Pearson, Microsoft Join Forces to Deliver Content on Windows 8

Associate Editor

Pearson is teaming up with Microsoft Corp. in a collaboration for K-12 announced this week.

Their first joint offering will be Pearson’s Common Core System of Courses being made available in the Windows 8 touchscreen environment to deliver personalized learning for the 2014-15 school year.

Larry Singer, the managing director for Pearson’s North American schools group, said that while his company and Microsoft have worked together on a limited scale in individual districts, the new arrangement marks the “most intentional collaboration” to date.

Singer said the arrangement would bring potentially major benefits to both his company and to Microsoft.

For Pearson, the collaboration will give it much more reach into schools. Previously, the common core curricula and tools developed by the company had run exclusively on Apple’s operating system, iOS, but now Pearson will be able to sell those programs within a greater number of schools and districts using a Microsoft operating system, Singer said.

Now, districts and other clients will be able to buy the common core and other Pearson materials pre-loaded on Windows 8, or separately, by downloading apps or programs on their own, Singer said.

“We create another technology option on which [our programs] can run,” Singer said, prompting “real competition between multiple vendors.”

Today, many districts are “almost exclusively a Microsoft environment,” Singer said, and many school IT departments are much more familiar with the Redmond, Wash.-based company’s operating systems, than with those of competitors.

For years, Microsoft’s XP operating system, for which the company will soon end technical support, was believed to be the dominant operating system in the nation’s schools. In a recent interview with Education Week, Cameron Evans, the chief technology officer for Microsoft’s education division, said that the vast majority of the schools using Microsoft operating systems, about 70 percent, are using a more recent version, Windows 7, while 20 percent are still using XP. Just 10 percent have migrated to Windows 8, he said.

Today, Evans responded to an inquiry by saying that “a growing number of schools” are adopting Windows 8, citing the decision by Miami-Dade, the nation’s fourth largest school district, to use Windows 8 devices for its 1-to-1 initiative. 

But Singer predicted that the appeal of Pearson’s common core materials would lure some districts to Microsoft’s more up-to-date product.

Gaining access to Pearson’s curriculum “gives people a business reason to switch to Windows 8,” Singer argued.

Pearson originally embedded its Common Core System of Courses onto iPads distributed as part of the Los Angeles Unified’s sweeping, and much-criticized plan to provide devices to students throughout the nation’s second-largest district. Pearson drew fire from detractors who said its curriculum was incomplete, and that its role in the project was not sufficiently defined.

But Singer said skeptics had made far too much about early glitches in the 1-to-1 rollout, and that Pearson’s materials were benefitting students in Los Angelesand would soon help others elsewhere.

“Anything new and different will bring out supporters and critics,” he said.

Sean Cavanagh contributed to this report.

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