Well-known education publisher Pearson, headquartered domestically in New York, announced Tuesday it will purchase education software maker SchoolNet for $230 million, subject to a federal anti-trust law compliance review.
The move gives Pearson control of another Big Apple company whose software is designed to collect data on student progress and use it to help educators personalize instruction and learning. And it's the latest move—and one of the most substantial—in an e-arms race of sorts among the "big three" of educational publishing: Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Is Pearson gaining the upper hand in the fight to be recognized as the publisher that is doing the most to adapt to technology's potential for learning? At the very least, it seems to be linking with the standard-bearers in the field. It's partnered to develop a small, but state-driven pilot of iPad history curriculum materials in Virginia, and host an assortment of online courses developed by Florida Virtual School on its new Pearson Virtual Learning platform.
And the money exchanged in the acquisition of SchoolNet is substantial; to put it in context, it's about two thirds of what Rupert Murdoch's global media conglomerate NewsCorp paid late last fall to snatch up Wireless Generation, the folks behind the algorithm that runs the School of One project.
Perhaps the more important questions are whether educators' or Pearson's best interests are being served by all this investment. There are many ed-tech advocates out there who argue one of the best benefits of incorporating technology into the curriculum is the ability to pull from many more diverse sources of content than are available in the print world. And there are also dozens of education startup companies banking on the idea that no amount of investment will allow any education publisher to control the flow of digital content the way the big three have ruled the print world.