ASU/GSV Panel Delves Into New EdWeek Market Brief Research on Tech Titans

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asu/gsv panel on edweek market brief survey results

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District administrators are constantly trying to find a balance between seeking simplicity, shareability and privacy in ed-tech products, on the one hand, and choosing tools that will drive innovation, members of a panel at the ASU/GSV Summit said this morning.

Those competing demands underscore the results of of a new, nationally representative survey released by EdWeek Market Brief: “Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft: How 4 Tech Titans Are Reshaping the Ed-Tech Landscape.”

The survey, along with an accompanying story exploring those companies’ roles in the K-12 market, examine what educators think of the providers, and how they’re influencing the work of schools.

On Monday, EdWeek Market Brief Executive Editor Kevin Bushweller discussed the survey results with Chris Curran, the managing partner of Tyton Partners;  Holly Yettick, who oversaw the research as director of the Education Week Research Center; Keith Bockwoldt, the director of technology services for the Township High School District 214, in Illinois; and Tom Ryan, the chief information and strategy officer with the Santa Fe Public Schools.

One of the big findings in the survey is that Google’s Chromebooks and G Suite for Education rank very high among K-12 officials, who place a huge value on choosing tech tools that won’t overwhelm teachers and students.

“Where Google really shines is on that ease-of-use metric,” Yettick said during the panel. And when it comes to Chromebooks–some models are priced for under $200—K-12 officials see Google as “killing it on affordability,” she added.

The focus on price reflects the reality of K-12 districts’ budgets, Bockwoldt said.

“School districts are struggling to find ways to get devices into the hands of kids,” he said.

But the potential downside is that districts can fixate on cost, rather than finding devices and tools that can revamp pedagogy and do “what we want to transform” the classroom.

That worry came across in EdWeek Market Brief’s reporting on the four big companies’ roles in K-12 today, with some industry observers seeing little evidence that those providers’ tools are supercharging innovation in teaching and learning. “It’s not innovation with a big ‘I,'” one observer in the story put it.

Google has come under major criticism over the past few years for its data-privacy practices, which the company says have been overhauled. But some panelists said any reassurances they have are conditional. Bockwoldt, for instance, noted the recent news that Google Gmail users had been the targets of a massive phishing scam, an incident he said was a red flag for him.

Some K-12 officials, meanwhile, have said they believe more districts will try to create an “ecosystem” of ed-tech platforms and devices, rather than just branding themselves as a Google, Apple, or Microsoft district.

But Curran and Ryan both said that creating those ecosystems requires greater coordination in areas like tech training and professional development. (Others cite the need for greater interoperability before that alignment can occur.)

“If all of our professional development comes as these silo’d experiences,” Ryan said, “we don’t fully [use] the power of any of these tools.”

While Google might be winning over educators now, Apple and Microsoft are still fighting hard for territory. And things can change quickly, Curran said.

It’s not unusual for big companies to recast themselves, he said, citing the examples of McGraw-Hill Education getting out of the high-stakes testing market to focus more on classroom products, and Pearson’s recent interest in selling its K-12 curriculum business.

So check out our survey on the tech titans, and the related story on EdWeek Market Brief, and let us know what you think of educators’ views of these companies, and how they will shape the market going forward.

Photo: panel discussion at ASU/GSV on the results of EdWeek Market Brief’s new survey results on educators’ perceptions of Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon.

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