potential for the Chromecast. Using the Chrome Extension ‘Google Cast‘ you have the ability to send any open tab to the dongle and this will mirror this on the TV/projector. Similar to the apps any web video can be cast to the dongle. Also you can use the Google Cast extension to share your entire desktop with the dongle – both features are in beta but work well on the occasions that I have tried them
The feature that I like is the ability to use your Chrome browser to play local files including video, music and Office files. This is ideal, if you have files you want to share with a class and gives the Chromecast an added dimension to it functions. Below are a list of video and music files that Chrome supports –
Video – .mp4, .3gp, .avi, .mov, .m4v, .mkv, .ogv, .ogm, .webm
Music- .mp3, .mp4, .m4a, .ogg, .oga, .wav
Office and PDFs – to get office files working in Chrome you will need to install the Chrome Office Viewer extension. This will allow you to open Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents in the browser ready to cast to the dongle.
In conclusion, I feel the Chromecast is another tool that can be utilised in the classroom similar to that of the Apple TV. The nice thing about it is that it is multi-platform and allows for the wireless sharing of a laptop screen. There is lots of potential there and for the price around £30 makes its a attractive tool to utilise in the classroom.
NB. Google have recently announced that they will be bring extensions to mobile devices which means you should be able to cast what you have on you mobile Chrome browser to the device. In addition it will interesting if they bring the Desktop sharing function to mobile devices as this would make it more viable for those who have iOS devices to use compared to the Apple TV – we will wait and see)