Technology = Flour, Eggs, Salt and Water?

Have you ever thought about pasta? Have you ever thought about how many types of pasta there are in the world? Have you thought about how pasta is made, marketed and sold in all its forms? Now if you have thought about any of that at length, this last question is the real kicker: Have you ever wondered if, how or why all pasta tastes the same? So what’s with all the variances?

I am not Italian but I did grow up in a house that had pasta for dinner more often than not, and my friends of Italian dissent always took the time to explain how the different shapes of pasta all had different functions: some shapes keep the sauce on, some are used for stuffing, some are flat for layering and so on. I’ve always enjoyed pasta immensely but standing in Aisle 4 for 15 minutes trying to figure out which shape is going to end up on my plate at the dinner table became far too taxing so eventually, I gave up, closed my eyes, picked and lived with it.

It is nothing less than amazing that flour, egg, salt and water could produce so much mind-numbing choice! And that, my friends, is is why pasta provides the absolute perfect comparison to technology in the classroom (or all tech to be honest).

The applications and software that are being relentlessly marketed to teachers have ultimately been designed to attract and distract. They attract you with flawless graphics and countless ‘Did you know it could do this?!’ frills, then distract you from what you were born to do – teach!

If you do a little research (and not to worry, I’ve done it for you) you will find that ultimately ALL technology in the classroom falls under 4 categories.

  1. Workflow Tools – Short Pasta
  2. Creation Tools – Flat Pasta
  3. Documentation Tools – Stuffed Pasta
  4. Interactive Tools – Long Pasta

See? Pasta.

I can easily prove my point with a few of the biggest brands out there begging education to use their service. Let’s look at classroom workflow tools using Google, Microsoft and Desire2Learn. Three different companies with three different services… or are they?

First, take a look at how Google (G-Suite) is suggesting teachers use their services in the classroom:

Second, let’s look at Microsoft’s suggested workflow in the classroom

Finally, here is Desire2Learn’s workflow for the modern classroom:

It only takes a few seconds to come to the realization that they all provide the same service. Bells and whistles aside, in your first year of use, you will only take advantage of 20-30% of the application’s full capability anyway, so why worry? Pick one, give yourself time and master it.

Take a moment to really look at the categories of technology listed above and group as many of the apps and software that you know in each. Sure, there will be a few outliers, but in the end, pasta is pasta until you add the sauce 😉

This article originally appears in @OECTA February 2017