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To Apple or to Google, that is the question

By Team ISTE
June 30, 2015
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We’ve all heard the adage about comparing apples to oranges, but what about comparing Apple to Google? That’s the debate taking place among ed tech educators, their IT colleagues and proponents of various ed tech platforms and devices. It hinges on a single question: Does a school have to choose?

Specifically, can a school mesh various software, tools and devices provided by different technology companies? Say your school uses Google Apps for Education but has students working on MacBooks. Or you’re familiar with Microsoft Office 365 but want to use it on a Chromebook. Can it be done?

“Yes it can be done, and a lot of people are missing that,” explains Jeff Bradbury, creator of TeacherCast Educational Broadcasting Network based in Pennsauken, New Jersey, and a panelist at the ISTE 2015 session “Designing Digital Age Learning Experiences with Apple and Google Tools.”

“Educators don’t care about platforms. It’s about the experience students have rather than the tools in their hands,” Bradbury says.

The choice of tools should be based on student activities and the best methods for engaging, entertaining and educating students, Bradbury argues. “They don’t seem to care so much what device they are using. They want the technology to work and they want to have students be passionately engaged.”

Which raises the next logical question: Why? Why use and iPad? Why use a Chromebook? And, by extension, when and for what learning objectives?

These were some of the questions addressed during the panel session which, in addition to Bradbury, included Jaime Casap, chief education evangelist at Google; Jenny Grabiec, director of technology for a K-12 school in Charlotte, North Carolina; and puppet moderator Wokka Patue (Sam Patterson), technology integration specialist at Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School in Palo Alto, California.

Expected to be somewhat contentious, the session erred on the side of politeness – and humor interjected by Wokka. Sure, there were comments about preferences, but the panel concurred on some key takeaways for educators who are choosing among devices and platforms:

  • Digital age learning, no matter the tool, has turned limited access to resources into anytime, anywhere learning.
  • The best use of tools is to create something tangible that students can use in real life to better understand something.
  • The discussion of which tool to use is worthless if all we are doing is automating old education methods. Don’t take tools and put them on top of current systems. Instead, ask how you can design meaningful digital learning experiences for students.
  • If you provide students with tools – of any ilk – they will figure out how to use them and will then share that information with others. Peer-to-peer learning is a beneficial outcome.
  • Young learners are not afraid to experiment. Let them!
  • Ask yourself what problem do you want to solve, then choose the tool that best addresses the problem.  
  • Always select the tool that provides the best opportunity for authentic creation.
  • Teachers feeling like they don’t know where to start with digital age tools should find a tool, latch on to it and then latch on to another one. This method will boost your confidence level and your expertise.

As Casap noted, when it comes to tools and preferences, “It’s an arms’ race between you and the students. Just let go! Say, ‘Show me!’ Say, ‘I don’t know.’ It’s OK.”