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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

How Google won the education market

Google, with its low-cost Chromebooks and free classroom apps, now dominates the education technology market, reports Natasha Singer in the New York Times. Apple, which used to be number one in schools, and Microsoft have been “outmaneuvered.”

In 2012, Chromebooks had less than 1 percent of the K-12 market for laptops, tablets and other mobile devices.  By 2016, that had risen to 58 percent.

While Apple and Microsoft sold to district officials, “Google has enlisted teachers and administrators” to test new products and promote them to colleagues, writes Singer.

Chicago Public Schools adopted Google’s platform in 2012. Photo: Whitten Sabbatini/New York Times

“Google set up dozens of online communities, called Google Educator Groups, where teachers could swap ideas for using its tech,” she writes. “It started training programs with names like Certified Innovator to credential teachers who wanted to establish their expertise in Google’s tools or teach their peers to use them.”

Singer thinks “Google is helping to drive a philosophical change in public education — prioritizing training children in skills like teamwork and problem-solving while de-emphasizing the teaching of traditional academic knowledge, like math formulas.”

I’m not sure I see that. Teachers can use Chromebooks and Google Docs in a variety of ways.

She quotes the director of Google’s education apps group, Jonathan Rochelle, who spoke at an industry conference last year.

Referring to his own children, he said: “I cannot answer for them what they are going to do with the quadratic equation. I don’t know why they are learning it.” He added, “And I don’t know why they can’t ask Google for the answer if the answer is right there.”

Here’s a quiz: What did Rochelle mean? That his kids have to figure out for themselves how to use the quadratic equation? Or is it that they don’t need to know how to use the quadratic equation because they can get “right answers” from Google?  Is there another meaning?

I’ve been visiting schools in the last few years to write about blended and personalized learning. Teachers say Chromebooks are easy to use and come with keyboards and cloud-based storage. Administrators say they’re a lot cheaper than the competition. It’s not just better marketing: Google has a very good product.

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