Google makes ed-tech splash with apps marketplace

Google's education app marketplace begins with 20 options.

Google opened an Apps Marketplace for educators Jan. 25, creating an online repository filled with learning management system (LMS) software, web-based grade books, and other content that can be shared among an entire school district or college campus with the click of a button.

The Apps Marketplace’s education category will start with 20 applications from 19 companies, according to Google’s official blog, and the applications can be integrated with existing app accounts, such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google docs.

Using free applications from Google’s new selection—which includes spelling and grammar tutorials and bibliographical management tools—could help educational technology officials avoid installing and updating software on dozens or hundreds of computers in a school or on a college campus.

Instead, ed-tech officials in K-12 schools and universities now can offer access to online grade books, for example, to every person on the institution’s network with the click of a mouse.

Opening an ed-tech apps market could help quell lingering anxiety among school and campus technologists about Google’s leadership change, which the company announced Jan. 20.

The initial selection of educational technology apps are “just the beginning,” according to Google’s blog. The company soon will make available applications from LMS industry giant Blackboard and test preparation company Knewton.

Claiming a spot on Google’s education apps menu could prove a boon to companies that once relied on word-of-mouth advertising. With 10 million people, Google Apps for Education provides an expansive market of technology-savvy customers, educators and business experts said.

Google’s application evangelism made headlines in October when New York state education officials deployed Google Apps for Education to any of its nearly-700 schools that wanted to use the tools.

Zach Posner, CEO of Engrade, a free web-based grade book accessible for teachers, students, and parents, said making it into the Apps Marketplace’s education category has transformed the way educators will hear about Engrade.

The company, Posner said, will now be heard about from “the top down,” as school system and university IT officials make the application available via Google’s online marketplace.

“Top date, we’ve really relied on teachers telling teachers [about Engrade],” said Posner, adding that Engrade has more than 275,000 educators among its 2.3 million members. “Now there’s a whole other way for people to hear about us.”

Controlling school-wide apps, Posner said, will help IT decision makers phase out antiquated software that requires constant updates.

“A lot of this stuff looks like it was developed 20 years ago, and a lot of it was,” Posner said of software programs that serve as computer-based grade books.

Engrade is one of the Apps Marketplace’s grade books. The online service also lets educators track attendance, create an assignment calendar, and make online quizzes with questions that are automatically graded.

ThinkWave is another online grade book available in Google’s marketplace.

The ThinkWave app allows teachers and professors to view student data in a variety of formats and permits assignment weighting so educators can measure quizzes, tests, and assignments differently.

For K-12 educators, the Google Apps Marketplace has apps like BrainPOP, which offers animated movies, interactive quizzes, and online games. Some apps in the Google marketplace, like BrainPOP, have expiration dates for free access. BrainPOP will be available at no cost in the Google Apps Marketplace until March 11.

The Grockit Learning Platform is another app that could prove popular among educators with access to Google’s new education technology options.

Grockitt, a collaborative learning program that includes a social-networking and gaming platform, lets students learn from and compete with peers on a range of subjects using the site’s live chat service.

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Denny Carter

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