Excuses excuses

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42179515@N06/3888905001

What excuses will IT directors who insist on using Windows computers over other operating systems (e.g. Mac and/or Free open source) offer when people ask, "Why are we spending money on Windows computers?"
 ...companies are giving their employees a choice to either use Microsoft Windows PCs or Apple Inc.'s Macs, the analyst said. And, increasingly, employees are choosing Mac over Windows. To boot, Chowdhry said 70 percent of college freshman are entering school with Macs, up about 10 percent to 15 percent from a year ago.
He also said attach rates for Office 2010 are declining, especially in the public and education sectors and in call centers, which in all make up about 10 percent of the Office business. (Source)
A colleague in a small, rural district once told me how their entire district had been Mac-centric. Then, a new CTO came into town, forced Macs out of the District to replace them with Windows computers locked down with Active Directory/SMS. Why? They were easier to maintain and keep going. And, the best part, "That's what businesses use now and we have to prepare our children for their work." 

Then, that CTO was pushed out because the superintendent, the Board, the Community, staff wanted him out. They realized he was making his job easier without doing anything for teaching and learning. Now, do you know what hardware that District has? Apple computers that can run Windows, Mac or GNU/Linux.

Of course, these days, most people are just using whatever they want. The issue isn't an operating system but rather, access to a web full of awesome tools. Now, it doesn't matter what restrictions school districts put in place...the smart folks--educators and students--will simply go around the obstacles.

We once called them "speed bumps" on that now quaint term, "The Information Superhighway." It's not a highway anymore...it's a neural net that re-routes to meet the needs of the one.

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Joel VerDuin said…
I'm more than a little confused.

If the "issue isn't an operating system but rather, access to a web full of awesome tools", then how could it matter which choice a district makes. Is the web not available on a district full of Windows PCs?

... and, if the OS doesn't matter, why is it OK for that same district to revert back to the Apple Mac platform (if OS doesn't matter)?

(I'm asking in a tongue and cheek manner - kind of)
Miguel Guhlin said…
Joel, glad you pointed that out. Let's review:

1) Windows and Mac Operating systems cost money, yet they allow us to run software that free operating systems do not.

2) As more software moves to the Web, the infamous "Cloud," there is less need to focus on what operating system you are using.

3) If you can buy quality hardware running free, open source operating systems (GNU/Linux variants), access great productivity tools based in the cloud, one need only invest in operating system when it offers something different.

4) Example of something different, a specialized use: Mac OS is great for multimedia design. I have access to all 3 OSs, and I keep coming back to the Mac OS for the great software it has on it that is usable in education.

5) A better solution for the District in question--small as it was--was to be more strategic about the hardware it purchased, the operating system it placed on the computers, and then buy Macs that met the needs of multimedia users...in the library, one doesn't need multimedia lab...a thin client lab would work just fine.

Yet, in a classroom, you do need at least one high-end machine that can be used for digital video/audio editing. Mac is clearly the winner over Windows.

In fact, I wouldn't buy Windows OS based computers...instead invest in hardware with UbuntuLinux and then sprinkle in as needed, Macs.

And, finally, thanks for calling attention to the inconsistency in my blog post. I hope you, and others, will do the same. After all, it only took me a few minutes to write that blog entry. Thinking through and implementing the kind of change that needs to happen in schools can take quite a bit longer.

With appreciation,
Anonymous said…
So, are you not in agreement with the DOE, ISTE, etc, that for our future workforce and US economy to survive, that we (Education orgs) MUST be fostering a creative environment and have kids be content-creators, not content-consumers?

Your limited view point on #5 implies that the lowest common denominator "access" for all is more important than creativity skills? Yes, or am I reading this the wrong way? don't we want ALL of our kids to be multimedia CREATORS?

A thin client lab, to ME, says all we need the kids to be doing here is access to the internet - and consuming information. That is our minimum expectation, so yes, why spend very much on an "access" device (tethered to a wall, mind you).

The isolated multimedia lab is very much a 90's way of thinking. No strategy there, other than we believe in 'fast food education'... oh, and you can go to that multimedia lab and work on your podcasts or movies when it's free after 5th period on Thursdays.
Miguel Guhlin said…
@Anonymous, two ways to respond to the thin client challenge, at least.

Approach #1 - Our libraries are setup to be places where students "consume" information. Yet, web-based tools--such as Diigo--empower us to do so much more with the information we consume. With social bookmarking/annotation tools, I am able to gather information, tag it, and share it with others in a variety of ways, including email and blogs, including adding my own comments. Does a thin client machine means we are forced to be consumers? No...it's how we use those tools.

You could also look at this from the GoogleDocs/Zoho/Collaborative word processing tools that facilitate real time composition, revising and editing, whether singly or in groups. All can be done with thin client browsers.

At a time when the browser is pre-eminent tool of creation, dissemination, simply imagining passive learners as lumps of information consumers is pure fabrication.

Approach #2 - Why not create a multimedia oasis in multiple sites around the school? The library is but one integral part of a system of information gathering, an opportunity for information processing, while the classroom and other locations provide opportunities for information problem-solving. That's not to say one is exclusive of the other, but schools still lack the ubiquitous access to technology needed. Your school may have laptops with 10hour batteries everywhere, but many do not.

While the isolated multimedia lab is "old" thinking, many teaching staff lack the technological skills to sufficiently infuse technology in their daily work. A multimedia lab serves as an oasis in a barren desert of teachers who cling to the past, are bereft of the time and hardware access they need to be successful.

Even with a lab present, we should have multimedia capable computers scattered through the campus...and low cost machines running FOSS everywhere. Like roses among dandelions, Macs among GNU/Linux computers.

Windows, like a weed that must be winnowed, is wholly unnecessary.


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