Google Is Closing The Gap On Apple In The Classroom

Nick Morrison, Contributor

The classroom is one of the most hotly contested frontiers in the tech war, and a new survey suggests that Google is closing the gap on Apple.

A bigger slice of a market that is worth around $68 billion, according to technology analysts Gartner, is clearly a strong motivation for the tech giants to steal a march on their rivals, but it is not the only, or even the most important, factor.

Students who take a shine to a particular device while at school may become lifetime loyalists, and possibly even brand evangelists.

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So getting in at the ground floor means a whole lot more than the individual sale.

And it is Google that is gaining the upper hand, according to research published today.

A survey of more than 2,500 teachers and administrators in the U.S. has found that while the use of Google devices is increasing, Apple’s popularity is on the wane.

The survey revealed that use of Google’s Chromebooks is up 15% this year, with more than 60% of teachers and administrators saying they have access to the devices.

By contrast, those reporting using iPads was down by 5%.

Apple is still the biggest player in the ed-tech market, but its dominance is looking increasingly shaky. At 64%, access to iPads was only marginally ahead of the figure for Chromebooks.

The survey, carried out by classroom content providers Front Row Education, also found some interesting geographical variations. While West Coast schools favor Chromebooks over iPads, with 67% using the former and 57% the latter, on the East Coast the opposite is true, with 62% using Chromebooks and 71% iPads.

And iPads still hold sway for younger children, used by 75% as against 54% in kindergarten to second grade, with grades 6 to 8 preferring Chromebooks by 66% to 51%.

Overall, the findings were good news for ed-tech companies. Three out of five teachers said their use of technology would increase this year, and three quarters said they used it every day.

Around half of teachers said they had a 1:1 student:device ratio, an increase of almost 10% on last year.

“We continue to hear from teachers that technology has shifted from a one-off lesson in the computer lab to a tool that’s incorporated seamlessly into the everyday curriculum,” said Sidharth Kakkar, co-founder and CEO of Front Row.

But despite the phenomenal and rising amounts spent on ed-tech, the jury is still out on the benefits of technology in the classroom.

The OECD released a report last year that found that heavy investment in computers and technology did not improve pupil performance in international comparison tests.

In fact, frequent use of computers in schools was more likely to be associated with worse results.

Students who use computers moderately in school tend to have better results than those who used them rarely, according to Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s education director.

But students who used them very frequently did a lot worse, even accounting for social background and student demographics.

“Even where computers are used in the classroom, their impact on performance is mixed at best,” he said.

Despite these misgivings, there is no sign yet of any slowdown in education’s appetite for technology.