To those who have mastered their personal computing universe, few things are as unsettling as a desktop makeover. But that's the course ahead for Pinellas public schools, and teachers can take solace from the fact that a computer switch will likely save money for their classrooms in the long run.
The Apple Macintosh computers that have long been a fixture in education are having problems competing these days. In American schools, where Apple had invested so much in marketing, the computers' share has dropped from 37 to 26 percent in just three years, according to Quality Education Data. In the overall computer desktop market, their share has plummeted in the past decade from 20 to 3 percent.
That's one reason Al Swinyard, Pinellas assistant superintendent for management information systems, decided it was time to pull the plug. Windows-based personal computers offer basically the same software capabilities and generally at a lower price. The district also found that maintaining two different types of computers is inefficient - especially whem most of the world uses the other type. "If we could focus on one area (as) opposed to two, we'd be better off," he told a reporter.
Gary Beach, publisher of CIO Magazine, recently described the larger transformation to Education Week. "There's a lot of Apple Macintosh loyalists in education. But it's not a question of heart, but of wallet."
Pinellas is going slow with the switchover, which makes sense. It won't be ripping out any new computers and forcing teachers tomake an immediate change. But the change is inevitable. A third of the district's computers are Windows-based already, and most of the business technology courses use them because they represent the market students will face in the work world. They are also the computer most of the students see in their own homes. As the computing universe changes, so must school desktops.