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School’s In! Let’s Make Money!

August 22, 2013

It’s not an industry secret that adults gravitate to the technology they were introduced to as kids.  Apple figured that out many years ago and tried to shove its products into all the schools, while IBM just assumed that people would learn to use PCs like they learned to use the mainframe.  I actually think the trend is going to decline now that technology isn’t just in the corner of the room, it’s everywhere in the room.  But that wouldn’t stop any large company (all of which generally seem to think that what worked two decades ago is a great idea) from trying to push into schools, complete with free stuff.  Witness Microsoft:

“We already know that search is an important tool for kids in school – a recent Pew poll found that 94% of teachers believe their students are very likely to use a search engine during a typical assignment,” said Matt Wallaert, Bing behavioral scientist, in a blog post. “We believe that schools should have the choice to make sure those searches are safer, more private, and ad-free.”

Under the Bing program, schools’ IT admins are guaranteed no advertising for children in search results, the automatic blocking of pornography, and “enhanced privacy protections.”

Well, no advertising, other than probably a bunch of Bing branding reminding students that they just need to Bing it.  I think this is a decent approach to a degree… having been in schools where kids need to wade through a bunch of paid results before finding the particular topic they wanted, it’s good to have them get more direct access.  But that’s not all:

Microsoft is also supplying lesson plans for teachers designed to integrate Bing into lessons and “promote digital skills.” A typical lesson plan designed for math students involves searching for information on oil tankers and using Bing’s search bar calculator to work out how much Texas tea they can deliver to Houston.

Microsoft is also adding its expensive stockpile of Surface RT tablets to the program, by letting anyone use Bing Rewards points (which as awarded for using Microsoft search and services while logged in) to buy a fondleslab for the school of their choice. An RT unit with Touch Cover costs 30,000 reward points, which Microsoft reckons could be earned every month by 60 average users.

Again, this is pretty good from a market strategy.  Tech teachers aren’t engineers, and they sometimes need some help incorporating new programs.  That said, I’d be really interested in seeing the lesson plans, because plans written by companies usually need quite a bit of modification to actually fit into the classroom.  Just like the market plans work in the past, the view of education at most companies is pretty dated.  It’s one thing to supply the plans, and another to have teachers be able to drop this day one into the class.

So check with the kids as things move forward.  If their habits start to shift, then Microsoft is successful.  If we’re still debating the value of education searches using various engines, then we’ll have to repeat a grade here.

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