Mac and PC are at it again

The decision-making about how to roll out new technology in our district's elementary schools continues. While the decisions have been fairly straightforward at the middle and high schools, such is not the case at our elementaries, where religious wars are breaking out.

The decision-making about how to roll out new technology in our district's elementary schools continues. While the decisions have been fairly straightforward at the middle and high schools, such is not the case at our elementaries, where religious wars are breaking out. It actually feels a little bit like the flame wars that hit ZDNet occasionally. All we need is Mike Cox to round things out.

One lone (but large) elementary school has a staff and administration adamantly in favor of a Windows platform. This school also happens to be the facility that will be receiving a complete infrastructure overhaul, having been neglected for more years than any other.

Another school is flexible, but the secretary wants nothing to do with Macs (and we all know how important it is to keep our secretaries happy). The other two are Mac shops and have no intention of making any changes.

When I first began looking at the elementary schools, an all-Mac platform actually seemed to make a lot of sense. Apple was happy to give us a deal on a large-scale rollout (the middle school is also sticking with Macs and several teachers at the high school elected MacBooks for their classroom computers. Moreover, our new technology “paraspecialist” (the tech support guy for the elementary schools) is a Mac guy (although he's happy to work with either platform and just installed Ubuntu at home to gain some Linux experience).

A fair amount of software was also in use at 3 of the elementary schools that ran only on Macs (Windows versions are available, but required new licenses and duplicate costs). Of course, the one holdout school has fallen into such disrepair that it had taken to adopting aging PCs from the high school. The ancient Macs there were rarely happy Macs and, of course, educational software had been purchased for the Windows computers they had inherited.

Obviously, we could simply use a mixed solution for the elementary schools. However, there is something to be said for ensuring that all of the kids at a given level have a consistent experience. It offends my sensibilities to have kids funneling into our middle school with varying skillsets and, while I don't consider the OS to be particularly important, the idea actively supporting, training, teaching, and purchasing (including purchases of educational software) for two different platforms seems overly painful with limited resources.

So how do we make peace here? I'm leaning towards biting the bullet, standardizing to Mac, but purchasing Vista Business licenses for all of the machines at our “dissenting” school. Using Boot Camp, the staff can use legacy Windows software, get to know the new face of Windows, and begin using OS X and other software purchased for the district. A few extra Vista licenses would hopefully satisfy the secretaries, too.

What do you think? Does standardization in the primary schools (or across any set of grade levels sharing support, training, and software resources) make sense or am I making too big a deal out of having 1/4th of our elementary schools running Windows?

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