Updates from July, 2013 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Andrew T Schwab 4:53 pm on July 27, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    OSX or Ubermix? That Is The Question 

    In a recent post titled, In A Perfect EdTech World, I said I would give every teacher an ubermixed ultrabook. Now people that know me know that I took Le Grand Union High School District teachers from Windows Desktops to MacBook Pros a few years ago and I advocated for MacBooks for every teacher at East Side Union High School District during my brief stint there.  At my current district we just handed out MacBooks to our Common Core Site Champions and I’m in the planning stages of replacing fixed virtual desktops with MacBooks for the rest. So what’s up with that?

    I said in a perfect world I’d give every teacher an ubermixed ultrabook. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world and reality often gets in the way. I actually experimented with providing Ubermix netbooks to teachers at Le Grand a year before we went MacBooks. The results were mixed with most folks using ubermix to remote in to their windows desktops using RDP. Letting go of Microsoft Office and their windows H drive seemed to be the biggest hurdle at the time. The reality with an ubermixed ultrabook is that it’s different. Very different in fact than what most people use every day. It’s even more different than a chromebook, because at least a chromebook’s UI is basically a web browser which almost everyone is familiar with. So even though an ubermix ultrabook is in many ways the ultimate in performance and cost effectiveness, it’s a hard transition. The ubermix UI, while simple to use, isn’t Windows and it isn’t OS X either. Kids pick it up quickly, but change for adults is often much harder. Years of muscle memory takes effort to overcome. I think people are finding that out with Windows 8, but that is another story. In short, ubermix for teachers is a hard sell with a steep learning curve.

    Then what makes a MacBook and OS X my go to choice for teachers at the moment? Well, Apple makes the best hardware anywhere. Battery life is phenomenal and the other features like backlit keyboard, aluminum uni-body and mag-safe power adapter are wins in my book. There’s also the easy to use factor and the low exposure to malware and virus attacks (I said low, not none). I’m confident that I’ll get a solid four years out of the device. On the user side, I figure that giving a MacBook to a Mac user cuts down my support calls because Mac users tend to be pretty Mac savvy. Giving them a Windows 7 or 8 laptop turns them into a support call. With 42% of my teachers wanting a Mac, the support factor can’t be ignored. In addition, a MacBook can run windows. Either in a virtual box instance or under boot camp. A Mac will run multiple browsers with support for Java, Flash and even silverlight. And yes, it works with all those AppleTVs and iPads that are showing up in classrooms all over district’s everywhere not to mention iBooks Author and Configurator too (yep, teachers can manage their own iPad sets in their classrooms).

    The hurdles to MacBooks are generally two fold. One is cost and the other is the Windows IT department. My answer to both is simple. Cost wise, when I break down the total cost of ownership which factors in lifetime support costs of the device, a MacBook at $1200 can perform on par with a Windows Laptop at $700 over the life of the device. That’s before looking at the feature comparisons mentioned above. But how is that possible? Well, again it goes to malware, virus and user support. And it also dovetails into the second hurdle which is IT. Contrary to popular best practice, I have no interest or intention of managing (ie. controlling) MacBooks. I hand them out with local admin access, not joined to a domain and give users control of their own computing experience. Any problems, we re-image back to baseline. It’s really that simple. We show users how to run updates, install applications, add printers and connect to network shares and they can take it from there. It’s the consumerization of IT and the empowering of the users (no, I did not watch Tron too many times as a kid, well, ok maybe I did).

    But as easy to support and low attack profile as OS X is, ubermix is better. Nobody bothers with Linux. And with new Haswell based ultrabooks coming on line, I’m sure there will be some hardware that’s close enough to MacBook Pro performance to be good enough. Unfortunately, I think ubermix has to be a slow burn, not a rip and replace. It takes time to build momentum for that kind of radical change but once people experience the potential of ubermix to provide a universal no-cost, powerful computing experience for kids (and adults too), they finally get it.

    Today, I see the MacBook running OS X as a versatile, cost efficient, jack of all trades platform for teachers, especially for environments invested in iPads. However, the more I think about it, the more I think there is no one size fits all teacher computer. Some may never need anything more than a Chromebook to take attendance, answer email and enter grades. Some may want all the content creation features and tight integration with iPads that OS X offers and some may even want Windows (although keeping them running while being open is always the challenge).  Others may fall in love with ubermix right off the bat. The problem is, how do you determine which platform is right for which user when the user probably doesn’t even know the answer to that question themselves?

    • Bob Henderson 5:19 pm on July 27, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      How often do you see using the Macbooks away from their desks? I’ve experimented with staff laptops, be it Windows/Mac/Linux, and find them sitting on the desk 99% of the time, making it hard to justify the cost and maintenance.

      You’re right about the Macbooks, however. Best hardware you can get, hands down. Just wish they were a bit more user serviceable for when something does break, but Applecare isn’t too horrible of a cost.

      • Andrew Schwab 11:24 am on July 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        My objective is to give teachers mobile technology so that they can start collaborating together using modern tools and technology. The first hurdle to making that happen is replacing desktops with laptops. I’m sure a certain percentage of teachers will never remove the device from their classroom. So be it. No reason to hinder the empowerment of the rest.

    • Urko Masse 3:10 am on July 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Lately I’ve been extremely successful in migrating users to Linux by using Xubuntu (the XFCE environment). I’m toying with the idea of using it with our Ubermix deployment, maybe even create an Ubermix “spin” with it instead, for whoever is interested. It manages to be close enough to both Windows and Mac OS X to be very intuitive for everyone. Plus very quick and responsive. I wonder how it would play out in your perfect world :)

      • Andrew Schwab 11:28 am on July 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        I like the concept, however, I think it’s still the apps and not just the UI (although that is a big part of it too). So step 1 in transitioning to an ubermixed world is replacing Windows only apps with cross platform alternatives like Open Office and Google Apps and getting ubermixed devices in the classrooms.

        One of the main selling points with ubermix for me is the sub 5 minute self restore capabilities. It can cut support to near zero. Like a chromebook but with actual apps that can run without an internet connection.

        • Urko Masse 6:10 am on July 29, 2013 Permalink

          For me the quick restore feature is the main selling point of Ubermix, definitely. Not for the support load, but for the “removing fear of experimentation” and how it leads to more authentic learning.
          The great advances in LibreOffice should help remove a lot of fear among users. (Side note: nobody should be using OpenOffice anymore!)
          For my school, we made the decision of switching to the standard Ubuntu interface, Unity, for this school year, on top of Ubermix to keep the quick restore and remote update features.
          But after seeing several people’s reactions to Xubuntu/XFCE, which we didn’t consider at the time, I’m wondering if we made the right choice.
          We are planning to make a big push to LibreOffice as an alternative to Google Apps, instead of Microsoft Office. We are making it available for everyone alongside Microsoft Office already.
          And in our software selection, we have done a very detailed search for cross-platform options. Once those options become the standard choices for our users, tackling a platform migration becomes much easier. See here, our recommended options highlighted in green:

    • Laura 8:00 pm on September 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I thought this blog real interesting, especially about the encouragement of Macs for the teachers. I am always interested in the Mac vs PC mentality of IT professionals, it seems like we tend to favor one OS to the other. I service several small school districts with multi-platforms, everything except Linux. Personally, I like servicing pcs with so much control in Group Policy and AD. I just migrated two mac mobile labs from OS 10.4 to 10.6. What a chore!! The concept of giving teachers a mac book and a few lessons then them loose without management sounds tempting, but when their hdd goes, it is so nice to throw in another drive or device, add the imap email and point their docs to the server and you are done, oh yes, the printer… I seemed to be forgetting the printers lately.
      This has given me some ideas to think about when managing my sites, Thank You!

  • Andrew T Schwab 2:37 pm on July 23, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Hanging Out 

    Sunday I got to hangout with Alice Keeler and talk all things google edtech. Well hangout the way edtech people do when we’re not at ISTE, CUE or an edCamp, virtually on Google Hangout. Here’s the episode. One of these days, I’ll post it to rebootedpodcast.com too.


  • Andrew T Schwab 10:11 pm on July 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    No More Wagon Rides For Me Please 

    Saw this on twitter today –


    “Many people tend to associate 21st century learning with digital technology.  This is an incomplete perception because 21st century education goes beyond mere trinket tools of the trade. Rather, it is a way of thinking- a rationale about what educators do and why they do it.”

    And it got me thinking. Technology enables, but cannot by default create, 21st century learning environments. Unfortunately it is very hard to even begin to imagine what opportunities an authentic 21st Century technology rich integrated learning environment can provide teachers and students without first having access to technology.

    Up until this moment, the technology wasn’t ready for the average classroom. People that tried one to one computing with clunky laptops that took 5 minutes to boot and died after 3 hours were the pioneers. They bravely crossed the frontier in their Apple IIc wagons but the whole endeavor was too expensive and cumbersome to bring the average classroom teacher along for the ride. It was the wild west of technology in classrooms and the majority of folks were quite happy to stay back east in their comfy cities, with their books and pencils and chalkboards.


    Image Source: http://www.kued.org/uploads/photos/43-210_ogdentrackside-web.jpg

    But now with “relatively inexpensive” bandwidth, low cost Internet enabled devices (ubermixed netbooks, iPads, Nexus tablets and chromebooks), a new set of standards that promise electronically accessible curriculum content and a generation of teachers coming online that grew up digital, the digital frontier is fading fast. Replaced by the new normal of ubiquitous access, information abundance and the social web. The roadblocks to providing students an education relevant to their time and the one we need them to have (so they can fix all the messes they’ll inherit from us) exist mainly in the mind now. The transcontinental railroad has been joined and passage west is ready for the masses. Time to get onboard and see the world.

    My favorite section from William’s article:

    “Peter Senge (2006) coined the term “mental model” to describe our deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, pictures, and images that influence how we make sense of the world.  We all frame our opinions of education based on our own beliefs about what comprises a “good education.” These “mental models” are primarily based on our own experiences with participating and observing educational practices.  The difficulty of subscribing to 21st century learning ideology is that it requires a deep understanding of a student outcome that is unfamiliar to our own life experience.  We have to educate with less control and allow our students minds to … play.”

    People used to have a mental model of crossing the country in months in wagons and stage coaches. I guarantee that crossing on a train in just 10 days changed that mental model and along with it their entire world perspective. My mental model shifted when I took my first train ride (metaphorically speaking) on the 1:1 railroad. As I watch others taking their first train rides and realizing the world we live in as educators has fundamentally changed, I wonder how long before I’m back riding on trains again because shuffling around in wagons (computer carts) from classroom to classroom is really slow.

Compose new post
Next post/Next comment
Previous post/Previous comment
Show/Hide comments
Go to top
Go to login
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
%d bloggers like this: