I posted the first part of my evaluation of an Apple MacBook for an educational deployment Wednesday morning (MacBooks - to deploy or not to deploy, part 1). While of course sparking the usual Mac vs. PC talk, one reader made an interesting point:
Are teachers asked what they think of their desk? The kids' desks? The tile floor? The windows? In fact, did anyone ever ask them if they WANTED Windows?
The short answer is "No." In fact, the teachers I know are rarely consulted about any major changes, they are told about then and given training to help the migration...
It floors me that Mac has to do a road test, Windows never did and still doesn't.
Just give it to them.
Another reader responded:
Could it be the fact that teachers are not consulted on tile floors is simply because they do not know what the costs and other factors involved in floor selection are?
The parallel to IT decision-making is clear. Many teachers are typical end users in that their understanding of the reasons and rationale we hopefully consider as we choose hardware and software platforms may be quite limited. For many teachers, if it works and looks familiar, it's probably the way to go.
This isn't to say that teachers don't want to learn anything new; rather, most would rather learn new things about their subjects of choice rather than how to get their computers to spit out a PowerPoint presentation.
So the question remains: should we involve them in the decision-making process? I have to say that we must, especially in areas that can have a drastic effect on their productivity. Changing our virus protection software or our vendor for toner cartridges is one thing. Changing the platform that teachers use every day and night to do their jobs is something else entirely.
While the first reader above railed against the idea of a "road test" for OS X, our users have a right to know what they're in for. The one executive decision I will make is that they won't be using XP come September (except, perhaps, in some virtualized environment). So what will it be? Like it or not, Windows (in whatever form), is the de facto standard. Deviations from the standard require a bit of proving, and certainly deserve some justification.
Several teachers were horrified at the rumor that we were considering Macs; a few demos might go a long way towards assuaging their concerns (or tell me that we have so much resistance to change that we need to very seriously consider how to approach new computers and operating systems).
Dumping Macs in their laps won't automatically make them more productive or better teacher in the Digital Age. Giving them the right tools to do their job will; part of my job is to show them the available tools and help them make informed decisions.