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Fighting the classroom tech war in Los Angeles

Students

Pupils work with tablet computers on March 18, 2013.

The Los Angeles Unified School District had plans to give every kid an iPad; a billion-dollar proposition.

But it turns out the one-size-fits-all approach may not be  the best strategy after all.

So some LA schools will be allowed to choose between Apple, Microsoft and Google-based devices.

 

Broadening the choices makes sense, said Brandon Martinez from USC’s Rossier School of Education. “It allows students and teachers to see what works best for them. And then they can give feedback, they can swap devices, and give a more informed decision when they look to purchase at a larger scale.”

LA’s move isn’t great news for Apple. But it’s not going to knock the company off its throne, as king-of-the-educational-technology-market.

“Apple is in a very, very strong position,” said Mike Fisher, who studies the education technology market for Futuresource. “They are the number one in the U.S.”

But competition is coming on fast.

“The big trend we have seen in the last year is the rise of Chromebook,” said Fisher. Chromebooks run Google-based apps and they can be relatively cheap.

In 2012, Chromebooks accounted for only 1 percent of school devices shipped. By the end of last year, they had a quarter of the market.

Microsoft is also big player in the educational tech.  It recently scored a big contract with Houston Independent School District.

And Fisher thinks Amazon may be next to jump into the education game.

What's more, he thinks they’ll all start hooking up with curriculum providers.  “You’ll see some of the big publishers in the marketplace, people like Scholastic, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, partnering with hardware vendors.

Schools are a $13 billion global battlefield for makers of educational technology.

“It’s a green field,” said Stephen Baker, an analyst at the NPD group. “A place to sell that doesn’t have anything now,  so it’s all new volume.”   

By some estimates, only about a quarter of students and teachers in the U.S. have a classroom computing device.

As we move to a world where more kids are taking tests and learning online, schools are likely to want computers in everyone’s hands.

 

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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