Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Thoughts on Google versus Office

This was a recent question posted amongst school educators
G suite versus Office 365. Thoughts?
Since I wrote a fair bit, I thought I'd also post it here:



If people are learning with a modern pen-based tablet pc, or are learning math, science, or languages outside of the QWERTY keyboard, then it is Office365 specifically because of Microsoft OneNote. There is nothing in the Google Suite that provides a 360 degree flexible, open digital learning environment. However, that flexibility & openness does require a bit more work on training for novices (and some handholding for those teachers who aim pedagogically for a, umm, less-than-21st century and/or paperless classroom) . I cannot teach without it, and its use has improved instruction and assessment school wide.

I have experienced that Google Classroom is really good at structured (and perhaps inflexible) document management, given its genesis on top of Google Drive. Teachers also seem dependent on a collection of 3rd party apps/plugins that extend functionality to the Google system; Microsoft tends to build that extension by themselves (likely since it's a smaller part of the market).

Now, if you're only running Chromebooks then maybe it makes sense to go with Google, but iPads are becoming pen-active.

I would also say that in the past 18 months Microsoft got its stuff together in terms of the rest of the package. OneDrive (their cloud based storage) now actually works and the online versions of the Office suite are better than their GDocs options (not to mention that you can pull them into desktop versions for more functionality). Microsoft's other apps in Office365 all bring something new, different and powerful to the table (Sway, PowerBI, Yammer) or lack some features of their Google alternatives but are quite functional (Forms, Video, Group, Planner). Having said that, the latter group are also under aggressive development, with considerable improvements every four months. Forms isn't even a year old and already it's nipping at the heels of Google Forms.

And then finally (since I could likely write considerably more) there is Delve, the Office365 intelligence, something completely missing in Google. Given the massive amounts of information in the cloud, Delve sorts through it all and presents it to you prioritized. I work with Google for several other projects outside the school and get frustrated trying to search for materials in 100G and ten years; Delve proactively surfaces materials for me from across the school often before I realize I need it. And it's completely individualized, so students get their upcoming assignments and critical dates automatically highlighted while teachers get report deadlines and policy documents, for example. It is also beginning to be able to offer feedback on how people use the technology in order to be more efficient, productive and healthy.
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