The internet went positively giddy last week as Microsoft finally announced Office for iPad. Twitter was abuzz with people shouting for joy. “Finally”; “Never thought I’d see the day” etc. My response was a little lukewarm when I read the announcement. Was I missing the point? Were we suddenly back in the mid-90s when Office was the standard productivity tool of choice?
Now don’t get me wrong, Microsoft has done a great job with these apps, they are far from the version that appear in both the iPhone and Android apps. Releasing them as three stand alone apps was a great move – albeit frustrating that the only function available to non 365 account subscribers is Read-only.
In Scotland, we have a National intranet for schools, named Glow. In it’s latest iteration Glow is built upon Sharepoint 2010 and gives each user a 25Gb OneDrive for business storage allocation.This allows users access to their files from a number of devices, including the iPad. Users can edit documents within the browser using Office online, as well as create new documents and collaborate in real time with other users. This is a huge bonus in education and was something that Google Docs users found to be the most useful feature. You can link Office for iPad to your Glow account but it requires authetication with a Microsoft365 account first to get the ball rolling. This is a lot of ‘fiddling’ to get pretty much the same functionality offered for free in any browser.
The iPad is an emerging technology. It offers pupils and staff the opportunities to create engaging, varied lessons to help develop independent, reflective, life-long learners. Digital devices should only be used when it adds to a learning experience. To me, using Office on an iPad is an enhancement – something that can be done on a laptop or netbook and not really transformative. If you look at the SAMR diagram above, augmentation is the process of using the technology as a direct tool substitute. Using Office on the iPad does have it usefulness in terms of productivity, but is it really what we want to use the iPads for – to create rich learning experiences and creating confident individuals?
I don’t think so.