At a recent conference event I got into the discussion with a couple of other attendees in relation to what the best suite of apps for use in schools was. The main options on the table were Google Apps for Education and Microsoft Office 365 however other platforms such as Firefly and Showbie were also mentioned.
The key here, in developing digital literacy, is do we focus on a single suite such as Google Apps for Education, or G-Suite as I believe it is now called, or should we make use of a variety of different apps with our students.
A singular suite presents the option of consistency. Students experience the same apps used across all of their lessons within school, whether they are developing homework, viewing resources or undertaking in class learning activities. They also experience a common user interface and experience across the different apps within the suite. This can also be beneficial for staff in that all teachers are using the same apps and therefore can support each other and share ideas. This has an equal benefit for students who are able to support and help each other given the common nature of the apps used across subjects and year groups. The single suite develops depth of knowledge in students as they are able to explore the singular suite in detail, which should support them as they move to a another similar suite.
Using a multitude of different apps and possibly different suites, such as using Google Apps and Office 365, has the advantage of allowing teachers and students to pick the best app for each given purpose from all apps which are available. The ability to pick from any app also has the advantage of being able to access a wider range of functionality than is available within any single suite. It also allows for teachers and students to select according to their personal preference. Use of multiple apps develops cross platform skills in students and also staff allowing them to more easily flit between apps as need.
My preference is to find a solution somewhere in the middle with a single core suite being used but with an allowance for other apps and suites to be used as need. As such I use Office 365 as my core suite however often make use of Google Forms within the G-Suite due to its superior functionality and my greater familiarity over the Microsoft equivalence.
And if pushed to select between Office 365 and Google Apps, I would answer that I would pick both. For schools heavily invested and attached to the traditional Microsoft Office suite I would go with Office 365 for its familiarity, as I have done in my current school, however in a new school or a school which isn’t attached to a particular office suite, I would go with G-Suite due to it being slightly further along in development as an educational tool.