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Pinnelas County School District Dumping Macs Because Of Wintel "True Believers"

Pinnelas County School District Dumping Macs Because Of Wintel "True Believers"

by , 8:00 AM EDT, October 7th, 2003

The Mac community is known for its high density of "true believers." These are people who know that Macs are better/faster/more cost effective, and no amount of opinion or data to the contrary will sway them. Many in the Mac community think of Wintel fans as mindless lemmings, ignorant people who follow the leads of the Wintel hegemony without thought or reason. Sometimes, however, we are reminded that the Wintel camp has its own share of "true believers," people who know that Wintel is inevitable, smart, and the best choice for anyone wanting to be a part of the mainstream. No amount of total cost of ownership, productivity, software realities, or other such nonsense will sway these people from their shining path of proper Windows glory.

Such is the case today.

Last month, we brought word of a school system that was moving to PCs. The school system is the Pinellas County school district, and that system is predominantly Mac at present. The school superintendent, Howard Hinesley, wants to move the schools to Wintel, because that's what the corporate world uses. You can read our coverage on that story for more detailed thoughts and analysis, but we are writing today about a new article published in the St. Petersburg Times by Richard Bockman.

Mr. Bockman has penned an in-depth article looking at how and why the school system is making the move. According to the article, the decision was made without consulting teachers (because "Technology decisions always should be top-down"), and indeed how teachers and even the district's own director of technology was deliberately kept in the dark, because the "top-down" decision-makers knew they would be upset.

You see, those decision makers know what is best for the teachers, even if the teachers don't. In fact, no costs-analysis numbers were ever prepared (there was no need to do so), and the school board wasn't properly notified of exactly what was going to happen (it's more cost effective, so don't worry about it). In other words, they are Wintel true believers. From the article:

[Al Swinyard, assistant superintendent for management information systems] tapped a pile of e-mail messages. "There's a guy in here from Australia calling me a bonehead." Imagine that, he said, infamous in Australia.

Post an item to a Mac forum Web site about some school district in Central Florida getting rid of Macs and objections roll in, many armed with numbers to make the case that Macs cost less in the long run. Show us your cost analysis, they say.

Swinyard said his team did not work up any numbers. Why do that? This decision was "intuitive," a no-brainer.

[...]

With her doctorate in curriculum instruction and special education, [local teacher Denise] Miller participated in a federal grant that resulted in "No Strings Attached," a CD-ROM with lesson plans to integrate wireless technology in student activities.

Miller serves on an advisory board headed by Judy Ambler, the district's supervisor of instructional technology, whose peers presented her a lifetime achievement award Friday as a state leader in her field. Miller, Ambler and her advisory board were excluded from the district's decision to go with PCs.

Based on her classroom experience - Miller paused to emphasize, classroom experience - going to a single platform is hardly a no-brainer. She considers Macs "a million times easier" than PCs to use and support. She understands the administration's logic.

"In their viewpoint, it helps with data collection. But that's different from what we're doing," Miller said. "How you're teaching and learning is the crux of what we're doing every day."

She accepts the differences between the district's business and instructional sides. She does not accept the divide.

There is much, much more in the full article, and we recommend it as a very good read. It is a very in-depth article.

The Mac Observer Spin:

It's incredibly ironic to hear a Suit explain that his customers (the teachers) need to be kept in the dark because they won't like what he does. That bit comes from a quote we didn't include in our article, but deserves comment. IT people often forget that their role is not to make local computing better for IT, but to make it better for the people that are using it. Such is clearly the case in Pinellas County, where those roles are definitely confused.

The whole thing really is enough to make you sick. Note the transcript near the end of the article from a school board meeting where Howard Hinesly basically lies to his bosses on the board. The people in power in this case are true believers, and that always makes for a difficult fight. Hopefully, more rational minds will prevail before too much damage is done to the school system.

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