Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It Was a Slap in the Face How Quickly I Was Replaced

Sure, we were all there once: "Splitsville," "Dumpedtown," and the Greater "It's Not You, It's Me" Metro Area. We've all had a sour relationship. (Or five, but who's keeping track, right? I'm pretty sure I don't.) No one feels great after the break-up, and while time heals all wounds, time tends to move a bit more slowly. We go through a process of grieving, and we come to terms with the change in our lives. Certainly, we've all been the benefactor of some well meaning friend's or colleague's cliche-esque wisdom:

"Nothing lasts forever."
“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.” 
“It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.”
"Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all."
And my all-time favorite:

"I don't want to say I told you so,  but I told you it would never last."

Perhaps that last one is a bit more brutal than the others, but it's the one that resonates with us the most when it comes to accepting new technology into our lives and classrooms. We are told that as soon as we purchase/acquire a new technology, it's already obsolete. And with technology, an area of our lives that we intertwine with more each day, it's a lead-pipe cinch that change will happen.

Which is why I sort of panicked when Google SketchUp became the property of Trimble. I suddenly felt like the father of a lovely sixteen year old girl who has been asked out on a date by a new boy - one I had never met before.

The scene: I am with my Imaginary Sixteen Year Old Daughter as she is preparing to go out on a date. 

Me: And just who is this Trimble kid?

Imaginary Sixteen Year Old Daughter: He's a guy I met the other day.

Me: Is he a new kid at school, or have I met him before?

Imaginary Sixteen Year Old Daughter: No, he's been around for a while, but I just met him. He's really smart, and he does a lot of stuff with GPS and he's into construction, and - OH! he has this really cool laser optical thing, too. He's really technology savvy.

Me: OK, but what about Google? I mean, I thought you really liked him. I know I did.

Imaginary Sixteen Year Old Daughter: Dad, puh-lease! Everyone liked Google. I mean, every time he did anything, people fawned over him. I just got tired of it.

Me: But he's such a stable kid - the kind that will stick with you.

Imaginary Sixteen Year Old Daughter: Trimble says he'll be just as true to me as Google was - and since he's smarter than Google is in certain subjects, he's just a better fit for me.

Me: Uh huh. And what does Google think of all of this?

Imaginary Sixteen Year Old Daughter: Oh, he's cool with it, totally. In fact, he's the one who introduced us.

Me: OK, but I just have a few more quest-

I am interrupted at the sound of a car horn. Outside of my home, a flying DeLorean equipped with a Flux-Capacitor pulls up.

Imaginary Sixteen Year Old Daughter: Oh, he's here. Gotta go, Dad. Love you, bye!

And they fly off to God knows where, leaving me with a screwy look on my face.

So, here is one of my favorite applications - SketchUp - one which I've used in the classrooms since v.4.0 with a lot of success, and now it's someone else's baby. Google's philosophy was to make it free and to make it user friendly. Most of the time, it was; but even when it wasn't, it was still worth teaching and learning because it was doing some really cool advanced drawing maneuvers. I'm hoping that Trimble will follow suit, and that some of my worries are all for naught.

But really what I'm hoping for is that some of the shortcomings regarding SketchUp are addressed. Namely:

  • The application itself is not Web 2.0, which limits collaboration on models.
  • The self-paced tutorials are OK, but not easy to get to, and are short on some of the more advanced features.
  • 3-D Warehouse is sometimes not accessible to older models
  • Models in 3-D Warehouse are not consistent with scale I use in my drawings (which is something I can fix myself, but to me, it seems like it could be easily remedied.)
  • Shortcuts seem more complicated than need be

I suppose that this wouldn't worry me as much if it hadn't been for the fact that Google is doing away with iGoogle in the near future. I really like my iGoogle page. I know there are other things out there that will do the same thing, but - well, we've been together through so much. I got my MA with iGoogle, and I use it to prepare for my classes, and to use with my hobbies .... I'm just not sure how I'll do without her.

(Sorry. Lost it there for a moment. I know this sounds like a cheesy break-up story. I'm sure I'll be fine without her. I mean it. Be fine without it.)

This reminds me of my fondness of a suite of programs by Claris at the start of my teaching career. Claris Cad was a great little two-dimensional drawing program for the Mac, FileMaker was a powerful database, and ClarisWorks was the Mac contender to the early version of Microsoft Works. It ran beautifully on the Mac Quadras, and the the PowerMacs, and then the very earliest versions of the iMac ... and then it all came to an end. Claris got rid of everything but FileMaker, then renamed itself that same moniker. In short, Claris dumped me. Most of my files had to be converted to MS works files for the Mac, and since then have been replaced by files created by the updated, incompatible versions of current applications. Like the past love letters of so many (read "few") girls in my past, there are no longer any more Claris compatible files in my life. That's probably a good thing ... I think.

And that's where my trouble with SketchUp lies. What will become of her? She already has replaced the shallow 2-D drawings of my beloved Claris, and seemed so safe under Papa Google. Now this heart-throb Trimble comes along ... will he whisk her off to the sophisticated sunny beaches of AutoCAD, or the glitzy, high-rise world of TurboCad (motto: "What happens inTurboCAD stays in TurboCAD"), or will he just move her to the lovely landscapes of the Terminal Update Cove, where she will languish the rest of her days as v.8.0? Maybe she's just too good for me ... I'm so confused.

Learning and teaching technology is not like learning and teaching History or Algebra. It's not likely that The War of 1812 will turn into The War of 1814, or that quadnominal expression will have anything but four terms; and while new aspects of history, math and science are always being pursued and presented, it doesn't demand that sort of quick-change attitude that technology does. Technology is always moving, even when you're not changing or upgrading a favorite and trusted application. Chances are your students are already paying close attention to the latest changes and upgrades, so you need to move with them. The 21st Century classroom needs to reflect those moves, no matter where your comfort zone lies. I'll continue to use SketchUp and implement its upgrades and changes as I see fit in my classroom, but I'll keep a wary eye on where it's heading so that I can move with the changes.

My hope is that SketchUp will keep evolving to take advantage of the faster processors in computing devices, and computing devices will keep developing faster processors to provide SketchUp (and every other app out there) the room to grow. Someday, though, it's rudimentary three-dimensional model-making capabilities will be replaced by a hot new commodity that is attractive in every 3-D modeling way. And, just like days of yore, I'll fall for her completely and devote all of my drawing energy toward here in an effort to forget my dear SketchUp.

And if she winds up saying that we "should just be friends," I know I'll just get hurt in the end. Again.

1 comment:

  1. Another hilarious read! I too, am mourning the loss of my iGoogle has been my constant companion for over 3 years! I am not ready to learn something else!