Developing cross platform skills

OSsIt is important that we develop in students the ability to develop cross platform skills such that they are able to pick up and use new software and/or hardware given their previous experience across a range of similar solutions.    This covers different hardware, such as makes of laptop, and different software inclusive of both operating systems such as windows and apps software.    The example I will use in discussing how cross platform skills are developed is that of computer programming and my own personal experience.

When I was young I started dabbling a little with computer programming in the form of BASIC on a Commodore 64.    At this point I had had no formal instruction on programming instead learning from a magazine and by experimentation.   As I got a little older I started experimenting a little more but now in AMOS BASIC on the Amiga 500.   It was only a little after this that I received formal teaching on programming in the form of technological studies lessons looking at programming a basic robot using assembly and machine code.   By the time I reached university and came across Visual BASIC I was on my fourth programming language mainly from within the BASIC family of languages.

Moving to learning and then teaching C++ wasn’t a significant step for me having seen four languages already, having seen the commonalities in the basic principles of programming and having seen the differences in the syntax of each language.    I was quickly able to pick up C++.   I have since been quickly able to pick up PHP and dabble with python among other languages.

For me the key to cross platform skills is exposure to different systems.   Through experimenting with different systems the commonalities can be identified.    These commonalities can then help in adapting to a new system, while the differences in encountered systems can help in developing flexibility and adaptability needed to deal with new tools.   For me an interest in programming was also key as this spurred me on to experiment and try different approaches.   So in working with students getting them actively engaged in learning about different solutions will be key, such that they are interested and able to draw comparisons.

The challenge in relation to developing cross platform skills is one of depth.    I benefited from experimenting with each programming language due to spending some time working on it.   I reached some depth in my learning with each language before moving on to my next language.    This therefore requires time.

Do we cover enough breadth in the tools we look at in lessons?    With each tool do we achieve sufficient depth of study?

Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the Middle East. In addition Gary is a Google and Microsoft Certified Educator.

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