There are so many arguments about which operating system is best, Windows or MacOS. I could mention any one of a number of other OSes here but my experiences are with Windows and MacOS. Nowhere are these arguments more prevalent than in education, especially Primary and Secondary education.

I work for West Lothian Council in the technical support section of the education department. We have about 6000 machines in 140 educational establishments. Traditionally, the machine of choice has been anything Apple. This is more or less a legacy from the 'old days' when government in Scotland was more centralised and Lothian Region made all the decisions. Up until two or so years ago, nearly 85 percent of our school machines were Apple. Now, the split is more like 60 percent Apple, 37 percent Wintel of some flavour or another, and the rest is something UNIX based.

If my boss had his own way, every machine would be a beige box with a little badge that says Dell on the front of it. Period. No discussion. But its not that simple.

The main argument for Wintel seems to be 'its what they use in the real world' followed closely by 'the Dells are so much more reliable than those crappy iMacs'. The main argument for MacOS seems to be that they are perceived as being far easier to use and far easier to teach students to use.

I reckon that a lot of prejudices about which OS or platform is best to use in an educational environment come from familiarity. My boss comes from industry and is from a strictly PC background. I grew up around Apples and thats what I'm used to. The scary thing as far as I'm concerned is that my boss is someone with a lot of influence within the Council and it seems as though he is getting his own way.

I was in a secondary school yesterday that has almost exclusively Apple machines. There had been a meeting earlier in the day and the head of computing had been told that he was going to be receiving something like 70 Dells within the next six weeks or so. He was absolutely fizzing. The other computing teacher was arguing with him, trying to get him to see why 'PCs are better'. Neither party was able to convince the other to even consider the idea of trying something different.

But its like the old adage - you can never please 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time. These are my personal feelings on the subject... I on a personal level absolutely loathe Windows but professionally I have to admire it because it does the job as it were. I totally love the MacOS because thats what I grew up with. I've been using it for the last 14 or so years. Up until about two years ago I'd hardly ever used Windows, but now it is my OS of choice for certain tasks. I feel that in our schools it would be a bad thing to move exclusively to Windoze, I also however feel that it would be a bad move to be a completely MacOS based service. Surely an Education Authority has an obligation to provide the widest range of experiences possible to its students to equip them for the world beyond school? My preference would be a network that has as close to a 50-50 split between the two platforms as possible. Every time I raise this with colleagues I get shot down in flames because in their view it would be much harder to teach and resource this. But surely we should be able to teach a young person on either platform to a standard whereby they can move to the other without any problem? I mean, skills transferrance in something that can be invaluable in the world - people always have to adapt. I feel that we would be failing as an authority if our students couldn't use both. But thats just me...

We've also spent a lot of time, effort and money providing a network infrastructure over the last three years that will support both platforms. Maybe I should point out to my boss that he might look a total prat if he suddenly negates the need for cross platform services that he authorised the expenditure for a few years back....

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