Reflections

Google, Microsoft, or Apple? Why School Districts Need to Rethink this Debate

Debate around what platform to embrace across school districts isn’t new, but with the education space now being populated with so many players, it’s on my radar more than ever, and it’s abundantly clear that it’s not just me, or a reflection of my current role. Echoes of this conversation resonate in schools, across districts, and even across borders.

The term platform agnostic is more popular than ever. I even consider myself platform agnostic. I’m typing this on a Mac, but I don’t think Apple products are the be-all and end-all; it’s just my personal preference. The tabs open in my browser right now are literally a mix of Office 365 and GSuite applications. Arguably, if educators are looking for a robust LMS (Learning Management System), they will likely turn to Google Classroom. If they want students to write code for the Micro:bit, or provide them with perhaps the best GBL (Game-Based Learning) experience with Minecraft: Education Edition, they will use Microsoft. If the goal is to unleash creativity, teachers may decide to have their students pick up an iPad.

These examples speak to the fact that some platforms and tools are better suited than others when a specific purpose or goal is in mind. We shouldn’t be asking what platform is best suited for a school district, we should be asking what platforms and tools will produce the best learning outcomes for students. Educators need to be provided with the flexibility to exercise professional judgement. They need to ask a simple question: What is the best tool for the task at hand? They can’t, and shouldn’t be restricted to working within prescribed bookends. We need to remember that our most important stakeholders are our students and teachers. Their input should be integral to any decision making.

Although I completely understand the need to land on a specific platform for corporate communication, we cannot impose this decision across a system as whole. If we do, we lose sight of who we are really here to serve. 

Moreover, if our goal is to equip students with skills necessary to take on any challenge when they leave our classrooms, we need to look at this issue in a broader context. We shouldn’t be asking what platform is best for school districts, but what transferable skills do we want to impart on our students. Exposer to the nuances of multiple platforms broadens a student’s skillset. It better prepares them for an unpredictable world where success may be determined by their ability to make decisions and solve problems based on breadth rather than depth. No single platform or tool is going to equip our students to meet the challenges and obstacles that they will face. This quote from from A.J. Juliani’s book Empower perhaps best makes this point. (Graphic via George Couros – On the “Real World”.)

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So what do we need to do from a system perspective? First and foremost, we need to realize that different platforms and tools are more suitable than others for specific tasks, but more importantly, we need to make this abundantly clear to all stakeholders through our communications. Corporately, if one platform is preferred over another, that’s fine. However, the messaging has to be one of advocacy for our learners above all else. Make it clear to educators that they are the ones in the best position to determine the platform or tool to maximize learning outcomes; otherwise, we will end up creating a culture of confusion and frustration which is in no one’s best interest.

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