There are a few industries that seem to be getting a lot of attention from the big technology companies. Take self-driving cars. Despite a recent casualty involving a self-driving Tesla, Google, Intel and several other companies are investing tons of time and money into researching and building “autonomous vehicles.” With the potential productivity opportunities and convenience that self-driving cars could offer, companies see the field as a growth industry. With all of the attention and experimentation, some strategists estimate that there could be over 10 million self-driving cars by the end of the decade.
But that’s one of the advantages of working in a field that offers a lot of potential growth (and profits) for companies. The technology giants descend on the field and, for better or worse, invest resources in exploring ways to capitalize on the market. Think drones, virtual reality, near field communication and so much more. The big players are all working in the same sandboxes.
For those of us working in education, we should feel a little lucky. With the number of K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions, education is drawing a lot of attention from technology companies. With the number of books, devices and applications that the educational industry purchases each year, Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft are eying additional ways to leverage their market share. With the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference just recently occurring, many of the firms used the conference as an opportunity to announce some new projects and initiatives. Here are some highlights.
Amazon: Where do teachers go when they’re looking for educational materials? Maybe there’s a high school teacher who is looking for a worksheet with some practice problems or a first grade teacher searching for a lesson plan on how to teach fractions. Most teachers find these materials strewn across a bunch of different free or pay sites like teacherspayteachers.com. With Amazon Inspire, the company is offering to house these materials in one easy-to-use location. Just like it disrupted the book industry, Amazon hopes to create a one-stop online marketplace for educational materials. The service is in Beta right now but educators can request access by visiting the site.
Google: With the growth of Chromebooks in schools, Google has become one of the major players in the education market. The company used ISTE to announce several new products. Google Quizzes is a new function within Google Forms that allows teachers to easily create self-graded online assessments. They also announced Google Cast for Education, a Chrome app that allows easy screen sharing for teachers and students across wireless devices. Additionally, the company cemented itself as one of the main virtual reality innovators by releasing the full version of its Expeditions app to schools. Offering over 200 different virtual reality trips to educators, it has the potential to change the landscape of field trips in schools.
Apple: Apple came out of the gates a few weeks ahead of the ISTE conference to announce its new coding platform called Swift Playgrounds. Targeting middle school and high school student, the app is designed to help students with no coding knowledge to learn how to program in a fun, game-based way. The app is free on the App Store.
Microsoft: While other companies (Google and Apple, for instance) have dominated the educational industry as of late, Microsoft is attempting to change that trend. Microsoft has partnered with ISTE to identify Microsoft Showcase Schools and is working with edX to offer educational technology and leadership online courses starting this fall.