I used to say our district was bi-polar because having both Microsoft Office365 and Google G-Suite with Classroom drove many people crazy. Then someone pointed out that “bilingual” is both more accurate and more appropriate. So, for all the times a teacher or administrator has asked, “Is Microsoft going away now that we’re ‘going Google’?” here is the rationale for a resounding “No!”
First of all, if we are going to chase whoever currently has the best set of tools, that’s a moving target. Google took a giant lead with the ultra-simplicity of Classroom, but Microsoft is battling back by focusing on accessibility tools, touting the research on the retention of handwriting vs. keyboarding (Hence their focus on the stylus) and the interconnectedness of their suite of Office tools. As my colleague Tracey often points out, we don’t know that Amazon or Adobe or some thus far little-known developer may have the next best thing. Besides that, they are all constantly changing, usually for the better, but sometimes losing a feature.
Another argument that corresponds to UDL principles, is that each platform has different strengths to offer. Teachers, students and administrators are free to choose the tool that best meets the needs of whatever task they are trying to accomplish. For instance, when Google Drive stopped supporting the ability to play a video stored in Drive, it made Microsoft’s Stream indispensable. Our teachers don’t have to stop using Google Classroom and switch back to Microsoft (we had OneDrive a couple years before we had Google Drive). Teachers can store their videos in MS Stream and add the link to their Google Classroom. Classroom has all the tools most of our teachers need, but our math teachers are looking at OneNote Class Notebook instead because of the equation editing tools in Microsoft, and our AVID students, and some World and Classical Languages utilize OneNote, which Google doesn’t really have an equivalent version of. So, we can use the best of both worlds.
In our district, most classroom teachers are sold on Google Classroom, while the Central Office, including curriculum writers, have stuck with Microsoft OneDrive. Which makes a lot of sense when you consider the kind of work being done. Our district houses the NSA, the National Security Agency. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone! They have a very large internship program that allows high school students to work there, very often leading to a career there. Interestingly, when I was at an evening session for freshman and their parents at a local high school, the Guidance Counselor was giving advice to anyone looking ahead to apply for such an internship. Plan ahead. You can’t apply if you haven’t taken a couple of Office courses. Microsoft. Office. Courses. There is no Google version. We don’t know whether any of our graduates will go on to either an employer or a college that uses Google’s or Microsoft’s office tools. Outside of education, that odds are greatly in favor of Microsoft. Businesses don’t require Google Office certification.
On the other hand, in education, Google works great for the masses. As a Special Educator of two decades, I’m used to these kinds of choices. Is today’s purpose to make sure the students go home having mastered the content, in which case we will use all sorts of accommodations, digital or not. Or are we focusing on the soft skills today, where technology can be a crutch? Google tools tend to be all students and teachers need to succeed in the world of school, especially when they have access to all the third-party tools Google allows all the creative-minded developers in the world design to make Google work even better. (Our teachers have access to Add-ins and extensions. Our students do not.) Unless they need accommodations. Microsoft shines when it comes to accessibility features. But using solely Google does a long-term disservice to many of our students who will need to switch over to Microsoft professionally.
Ultimately, though, I suppose it’s a matter of preference, like chocolate or vanilla. I happen to like chocolate and vanilla.