Mac Lab Report

Another School System's 'Switch by Subterfuge' for the Convenience of IT

- 2003.09.18

Teachers losing their Apples (in the Tampa Bay Times) describes yet another school district that is slowly phasing out Apple computers for an exclusive contract with a PC vendor.

This is an old song, but it is notable that all the usual characteristics of a Switch by Subterfuge, described here on multiple occasions, are present:

  1. The decision was made by a single individual without consensus among the users involved.
  2. The purpose of the switch is entirely for the reduction in expense and convenience of the IT department with one exception - the attendance system is not compatible with OS X. As one teacher I know, whose district is going through a similar spasm, said: "You would think a new attendance system would be cheaper in the long run than replacing thousands of computers. I don't frankly know where they expect to get the money. " It's not like SASI/ClassXP actually works all that well at the classroom level (see rant below*).
  3. No accountability is possible for the switch because no estimate of the amount of money saved is made. No estimate of the number of IT workers who will be fired due to the increased efficiency is claimed.
  4. No educational justification for the switch is made other than a vague reference to it being easier to maintain a single platform vs. multiple platforms. Exactly how the savings will be rerouted into teacher salaries, class size reduction, supplies, or books is not detailed.
  5. No consideration is given to the teacher investment in computers in their homes.
  6. Dispirited teachers refuse to argue the point because they believe the district is going to do what it wants anyway.

Administrators don't tell teachers which books to recommend for purchase, don't argue over the choice of metric vs. inches in math class, and don't get to choose the seating arrangement of the desks. Why should they dictate the computer platform?

If you want my opinion - and you're getting it whether or not you want it or not - this is an issue that teacher unions might do well to take up. My working conditions matter a lot more to me than whether or not my lunch is five minutes shorter than the guy across campus. And those conditions include the kind of computer I use in my classroom.

* The author believes his audience is too technophobic to follow the concept of a lack of a Carbonized program, so he simply blames the incompatibility on Apple. Five gets you ten it's SASI again. When will Pearson get it's rear in gear and come out with a carbonized version of ClassXP?

Speaking of ClassXP, why must it be upgraded every three weeks and, in the process, the seating charts you've carefully laid out are erased? Why can't teachers print class lists with ID numbers without doing frickin' ink-wasting screen grabs? Why is it so unreliable that we can't print out attendance sheets, forcing us to keep duplicate records, thereby doubling our work? Why does it take so frickin' long to load a class? How much data is there to transfer anyway?

You could just about beat the performance of this thing with a FileMaker Pro app, fer cryin' out loud!

Since the program works in OS X, why can't someone spend a few days to make sure the window overlap placement works correctly, which is the only reason it is incompatible? Why, why, why?

Okay, doc says blood pressure going up, end of rant.

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is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.

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