Most classrooms in Baltimore County use PCs running Microsoft Windows software but use Macs in the labs for the graphic and multimedia programs. The county's IT team says having one platform is a cost-cutting move which makes for easier technical support. And now that virtually the same graphics software is available for Windows, there is no reason go for a single platform.
In spite of time and money savings, there are criticisms about the decision.
"We have, potentially, thousands of students who are potentially not going to be prepared after this year's class," commented Anne Peach a graphic-design teacher at Catonsville high school.
Most students get introduced to the user-friendly interface of a Mac when in kindergarten or first grade. But in recent years PCs are becoming more and more prevalent in schools. Adminstrators and IT professionals are seeing the benefits of a single platform, such as sharing information.
"All of this can happen only if we're all on the same operating platform. There wasn't intended, as part of the plan, any long-term or permanent exceptions to that. It's simply prohibitive to support two separate computer systems within the school system." said schools spokeswoman Kara Calder.
Graphics designers tend to use Macs because their software was originally designed for that operating system, and printing technology is almost 90 percent Mac-based. Until recently, it was difficult to complete a design job on a PC platform, but the new graphics software makes it easier to work in either platform.
"The operating system may be a little different, but the software is pretty much the same," said Nick Callas, the president of the Graphic Arts Professionals of Baltimore and graphic communications teacher at Overlea High School.
He added that as PCs become more prevalen, students will adapt to the change, "The students are going to help me make the transition," he said.