by Erin Dye
In a world where tablets are becoming as ubiquitous in classrooms as pencils and paper, the need for high quality educational apps continues to rise. Developers have sought to meet the demand for such technology by creating and releasing new apps every day. But sometimes it isn’t so easy for teachers and administrators to find the best app to pair with a given lesson. That’s where the new Google Play for Education comes in.
Designed specifically for educators, Google Play for Education is an online marketplace filled with educational apps, books, and videos. But what sets it apart from other app stores?
We’re really impressed with Google Play for Education’s search capabilities. Let’s say you are looking for an app to supplement your lesson on multiplying fractions. You can open the Apple App Store and type “multiplying fractions” into the search bar, but your only results will be the few apps that include those exact words in their titles because the App Store is not searchable by keyword. Google Play for Education makes it easier to customize your search, allowing teachers to browse by subject, keyword, grade, or even Common Core standard. Let’s hope Apple follows suit with improved search filters.
The quality of apps available on these markets is a huge concern. Google has asked teachers to review thousands of apps, marking approved apps with a yellow badge. These badges have the potential to be a more useful metric than a “most downloaded” list.
Another useful feature of Google Play for Education is how it allows teachers to buy content using their school’s designated purchase orders. Streamlining the purchase process encourages educators to use more apps and digital content in their lesson plans because they’ll no longer have to worry about when and if they’ll get their money reimbursed. This is something Apple has been lacking.
However, Google Play for Education is not without its drawbacks. The biggest one we’ve encountered so far is accessibility. As of now, the store is only accessible to teachers and administrators with a school Google account. Students, parents, or other interested parties (such as bloggers and reviewers) cannot even browse the store’s content. A personal Google account won’t cut it. While this requirement nicely highlights the fact that Google Play for Education is designed just for educators, it creates a significant roadblock between customers and content.
For a more in-depth look at what Google Play for Education has to offer, check out this video. Overall, we think this market has the potential to be better for both teachers and developers. What do you think?
Erin Dye is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development with extensive experience creating digital materials for interactive whiteboards and iPads. She writes about IWBs and free online resources for teachers.