There’s some big news out there today in educational software, although to outsiders it might seem like just another business day. While it’s true that Apple buys smaller tech companies from time to time–so much that their standard company answer to journalists is “we buy tech companies all the time, it doesn’t mean anything”–the recently announced Cupertino acquisition of San Francisco-based startup LearnSprout is actually much bigger news than many people realize.
LearnSprout, a three-year-old company which has already reached K-12 school districts in 42 states with its trackable, outcome-based software–is just great enough that it might be the key to Apple’s further penetration into the edtech industry. For those who haven’t had to sit in a public school for a while, here’s the breakdown: iPads are awesome learning tools, but they’re also pretty much a Wild West of available apps and platforms. The lack of consistency is actually beneficial, as teachers are able to root around through the App Store and find the tools they need for their specific students. Unfortunately, it also means a disconnectedness in which one teacher uses this platform, another teacher requires this app, and so on.
There’s also an inherent reluctance on the part of administrators to unleash these too-powerful tablets in their teachers’ classrooms. There’s no government control over what content the teachers use when they allow tablets, and if there’s anything state and local governments love about their school districts, it’s absolute control over the content and curricula.
With Apple seemingly venturing into the educational software sphere, it could mean a serious run-for-the-money when it comes to beating out the ever-popular Chromebook, which lets system administrators and politicians control what software is installed. As TechCrunch has reported,US school systems buy around one million Chromebooks every quarter, and they now account for half of all devices used in American classrooms. It’s a shame, given that tablets (regardless of manufacturer) are typically better suited to most public school environments in terms of battery life, portability, instant power up, and durability. Hopefully Apple’s acquisition can bring the more functional tool back into one of its most ideally designed roles.