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Classroom 2.0: mobile and education

By CJ Castillo / July 15, 2013

The days of blackboards and chalk dust are but a distant memory for some and an ancient myth to others. We’re living in an age when Trapper Keepers are being replaced by tablets and homework is being turned in via a wi-fi connection. So which companies are spearheading the marriage between mobile and education?

Play in the classroom

Google has stepped up to the board with Google Play for Education, a virtual store that lets educators search for the best tablet content and tools. The portal was initially introduced at last May’s I/O conference, where Google engineering director, Chris Yerga, explained how the marketplace was “built from the ground up to meet the content needs of educators.” Google Play for Education is expected to launch in the fall, with a call for developers to send in their submissions beginning this summer.

Google has already seen promising results from the pilot program they launched at six New Jersey schools earlier this year. Google Play for Education allows teachers to search for content by grade level, subject and other scholastic criteria. Instructors can also find content recommended by other teachers. Every program in Google Play for Education is pre-approved by educators, so teachers don’t have to worry if the content is appropriate for the classroom.

Apple and the iPad enroll

Not one to downplay the importance of education, Apple launched iBooks 2 last year to allow for greater e-book customization, especially in terms of textbooks. The company also released an expanded iTunes U app, which lets teachers of all levels design courses using audio, video and text.

Fun fact: there are currently over 1.5 million iPads being used in educational institutions all over the country. According to Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, “education is deep in Apple’s DNA.” He continues to say the rapid adoption of iPads by schools around the world offers the company a chance to continue that commitment to learning.

In fact, Apple recently won a contract to supply iPads to students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The agreement will provide students at 47 different campuses with iPads, all of which come with pre-loaded educational software. During the phase one roll-out this fall, 31,000 iPads will be distributed to teachers and pupils across the district.

The future of tech in the classroom

Whether students gain access to educational tech through school-sponsored tablets or BYOD programs, it won’t be long before classrooms are flooded with touchscreens and stylus pens. A recent survey from the Student Mobile Device Survey shows that 92% of elementary, middle and high school students believe mobile devices will change the way students learn in the future, with 69% of the respondents saying they are excited to see more of the mobile and education mix.

Seth Reichlin, senior vice president of market research at Pearson, told InformationWeek that students in grades 4 to 12 are already accustomed to using tablets for many subjects including math, science, history, social studies and English. Pearson also found that one-third of elementary, middle and high school students have used a tablet for school work this academic year and another 44% have used a smartphone.

Lee Badman, a network architect and Adjunct Instructor at Syracuse University, warned that purchasing iPads for students doesn’t guarantee academic success. Badman says mobile devices can be very beneficial in the classroom, but unless educators have a plan in place on how the tech can help students learn, the benefits may not be seen.

Even so, thanks to the A+ efforts of companies like Google and Apple, it’s clear that mobile will play a pivotal role in the education system. With the help of mobile devices, students and classrooms are about to get a whole lot smarter.