And I don’t mean politically correct.
The technology lab at the school where I work was full of six-year-olds and eight-year-olds, which would have been great if I was talking about the ages of the students. Unfortunately, I was talking about the ages of the outdated iMacs and eMacs that were falling apart on us. We could have bought some used Macs to last the end of the school year, spending approximately $200-$300 on each, but that seemed like a waste of resources and money. After researching and informally polling our local community and area high schools, we found that most of them were using PCs. Why? Cost and the increased use of cloud-based programs.
Cloud-based programs do not usually have computer-compatibility issues because they are mostly browser-based. If your computer can install the latest browsers (and updated drivers for things like Java and Flash), you’re easily able to use Google Apps for Education, Chrome apps, and other valuable online tools. When it came to cost, replacing our lab with 36 iMacs would have cost at least $36k. That did not include a 3-year warranty on parts and labor, shipping, or taxes. With a $169 price tag for each warranty policy, AppleCare made the total price increase over six-thousand dollars!
I found the new iMacs to be cost prohibitive, and my goal was to have students using computers that were reliable and fast. We finally decided on an HP desktop, and it included a three-year full warranty on parts and labor. The price was one-third the price of an iMac. We added Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office Professional Plus, Inspiration/Kidspiration, and anti-virus plus firewall software site licensing. We also purchased cloud subscriptions for Read, Write, Type and BrainPop Jr. for the younger students, and we bought Edublogs and Glogster subscriptions for all of the students as well. I chose LANschool software for classroom management – and oh, what a joy it is to turn on all of the computers from the teacher console, to see each student’s work live, and so much more… We also bought a Windows server with licensing and CALs… and in total, all under what we would have paid for iMacs only, without AppleCare warranties.
Now, don’t get me wrong – Macs are great. They are easy to set up and administer, and they’re well-made machines. The cost here had to be weighed with other factors. PCs are what most of our students have at home. PCs are still holding at least 90% of the market share. (Apple only holds 5.2%, according to a 2011 report by Needham & Co. analyst Charlie Wolf; interestingly, HP has 17.2% of the market according to an October 2011 Bloomberg article.) If we’re preparing our students for careers in the real world, then they’ll have the experience of using PCs under their belts.
I also think Chromebooks would have have been a fantastic solution for us and just as affordable. I’m still working on that, though – I’d love to have carts of Chromebooks for classroom teachers to use with their classes. After all, one 50-minute period a week is not enough tech time for students. They should be using technology every day they are in the classroom… but I digress… plus, there is enough information on Chromebooks and one-on-one laptop programs for me to share (and dream about) another day.
My principal’s mantra lately seems to be, “Lisa will be dragging our school and the staff, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.” Hopefully, there will be less dragging and a whole lot more joyous cheering.