As Microsoft renews push into the classroom, educators give Google highest marks in new study

Microsoft made a big splash last week when it announced a new education-oriented operating system, Windows 10 S, and debuted a brand new Surface Laptop, but a new study says Microsoft will need a lot of extra credit to catch up to the top tech company in schools, Google.

The study by EdWeek illustrates how far ahead Google is of its tech contemporaries. Google’s low-cost Chromebooks are by far the most popular school-provided device, with 42 percent of educators and administrators saying they use them often. The next closest number is 15 percent for PC laptops.

(EdWeek Chart)

And it’s not just hardware. Google for Education, and its G Suite, which includes programs like Gmail, Hangouts, Drive and more, are the most frequently used set of productivity tools in 68 percent of U.S. classrooms. Microsoft productivity tools are the top choice in 17 percent of classrooms, and Apple tools are popular in only 1 percent of classrooms.

So why Google? Its products are easy to use, educators and administrators say, and affordable.

“It is compatible with other educational sites and easy for students to access at home,” a Houston-area teacher surveyed by EdWeek wrote. “Many children don’t have computers, and Google makes it easy to do assignments from their phones.”

Beyond products, educators and administrators have the most faith in Google’s ability to help students learn. In response to a hypothetical question where educators were allowed to hire one company to increase student achievement, Google was far and away the top choice at 52 percent. Apple Education was the second most common choice at 13 percent. Microsoft came in sixth out of eight companies at 6 percent. Amazon was only favored by 1 percent of educators.

(EdWeek Chart)

Educators don’t see Google losing its lead any time soon. EdWeek asked school administrators, including superintendents and chief financial officers, about future school district spending on various devices over the next couple years, and 90 percent said their schools would increase investments in Chromebooks. For reference, the next most popular device by this metric was the iPad, with 33 percent predicting increased investment.

Microsoft Surface devices and PC laptops got lukewarm receptions in terms of future investments. About 29 percent of educators predicted greater spending on PC laptops with 26 percent seeing more Surface devices coming to classrooms. On the flipside, 22 percent and 19 percent of educators predict a decline in spending on PC laptops and Surfaces, respectively.

As Microsoft and Google battle it out, Amazon is quickly becoming a major player in the education technology scene, according to an analysis of the study by EdWeek Senior Editor Sean Cavanaugh. Many schools use Amazon Web Services for cloud storage, and the online retail giant has a marketplace customized for education. Amazon is also testing a service called Amazon Inspire, which is focused on “the search, discovery, and sharing of digital educational resources.”