There’s a campaign to convince school personnel that it’s better to standardize on a single computer platform (Wintel) than have a dual platform system that includes Macs.
A white paper written by School Tools Consulting based in Austin, TX, is being distributed by Dell. There’s also a special report at eSchoolNews, which was sponsored Dell and Microsoft.
This report uses examples and cites real school districts. Of course, it opens with a district that’s moved to Windows from the Macintosh platform. This report quotes the School Tools report, “IT Platform Standardization in K-12 School District,” which, according to some educators, lacked hard research data.
Also important to note is that, in the School Tools report, similar arguments are made for standardization on Apple. Districts that participated in the study were purportedly evenly sampled from throughout the United States. Fifty percent had enrollments of 25,000 students or greater, 30 percent had enrollments between 5,000 and 24,999 students, and 20 percent had enrollments between 1,000 and 4,999 students. Some had standardized on the Windows platform, some maintained dual platforms, and a few operated exclusively on the Mac.
Most school districts that have decided to standardize their platforms have done so on the Windows operating system because “Macintosh computers generally are priced higher than PCs of similar capacity and because the district’s technical staff was more familiar with PCs,” according to School Tools.
But despite these arguments, a minority of districts have chosen to standardize on the Mac platform. Christine Carter, superintendent of the Reed Unified School District in California, said her district chose the Mac OS because “when I came to this district, we had more [Apple computers] and it was easier to purchase more of them.”
According to the report, 98 percent of Reed USD’s computers are Macs, Carter said, “The only place we don’t use them is in the business office.” Because the business office’s computers interface with the state’s computer system, the district decided to keep using PCs in the office, but “I would like to change that,” she added.
“Other districts that have chosen to standardize on the Macintosh platform cite Apple’s 20-year history of selling to education, the stability and ease of use of the Mac OS, and the company’s superior built-in wireless and multimedia tools as reasons for their decision,” School Tools said.
What’s more, the report notes that findings are inconclusive and suggest that districts must determine standardization on their own. Still, it suggests that if standardization is done correctly, schools will save time and money.
“Despite its potential for cost savings and other benefits, standardization may not be right for all districts,” School Tools writes. “You might decide, for instance, that it makes sense to continue to support both platforms as a way to leverage your already significant investments in Windows and Macintosh technologies, particularly if you’re using older programs that are not cross-platform. Or, you might believe that dual platforms give users a greater array of tools and provide students with a wider range of computing experiences.”
“Even Bill Gates probably would be depressed if all students demonstrated just the same skills and techniques,” said Bonnie Bracey, a member of NASA’s Challenger Center faculty and a pioneer in using educational technology, according to the report.
Count Caroline Musselwhite, an assistive technology consultant for the state of Arizona with 20 years of experience troubleshooting computers, is a Mac fan.
“Like many Mac users I think they are very intuitive machines, and I see a lot of Macs in use in the Arizona school system, especially in the elementary schools,” she told School Tools. “A lot of special-education software works very well on Macs. I don’t have any bias for or against any platform, but I feel that both platforms can exist together in a school district.”