Mac Lab Report

Apple, PC-only Policies, and Computers in Education

- 2004.04.09

Dateline: Atlanta, GA, 2004.04.03

I'm here at the National Science Teacher's convention in Hot-lanta, Georgia (nobody in Atlanta says Hot-lanta any more than people in San Francisco say 'Frisco) and sitting at an Apple iMac in the Apple Cyber-booth.

Apple has a presence here, as it always does, with equipment on display and representatives to answer questions. It's nice to see how the newest equipment works.

In my lab I have extremely narrow counter space, and I am anxious to put iMacs on them, if I can find some funds. Times being what they are, and me being from California, funds are pretty scarce.

Nevertheless, I'm writing a grant to get a dozen iMacs, and if it is awarded, I'll then have to wrestle with my district to allow me to order them in the first place. We have been declared an official PC-only district, and only PC purchases are being approved.

I did manage to get a G5 tower approved, because it was a "rider" along with a project that was approved in the past - and it is only one machine. Whether or not I'll be able to finagle the rest of it is another question.

Right now I'm sitting on the trailing end of a $170,000 grant. I was just appointed Teacher of the Year for my district, and I write an educational technology column advocating for the use of Macs in my school.

If I can't solve this problem and get a roomful of new machines, that says a lot about my district, myself, and my role in the district. I think it definitely is a morale issue for me.

I try to be professional and objective about it, but I just keep coming around to two basic facts: The no-Mac rule is being implemented without regard to educational consequences because teachers were not consulted about it; and any proposed cost savings from going single-platform have yet to be detailed to us. All it will take to end the discussion is some large-scale grant or donation from a major PC manufacturer, and we'll topple over the precipice.

Even though I personally like Macs, I am ostensibly platform-agnostic; I'll use a PC when it is the best tool (or only tool) for the job, as occasionally happens. My point is, once again, that teachers ought to be able to choose the best tool for the job instead of being dictated to by people who don't try to do the things I do - just like choosing specimens from Carolina versus Science Kit.

Anyway, there's lots and lots of stuff here for Apple computers, like Vernier (which still supplies Apple II software, for cryin' out loud) and uncounted others. I'm going to sign off here and go exploring.

It'll be fun to find out if the Apple Ed reps have ever heard of Low End Mac. Someone said there was a Segway booth; gotta check that out for sure.

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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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