Five little Mac minis came in yesterday. The packages were so small and nondescript (with ACI on the return address) and mixed in amongst some book orders that I didn't even know they'd been delivered. I ordered them at the request of our journalism/yearbook teacher, who was a Mac guy at heart and had been running his program with a few of the original blueberry iMacs. They were in sorry shape and couldn't run the desktop publishing software he so badly wanted to use with his students.
I couldn't afford anything more than Mac Minis and for the money I spent on those, I could have bought even more pretty nice PCs. I could even have scrounged up 5 fairly high end Dells or HPs that came with monitors and he still could have used the DTP software since it has a Windows port. I've even written about the merits of standardization to a single platform (preferably PCs). So why did this math-techie guy with a head towards TCO and maximizing hardware and software purchases with very limited resources give in and buy Apple's cheapest Macs for an English not-so-techie guy?
Because students deserve the best experience they can have, even with said limited resources. Not to say that Macs are the best experience (although I have no doubt that a lot of Mac users will insist that the experience is unparalleled), but because by providing teachers with the tools they understand and use well, we provide students with a better learning experience.
If as a math teacher I'm given an integrated math text to teach algebra, I'm going to struggle and so will my students. Give me a really solid algebra text (better yet, a curriculum and materials that I've prepared myself) and my students will walk away with a much better understanding of the subject. Same goes for an English teacher, teaching journalism and desktop publishing on a platform he understands very well.
Additionally, while I have talked about what I feel to be the growing irrelevance of the Mac platform, DTP and journalistic fields remain a stronghold for Macintosh. Thus, for the students who take these classes and are inspired to pursue further education and careers in the field, there is much to be said for practical experience on the industry's platform of choice.
So it's for the students. I can talk TCO until I'm blue in the face and I can convince teachers and administrators alike that standardization is the way to go. However, this needs to be tempered, as always, with user requirements and with the goal in mind of providing the best learning environment we can. If that means I need to cough up a little more cash or get Macs talking to our domain, then so be it.
That's not to say I won't swap in PCs during our next tech refresh if the instructor gives the slightest inkling of interest, but for now, if the kids can learn to crank out a better high school newspaper with a Mac (because the teacher can better leverage his own skillset) then I have some Macs to install before students come back from February vacation.