Book CreatorGoogle Play for Education is going to change the way you distribute digital content in your school, and it’s just launched in the UK. Stand back, my head is about to explode!

Alongside last year’s release of Google Classroom, Play for Education affirms the search company’s commitment to providing cheap, effective, simple technology solutions for schools.

Google Play for Education is a cross-platform content distribution system that is built into Google Apps. To put it simply, school IT administrators and teachers can now push out Android apps, Chrome apps, and digital books to students within their Google Apps domain as simply as sending an email.

It doesn’t matter whether your students are using iPads, Android tablets, Chromebooks, a Mac, or Windows PC, with Play for Education you can guarantee that your content can be accessed whatever device you’re using.

What is Google Play for Education?

Google Play is Google’s equivalent of Apple’s iTunes Store. It’s on online storefront where you can buy music, movies, TV shows, books, apps, and more. If you own an Android phone or tablet you’ve probably already used Google Play to download content, and if you haven’t you’ve probably seen the plethora of ads on TV.

Google Play for Education is a paired down version of Google’s commercial store and only contains content suitable for use in schools.

Google Play for Education

Putting teachers in control

But Google Play for Education isn’t just about allowing you to buy content, it’s about giving control to teachers. Play lets IT administrators delegate control of app installs, and book distribution to teachers. This means there’s no more waiting days or weeks for the latest software to be installed. Now a teacher can decide 10 minutes before the lesson that they want to use a particular text or app and push it out in seconds. It’s really that quick, I’ve installed an app on 100 devices is less than a few minutes. And because the Play Store is curated there’s no risk of inappropriate content or viruses being distributed.

Google Play for Education Teacher Management

All this sits atop Google’s mature Google Apps and Chrome OS ecosystem, so it’s really, really efficient. A teacher can select an app, type in the email address of a student — or better yet use a Google Group that’s already set up on the domain — and within a few clicks have it installed on up to 250 Chromebooks.

Pushing out books and apps is a breeze

Installing an appIf you can share a Google Doc, you can send out apps and books with Play for Education.

To send a Chrome app to a student you simply browse the Google Play store, select an app, enter the student’s email address and click Add. That’s all there is to it.

Apps install quickly and reliably, so you’re always confident that when you start the lesson the content the students need will be there.

About the Google Play for Education Store

Google Play for Education only contains books and apps that have been curated by other teachers. All of the spam and social media apps are gone, replaced instead with EDU certified, advertisement free content.

But most importantly Google can now boast a wide selection of education specific apps that would previously have sent teachers scurrying for their iPads. Apps like Book Creator, Explain Everything, Comic Strip it, and hundreds more can now be found on Android tablets and Chromebooks.

Google Play for Education

The store is broken down by age range and subject making everything easy to find, and teachers can leave suggestions as to what worked well in their lessons.

Google is even building in support for a variety of payment options including credit cards and the all important purchase order. Yes, very soon you’ll be able to buy Chromebook apps and books with a PO — let every school Business Manager rejoice!

It can’t all be good, can it?

Well no. Google are still working out the licensing for the UK book store, so the content there is limited to a small selection of classic — read, “out of copyright” — books. I’ve spoken to Google and they’re working on getting all of the big publishers on board as they have in the US, but there’s no release date for this as yet.

I’ve also found a few strange bugs in the store front. Just odd things like email addresses not showing up correctly, but I’m sure this will all be worked out shortly.

Having said that, Google Play for Education is a massive step forward for digital content distribution in schools. It takes the consumer model that Google has spent years refining and applies it to the educational environment — and it works brilliantly. As someone who has spent the last three years struggling with Apple’s clunky mess of iPad management systems it’s refreshing and reassuring to find a company taking schools seriously.

The future is  very exciting. If Google can bring educational films, TV shows, and the big textbook publishers to Google Play for Education, in the same way that Apple has done with the iTunes store, the service will become and essential tool for every teacher in every school.

To get access to Google Play for Education you just need a supported Android tablet or Chrome OS device with a Google Apps management license.

At this Google Play for Education only supports two Android tablets, but wider range of devices will be supported in the near future. See below for details.

3G/LTE devices are not supported at this time.

All Chromebooks managed Chromebooks are supported and you can push books out to all Google Apps users regardless of the end device.

Have you tried Google Play for Education yet? How are you getting on? Let me know in the comments.


About Author

Profile photo of Karl Rivers

Karl is an award winning Director of IT for the Royal Grammar School Guildford, based near London, England. He has been working in education for more than ten years and founded ClassThink in 2013 to share technology best practice with other schools. In 2014 he won the NAACE Impact Award for support services in schools, and writes edtech articles for Education Executive Magazine.

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