What's your connection speed?

A recent comment about Mac or PC in schools has cut my sleeping short the past two nights.

That sounds like a great help to your colleagues. Our school has all macs – the entire district actually. Some of the people that have come from industry have brought up the point that by using macs we are not preparing our students for the workforce (even though there are so many neat applications on them). What do you think? (N.D.)

What do I think?

I think if we are worried about the OS of the machine we’re focusing on the wrong part!

If we are teaching kids an OS and specific software and not skills then that is the disservice to our students!

Example: We teach students how to create and compose audio files. We teach elements of sounds and communication via audio and how to share that recording with a global audience.

Can you name the software that was used to meet this outcome? Does it matter? Or will the students be able to take that skill and apply it to other audio software in the future?

I cannot count the number of times I have been asked if I’m a PC guy or a Mac guy. My answer: neither or both, it doesn’t matter!

Computers are just the gateway to information. Before computers it was the newspaper and magazine, before that town hall meetings and town squares, and before that the camp fire and story telling ceremonies.

It’s not the actual place that brought people together; it was the people there that brought people together. You go there (or went there) because that’s where people were giving out information. You get a newspaper because that’s where information is given. You watch (or watched) the 6:00 news because that’s where information is (was) given.

You get on a computer because that allows you to access information.

My 7th grader two years ago said it best “What did you all do with computers if the Internet wasn’t around yet?”

If schools are still wondering if they should be PC or Mac…..my answer is to just be something! Just make sure it connects to the Internet!

Computers today more than anytime before are the gateway to the real information of the world. We go there because that is where the people are who have the information. We go there because that’s where everyone else is. Why Twitter? Because that’s where everyone is! Why Facebook? Because that’s where everyone is.

Of course Clay Shirky does a much better job of explaining this in Here Comes Everybody. But if we’re still debating PC or Mac then we’re still asking the wrong questions.

Yes the Mac has cool tools already built in but there isn’t anything I can do with a Mac that I can’t do with a PC. Open-Source Software has leveled the playing field. In fact, I found it interesting to see how many people in my earlier post recommended using Audacity on a Mac. I thought Garage Band was supposed to replace that?

We need to understand that it’s the network we need to worry about. We should be asking ourselves what’s better a 10MB connection or a 100MB connection. We should be focusing on what a computer allows us to do today in the 21st Century. Write, read, connect, think, share, collaborate, create, analyze, evaluate, compare, etc.

Don’t ask me if I’m a Mac or PC guy. Ask me what my connection speed is!

7 Comments

  1. Hi Jeff,

    The observation regarding macs and preparation for the workforce is just ignorant fluff on the part of the speaker. You are right. Makes no difference which platform the students employ at school. So what if they use a Mac? They are probably using a PC at home anyway.

    Besides, the observation is a slight against the ability of the students to adapt to differing environments.

    Cheers, John

  2. Great post. You’ve just articulated what I’ve been trying to explain to our district technology leaders. We’ve got to get out of the “box” that houses the OS and embrace tools that are either open-source or web-based (and free!). There was a time when it was necessary to focus on platform in the technology conversation, but that time has passed. Perhaps we need to approach the issue in the same way we look at cell phones? I don’t know anyone who vehemently insists that you must use a Nokia over an LG. For most people, it comes down to coverage/connection (and now, it’s coming down to availability of Internet access via cell). If we focused purely on connection rather than OS, wouldn’t that open many, many doors for what we can do in the classroom?

  3. Jeff,

    I have lived on both sides of the Mac/PC debate. It’s unfortunate when people are getting caught up in the marketing hype and focusing on the wrong issues. The question I have for folks who are in the Mac vs PC debate is “What are you doing with it?”

    Bandwidth is a major issue and we have not yet begun to see how bandwidth issues will impact our schools. More and more technologies and resources are becoming more bandwidth intensive and districts are beginning to block access to legitimate resources to conserve bandwidth.

    SETDA just recently released at (link to setda.org ) and it very important that schools begin to get a better handle and bandwidth growth and what’s needed to meet the demand.

    Thanks, Eric

  4. Hi Jeff,
    A couple of things happen when people take the merry-go-round route of pitting one platform with another – it allows them to promote something that they’re comfortable with, and allows them to not make the connections with the bigger picture. I agree – if we believe that computers are merely a tool as a form of communication, thinking, reading and writing, then we place this issue in a very different category. And then the speed of my information flow is greatly important as that is what I need to make decisions.
    I think that many times, folks are not challenged in their thinking to move beyond and really consider what they believe about literacies and what that all entails.

  5. Hi Jeff,
    Ditto – regarding the comments to date. In our school we are moving to a dual platform scenario (Mac using Bootcamp to Windows on student machines and Mac using Parallels on the teacher laptops), providing flexible options in using the tool of choice for the job. However, bandwidth and connectivity speed remains an issue (in Australian schools), which places more emphasis on the user to utilize the software loaded on the computer. The integration of the multimedia apps on the mac ‘stand out’ in comparison with the PC’s ability to do similar. Similarly, teachers have admin rights to their laptops and have far more success in managing and maintaining their ‘learning tool’ with the mac rather than the PC – virus / spyware management etc (sorry to flare the Mac PC debate).
    Cheers
    Paul

  6. Hi Jeff,
    Ditto – regarding the comments to date. In our school we are moving to a dual platform scenario (Mac using Bootcamp to Windows on student machines and Mac using Parallels on the teacher laptops), providing flexible options in using the tool of choice for the job. However, bandwidth and connectivity speed remains an issue (in Australian schools), which places more emphasis on the user to utilize the software loaded on the computer. The integration of the multimedia apps on the mac ‘stand out’ in comparison with the PC’s ability to do similar. Similarly, teachers have admin rights to their laptops and have far more success in managing and maintaining their ‘learning tool’ with the mac rather than the PC – virus / spyware management etc (sorry to flare the Mac PC debate).
    Cheers
    Paul

  7. From what I’ve heard, Macs, especially in the US, are being taken up by businesses at a rapid rate, very little disadvantage there I think.

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