July 27, 2014

With Google Play for Education, Google Promises a Hassle-Free Tablet for K-12, challenging the iPad

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The iPad has been the tablet of choice for schools, thanks to volume purchasing, volume management, and the vast selection of apps.  But that may be about to change.

With the recent launch of Google Play for Education, Google is set to challenge the iPad’s dominance. Come Fall 2013, Google will be shaking up the K–12 tablet landscape in a very big way. 

It’s easy to see why the iPad has been the default choice for educators. Apple made it hard to resist, with the Apple Volume Purchase Program (VPP) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools like Apple Configurator and JAMF Software Casper Suite, which made it possible for schools to buy apps in bulk and manage all of their devices.  But if what Google promises comes true, Google Play for Education will be far simpler to deploy and manage.

Piloted at KIPP Bridge Charter School Oakland, CA, and Hillsborough Township (NJ) Public Schools, Google Play for Education will go live for US educational institutions this fall. Details about how it will work are still emerging, but Google confirmed several key aspects of the program. Schools will be able to buy apps in the Google Play for Education store in bulk by using a variety of payment methods including purchase orders. Then, institutions will be able to instantly push these apps to Nexus tablets over the air. Apps can be pushed to individual students or to groups of any size: across classrooms, schools, or even at the district level. Apps deployed this way will appear on the devices without the student or teacher needing to do anything extra, it will “just work.”

At launch, the program will be available exclusively on Nexus tablets, and in order to participate, institutions must be using Google Apps for Education. Google claims that the Nexus devices will be deployable in hours, as opposed to the days typically needed to deploy large numbers of iPads. At press time, there was no confirmation on whether the program would eventually extend to non-Nexus Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy, Samsung Note, Amazon Kindle, or Barnes & Noble Nook tablets.

Regarding the technical expertise required to take advantage of Google Play for Education: Caesar Sungupta Google’s director of product management, Chromebooks stated that the admin panel would be similar to that of Google Apps for EDU and the experience akin to that of deploying Chromebooks with the goal being that the process would be as simple as possible so that it would not necessitate an IT department.

In addition to making purchasing and deploying apps easier in Google Play for Education, Google is seeking to improve the discovery of apps by having a third-party group of educators curate apps along curriculum, grade, and Core Curriculum standards. This pre-selection will also extend to books and video. Books will be available for volume purchase, but there’s no confirmation yet on whether video will also be included. 

To learn more about using Nexus tablets in your institutions and about Google Play for Education, sign up here.

How did Apple respond at WWDC on Monday? By not uttering a peep about K–12 or Education and by showing off many exciting new features in OS X and iOS that heavily leverage iCloud. As of now, no word on an iCloud for edu product, which means that most of these exciting new features and services won’t be applicable to K–12, such as iWork on iCloud.

 

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About Joelle Alcaidinho

Joelle Alcaidinho (@joelle_writes, _www.joellewrites.com) is a writer, designer, and ed-tech consultant. She loves technology and is in an almost perpetual state of problem solving. She's quite fond of airplanes and coffee and is pretty sure she will eventually read all of the books in her library.

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