With this technology, I thee wed

“I like you but I’m not ready for a commitment.”

I find myself saying this often; not to people but to applications. Yes, I sometimes talk to technology. I find myself having this conversation not because the tool doesn’t accomplish something interesting or include a unique feature but because it wants me to shift all of my activities to its platform. I’m quite happy with my technology ecosystem as it stands. There is value in adding new tools and exploration is part of my job description. Still, if adoption of something new requires total abandonment of something old I’m not fully onboard.

Much of this forced commitment comes from the freemium software model. I’m allowed to use one function for free, but if I want to do more I need to make a financial, and likely workflow, commitment. That makes sense. The product demonstrates one strong attribute and promises additional similarly strong functions if the end user is willing to move to using it over other applications. I’m less tolerant of applications that I have to pay to use in the first place that bundle in a package of features requiring a total shift in how I get things done. I won’t be tied down to one tool. You can’t make me!

The trouble is that even if an application does a dozen things better than twelve other tools the marginal improvement for each function is not likely to be great. It also comes at the cost of agility. Committing to one application creates risk in that if that application should no longer be the best at each function in the future your work is so entwined in its structure that it is difficult to escape. Technology divorce can be a messy process. The enduring relevance of  educational technologies tends to be brief. Why enter into a union where the ending is likely bleek?

This isn’t a criticism of technology. Every month or two I find a new tool or feature that makes my day in ways that only edtech nerds would understand. I simply wish that developers focused on creating applications that do a single task really well instead of those that try to become the host of my educational life. Sing-purpose tools that connect and share data are far more valuable than one-stop services.

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