Monday, June 30, 2014

Why I'm a Google Fan (but it's okay that you're not)

A while ago, I wrote a three-part blog entry about why I'm not an Apple fan, but it's okay that you are. After the past couple of days, I wanted to follow it up with why I'm a Google fan, but it's okay that you're not.

I wrote a post about running Android on a netbook. I'm actually writing this on the netbook, using the Blogger app. It's fast, with the keyboard it's pretty easy, and with Android the netbook is running smoothly. Doing this stuff is not for the faint of heart. There are a lot of cool things you can do with Google's tools, and I've found that with a bit of research, you can take things to a higher level. Send emails from your spreadsheets, send and receive from multiple email accounts all through one gmail, create and apply custom themes in Slides, and lots more (check out the resources section of my site for more)

The even better part is that pretty much everything is designed to be published and shared easily. That appeals to me , because having one of my ideas grow and evolve beyond what I envisioned is a huge compliment. Because it's all designed for sharing and building, the work that other people have put into it (and published on sites like can help me, too. Give a little, get a lot.

But it's not always easy. 

It has taken me months to get comfortable enough with Sites so that I can get it to do things the way I'd like, and I still can't do things like edit the header HTML, so Twitter cards won't work for anything except my blog. I'd love to be able to set a time-limit for forms, and restrict each of my students to submit only one time, but that's not yet possible. I want a lot of live-updating features that are the hallmark of docs, sheets and slides to transfer to other products like Scripts or Sites. It's not perfect, but it's constantly improving.
Keeping up with those improvements and changes can be a challenge. As soon as you get used to one tool or procedure, another one comes along that might be better. If you don't enjoy trying out new things (when it comes to technology, I really do enjoy it) then it can be daunting. Especially when we find out about something new and exciting, but don't have the chance to experiment with it yet (I'm talking to you, Google Classroom).
Image: HoustonDroids

So if you're not as excited as I am about something new, don't feel bad. If your eyes glaze over when someone says just write a little bit of code, that's fine. If your blood pressure skyrockets as soon as something goes wrong with technology, relax. You don't need to be a hardcore geek, and if you're happy with your iStuff, that's cool with me. But please don't try to explain to me why it's better, because I have different preferences. I actually want to be able to break stuff. Because with every opportunity to break something comes the opportunity to make it better. Embracing this take a sense of adventure, a childish naïveté about the good inherent in the world. If you're a technology optimist, you'll see openness as the possibility for improvement, and not as a potential pitfall.

I like having the option to make mistakes trying to do something new and creative. I'd like to be able to mess up (and mess up royally) as I try to change how my students learn, in ways that a company's research and development team didn't have to anticipate and build into the product. I don't mind looking like a fool when I'm trying to change the world, because when it comes right down to it, we all make mistakes. I'll make my mistakes as I work towards innovation in education.

Where will you make yours?