For as long as I've been writing this blog, I've been fairly anti-Mac. This wasn't religious and I find myself personally really wanting to snag a Macbook. However, as far as I was concerned, I could never justify the premium price when PCs (whether technically inferior or not) could be had so cheaply. Macs didn't support the thin client models of which I've been so enamored lately either. So why would I roll them out for my users? I'd be happy to support them for the few Mac people on the faculty, but actually write a purchase order? No way!
Have I been infected with Macworld fever? No (well, at least not in my job). Rather, I took some time to look at the user base, applications, and back end systems we had in place at our elementary and middle schools. It looks as though we may get a chunk of money from our town (*keeps fingers crossed and knocks on wood*) to complete a badly needed tech refresh in these schools. When I first heard about this prospect, my initial reaction was, "Here's my chance! Mac is dead, long live Edubuntu!" All of the schools in the district (aside from the high school) are basically Mac shops, but they are old enough that OS 9 is still a really common sight.
As my initial Linux deployment/change the world excitement faded, though, I realized that all of the elementary schools had recently dumped what little technology money they had into Mac server upgrades to support a new reading and math program. The investment of money hadn't been that large, but the investment of effort, training, and implementation had been significant. More importantly, the kids (all the way down to my 5-year old) have had great experiences with the programs and teachers are using them to design and modify curricula. Unfortunately, computers are often broken, down for repair, or too slow to use the software effectively.
Moving up to the middle school, the entire back end is OS X server. Authentication, web, storage, legacy databases, you name it. While staff could certainly be retrained, a lot of time and effort has gone into ensuring that this Mac-based system runs smoothly. A migration away from this platform would take time, money, and staffing, and would generate a lot more surplus (including decent servers) than simply moving forward with a client-side tech refresh on the Mac platform.
So there we stand. It actually seems to make sense to stick with Macs. The staff are excited at the prospect of moving to Leopard on new, functional, reliable machines and the admins are happy to apply existing skills, hardware, software, and settings to the new machines instead of retooling completely. Elementary staff are happily planning new ways to exploit their reading and math software in a familiar and friendly environment. All I have to do is take my proposal to Apple and see if they can still match their once-aggressive academic pricing.