Google and Amazon Look for Growth in Digital Education Market


Amazon Inspire

Google and Amazon have put their fingers into so many pies over the years that it is hard to believe there are any left. There are, however—and the two giants are separately in the process of sticking their whole hands into the field of education. This week’s meeting of the International Society for Technology in Education marked a good time for the corporations to announce their efforts.

Expanding Google for Education, Google has taken its Forms section and made it so educators can use it to build quizzes that are automatically graded—a teacher’s dream. If desired, Google can even show students related content when a question is answered incorrectly.

In addition, Google introduced a new Cast for Education Chrome app si teachers can select content that will be shown on the screens of all of their students and works together with Google Classroom.

Google VR Expeditions appGoogle is also opening its Google Cardboard Expeditions virtual reality program for all, releasing an Expeditions App so that that teachers all around the world can take their students on virtual field trips. The description:

Google Expeditions is a virtual reality teaching tool that lets you lead or join immersive virtual trips all over the world — get up close with historical landmarks, dive underwater with sharks, even visit outer space! Built for the classroom and small group use, Google Expeditions allows a teacher acting as a “guide” to lead classroom-sized groups of “explorers” through collections of 360° and 3D images while pointing out interesting sights along the way.

Google Expeditions VR app

TES, the world’s largest network of educators, is now offering Google’s VR curriculum plans (such as coral bleaching and ocean acidification, a marine biology lesson plan for 12th grade) for teachers who wish to incorporate Expeditions in their classrooms.

Expeditions has now lost the “beta” part of its title. More than one million students from over 11 countries have taken an Expedition since the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program was introduced in May 2015. The program lets students take virtual reality trips to over 200 places including Buckingham Palace and underwater in the Great Barrier Reef.

Google Forms Education Technology

The goal isn’t just to help new generations of students learn, of course. It is also expanding the presence of the Google brand in the education space with offerings such as Google Cardboard, its low-cost virtual reality system, and Google Chromebooks, VentureBeat notes.

So far, so good. According to a Google blog post, more than 60 million teachers use Google Apps for Education—up 10 million since October.

Expeditions is also bringing in more partners, such as Field Trips from educational publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The program kicks off with four field trips that align with the publisher’s science and social studies curriculum. There are another 20 or more coming in the months ahead.

“Google Expeditions allows us to build more immersive learning experiences for our students than ever before,” said Mary Cull inane, Chief Content Officer, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, in a press release. “We can take them on field trips under water, up mountains and even back in time in ways we could only have dreamed of just a few years ago. Our partnership with Google will bring what students are learning to life in exciting new ways while dedicated teacher support will ensure this technology truly enables learning.”

Also on the branded education front, Amazon this week announced a free service to help support teachers with digital tools, content and expertise called Inspire.

“To truly transform learning in our schools and ensure educational equity for all students—regardless of grade level or ZIP code—it is crucial that we put high-quality, open educational resources at teachers’ fingertips,” stated Joseph South, director for the Office of Technology at the US Department of Education. “The leadership of states, districts and innovative platform providers is critical for setting a vision and creating an open ecosystem where educators and students can access the tools, content and expertise necessary to thrive in a connected world.”

Amazon Inspire

Among other features, Inspire offers Smart Search (to let teachers search subjects by grade level or standard), collections of educational resources and an easy way to share information.

“We’re mentors, facilitators, coaches, listeners and learners,” said Michael Buist, a teacher at Knox Gifted Academy in Chandler, Arizona, in the press release. “We’re Sherpas. And if it’s our job to get our students to the top of the mountain. We also need help. We need inspiration and resources. Amazon Inspire is that place to not only share, but learn from each other and enhance our craft.”

Amazon Inspire

Inspire is set up to look like Amazon’s primary website but without the e-commerce element. It features content shared by educators as well as information from third parties, such as the Folger Shakespeare Library, TechCrunch notes. Teachers can find lesson plans and worksheets galore.

Google and Amazon already do plenty to shape our culture. Now they will go even further to help shape the minds of the next generation.