Are Google Beating Apple When it Comes to Education?

Google or Apple? Two of the world’s tech giants battle it out to be top of the class.

Just twenty years ago, the most high-tech object in any given classroom was likely to be an overhead projector. Not a video projector that plugs into a computer, but the ones that are essentially a massive bulb facing an angled mirror. All they could project were those floppy acetate sheets, normally just scans from a textbook that your teacher had lovingly prepared five years earlier.

At some point in the (very) early 2000s these were largely replaced by actual projectors, and in some cases, smart boards. But of course, these didn’t work all that well, especially when someone “forgot” it was a smart board and scribbled all over it in marker pen.

Nowadays though, kids are treated to an enviable array of extremely expensive rectangles to aid in their education. We are of course talking about ‘Ipads’ and ‘laptops’, whose staggeringly responsive touchscreens and lightning-quick processing powers have completely revolutionised the smartphone and computer industries. Now, they’re considered top-notch educational tools.

Predictably, the two tech giants racing for domination in the educational tech space are Apple and Google, but perhaps less predictable is that Apple currently find themselves lagging behind. What’s turning American schools in particular onto Google rather than Apple?

Two classmates using Chromebooks: Photo by Kevin Jarrett

Chromebook

The Google Chromebook is a compact but extremely powerful and versatile laptop/tablet hybrid. The newest model is essentially a laptop with a touchscreen, combining the practicality of having a full-size keyboard with the alluring beauty and playfulness of a tablet.

Many schools across America have been wooed by the relatively cheap combination of Chromebook and G Suite, Google’s cloud-based software package that includes apps like Docs, Sheets and Drive. This hardware and software combination provides a pretty useful set of tools for teachers and students.

According to the technology news website ZDNet, it costs “$40 a year for a student to take home a Chromebook and get a new one every three years or until you wreck the device”. “Suddenly”, they say, “Apple devices look like a luxury that’s not needed”.

Last year, Google and Chromebook managed to win half of the US education market share for personal computers and tablets. The popularity of Chromebooks in US education is mainly limited to classes between Kindergarten and 12th grade however, the equivalent of between primary school and the last year of sixth form in the UK. For Universities or American colleges, Windows and Macbooks prevail.

Speaking to American technology website The Verge, Trace Urdan who is managing director of Tyton Partners (an education advisory firm) said that “Google has been playing the long game, which is to get all of these kids into the Google apps. They’ve created enough utility and made it easy enough so it’s become the defacto document-sharing, collaboration tool in schools.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an education event at Lane Tech College Prep High School on March 27, 2018 in Chicago: Photo by Qi Heng

Apple’s creative flair

Apple has just paired the release of a new Ipad with the launch of an initiative to sell it at discounted prices to schools. The brand new 9.7 inch Ipad was revealed at an event in Chicago on Tuesday 26th March 2018 and will hit stores in the UK by the end of the week.

Speaking at the launch event, Apple’s vice president for product marketing Greg Joswiak said, “Our most popular and affordable iPad now includes support for Apple Pencil, bringing the advanced capabilities of one of our most creative tools to even more users.

“This iPad also has the power of the A10 Fusion chip, combined with the big, beautiful Retina display, advanced cameras and sensors that enable incredible AR experiences simply not possible on other devices.”

Creativity is hardwired into Apple’s DNA, and the new Ipad’s augmented reality (AR) capabilities certainly offer inventive and original ways for kids to learn. AR anatomy is a particularly intriguing use of this technology; kids will be able to ‘dissect’ three-dimensional animals right in front of them for example.

Also speaking at the event in Chicago, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “We believe that our place at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts makes it possible for us to create powerful products and tools that amplify… creativity”.

Both companies have made significant advances with regards to supporting the education of young children across America, and a little bit of competition puts pressure on both Apple and Google to continue developing technologies that can help millions of kids for many years to come.

 

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