There was an unexpected and interesting announcement from Google last week about a new free App for Google Apps for Education called Google Classroom. It will be officially released in September but in the meantime you can apply for a preview.
As Google indicates, Classroom is a logical response to the practical issues that teachers encounter when trying to work with a whole classroom of students in the GAFE environment so there will be tools for getting things organised within Google Drive, for communicating (at least from teacher to students) and for managing assignments. Initial reaction has been positive so we look forward to seeing it actually roll out in due course.
Of some real interest locally is how Classroom relates to the well known, locally developed Teacher Dashboard from Hapara which is now sold worldwide. The Hapara team was very prominent at the Google Summits (Christchurch and Auckland) over the holidays and it is certainly quite popular already, especially amongst primary and intermediate schools.
At face value, Classroom and Teacher Dashboard seem very similar so is Google cutting Hapara’s lunch?
Well, no, I don’t think. It was clear from one other developer’s comments that Google had been keeping their partners aware of the development of Classroom so I’m sure Hapara have been planning around Classroom’s release for some time. Their obvious strategy is to allow Google to grow the market as a whole for education add-ons for Google Apps and move up the food chain to provide higher end tools.
Hapara’s initial response seemed to confirm their positive approach to the announcement of Classroom, even if it was a little brief. We look forward to seeing how they now adapt their product roadmap, especially for secondary schools.
Update 19 May – here’s the best “sneak peek” of Classroom I’ve come across so far!