Developing apps for children is decidedly tough, but not impossible. Increasingly, schools are bringing technology into every classroom. BYOD programs allow children to bring devices into school for the purpose of participating in classroom lessons. District-wide tablet purchasing programs bring touchscreen devices to every child. While Apple was always considered the top choice for these programs, Google has joined the race by creating a suite of tools and hardware to meet the needs of school districts large and small. With it, this entrance brings new revenue opportunities to app developers. Google Play for Education, announced at Google I/O 2013, is actively accepting apps for its pilot program. The service allows schools to choose apps from a tightly monitored, curated collection. It’s a complement to Google's Nexus tablet program for schools. If you've been paying attention, you already know of the Google Chrome program and Google Apps for Education.
How It Works
Google Play for Education connects schools with Google products from desktop to tablet, and now offers more convenient billing. Apps can be purchased in bulk for classrooms, schools or entire districts. Billing options now include purchase orders. Easy payment removes at least some friction involved in selling apps to schools. With all this, imagine the potential for a useful app. Apps for the store must offer real educational value. Monetization techniques that work well otherwise are accepted with additional rules designed to protect students and their data. As you’d expect, marketing and app guidelines here differ from those applied to the general Google Play. Leveraging this opportunity requires adherence to these guidelines without exception. They contain a lot of common sense advice for developers, along with caveats to improve acceptance through a third-party review service Google uses to ensure apps provide actual educational content. Considering the attention Google has received for questionable apps found in Google Play, the review process is a welcome addition. The area’s gated entry provides additional peace of mind to schools considering Nexus tablets. Social media connections are forbidden for all apps in the store.
Focus on K-12
The program’s target is K-12 schools. In addition to providing educational material, Google encourages developers to provide content that meets or exceeds current common core educational standards. Users find apps based on content rating, subject or other common core criteria. Teachers will be granted a limited-time preview of each app before purchasing. Since this option is implemented at the billing level, rather than through the app, it doesn’t require additional programming. Apps that use multiple sign-ins or have confusing menus will be far less likely to be chosen over those providing an intuitive first interaction, so keep it simple.
Kids = Challenge
Developing apps for children is decidedly more difficult than it is for adults. Developing for younger children is even more challenging. The Google’s K-12 focus gives you a unique opportunity to offer compelling content across grade levels. Personally, I’d like to see apps that teach principles of software engineering and possibly allow students to learn to code. This may be asking too much considering that they’d need an external keyboard. Still, Python for Android and Code Anywhere are two tools with potential for this challenging request. The digital education market for schools is heating up. Interested developers should join the program early to gain early visibility with pilot schools. Early entry will allow your app’s popularity to grow with the marketplace, and gain valuable insight into the educational app business.