I’m Only Me When I’m With You – Productivity Suites, Presentation Tools and their integral role in education today

I’m Only Me When I’m With You – Productivity Suites, Presentation Tools and their integral role in education today

Visit any classroom today, and you are likely to see the use of productivity and presentation tools in some form to aid teachers and students in the learning process. I’d bet that the class is also actively using some kind of platform to store and access materials digitally, such as OneDrive, Google Drive, Seesaw or Edsby. I’d increase those chances if the teacher is 10 years or less into their career, who probably grew up in some capacity using these technologies themselves. As an educator, I can hardly see myself teaching without these tools and platforms. Without them, I feel like I’d be starting at square one because they’re so integrated into the way I currently teach. Truthfully, I haven’t really considered the implications of using these suites and tools, which is worth thinking about due to their increased prevalence in classroom life.

man and woman sitting on chairs
Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

It was quite fascinating learning about the history of productivity suites as my part of the presentation this week. From VisiCalc to Lotus 1-2-3 to Microsoft Excel to the birth of the first office suites of productivity tools, there is always someone (or something) benefiting from its success and popularity. Reading about the evolution of this tech stream over time was also pretty interesting, especially when it came to early 2020 when COVID turned the world upside down and sent everyone home to work. Businesses that weren’t already utilizing productivity software to collaborate on tasks, or ones that were only “kind of” using it, had to essentially frantically adopt the technology. Cue major opportunity for the giants already dominating the industry. Had Katia not talked about it in class, I wouldn’t have known that both the Google and Microsoft suites we have adopted in schools weren’t originally intended for that purpose and that the shift to remote learning had these companies creating and modifying existing tools on the fly to meet the needs of users. As a Microsoft Teams user post pandemic, I never would have thought of it as not super user-friendly. I did a digital book club with another grade 7 class at a different school and we hosted all of the content on Teams. At the time, I thought it was pretty slick! Now, prompted to explore beyond what programs my division offers and promotes, I’m seeing what Katia means when she says that Microsoft Teams isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for classroom use.

a close up of a cell phone with icons on it
Photo by Ed Hardie on Unsplash

Looking at the suggestions for questions to consider for this week’s blog post, the two that really peak my interest are:

How have productivity suites been integrated into educational settings at different levels (K-12, higher education, etc.)? Reflect on their accessibility for students, teachers, and institutions. How do these tools address or exacerbate issues related to digital divide and equity?


Explore alternative approaches to using productivity suites in education. Are there open-source options or other technologies that could serve similar or better purposes? Speculate on the future of productivity tools in education and how they might evolve to better meet educational needs.

The first question regards accessibility issues and if productivity suite use in education exacerbates the digital divide. Needless to say, six-year-olds and 18-year-olds are not using productivity suites or tools the same way. Students in grade one, for example, may use platforms like Seesaw to take pictures of their work, maybe narrate a bit of a reflection, and even complete basic assignments right in the application. on the other hand, grade 12 students might be using Microsoft Teams, or Google Classroom for the majority of their courses, utilizing cloud storage, collaborative, participation on assignments and projects, presentation software, email, chat and video chat features and more recently artificial intelligence in a variety of ways. Integration of this tech stream naturally increases with age as students become more proficient and experienced with the software, and more is expected of them (with less instruction) as they carry on through the grades. Students who lack adequate infrastructure and opportunity outside of school certainly have fewer chances to keep their skills and proficiencies sharp with these tools, thereby putting them at a disadvantage when they enter higher grades and teachers expect them to know how to use certain tools and not need to be re-instructed. This definitely begs the question – should teachers be so heavily reliant on web based software when there will also be expectations for students to complete work from places they do not have adequate access?

white iPad turned on
Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

I do believe, as seems to be the answer to so many of life’s conundrums, that balance is key. Teachers are doing a disservice to students if they do not, at least in some part, give students the opportunity to build digital literacy in using these tools to aid in the learning process. However, relying too heavily on available tech within the walls of the learning institution provides additional challenges to students without those opportunities available to them at home. As we are well aware, each new year brings a new group of students with their own unique set of circumstances. As teachers, as we spend the first couple of weeks getting to know our students, we should be paying special attention to the prevalence of inequity and how to plan modes and methods of learning to best suit that particular group of learners.

The second question asks about alternate options for productivity suites in education. From what I discovered in my research and preparation for our presentation this week, full suite options outside of Microsoft and Google are slim. This Forbes article about the past and future of productivity suites supports the notion that these two market giants will continue to dominate, and that other software companies will have the most success proving independent tools that can be seamlessly integrated into the existing software. That being said, it’s doubtful that we would see a new (or existing) open source office suite rise up to the level of Microsoft and Google, especially with individuals and businesses already so deeply entrenched in one of these platforms. The quality of tools that a smaller suite could offer would also simply not measure up, and in the classroom, this would of course impact the quality of teaching and learning. As for the future of productivity tools, AI has got to be the common thread among them. It’s the thing that can do all the things, after all! In terms of how they might evolve to better meet student needs, I struggle to see how any productivity software, no matter how incredible, can meet the need of a student who is on the wrong side of the digital divide.

It will be interesting to watch AI integration into productivity suites and presentation tools play out over the next decade or so. I think what we can say for certain is that it will drastically change the way we think about education and how we facilitate learning.

2 thoughts on “I’m Only Me When I’m With You – Productivity Suites, Presentation Tools and their integral role in education today

  1. Hey Christina!
    Thanks for a great presentation and for sharing your in-depth thoughts on this interesting topic. I did not think much about the impact of productivity suites before your presentation, but so helpful.
    I wonder how educators can balance the use of productivity suites while ensuring equitable access and opportunities for all students, regardless of their digital literacy levels or access to technology?
    Looking forward to reading more of your future blogs!

  2. Hey Christina, thanks for the insightful blog. Your thoughtful analysis helps delve deep into the intersection of technology and education, highlighting both the promises and challenges. The reflections on accessibility and the evolving landscape of productivity tools offer valuable insights for educators who navigate the digital realm. Keep up the great work!

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