What museums need to know about Google Play for Education

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Last week during their annual developer-focused conference, Google provided a first glimpse of Google Play for Education. While coverage in education and tech blogs has focused on what this new development could mean for teachers and school administrators, I wanted to provide a quick guide for those of us in museum education. What does this mean for our work with teachers and students? And how can museums play a role in providing quality educational content?

What is Google Play for Education?

  • An app store for educators. The store (to be launched this fall) will make it easy to search, download, and deploy apps and other K-12 learning content to multiple (Android) tablet devices.
  • An iPad killer? Bulk ordering for groups means that schools can easily purchase and instantly distribute content to student devices. Because of this simplicity, and more affordable hardware, some are already saying Google Play for Education will kill iPad use in schools.
  • Content for educators, reviewed and approved by educators. Educators will be able to search by category, grade level, and other criteria. Educators will review content submitted to Google Play for Education and categorize them with Common Core Standards. Teachers will be able to read app reviews by other teachers and share their own recommendations.

Why does this matter for museum education?

  • More platforms for content. If Google Play for Education takes off, it will have big implications for museums in terms of the platforms we use for creating digital learning content, including lesson plans, activities, and apps. Many content producers have been publishing in iBook or iOS apps and will need to more seriously consider developing Android apps. Google has already recruited NASA and PBS as content partners. How can museums work with Google to create high-quality content for these platforms?
  • It’s not just about iPad or Android apps. Teachers will be able to push out YouTube videos to students in the same way they can apps. Now is a good time to review our strategies for creating video and other multimedia content for this audience. It is also a good time to look at Chrome apps and HTML5 for delivering rich mobile content on the web that is device agnostic.
  • Professional development for educators. Teacher training will be essential to effective integration of tablets and digital content in the classroom. How can museum educators play a role in this training?

What do you think about this new development in K-12 education? How might your museum take advantage of this opportunity?

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6 thoughts on “What museums need to know about Google Play for Education

  1. Am a bit suspicious of word Play when they are making apps on Core Standards. Will be interested to see what is produced.

  2. Looks like Apple is making it easier for schools to purchase and deploy apps on iOS devices this fall:

    The App Store Volume Purchase Program now offers institutions the ability to assign apps to users while keeping full ownership and control over app licenses. Institutions purchase app licenses through the VPP website, and can use their MDM solution to assign apps to students, faculty, and staff over the air

    http://www.apple.com/ios/ios7/education/

  3. This maybe off topic where you are talking about publicly available apps for mass distribution but..

    We just developed inhouse a tour of a new exhibition about notorious 1920s gangster Squizzy Taylor for the Old Melbourne Gaol in Melbourne, Australia using Android 7 inch tablets.
    We did this very cheaply using inexpensive tablets and developing & coding all the materials ourselves in html. And we didnt need to develop an app or involve a third party.

    The tour includes video interviews, archival documents like newspaper cuttings, an interactive map and contemporary images from a related television program.
    Visitors can rent the tablet for $5. The tablet uses a browser to look at material cached internally. I basically just created a big website in html5 and just loaded it onto the tablet’s internal memory. This meant visitors did not stream or download content. We locked visitors out from tampering with the content by using an app which lets you administrate privileges.

    Surprisingly one of the most difficult parts of the whole process was finding a simple way to make the Android operating system launch files in a suitable browser from its internal memory as a simple shortcut. And making that process simple enough that visitors could do it with a single tap on the screen.

    We did all this in total for a cash outlay of under $2k in total for all the machines etc. This did not include the huge amount of development time and trial and error in setting the machines up.

    Tablets offer visitors an opportunity to explore the exhibition space and look at lots of connected material like original documents (police records) etc. & video that we could not include on a room guide or in the interpretive panels.

    I am keen to survey our visitors to see how they react. in our first week reactions have been mixed. Frustrations with poor hardware reactions and disinterest are balanced by visitor’s readiness to adopt and try new technology and interest in primary source material.

    1. Martin, thanks for sharing your experience. I would love to know about the evaluations you receive back from visitors. You might also check out this post in which I recap advice from some of the most experienced museum mobile experience providers.

      I’m curious, since you built the “app” in HTML5, are you planning to publish it more broadly for those outside of your venue?

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