Wasn’t GaETC13 a fun conference? Over 3,000 influential and intelligent people from all over the region, all gathered in Atlanta to talk about using technology to enhance education. Just the number, three thousand, is inspiring. We came classrooms, charter schools, and board offices; from near and from far; from affluence and poverty. Even the vendors were great–some are truly inspired to offer brilliant products to help educators on their mission. I had a blast. Did you?
Oh, that’s right. You weren’t there.
You didn’t have anybody in the exhibit hall. No representatives directly from Microsoft. You had a handful of resellers or other vendors there offering a few Windows computers, but nobody flew the Microsoft flag at this conference.
Apple and Google didn’t have anyone at the conference, either. Know why? They didn’t have to. 99% of the tablets I saw (and everyone brought a tablet to this thing) was an iPad. A sea of iPads at every session. And the MacBook rate was just as impressive–I’d say 90%, easily. As for Google, while I only saw one or two Android tablets, guess what everyone was talking about and using for presentations and notes? Google Drive. Presenters presented on it, audience members took notes in it. The many uses of Google Drive continues to be one of the biggest themes of this conference. Google Apps for Education is real.
So where were you? You guys left your conference presence in the trust of a handful of dedicated teachers and an Office 365 reseller who presented on–wait for it–how awesome Office 365 is. Other than a handful of sessions, you were largely ignored in the discussion on technology in education this week. Doesn’t that bother you? Does it bother you that a lady in a totally random session went off on how they switched to Office 365 and she hates it, and nobody said anything different? Does it bother you that many of these teachers only use your products because their district’s IT department makes them? Does it bother you that districts are starting to stop that practice in the face of BYOD?
What frustrates me the most is that Microsoft makes some great products. I love SkyDrive, and for the way I work it works better than Google Drive for me. I swear by it for my important documents. Office 2013 has some very cloud-friendly features as well. Sync my OneNote notebook between my work and home laptops, and my phone? Yes, please! Opening files from SkyDrive right in Office is a killer time saver. And more people still have Office than Google Drive, so maintaining the integrity of my files is effortless and makes life easy. They just work. I love the modern new look, love Windows 8 and its new features, and of course OneNote is my organization headquarters, no matter what device I’m using. I am pinching my pennies, desperately saving up so I can get a sweet new Surface tablet, and I can’t wait until Sprint gets its pathetic Windows Phone act together so I can ditch this dumb Android phone. I’m a fan of Microsoft! And I want you guys to do well, because I enjoy and use your products. You deserve to be successful.
I saw you already registered to exhibit at the national educational technology conference (ISTE 2014) in Atlanta this summer. I’m excited to go to my first ISTE conference, and right in my backyard! And I’m excited that you guys are showing up, as least to the exhibition hall. I hope you’re sending trainers or teacher/ambassadors to teach us innovative strategies to educate students using your products. I want you guys to get a lot of attention, and hope you can play a positive role in the discussions. I’ll certainly be stopping by your booth.
But showing up to ISTE once a year and hooking everyone up with Surface tablets just isn’t enough (how disappointed I was that I couldn’t afford to go last year–that alone would have made the trip worthwhile). You are losing the buzz battle. When teachers think “Microsoft,” apparently they are thinking about bulky, ugly boxes in noisy computer labs. Why are you letting this image get promoted?
I’m hoping next year will be different. I’m hoping next year I’ll see Microsoft at GaETC, and see Microsoft-savvy teachers presenting captivating and informational sessions. I want to talk about what Windows 8 brings students, what Office 365 brings employees, and what SkyDrive can bring everyone. Let’s talk about everything and anything. Let’s just talk.
Your fans are out there. We’re ready to push for you. But you have to be willing to push for yourselves.
Hope to see you soon.
P.S.: Rough count of number of sessions at GaETC13 dedicated to each company: