So, it was a big week in tech, and really, it was a surreal week. Microsoft announced a massive new PC called Surface Studio, and Apple announced their new line of Macbook Pros.
These announcements are fascinating on many levels. The Microsoft announcement is a pretty drastic departure from their perceived strength of office-type productivity, and Apple moved even closer to the consumer market by adding the Touchbar that brings common IOS functions to their Macbook Pros. In the end, I think you will see it proven that Apple's new product matters and Microsoft's is just noise.
Let's start with the new Surface Studio. I will give Microsoft credit. It's a beautiful device. The idea is that it is a desktop PC that you can move into being an angled touchscreen canvas to work on more creative work that requires finer details like sketching. It also includes both a stylus and a new dial input device that lets you adjust settings such as color in interesting ways. The dial is also supposed to work on the Surface book, and I am assuming the Surface. Most of what was in the promo videos showed the advantages this type of device could give someone like a graphic designer who is doing things like digital sketching. Those advantages are pretty obvious, but in the end this device is really is just noise.
Let's start with the price point. It's 3,000 dollars to start! That's an incredibly hefty price point that takes not only most consumers out of it but also many businesses. From a hardware standpoint, there is a good deal to like, but it does not adopt what seems to be the new standard of USB-C. Software wise, I am still not convinced that a PC product is a good place for creatives. I can see the drastic advantages this brings to graphic arts and folks who are using programs like Photoshop, but Microsoft has to take drastic steps to catch up to Apple in the creative fields that are dominating our world today: audio and video. It's also a PC and not a laptop. That makes it tough to see this device being successful in our increasingly mobile world. Overall, this device is for graphic professionals. For the rest of us, it's just tech noise.
The new Macbook Pro's, on the other hand, are a next step in the evolution of the consumer laptop. The biggest change is that Apple added a touchscreen bar at the top where the functions used to be that customizes based on the software you use. To me, this is a move meant for the consumer market. It brings some of the ease of IOS to the Mac, and it becomes something folks have never seen which helps drive sales. I think it's brilliant, but like many Apple products, its true use will come from the software that updates for it.
The touch bar can be fantastic! i don't know that I have ever understood the appeal of a Touchscreen computer. To me, it's just not a natural interaction. Having a touchscreen bar though brings some of that type of interaction to the Mac in a more natural way. I also think that many sites and creative tools have become so complicated that common buttons in one place will be amazing. I think the possibilities are endless. It's classic Apple. They build something that is so simple but is a radical innovation.
The irony of the new Macbook Pro is that it is an innovation that angles more toward productivity and mainstream consumers rather than creativity. Microsoft's Surface Studio angles more towards creativity and creative professions rather than productivity. This is a surreal switch in both companies priorities. What will be interesting though is to see if Microsoft can take away from the major creative lead Apple still has. Apple is not going to give that lead away lightly as there was a focus in their event on software like Final Cut Pro.
Until Microsoft proves it can catch up in the creative department, look at their announcement as just noise. Microsoft's prices are high (Who in the world would have thought we would have said this over Apple?) and the software is just not there yet.
For most who are doing things like basic video editing, Apple is where you want to be. Now if you are a graphic designer, .....you have an interesting decision.
Finally, Part of the Club
I got it! I finally got it! In September, I got word that I got accepted to the Google Innovator Academy. This was for sure an instance of persistence paying off. From what I can tell from my Youtube accounts, this was my 5th attempt, and I started applying way back in 2012. After attending the academy, I can rest assured that I am now in the club, and I think this was the right time for me. I was not ready the four previous attempts.
The Google Teacher Academy is built around your idea of a project that changes education. You start this process with your application when you create a vision deck and vision video detailing what you want to do. The academy then leads you through a design process on your project, and that process means you might not leave the Academy with the same project.
I came to the Innovator Academy with a project goal of changing high school for the better. It was built around three principles: 1) changing traditional instruction 2) changing perceptions of the "we have to prepare them for college 3) and advocating for a change. My project was one of the ones that changed pretty drastically, but what's amazing is that I think it can achieve the same goals. One of the amazing coaches, Sandra Chow, suggested I combine my project with an amazing educator from Kentucky named Savannah Denning. Savannah was looking to do much of the same thing at the primary level so what we came up with together was seeedudifferently.com.
Seeedudifferently.com is a simple concept. It's a blog where educators who are thinking differently and doing creative things can share what they are doing. Our ultimate goal is to have a vast collection of stories that others can use as examples and ideas to improve their practice. We also think it's important for users to see what others are doing so people can change their perceptions of what is needed to prepare students for the next level.
From all of this, I think we can achieve the goals that I originally set out in my project. We can change instructional practice through someone seeing all of the great and creative things that are going on in schools every day. We can also change schools from a goal of next level prep to life prep by showing that other levels are doing things differently than the traditional approach. We can also eventually get to the advocate stage by showing our legislators what great things are happening as well as building a great network of educators to achieve those goals.
While my Innovation Project excites me, the best part of the Academy was by far the friendships and connections that I formed. The Academy is an experience you go through together, and they even put you in a team to make it feel more like a family. It's almost like my team was my immediate family, the rest of the cohort went to grandparent and aunt's and uncle level, and the greater community is the rest of the family.
There were so many highlights as far as the relationships that were built. I got to experience the Academy with a fellow Georgia educator, Mary Ellen West. Mary Ellen and I knew each other before the academy, but deepening a friendship is always a great thing. My coach was the incredible Sylvia Duckworth who I admired from afar through her work sketch noting, but now I know personally. I got to meet and work on my project with an incredible educator from Kentucky, Savannah Denning. I got to deepen connections with educators that I already knew from South Carolina and Kentucky. I got to know incredible educators from all over the world, and these are just a FEW of the highlights. I can not wait to see them again at places like ISTE and FETC.
The Academy was an incredible experience, and I encourage anyone who has a great idea to apply! The key is to be different. Think about the issues that face educators every day and try to solve them! Also, make sure you have a creative video...mine was gifcentric!