Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

In defense of cross platform digital literacy

I mentioned in a post this weekend I am switching (at least temporarily) the primary computer I use for educational technology workshops, and based on some feedback I’ve received I think some clarification and elaboration on this may be needed.

First, let no one mistakenly conclude I have capitulated and moved over entirely to the “dark side” of operating systems by personal choice! I continue to live in both the “dark” and the “good” sides of operating system literacy, and will be increasingly working in the brightening but still shadowy world of open source computing in the months ahead. As a communicative foreigner living as a digital immigrant in a strange land– I speak (relatively fluently I think) multiple “languages” out of both desire and necessity.

I have both chosen and had to (by function of the computers available to me to use in educational contexts) be a cross-platform computer user since 1996, when a parent donated a Windows95 computer to our school and my classroom (which had previously had two Macintosh desktops and about six Alphasmart keyboards) and I had to learn how to set it up for offline internet access (we copied many webpages for students to “safely use and access” in those days) as well as basic word processing and printing. As my educational
technology roles evolved, I learned to work in and manage learning in both Windows-based and Macintosh computer labs. I’ve generally viewed personal digital literacy on multiple computing platforms as both an opportunity and a necessity, but I have admittedly regretted the intimate, technical knowledge I have (at times) had to acquire with Windows-based systems because of how ridiculously complex and user-unfriendly I found the environment to be. If you worked on Windows and Macintosh systems in the mid to late 1990s, just the simplicity of the Mac in permitting a networking configuration change to DHCP without a restart was so nice compared to Windows95’s insistence on a restart…. I don’t want to digress too much into ancient history, but for the record I’ll note that the past four years I’ve worked in a technology support role where my desktop computer was a Windows-based Dell, and my laptop (which I used about 90% of the time by choice) was a Macintosh Powerbook. With that history clarified, let me return to my current exploratory work with tablet technology…..

The reasons for my current switch to an HP Tablet PC as my primary work computer are:

  1. Our kitchen in our Oklahoma home does not have enough room for our old desktop Macintosh and HUGE 21 inch CRT display, and we do not have enough extra $$$ on hand to buy a new iMac or Mac portable right now. Hence my recently purchased Macbook laptop (which I absolutely LOVE using) has now become our new home, kitchen-based computer. If I had more cash, I’d still be toting the Macbook to workshops, but I don’t, so I’m not for now.
  2. I have wanted to learn about and fluently use a tablet PC ever since I first heard about their availability, and got to briefly play with one a few years back when I was starting my doctoral program at Texas Tech. Particularly in statistics courses, the thought of being able to jot down formulas and arcane statistical symbols (which don’t have readily accessible keyboard equivalents) seemed QUITE appealing. I never got that chance, however, until now. More than once, as I’ve talked to tablet PC users, I’ve commented that tablet PC technology is the one thing that might (at some point) make me seriously consider using a Windows-based computer BY CHOICE. Well, that day has arrived, and I’m thankful to take the opportunity to learn more digital literacy skills with one.

We currently live in a world where Windows-based computer systems predominate, but I have always maintained the value and utility of having computer literacy skills on multiple platforms. Because of their power, simplicity of operation/ease of use, and creative potential, I’ve been a big fan of and advocate for Macintosh computers since I first starting using them in 1995. That advocacy is not going to change– Apple still makes the most innovative and powerful technology tools on the market today. If I have a choice or a recommendation to make, it will still be to use Macs. I have and continue to work with MANY school districts that are all-Windows shops, however, so it pays for me to be not just conversant but fluent (like a native Puerto Rican speaking Spanish, even!) in the Windows OS.

I am glad to gain further knowledge and skills about Windows-based computers, and specifically tablet PC technology. In time, I strongly suspect that Apple will also release a tablet laptop. Having a relatively intimate knowledge of current tablet PC technologies will not only be fun, but also valuable as I continue to advocate for effective and appropriate uses of technology tools to engage students in authentic learning experiences.

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On this day..



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