Sunday, October 29, 2017

Using Android Apps on Chromebooks

One of the best new features for Chromebooks is the ability to run Android apps. In addition to all of the things Chromebooks can already access and run, such as web sites, web apps, and web extensions, many Chromebooks can now also run Android apps, opening the door to a vast amount of new learning tools for students.

However, to be able to run these Android apps, there are certain requirements to meet and steps to take. In this blog post we will take a look at what is needed to accomplish this, both for personal Chromebooks and for those managed by a school. In a later post, we will build on this to take a look at many examples of great Android apps to use in the classroom.

Video Training
(1 hour recorded webinar)



Webinar Resources:
  • Slideshow - "Using Android Apps on Chromebooks" - Google Slides link
  • Slideshow - "Awesome Android Apps for Chromebooks" - Google Slides link
  • Session Chat: Questions and comments from the session - Google Document Link
  • Session Evaluation: Please provide your feedback on this session - Google Form link
  • Get Certificate: Earn a certificate of attendance for one (1) contact hour by watching the training video and passing this quiz - Google Form link

Compatible Chromebooks

First of all, not every Chromebook is able to run Android apps. For the most part, it needs to be a relatively new Chromebook, so some of the older models will not be able to do this. Also, although a touchscreen can be very helpful when using Android apps, it is not one of the requirements to be able to run them.

Google maintains a list of every Chromebook that is currently able to run Android apps, as well as those that should be getting the option in the near future with an update. You can access this list at the website below:

https://www.chromium.org/chromium-os/chrome-os-systems-supporting-android-apps

This list contains information including:

  • Manufacturer
  • Device model
  • Which channel the Chromebook needs to be in (Stable Channel or Beta Channel)
  • If the option is still "Planned" and coming later for that model


Android Apps on a Personal Chromebook

If you have a Chromebook that is not being managed by your school or organization, and if you are using a personal Google account rather than a school account, then you can enable the option for Android apps yourself. Here's how:

  • First, make sure your Chromebook is up-to-date with the latest version of Chrome OS. You need to be running at least version 53 to have the option for Android apps.
  • Next, go to your Chromebook settings by clicking in the bottom right corner of the screen (by the clock) and clicking the gear icon.
  • Once your settings window opens, scroll down to the section titled "Google Play Store".
  • Click the "Turn On" link to enable Android apps for your Chromebook.
  • You will now get a "Google Play Terms of Service" window. Click "Agree".
  • The Google Play Store will now open and ask you to "Accept" the terms there as well.
  • You will now be in the Google Play Store and can find and download Android apps for your Chromebook.
  • When Android apps are installed they will be found in your apps list along with all of your Chrome web apps.


Android Apps on a Managed Chromebook

The process for enabling and installing Android apps on a managed Chromebook is a bit more complicated. When a school or organization purchases Chromebooks, they have the option to also purchase Chromebook management licenses. These allow the school to control many options and features of their Chromebooks. Of of those options is the ability to use Android apps.

See below as we work through each of the steps needed in this process.


Step #1 - Enable Android Apps on Chrome OS for your Domain

The first step is to turn on the overall option to allow Android apps. This does not approve any specific apps or devices or users. It merely enables the option to move forward in the setup process for your domain.

  • First, sign into your Google Admin Console as normal at https://admin.google.com
  • From the main screen click "Device management" then "Chrome management" then "Android application settings".
  • Before you can enable Android apps, you need to accept the Google Play for Work and Education agreement (unless you have already done this.)
  • Click the "Android for Work" link to accept the agreement.
  • Now you can click the box for "Enable Android applications to be managed through the Admin Console."



Step #2 - Approve Android Apps

Now that the option for Android apps has been enabled, you can begin selecting which Android apps to approve for use in your domain.

  • If you are not already on the "Chrome management" screen, then click "Device management" then "Chrome management" to get there.
  • From the "Chrome management" screen, click "App Management".
  • For the "App Type" setting in the top left, switch the option to "Android Apps".
  • You can now click the "+" button in the bottom right corner to open the Google Play Store.
  • You can now browse or search to find the Android apps you wish to approve.
  • When you find an Android app you want, click the "Approve" button for that app.
  • This will open a window with permissions for that app. Click "Approve" again.
  • You will now get the "Approval Settings" window where you can indicate if the app will stay approved by default when there are updates and it needs to request new permissions. Choose to "Keep" or "Revoke" the approval and click "Save".


That Android app is now approved. However, it has not been made available to any specific users yet, so there are still more steps left. Feel free to continue approving additional apps at this point, and then move on to the next step when ready.


Step #3 - Decide how Android Apps are Installed for your OU's

Now that you have some Android apps approved in general, you now need to determine how users will be able to install or receive these apps.

  • First, you need to get back to the "App Management" screen. If you are not already there, click "Device management" then "Chrome management" then "App Management".
  • For the "App Type" setting in the top left, switch the option to "Android Apps".
  • For the "Type" setting below that, be sure to choose "Approved Android Apps".
  • You will now see a list of the Android apps you have approved. Click on one of the apps you would like to configure.
  • Next click the "User settings" option for that app.
  • On the left side of the "User settings" screen, you will see a list of your Organizations. Expand and scroll through the OU's to select the top level you wish to configure. By default the settings will apply to all child OU's under the OU you configure, although you can perform manual overrides. This selection allows you to specify apps and permissions differently for staff, students, grade levels, and such.
  • If you want to allow your users to be able to install this Android app if they wish, click the slider for "Allow installation".
  • On the other hand, if you want to automatically install this Android app for these users, then click the slider for "Force installation".
  • Optionally you can also choose "Pin to taskbar" if you want the Android app to be easy to find in the user's taskbar.
  • Click "Save" when done.

Repeat this process as needed for other Android apps and OU's.


Step #4 - Enable Android Apps for Users in OU's

The final step is to enable specific OU's to be able to use Android apps. Even though you have already done this for your domain, and have already approved specific apps for OU's, you still need to enable the OU's to use Android apps. (Google wants you to be very, very sure you want to let your users have access to the apps.)

  • First, you need to get back to the "Chrome Management" screen. If you are not already there, click "Device management" then "Chrome management".
  • From the "Chrome Management" screen click "User settings".
  • On the left side of the "User Settings" screen, expand and scroll down through your Organizations to find and select the OU you wish to configure. By default the settings will apply to all child OU's under the OU you configure, although you can perform manual overrides.
  • Now on the right side, scroll down to the "Android applications" section.
  • For the setting labeled "Android applications on Chrome Devices (BETA)" choose "Allow".
  • Save your changes.
  • Repeat as needed for other organizations.

That's it! Whew that's a lot of steps! But now your specified users can use the approved Android apps you have selected. For more details on this process, see Google's official help page at: https://support.google.com/chrome/a/answer/7131624?hl=en


How Users Install Android Apps on a Managed Chromebook

If you chose to force install the Android apps, the apps will simply automatically appear for the user in their list of installed apps on their Chromebook. However, if you did not force install the apps, but instead set the option to "Allow installation" then the user will have to choose to install the apps as follows:

  • First the user will want to launch the Play Store by clicking its icon pinned to their task bar (or by choosing the Play Store from their list of installed apps.)
  • Once the Play Store opens, they will see a list of all the Android apps approved for their organization.

  • To install an app, the user simply will click on the app and then click "Install".
  • If there are any permissions to agree to, they will need to click "Allow".
  • When done, the Android app will now be found in their list of installed apps for the Chromebook.


Android Apps and Chrome Web Apps

Many programs have BOTH and Android version and a Chrome Web App version. For example, you can use the Android mobile version of Google Classroom, or you can use the Chrome Web App version which takes you to the Google Classroom website instead.

Although the versions will be similar, there are often differences between the Android version of a program and then web version of that same program. For example, the Android version of Google Classroom allows the user to take pictures and videos with the device camera, whereas the web version of Classroom does not.

So, it is very possible you may have two versions of the same program on your Chromebook, one that is the Android version and another that is the regular web app version. So how can you tell them apart?

If you have two versions of the same program on your Chromebook, the icons will be slightly different. The Chrome Web App version of the program will have a small Chrome logo added to the bottom right corner of the icon, while the Android version will not have anything extra added to it. See an example below:


Next Part...

In a later blog post we will take the next step in this topic and will take a look at some of the best Android apps to use on Chromebooks in the classroom.


Post by Eric Curts. Bring me to your school, organization, or conference with over 50 PD sessions to choose from. Connect with me on Twitter at twitter.com/ericcurts and on Google+ at plus.google.com/+EricCurts1

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for these in-depth instructions! Your materials are always fabulous and very helpful! I have a question that applies to our school system. We don't have a specific device assigned to any one specific kid. Teachers have carts of chromebooks in their rooms, and kids sign in and out each class period...using a different chromebook in every class. We were under the impression that the Android apps had to be tied to a specific device. Is this the case? Or will it work to just turn on installation per app for all student accounts? Will the android apps be connected to the account, and so be available on every device that they log into? Does this make sense? Thanks so much for your help!

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