Tuesday 16 October 2012

Too Many Apples For The Teacher

There is a scene near the end of The Prisoner in which Number 6 starts to speak. "I.." he begins. "I...I...I..." echo all the faceless ones in his audience. He tries to continue. "I..." only to be interrupted by yet louder and more forceful "I... I.... I..." and so it goes on... This seems quite appropriate to what seems to be happening now in many teaching advice articles, even to the extent of how to impress OFSTED (whose representatives surely would have made brilliant Number 2s had they been around at the time).

With all the free promotion from mostly intelligent and ostensibly fair-minded people like teachers and e-learning experts, Apple must be laughing all the way to the bank and can probably now afford to sack all but a few in their Marketing Department.

Everywhere I turn these days there's some eminent authority on education technology telling us, or a grant being offered by supposedly commercially independent quangos for institutions to report on, how wonderful iPads and iPhones can be and how to utilise Apple apps in teaching-and-learning.

I'm not saying that these are not good products. I'm not saying that they cannot contribute immensely to what we're all trying to do in education. What is so wrong is that these guys only talk about or write about or demonstrate Apple products.

There are alternatives. There are good alternatives. Some might argue that there are better alternatives. (I'll try and avoid that part of the argument!) But one thing's for sure - there are cheaper alternatives.

It's a bit like the days when colleagues would give presentations and tell everyone in the room to use PowerPoint or Word to do something that could just as easily be done in software that didn't need a Microsoft Office installation. I lost count of the number of references to Microsoft Office products I had to re-word in piles of course materials designed to assess teachers' and trainers' Information and Learning Technology skills in the earlier part of this Century proposed for publication by erudite bodies running on government money. Whilst they frowned on any logo or brand mark being featured in dissemination reports to the point where I was unable to get a payment authorised for something otherwise excellent with a picture of Homer Simpson somewhere in it, references to specific Microsoft or adobe products were conveniently ignored,

I have no objection to guidance notes and examples of how to do something featuring software or hardware that you need to pay for but when I read the more general recommendations or suggestions that teachers or institutions should adopt I really do think it is time for some balance.

There are loads of really good smartphones around now and soon there will be a real choice between Android and Windows 8 as well as the Apple operating system.

There are less numerous, but still excellent, Android and, coming soon, Windows 8, tablets or pads as well as the iPad. 

Generally Apple's products seem to be much more expensive than their Android competitors and the apps that I see recommended are often ones that have to be bought by staff or students on Apple systems where the Android alternatives are free. I have yet to read a set of suggestions where it would not have been easy to have written them with reference to the alternative products or by using generic terminology instead of specific tools which make the whole article deserving of a brown padded envelope floating through the writer's letterbox containing some suitable sign of appreciation from Apple. Something beginning with i, perhaps?

So can we please stop this ubiquitous use of Apple's very, very cleverly designed brand names. Let's talk about phones, not iPhones (or, worse, iphones!). Let's talk about pads or tablets or anything except iPads. Save those Apple Marketing people's jobs! They've worked hard to get you all on their side - it doesn't seem fair that you should be doing their work for them now does it?

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