Testing, Standards And Wi-Fi: IT Opportunities Abound In Education


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The walls separating public education and private-sector investment have come tumbling down, vendors, distributors and solution providers agree.

Even as its look slowly became more modern, the classroom remained virtually the same, with teachers lecturing in front of a blackboard and students taking notes at their desks. 

"Nothing has changed in education," said Jason Katcher, Google's head of North American education. "We have an antiquated industry that is ready for change."

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But with 60 percent of today's schoolchildren expected to work in a career that doesn't even exist today, Katcher said it's critical to provide students with skillsets that allow them to flourish in new fields. Almost all of those new jobs will be aided by technology, said Sarah Schwartz, a fourth-grade teacher at Monaview Elementary School in Greenville, S.C.

"Our kids are going to technology," Schwartz said. "Our classrooms need to go there as well."   

That's at last starting to happen, thanks to a convergence of everything from Common Core state standards and teacher accountability metrics in the K-12 vertical, to wireless network expansion and cloud email in higher education. And solution providers couldn't be happier. 

Through the first nine months of 2014, IT spending reached $10.9 billion in the higher-education vertical and $9.9 billion in the K-12 vertical, according to Randy Finley, Synnex's manager of public sector business development.

Nowhere is that more evident than with Google, whose devices or content now can be found in 10,000 schools nationwide, said Renee Niemi, Google's global director of devices for work and education.

Google's Chromebooks have gone from comprising just 1 percent or 2 percent market share in 2012 to flying off the shelves today, with 1 million sold in the second quarter alone, according to Richard Achee, who works with strategic partners in Google for education.

Though Chromebooks retail for just $270, solution providers can capture $300 to $500 in directly related revenue off each device sold, Achee said. Google relies on the channel to sell education-related content since those proceeds are needed to subsidize the vendor's other classroom initiatives, Katcher said.

The Google Play for Education store offers a wide selection of books, apps and video, Katcher said, as students can digest video much faster than text. Schwartz said she often uses images or video to bring history to life by providing 360-degree, panoramic views of famous locales or historical sites. 

Synnex is dedicated to helping MSPs and VARs capture revenue through Google, Finley told attendees of the company's national conference in Greenville, S.C., earlier this month.

The Fremont, Calif.-based distributor began working with Google in early 2013 to help scale and sell Chrome solutions in the K-12 vertical, said Eddie Franklin, vice president of sales, public sector and vertical markets. The distributor packages white-glove services with the Chromebook on behalf of solution providers, such as professional development or teacher training, he said. 

Synnex also has a five-person education team comprised of a former administrator, substitute teacher, sports coach and school technology consultant to ensure they understand what end users need, Finley said.

Richard Quinones, a consulting CIO and instructional technology adviser, said it's critically important that channel partners understand a school district's challenges and pain points so that they can develop a comprehensive SWAT analysis to help the district move into the 21st century.

"School districts are looking for total solutions, not one-offs," Quinones said.  

NEXT: The Rise Of The Chromebook

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