Why do Teachers Have Such Crappy Tools? Part 2: What does an Online System Need?

I have experience with Google Classroom, Blackboard, WebCT (when it was a thing), Canvas, Moodle, OneNote, and a couple of custom built systems. Does any one of work the way we need it to work?

I thought about writing a list of what I would want the perfect system to do, a laundry list of features, if you will. That thought made me sleepy and want to go to bed. What I really want to know is why something doesn’t already exist that is fully functional, easy to use, integrated, reliable, compatible, and functional (yes, I said that twice).

Remember Microsoft Bob? Sure, it was a clunky pile of garbage, but it was designed to meet a need. Microsoft recognized that computers were too difficult for many people to use and needed an easy interface to the most important functionality. Apple sort of got that right for a while with the original iPod and iPad, but cramming more stuff in added to complexity and difficulty of use (see: notifications, autoplaying over bluetooth in a car).

Some teachers and some students have challenges learning and using technology. I know! It’s shocking, isn’t it?! Using big fonts and buttons (Google Classroom) is a nod towards that but doesn’t solve anything. In fact, it creates other problems like file and folder names that are too long and indistinguishable and functionality in hidden menus.

Come to think of it, WordPress has gotten better over the years. Maybe I should teach with that . . .

It is the year 2020. The evolution of technology over the past three decades is astonishing. Computers are magnitudes more powerful. Development tools have evolved. The availability (though still subject to systemic inequity) is far beyond even a few years ago. The computers in people’s pockets are so much more powerful than what we had on desktops just ten years ago.

So, why can’t someone make a system that just works? Don’t we have the technology and know-how to be able to create a fully functional, easy to use, integrated, online system for learning? What is blocking it? Money? Power? Politics? Vertical integration?

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