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ISTE 2017: Google, Tech Titans to Make Their Pitches Directly to Educators

31-Tech-Titans-Virtual-Reality-Fieldtrip-blog.jpgThe country's largest education technology conference will kick off in San Antonio this weekend, drawing thousands of teachers and school administrators from across the world—and hundreds of companies eager to pitch their latest products.

The gathering of the International Society for Technology in Education will be the first overseen by the group's new CEO, Richard Culatta, who formerly helmed the Office of Education Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.

The conference comes at a time of increased public scrutiny on the role of technology companies in the nation's schools. In recent months, for example, the New York Times took a front-page look at "How Google Took Over the Classroom." The Times also investigated the declining K-12 fortunes of Microsoft and Apple.

Also in May, EdWeek Market Brief took a deep dive into the cutthroat competition among those three tech giants, plus Amazon, for market share in K-12.

The conclusions from Market Brief's exclusive national survey were clear: Educators are turning in droves to Google's Chromebook devices and G Suite for Education online software tools, primarily because of the affordability, simplicity, and convenience they offer.

Market Brief's Executive Editor, Kevin Bushweller, will be on site in San Antonio providing briefings on the full results of the report. (You can still register here, here, or here if you'd like to attend. Market Brief's Associate Editor Michele Molnar will also be reporting on the ground.

Google is one of dozens of technology companies sponsoring the ISTE event. The online-services giant will have a big presence at the conference: Staff from its sales, product, and engineering teams will be out in force to demo new devices and software features, and more than 40 sessions and workshops will feature everything from "YouTube in the Classroom" to virtual field trips to how to "Googlize Your Learning Space."

The company declined to characterize its hopes for the event.

Jennifer Magiera doesn't work for Google and isn't paid by the company. But the chief innovation officer at Des Plaines Public Schools outside Chicago will be co-hosting the "Google for Education Playground," intended to let educators get hands-on help from their peers in using the company's products and tools.

Google's rapid ascension in K-12 schools has helped shift the conversation in the ed-tech community, Magiera said in an interview.

Back in 2010, she was a classroom teacher "duct-taping and daisy-chaining a myriad of unrelated tools to try to meet my needs," Magiera said. The conversation in the ed-tech field seemed heavily focused on choosing the right devices, software, and apps.

But now, Magiera said, the G Suite ecosystem has its own collection of widely used, interrelated tools that work neatly together.  In addition, Google has made it easy for third-party vendors to integrate their software and platforms with G Suite, creating more seamless classroom experiences for teachers and students.

That has helped shift the conversation away from tools and more toward teaching and learning, she said.

"It's not just because of Google singlehandedly," Magiera said, but the new environment is "allowing people more breathing room to ask the important questions."

Magiera's keynote will focus on the "untold stories in education," she said, and the role that technology can play in bringing more diverse stories to light.

Other hot topics at ISTE this year include maker education, coding, and computer science. The latter was also a focus at the recent conference of the American Educational Research Association.

Photo: Tristin Dunkerson, center, uses a VR viewer to go on a virtual field trip to a rainforest in the classroom of teacher Amanda Moore at Chapelwood Elementary in Indianapolis. Moore uses Google Expeditions for the project, and she uses a variety of Google tools to communicate and share assignments with students. -- AJ Mast for Education Week


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