I'm a sixth grade teacher, working in a K-8 school, about 260 students. We're a "Mac school".

Truth in advertising, I love Macs. However, with declining enrollments and a tight economy I have doubts about the sustainability of remaining a Mac school due to the cost of the machines. I also wonder if we need machines that powerful, since we're, slowly, moving in a cloud computing direction.

This summer I acquired a number of used PCs from local vendors for my classroom. The laptops in our wing's mobile lab are so ill-functioning they're not worth the time. Additionally, teachers are increasingly running into scheduling conflicts for the computer lab.

Unfortunately, my administrator won't allow me to use them because he fears viruses, and what content might be on the machines. The machines had no hard drives. I was prepared to purchase and install hard drives. I was planning on running Ubuntu (Linux) on them. Still, no go.

That said, our bookkeeper (in house) uses a PC. Also, our custodian has all information pertaining to the facility on a PC. Most of our school board members run PCs during meetings. Our Assistant Principal uses a Mac and netbook for various tasks. I have a netbook, running Linux, in my classroom. A few staff members run netbooks in the building as well. To my knowledge, there's been no problems with wireless connectivity, viruses, etc.

Recently, I emailed the staff about considering moving from Macs for the following reasons.

* there are netbooks and cheaper refurbished machines that will enable us to put more machines in the hands of more kids
* we're moving in the direction of cloud computing, and don't need machines as powerful as Macs
* there's free, high quality antivirus software that can be installed on the machines.

My school's IT person is against the move for many reasons. Here are a few.

* "you have to spend years in professional development for the staff (learning a new OS)"
* (We'd need to) "increasing the budget or decreasing the present classroom or specials staff and adding another tech person"
* "There are so many other hidden costs as well as other problems."

Would years of PD be needed? Teachers don't need to learn operating systems. They need to learn the applications that run on the operating systems. Would running a new OS interfere with a teacher's understanding of Google Apps, Voicethread, Animoto, etc? I don't see it. As long as the teacher can turn on the machine and click on a web browser I don't see any need for fretting about learning a new OS.

As for the cost, we can buy at least three netbooks for every Mac. That, along with moving much of our computing to the cloud will be where we realize savings.

As for "hidden costs as well as other problems", what might they be?

I've attached copies of my email, and my IT's email for your consideration. Text in black means names (school,people) have been changed.

Any feedback will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your time.

Tags: linux, mac, operating, pc, systems

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Largely I think you are right. You do not need to learn a new OS in great detail. However, there will be some that want to know, where will I find this?, what is the pc equivalent of this?, is there a pc equivalent of this?, etc. but these are fairly easy to anticipate and training could be put in place for that.

I moved from the UK, where there are virtually no mac schools, to the US where there are a lot of mac schools. I had to learn the Mac OS as I had never really used it before, but tech orientated people just pick it up the more they use it. Depends on what kind of staff you have.

Hidden costs? A decent antivirus? Upgrading servers? Reconfiguring staff/student logins?

Indigo is probably the person to ask about this....
Thanks to you both for responding. I greatly appreciate any information I receive.
Years of PD?
No. I switched from Windows to Ubuntu. As you know, they are very similar. For people really slow with technology, they might need an afternoon to have someone walk them through the new os. But really, what are they going to use besides the office suite, Firefox and any apps they download?

Increased Cost?

I don't see how. If your switching to the cloud, any software you encounter will be at worst cheap, and at best free. If you are on netbooks (cheaper than mac books), and switch to a Linux OS (free), you still haven't increased cost. In fact, chances are when your school buys netbooks, they are going to come pre-installed with windows. You can get the money you spent on the licenses back from Microsoft (part of the anti-trust settlement from 13 years ago) and get nearly $100 per PC bought.
There will be an increased cost in training your IT person Linux admin. But hopefully you have a good IT person and (s)he already knows a little about it.
Some benefits, however is you don't need to worry about viruses nearly as much as you do with windows. Linux is the most stable OS, and very hard to crash. And it's FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hidden costs?

The transfer costs of getting everyone's data from one platform to another. This is not an easy task. It is usually very time consuming.

I'm excited to hear that your school will be working in the cloud. My feeling is, if your administration has already said yes to the cloud, the problems you have above will work out themselves.
Thank you for responding. I greatly appreciate your help. I'll be presenting to the tech committee and the board within the next few months regarding this. I'll keep you posted on things are going. If you have anything else to add to the discussion it's always welcome.
Thank you for responding. I appreciate the information, and candor.

One thing I've heard is that there's a steep learning curve when switching to Linux, especially for the non-tech inclined. I wonder about that. Any thoughts regarding that I welcome.

I'll be presenting to the tech committee and school board within the next few months regarding this. I'll keep you posted on how things are going.

Again, thank you for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully.
We made "The Big Switch" few years ago. The kids didn't miss a beat. Most of their parents had Windows-based machines at home, so the change for them was easy. Some initial "beginners" staff development was offered for those who wanted/needed it. Did it take years? No way. If you were using Office on the Mac, the programs are nearly identical. (There are subtle differences, but nothing dramatic.)
We're a 5-8 building, and we started with the 5-6 half on Macs and the 7-8 half on PC's. Drove the tech staff NUTS. However, the driving factor was cost. The number of machines we could purchase was a no-brainer. We did keep a lab of Macs for editting and multi-media purposes.
As for staffing, we had one tech person in our building when we were mac/pc and we still just have one person now that we're all PC.

Just some thoughts, hope it helps.
Thank you for the information. I've suspected the changes aren't as dramatic as we've (the staff) have been led to believe. If you have any more ideas, information to add it's always welcome. I'll keep you posted on the goings-on at my end.

Again, thanks for taking the time to respond.
What is wrong with knowing more? Why is there so much fear? I love Apple. I love Windows. I love Linux. Knowing about these operating systems broadens my skills in technology. I have the good fortune of having all three OS in my classroom. I can pick and choose depending on my students' needs. It's kind of like knowing three languages. I am still learning and have a long way to go, but I am having fun. All this technology can work together. Our district has an infrastructure that easily supports Apple and Windows platforms. My Edubuntu lab fits and plays well with everyone at no cost to anyone and works when our school network is down. Knowledge is power.
They fear the unknown and there is the issue of job security. Ha! my Edubuntu lab is virtually maintenance free. All the while, our district tech. guys are running all over the place trying to fix problems with the new technology. And... my system is around ten years old. I never toot my horn too loud. I always try to help and model the potential of new ideas. I like to bring my old previously discarded laptop running Ubuntu to our Site Tech. meetings with all its Open Source software. I feel empowered knowing that I have a choice. I know that I own my technology and no one can take that away or limit my progress either financially or through proprietary limitations.
Charles, I agree with Indigo. You should try a live Linux CD. I suggest trying Ubuntu because it is user friendly. When I think about learning technology I think of music and playing the saxophone. The more styles you learn and are exposed to the better and more well rounded musician you will be. I am familiar with Apple and Windows and the software associated with these two operating systems. I wanted a lab in my classroom, but found it impossible to afford. Then I discovered Linux and a world of possibilities were opened to me. I explored Knoppix, Fedora, Suse, Damn Small Linux, Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu, LTSP, and K12LTSP. I chose Edubuntu and it is working fabulously in my classroom of 14 computers. My school is an Apple school and this technology is expensive. During these economic times our district's technology assets have been placed on hold. Expansion at my school and other schools have stopped for the time being. I refused to accept this roadblock. Since my dabbling in Linux a little over a year ago, we now have 4 labs with a total of 40 computers. All computers were donated with exception of my server. We use them on a daily bases for writing, research, and learning support. Your ill functioning laptops might work well as thin clients since you will not need your hard drives. Check out the Linux option. It is something that you can do on your own and there is virtually no cost.
Sir, you have the capacity to read minds. This was something I tried to set-up in my classroom, but was denied the opportunity. I thank you, and will keep you posted on the goings-on.
Denied the opportunity? Linux is a very secure system that requires permissions at every turn. Education is everything and your administrator simply does not know the facts. Heck, Apple is based upon a Linux/Unix type operating system. In fact, you can access the Apple system using Linux commands within the command line. You know what would be funny? What if just for the fun of it, you get one of the new Apples and create a dual boot option that includes Edubuntu LTSP? I would go for it anyway. Start small, two or three computers. Put Edubuntu Desktop on them. You don't have to tell anyone what you are doing. Keep them offline at first. Oh! You can set up a LTSP lab in your class and keep it off line. When no one is looking you can connect your server to one of the LAN drops. Yeah! In my fifth grade classroom I have one server that supports 14 clients. Half the district network was out of commission for two days. My students were still able to type papers, play games, work on presentations, and write a news letter without going online. It is amazing how you can have a network of computers working through one server in the classroom with only one cable accessing the internet. Any computer can be a server. I set up a lab that runs 5 computers with a computer my brother found in the trash. All I needed to do was put in an extra gigabit ethernet port, put in a hard drive that was in my garage and buy 2 gigs worth of RAM. It had a 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 Processor. Configure your server at home. I know it is difficult going against the norm. I have been trying to get my district tech. supervisor to come and see what I am doing. He says okay, but he just doesn't care. However, he allows my system to exist because it is not costing my school or district one cent other than minimal energy costs. We will spend $50,000 on an Apple lab with 30 computers. I have created a few labs with a total of about 40 computers for about $1,200. The main cost was my used server that was $900, original price three years ago $4,000. You know what? It is just plain old fun using technology that belongs to you, having the freedom to configure exactly what you want and need. I am not a tech. guru. I have been doing this for only about a year and a half with a base knowledge only in software, Microsoft Office, Finale Music, and Adobe Illustrator. I encourage you to be a Maverick, start small. Your learning lab will not even access the network at your school. All student accounts are on your server. You will just access the internet and no one, I mean no one will be able to gain access to your server unless you give them permission. You will be in control. Good luck Charles. I know that I have given you quite an earful. Hopefully I have not been overbearing.

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