Platform Agnostic?


We have been having a lot of technical issues at school this year, and it has been a real challenge for me to keep my students engaged  when things do not work like they are supposed to. I am not talking lesson plans and such, I am talking about network issues. Kids can’t save their work. Kids can’t access a web site. Kids can see a document but can not edit it. These are the kinds of issues that tech teachers deal with all the time, but this year has been especially brutal.

Over the last 5 or 6 years I have been using a number of Google products  for my classes and I use Moodle as an online classroom.  I have encouraged students to use open source products like Open Office and Gimp at home because they are free. I have steered clear of Microsoft products simply because I have found that many of my students cannot afford to have Office at home.

My students and colleagues have come to know me as a “Google guy.” Almost all of the assignments I give have in the past been done in Docs. This year Docs has not been working at school. I don’t yet know or understand why, but it does not work. Frequently kids could not save Word documents either. We tried using Microsoft Live and it worked! Kids could save!

So now We are all over the map in my classroom. Most of the course is still in Moodle, but it is moving to the new software the district is using. Sometimes we use Docs, sometimes Sites, sometimes Live, and yes we sometimes use Bing Maps instead of Google Earth. (Hey, you got to do what you got to do!)

I was feeling pretty sorry for myself dealing with all of these issues. I have been thinking that it is not fair to the students having to constantly scramble to find something that works to complete a particular project. It just seemed wrong to tell one student to try doing something one way and then tell the next kid to try something else. That is how they taught me to do it in teacher school.

And then I read a blog post by Ira Socol titled “Platform Agnostic.”  Mr. Socol writes an awesome blog that usually gets me thinking. In this case he was writing about the diversity of tech tools he uses on a given day. The line that hit me hardest was

“I’m not “Platform Agnostic” because I’m a crazed techie, I’m “Platform Agnostic” because I work in education, and education is about helping students prepare for any possible future, not my particular vision of a future.”

I am a “Google” guy, a GCT. I prefer the Google tools, they work well for me in my environment. But my students are not always going to be in my environment. And I am learning that Google tools are not always going to work in MY environment. I need to make sure me students know how to use a range of tools, and if that makes me less of a Google guy, then so be it.