Android tablets are rare in education, but that’s about to change. Google has looked at the model provided by iPad and is about to make it look antiquated.
In May this year, at the Google I/O developers conference, Google announced Google Play for Education, a curated educational app store for schools. The company promised the initiative would make it easier for schools to find educational apps for Android tablets and encourage more developers to support the platform.
But Google Play for Education is so much more than just an app store.
[pullquote]Google Play for Education is so much more than just an app store.[/pullquote]
At a recent demonstration a number of new features were quietly announced. Google Play for Education isn’t just a way for teachers to find distribute apps, it’s a whole Android ecosystem focused on education.
Google has looked at the way schools currently use tablets — from frontline teaching, distribution of apps, provisioning devices, and even purchasing — and is about to revolutionise it.
The company has heard the frustrations at the lack of multi-user devices, the unintuitive device configuration, and the lack of customisability, and addressed them all. They’ve taken their experience with Chromebook, and their Google Apps backend, and incorporated it into Android.
So, what can we expect from Android in the next few months?
Google Apps Support
A huge problem that schools have is that iPads are single user devices — every user gets equal access to any apps or accounts installed on the tablet.
Google Play for Education will allow for students to login to an Android tablet with their Google Apps for Education account. Once logged in they’ll have access to their Google Drive, GMail, Calendar, textbooks, and any other apps you may have installed.
More importantly, however, once they log out, their information will be gone from the tablet and another student can login and use the same device.
Quick and Simple Device Provisioning
Another complaint about iPads is that setup and management with Apple Configurator is unwieldy and unintuitive. Android for education makes provisioning tablets almost too simple.
An administrator app will be available from the Google Play store, this is installed on an Administrator’s tablet. The settings are configured the through the app and then pushed to other Android tablets by simply touching them together.
All of the configuration settings, proxy server details are shared over NFC just by the two devices being in close proximity. The process literally takes a second to complete and the devices are provisioned and ready to be distributed to students.
The Google Play for Education store is a curated version of the standard Google Play store. It will feature a selection of apps hand-picked by educational professionals and organised by grade level and subject. Teachers can view the store through a browser and remotely install apps on individual or groups of Android tablets.
Full access to the standard consumer Play store is still available, so if the app you want isn’t in the curated store you can still push it out to your devices.
Apps can be purchased either by credit card in the normal way or by a school friendly PO.
The Future of Android in Education
If Google can bring the same level of commitment to Android that it brought to Chromebook in education it could initiate a tidal shift in school tablet use. With the latest Android tablets supporting Miracast for wireless screen mirroring all the pieces are falling into place for a radical shift in educational tablet use.
Google Play for Education is due for release in the US this autumn.