By Teachers, For Teachers
I recently chatted with a tech coordinator on the East Coast who asked about software alternatives to the webtools we were discussing. That surprised me. Usually, teachers want free, easily-accessible-from-anywhere technology the classroom in place of expensive, installed software. When I asked why, she had some excellent reasons:
Almost all free online tools and apps include advertising. I understand -- someone has to pay the bill -- but kids don't understand how to ignore that glitz. All they see is a new toy. And besides the annoying ads, the developers constantly promote the paid version of the free apps. Again, kids don't understand marketing.
When you purchase software, you get the entire program. With online tools, you might get one or two levels of a few of the included games with the expectation that you will purchase more levels and more games. My most recent disappointment is Starfall. The mobile version of this wonderful online reading website is a very limited version of the original. To get the entire program requires multiple apps and significant in-app purchases.
Once you purchase software, you own it for as long as you want to use that version. The only reason you pay more is to upgrade to a newer offering.
The Internet doesn't always work. If your webtool relies on access to the Cloud, there will always be times it can't make that connection. When you're using software, it lives on your local drive. If your computer will turn on, the software will run. There's a peace in that.
Because it's installed on your computer, there are no cookies or hidden downloads required to keep the app running. There is no worry about what's installed to your computer with the app or webtool that could carry viruses and malware. There's no fear about who can see what you're doing, who the online company might sell your data to, or who will hack your (or your student's) personal information. If your network is secure, the data is secure.
Software doesn't rely on someone else to keep things running. You install it and tweak whatever needs to be done to make it work. In many cases, that's far preferable to the error messages that constantly pop up on webtools asking for updated Flash or Java and warning that it runs better on ___browser (which -- of course -- is not the one you like using).
Webtools and apps have developed an annoying habit of offering a free sample of their features and then charging for add-ons that can exceed their value. These extras often become emotional purchases, inspired by children who want the next level or the “Princess” version, rather than by well-reasoned logic that sees the purchase as part of a carefully-constructed curriculum.
On the surface, that sounds like a negative, but if you don't require collaboration, why open your work up to access from others? Do you really want to do that?
Well, that's pretty convincing. I had to step back into the mindset I'd had before our conversation started, where I always suggest online tools over what has come to be the dated persona of software. There are a lot of reasons why web-based tools are exactly the right solution for today's classrooms. Consider:
I don't think there's a right-wrong answer, but I definitely think software isn't dead.
What are your reasons for favoring software or webtools?
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.