Do teachers need a truck, or will a car do?

Steve Jobs said the following in an interview back in 2010:

“When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks. But as people moved more towards urban centers, people started to get into cars. I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them. And this transformation is going to make some people uneasy… because the PC has taken us a long way. They were amazing. But it changes. Vested interests are going to change. And, I think we’ve embarked on that change. Is it the iPad? Who knows? Will it be next year or five years? … We like to talk about the post-PC era, but when it really starts to happen, it’s uncomfortable.”

The traditional desktop/laptop PC (whether that’s a PC or Mac) is likened to truck, whereas mobile devices (iPads/tablet or even just smartphones) are the car. The argument is that, eventually, the ‘car’ will be enough for most people, with the ‘truck’ reserved for more specialist use.

In my school, every teacher has an iPad but also access to a Mac too. Teachers carry their iPads with them everywhere, using them to teach with (mirrored Explain Everything), check email/Slack, take and view photos, access web-based resources including our registers and data on Pupil Asset, as well as increasingly creating all manner of documents using iWork as well as other iPad educational apps such as Showbie/Seesaw/Tapestry. The question is, to what extent do they really need a Mac?

Admittedly, the embedded Mac workflow is to do planning on (horrific) Word documents overflowing with multi-cell tables that are then saved to the SMB shared drive. Plus, quite a few educational resources are doggedly stuck in the technological dark ages because they still require Flash (looking at you Mathletics!). Plus, people feel familiar and comfortable on a desktop, most not knowing or utilising the increasingly powerful productivity features of iPad.

But with Brexit 20% price hikes on Macs, and newest iPads nearly overtaking older Macs in terms of speed, have we reached that ‘Post-PC’ moment? Do teachers need a ‘truck’ to teach with, or can they be persuaded that a ‘car’ will more than do?

I have been #ipadonly since the beginning of this year, and kids at school since September, so it is certainly possible. With some training, some faster iPads, a switch to Google Drive, a few Smart Keyboards and some judicially placed Office365 licences, some teachers could be pusuaded to join me?

Slack: helping Teachers ‘be less busy’?

A few years ago, Julian Coultas recommended we tried using Slack at school. It’s basically a chat service for work, allowing users to easily and quickly communicate across the whole school team. You can pay for it, but the free option gives most of the functionality you would need. At that time, I knew it wouldn’t work because not everyone in the school had easy access to a computer. However, as we were making sure every member of staff had a computer from the beginning of this term (desktops for office staff, iPod Touch for Early Years and iPads for everyone else – teachers and TAs), I thought it was time to give it a try.

We’ve only been using it for a couple of months, but here’s some benefits I’ve seen:

  • I’m receiving and sending much less email internally. Much of that email was just letting people know things or having a conversation about a topic, all of which is easier in a ‘chat’ interface.
  • Slack’s organisational structure of open channels, private channels, individual direct messages and group direct messages means all communication comes ‘pre-filed’. For every email received, you have to decide whether to delete it, leave it in an inbox or file it away in a folder. With Slack, this decision has already been made by the sender.
  • Email, because it’s a bit like sending a letter, tends towards the more formal, insisting on a salutation and closing greeting. Short and to-the-point messages can come across rude. With Slack, short and concise messages are just informal and fun.
  • Sending emoji via email can be hit-and-miss whether the receiver can display it, whereas Slack loves emoji! This makes the communication that little bit more fun and light, something that the teaching profession could always benefit from.
  • With push notifications enabled, Slack can cut through the communication ‘noise’ of email. Because you choose what channels you want to be part of, and all communication is from within your team, every Slack message is potentially relevant and important and so worth a notification.
  • Email can have quite small attachment file size limits, whereas Slack allows for the sharing and resharing of all manner of files and media. It supports all the ‘Open In’ hooks in iOS too, which is nice.
  • The people at Slack seem like a really friendly bunch and have always been super helpful with any support issues.
  • Push notifications also make communication really instant. Our IT technician doesn’t have a walkie-talkie because sending a DM or posting to #ictfaults has just as quick a response!

There is a strong network effect with Slack – it only really works if everyone in your organisation is part of the team and has easy access to a computer device. But it seems to be working for us!