Is Google Play for Education a Superior Version of Apple’s VPP Store?

android-edu-2

At the Google I/O developers conference today, Google announced plans for the new Google Play for Education. In many ways, it sounds a lot like what Apple do with their Volume Purchasing Program for iPads, but Google are looking to take it to a whole new level with some very interesting features for educators looking to manage Android tablets in a school environment. Here’s what they have to say:

Schools will enjoy the ease and portability of tablets together with highly engaging educational resources. And whether it’s one classroom or one thousand, schools can easily manage tablets, and discover, purchase, and distribute content and apps with ease.

Now, I appreciate all that Apple have done with the VPP Store and their efforts to provide management software for iPads with Apple Configurator, but how many school districts can say that this is a process that they manage “with ease”. Critics may well point to the fact that this has yet to be proven, but if you have had any experience with managing Chromebooks in a school setting, you already know that Google has already shown that it has the knowledge and expertize to break down the barriers of device management and make it a seamless, user-friendly experience.

In their information for Android developers looking to add their apps to the new Google Play for Education, Google offers some insight into what else we can expect from the new education storefront.

Google Play for Education provides a simple and secure environment in which educators can buy apps in a way that’s easy for schools — through purchase orders. Your apps must support this environment by ensuring that they:

  • Sell all content and services through Google Play for Education
  • Permit Google Play to offer teachers limited free trials before purchase (through business terms only, no development work is needed)

In addition, it’s highly recommended that your apps:

  • Disable in-app purchase in any UI accessible to students.

More information is included in their “safety first” section:

To participate, your apps must be designed to be usable and appropriate for the K-12 market. The basic requirements that your apps must meet are:

  1. Apps and the ads they contain must not collect personally identifiable information other than user credentials or data required to operate and improve the app.
  2. Apps must not use student data for purposes unrelated to its educational function.
  3. Apps must have a content rating of “Everyone” or “Low Maturity” (apps with a “Medium Maturity” rating are allowed, if they have that rating solely because they allow communication between students).
  4. App content, including ads displayed by the app, must be consistent with the app’s maturity rating. The app must not display any “offensive” content, as described in the Google Play Developer Program Policies and content-rating guidelines.

Apple undoubtedly has some of the same kind of requirements for iOS developers, but one or two of the recommendations above stand out as being somewhat unique to Google. For instance, the chance for teachers to get a free trial before they buy, or the recommendation to disable in-app purchases. I am sure there are many iPad schools that would love to have those options.

I’m a fan of the iPad. I love its potential for the classroom and I know first hand that it is one of the most versatile devices a school could buy. However, managing these devices is in no way as easy as it could be. Without a dedicated IT dept, it can be very frustrating for schools who are looking to push out apps and update devices.

So, the new Google Play for Education might be the best thing that happens to the Apple Education program, because for the first time in a long time, Apple has some competition, and may just be forced to raise the stakes further in order to compete. Let the games begin!

Can the Amplify Tablet Make Some Noise in the Mobile Learning Market?

Amplify Tablets

There’s a new tablet in town – courtesy of Amplify, an educational media company backed by News Corp. The Amplify Tablet, unlike a lot of popular slates, has been designed exclusively for the education market, and now goes head to head with devices like the LearnPad and the Kuno.

A tablet tailored specifically for the schools is an appealing prospect for a lot of educators. Apple’s iPad is the dominant player in this sector, but it is not without its drawbacks. Managing apps and imaging devices, for instance, requires a dedicated techspert, and Apple haven’t done a whole lot to make that easier.

The device itself looks to be based on the ASUS Transformer Pad TF300TL, and it runs Android’s Jelly Bean software. It has a 10-inch screen, a 5MP camera, and an NVIDIA® Tegra® 3 quad-core CPU with 4-Plus 1™ architecture and 12-core GPU. The battery life is rated at 8.5 hours, and it comes with headphones and a protective case.

teacher featrues amplify tablet

Teacher features include the ability to block apps on student tablets, conduct quick polls, spot check understanding, see what a given student is using on their tablet, or even send a message to all students to move their eyes to the teacher. They can also build and share lessons with students. The tablet comes preloaded with Encyclopaedia Britannica, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Google Apps for Education, Desmos graphing calculator, EverFi’s digital literacy curriculum, Project Noah science tools, Common Sense Media and education-specific tools that allow teachers and students to take advantage of millions of multimedia resources aligned to the Common Core Standards. However, you can of course add to this software selection.

Perhaps most interesting of all, is the ability to manage all of your school’s Amplify tablets from a secure online dashboard. From here you can manage devices and configure them en masse or on an individual student basis. Devices can be tracked, locked or wiped from this online management console.

So, how much does it cost? Maybe less than you might think. The Wi-Fi tablet is being priced at an introductory rate  of $299, (from now until June 30, 2013), plus a $99 per year subscription fee for two years. Over a two-year period, that puts it right up into the same price category as an iPad, so it will be interesting to see if it can stand out enough to sway schools away from Apple’s tablet, which is already well established in schools. I am trying to schedule a demonstration of the Amplify tablet next month, so if I get that confirmed, I will return with more thoughts after I get some hands-on time with the device.

You can find out more by visiting http://amplify.com or by watching the video below.