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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You might also want to look at Fiddlehead. It is designed around a Linux control kernel and runs Windows OS's on up to 4 heads, legally. www.myfiddlehead.com
You might also look at Fiddlehead. It is based upon a Linux control kernel that can replace BIOS. It allows you to attach 4 sets of kbds, monitors, and mice directly, no thin client stuff. It allows you to run Linux applications natively with a real (and legal) Windows XP, or Windows 7, or Windows Vista GUI. www.myfiddlehead.com. I am the CTO of the company so I am a bit jaded regarding our product. It is really designed to allow schools to transfer their applications to FOSS while keeping a M$ desktop until they realize that they don't really need it anymore.

Thanks for responding. I"ll be getting in touch within the next few weeks with some questions. I presented to the school board a few weeks back regarding a switch from Mac. They might be interested in piloting something.
Great...If you want, we have a good installation in the elementary school in Johnson, Vt. The tech guy there has installed quite a few clusters, is a small school district, and he is the only tech person. Collaboration has been increased using this product, as well as the cost savings, and he can tell you about that.
I'll get in touch with him. Thanks for the lead.
Charles, I don't think that learning curve will be as much of a cost, but ya maintenance can be. PCs are relatively less stable than macs and are more difficult to troubleshoot and more prone to having problems, so support cost should be considered. I do not know if Win 7 changes this but it seems more promising.

Have you considered leasing options with Apple - I do not know the pricing but might help bring the cost down. Also, we have started using macmini much more these days to keep our costs down, that could be a great alternative to more expensive macs.
Thanks for responding.

Embarrassingly, leasing with Apple, and macminis are things I know little about. I'll need to brush up.

I understand, and largely agree with everything you say about PCs. For me, the price of netbooks versus Macs makes them a game-changer. Netbooks running Linux, and the concept of computing on the "cloud" makes them even more appealing.

What I'm really excited and interested in are "thin client" systems, like Joel has put together.

Thanks for the input.

Your tech person is right for a few reasons. Many companies that run Macs don't even have IT support people because they are not needed.

1.Macs cost more because the quality control is higher and Apple controls manufacturing and software. They know that the hardware will work with their software. Many of the problems inherent in Windows stem from the fact that it has to work on so many different hardware platforms. This is why you have endless problems with driver compatibility.

2.They do so many more things out of the box that Windows doesn't or won't without additional software. (iMovie, GarageBand, and iPhoto for example)

3. Finally they hardly ever get a virus. Most people I know that run Macs don't even have virus software installed on their machines because they don't need it. There simply aren't that many viruses that can infect a Mac.

4. They are more secure. Windows was built to be easy to use and no security was built in. All the security added on in recent years is tacked on top of an insecure system and it feels like a kluge because it is. Because there are millions of Windows machines being used by corporations, Microsoft cannot afford to create a new secure operating system from the ground up because it would be incompatible with their older systems. Macs were built on UNIX which is very secure and was designed to be. Additionally, a few years ago they entirely rewrote the OS and IT IS INCOMPATIBLE with older versions of the Mac OS. Why were they able to do this? Their user base was smaller and they cared about security.

While netbooks may be cheaper upfront over the lifetime of the machine, considering all operating and maintenance cost, Macs will be cheaper by quite a hefty margin.
I love having a Linux lab (KDE and OpenSUE) with elementary kids! No viruses, they have to THINK simply because functions and commands are in different menus than what they are used to (Open Office, the GIMP...). But for the Preschoolers and lower Elementary I do rely heavily on the Internet for mouse skill games, typing games, etc.
There are a couple of options for the little ones, but nothing that I really LOVE (GCompris, tuxpaint, Ktuberling, Circus Linux, Ri-Li)...
Speaking of a couple of options for the little ones, I was at the SoCal Linux convention in Los Angeles last year and had a chance to experiment with OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) , a portable laptop geared specifically for young learners everywhere in the world. The operating system was Sugar, learning software for children. It was interesting and fun to play with. The organization and software is unique, targeting math, music, art, writing, and reading as well as providing access to the internet.

At the time, I was thinking it would be cool if the software was offered separately from the operating system. Recently, I have looked and found that it is. I looked into my Ubuntu package manager and there it is, Sugar and a number of learning activities. I bet Open Suse has the same packages in their package manager system. Here is another option. You can actually put Sugar on a thumb drive and run it from there, oh, and it's free. They call it Sugar on a Stick. Go to their website: http://www.sugarlabs.org/. You will need a 1GB thumb drive to install the Sugar environment. Try it, you might like it 8-)

For more background information you can go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugar_(desktop_environment)



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