Google Play for Education Challenges UK Ed Tech Marketplace

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Google is looking to expand its operations in the United Kingdom by introducing its “Google Play for Education” within British schools.

Schools will be able to opt for a variety of affordable tablets, including the Nexus 7 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Education.  Google Play for Education, essentially an app store, will be available on these devices to allow schools access to apps created specifically for classroom use and customized to pertain to UK curriculum.

Liz Sproat, Google’s head of education in Europe, said: “The first step is the technology itself. But in the keynote I gave to launch the service, I think I shared a vision of a classroom in which children were collaborating with each other using devices, using books, with the teacher also in the background.“Technology is an enabler but it’s the whole culture of the school that has to reflect that and incorporate it at every level.”

Sproat went on to say that technology is not easy to implement within schools, and the company is hard at work creating solutions that are easy to manage and cost effective.

“It’s really important that these solutions are equitable and very affordable. And we have to be very flexible. Schools have often made significant investments already, for instance,” said Sproat.

Google is not the first to enter this market. Microsoft and Apple both currently have a large presence in the UK education technologry market, writes Matt Warman for The Telegraph.

While Microsoft remains the dominant power player among the three, as they are the ones to have introduced students to the world of Word and Excel, Apple continues to increase its popularity through the allure of the iPad, which features the most extensive app store online and easy to use features that allow teachers to create multimedia textbooks to their students.

Apple has also continued to lower their pricing.  They ask schools to tell them prices they have been quoted, and then undercut those prices by 10%.  Schools who refuse to release their quoted prices sometimes end up receiving even better deals.

Google has made its app store free to use and compatible for use on any Android device.  The goal is “now technology is finally really able to work for schools,” said Sproat.

Critics believe that offering free services to teachers in addition to free training for the new curriculum is merely a ploy to gain customers.  Microsoft, however, remains adamant that they are not seeking a profit from the education market, although Sproat does acknowledge one form of self-interest in the company.

“There’s going to be a massive shortage of computer science graduates and we’ve committed to training teachers,” she says. “In part that’s because if those graduates don’t materialise, there won’t be the future employees all digital businesses – including Google itself – need to grow.”