Technological Relativity: Exploring My Journey

When I started working at my new position at a non-profit education organization on March 21, 2016, I had no idea how I would be handling a fresh challenge–providing professional learning about Microsoft products. The team had its Google advocates, but the position that I was filling as a Director of Professional Development, well, that was meant to fulfill the partnership that the organization had with Microsoft (not that Google or Apple were excluded).

In fact, some people came up to me in workshops just this month. “Miguel,” said one young educator, “I read your Around the Corner blog. I know you write about GNU/Linux a lot, so I was surprised to see your support of Microsoft products.” I laughed at this observation that I’ve often made over the last few months. Yet, I discovered a path forward that allowed me to reconcile differing perspectives. As someone who seeks balance (hey, I’ve been labeled a Libra and grew up seeing the “scales” as my personal symbol without embracing astrology). May I share it with you?

“The journey that I have undertaken, meeting people from all walks of life and learning from them, has been my biggest achievement.” -Aamir Khan

#1 – Give voice to the Community.
Early on, a participant at a Microsoft workshop said to me, “We have been waiting for so long for someone to support us.” I documented this story in a blog entry that was published here and described it in this way:

“We are longing for a community,” said a session participant. “Most of us have adopted Office 365 tools, but we don’t see ourselves in the numerous edcamps and workshops offered. Each of us is struggling to connect.” As instructional coach and author of The Art of Coaching Elena Aguilar says, “With a powerful community I can do so much more. I am happier. I learn and expand and, possibly, I can transform.” The 5 strategies below seek to answer the challenge of community building. Read Build a Community

I detailed this journey in a Skypechat that I gave to Microsoft Innovative Educators (MIE) Trainers. Wow, that’s a LOT of people to connect with and I’m grateful to RH for making it possible.

I realized that our (e.g. bloggers, instructional tech specialists, edtech pundits) fanatical focus on Google Suites, via edcamps/unconferences, being buried in tweets, blog entries, books, articles, how-to videos has left an entire community of educators in the dark. Sure, there are TONS of folks using Google Suites. But there are also lots of folks using Microsoft tools and they have no interest in switching to Google Suites.

No one had stepped up to connect all the wisdom and expertise that this Microsoft-focused community had. So, there was an opportunity to reach people and amplify their voices. And, doing that has been such a rewarding journey! I can’t tell you how much fun it has been to chat with educators who have chosen to embrace Microsoft tools (whether by choice or district mandate) to make a difference in their classrooms and offices. Passion excites, no matter how it expresses itself.

Did you know? I had the opportunity to work with 369+ educators during the 2016 calendar year, exploring Microsoft solutions face to face! Isn’t that incredible? Obviously, I also worked with about 50-60 folks earning Google certifications.

And, there’s been fun in tapping into the cognitive dissonance between these two perspectives. Use one idea to ask, “How would doing this in Microsoft look like?” You can read one example in my Classroom Smackdown blog entry. Often, reading how to do something in one system inspires me to discover how it may be done in another. What fun!

#2 – Connect with a global community of educators.
In addition to building a Texas-wide community of educators, I have been awed by the global community of genuine, authentic educators excited about enhancing teaching, learning and leading with Microsoft tools. I remember my amazement when joining the various Facebook groups in support of Microsoft Innovative Educators (MIE) and thinking, “Wow, these folks are very committed to ‘hacking education.’ That is, they were as passionate about bringing about change as those in the Google camp. And that’s really great!”

“Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter.”  – Izaak Walton. 

I can and do interact with people around the nation and the world every day. It has been incredible. And, the Microsoft Education Community–offering tons of professional learning in video format, badges and online certificates, empowering trainers to easily track professional development–has been fun to explore and grow into. At every turn, I have found Microsoft team members who extended their knowledge and expertise to provide assistance. Instead of an impersonal web site, there are many smiling faces willing to reach out and help.

“Friends are as companions on a journey, who ought to aid each other to persevere in the road to a happier life.” -Pythagoras

#3 – Warm Welcome.
What a warm welcome I’ve received since I began my journey in March. Sure, I had to learn a lot (earning Microsoft Certified Trainer, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, and Minecraft Certified Trainer) in a short time but it’s been phenomenal to be able to provide support to folks who didn’t see themselves in the flurry of professional learning opportunities available in Texas. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve enjoyed a warm welcome. And, in the meantime, I’ve also picked up my Google Educator Level 1 and Google Administrator certification. I’ve learned (again) that technology skills and ecosystems are additive, not subtractive.

For fellow bilingual educators, I need not explain that some detractors refer to learning a second language as a process that must diminish the first. Or to be inaccurate, I added Microsoft and my expertise in Google was diminished. Jim Cummins’ theory is described in this way:

Cummins draws the distinction between additive bilingualism in which the first language continues to be developed and the first culture to be valued while the second language is added; and subtractive bilingualism in which the second language is added at the expense of the first language and culture, which diminish…. (Read Source)

This isn’t true. I love the fact that adding a language, adding technology tools and ecosystems allows one to develop greater expertise and deepens the relationships one has with others.

What is Technological Relativity?
The possibility that access to different technological capabilities could result in differences in thought patterns. (Source)


#4 – On the Shoulders of Giants.
As a bilingual person, I often find myself switching between languages, looking for the right way to express an idea in my head. When I’m chatting with a fellow dual language learner, what’s incredible is that the right phrase in Spanish or English can capture a different nuance of meaning that appears non-existent in one language.

The language I use impacts my perceptions and thoughts about a particular situation or action. This is known as linguistic relativity, which I was introduced to many years ago as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis:

The principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects its speakers’ world view or cognition. Popularly known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, or Whorfianism, the principle is often defined to include two versions. The strong version says that language determines thought, and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories, whereas the weak version says that linguistic categories and usage only influence thought and decisions. (Source)

By embracing Apple, Google and Microsoft, learning the way these seemingly opposing systems focus my learning and reflections from my experiences, not unlike the triangle magnifying glass shown above, is exciting. I’m really looking forward to sharing an unpublished blog entry with you, entitled, Dystopian Learning with Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Our brains get more efficient as we do things. Our brain function improves as we learn something, then move onto the next. If we dwell on the same activity then our cortical energy decreases as our brain gets more efficient (Source: 5 Ways to Maximize Your Cognitive Potential). 

It explores solving the same problem from different technology worldviews (e.g. Apple, Google, Microsoft). This kind of technological flexibility is fun to cultivate and keeps me learning new things.

“Every single journey that I’ve embarked on, I’ve learned something new.” -Shailene Woodley

As I reflect on my experiences with these technological companions, I wonder what’s in store next.


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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