Is The Writing On The Wall?

One of the nice things about being an early riser is that it doesn’t bother me to schedule a doctor or dentist appointment first thing in the morning.  Of course, everything is computerized and so in a couple of recent trips, I watched and the receptionists/clerks would come into the office, turn their computers on and then go about doing a bunch of other things.  I asked both of them about this and the response was the same – “I don’t have time to waste watching this thing start”.  I took a peek and one machine was Windows 7 and the other Windows XP.  It really was minutes of waiting for booting before they were able to log in and get started.

I remember doing the same thing at our professional learning labs.  For a workshop starting at 4pm, I’d be there at 3:30 to boot the machines and have things ready to go when the teachers would show up.  More often than not, they would show up a bit early to check email because the rigours of the job prohibit it during the school day.  That’s totally understood so I wanted the computers to be ready.  After all, they were giving up family time for their own learning.

I had a correspondence with a colleague recently who indicated that they had both iPads and Windows 7 computers at their elementary school.  The Windows computers were virtually abandoned because of the time that it takes to boot, login to the active directory, solve password problems, etc.  In essence, the iPads were of greater use because they were almost instant on and away you go with your lesson.  Time is such a precious commodity in the classroom and so sitting there waiting causes all kinds of delay in instruction, not to mention the things that bored, busy fingers get in to.

I do the same thing myself.  This computer is dual boot to Ubuntu and Windows.  With Ubuntu, I can turn it on and be functional within a minute or two.  With Windows, I will start the process and then have breakfast or walk the dog and then come back and hopefully everything is ready to go.  As you might imagine, I don’t do that often but on days like this, I’ll have an urge to use Windows Live Writer which is just an excellent blogging tool.

So, it was with real interest that I read about Doug Johnson’s technology implementation plan in this post “Out of the lab, off the cart, into the classroom“.  I was particularly intrigued by his move and rationale for a movement to Chromebooks. 

I think that we all recognized that Windows and Macintosh computers with their full-blown set of features for business were overkill in the classroom.  A friend of mine was fond of the expression “giving phasers to cavemen”.  As so much more is available through the web, having all the horsepower in the world in front of you isn’t all that necessary anymore.  Even your basic productivity suites are available in a web version so having a full blown desktop is becoming a luxury and a niche product.  Computer Science and Business Education come to mind but an argument for taking them to an appropriate network solution could be made as well.

So, is the writing on the wall?

Apple has certainly taken their education solution into a different direction.  I recall standing on the stage at the recent Bring IT, Together conference and looked out to the audience.  I saw so many of the trademarked Apples shining back at me.  Over the course of the three days, I saw one Surface and it was in the hands of a committee members who worked in an IT Department and not teaching. 

It’s only a few school districts that have ventured into a full blown implementation of Windows 8.  I think that the make or break moment will come in 2015 with the release of Windows 10.  I do recognize that Microsoft’s core clients are business and Windows 10 will have to handle their needs.  But, millions are spent on gear for the K-12 market.  Their needs, which include reducing wasted time at the keyboard, have to be addressed.

Otherwise, you’ll find progressive boards following Mr. Johnson’s lead or other boards using the alternatives that are provided for them.

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6 thoughts on “Is The Writing On The Wall?

  1. Good morning, Doug.

    As you know, you and I have had a couple of tweets back and forth in recent days regarding various platforms and their appropriateness for use in education. One would hope that in this enlightened age, decisions around technology aren’t made solely based on a longstanding routine of perceived corporate dominance, a more recently accepted and trendy brand, or a “simpler-and-cheaper” web-based platform. I bet you could do an easy 1-1 map between those descriptions and the three major options.

    I’m still processing your posts from the last couple of days, but there is a good deal of reverberation going on in my head between the ideas you have touched on in your posts Is Anyone Reading? and After Trying Everything, What’s the Plan Now?, and today’s post here, Is the Writing on the Wall?.

    For all the efforts that are being made to support and improve education in this modern age, there are a lot of things that just don’t get the traction they deserve. (Your wonderful chronological list of waves of technology infusions suggest we should be much further ahead than I fear we are.) Effective communication (be it consultation on potential approaches, intended system plans, celebrations of successes) seems to be at the crux of the challenge. It makes sense to take a close look at how learners need to be learning, the kind of in-classroom professional support required, and the appropriate technology required to do that learning before making purchases of any platform. That middle factor there — the in-classroom professional support — the educator– seems to be the key linchpin in the success of any implementation. If the “how learners need to be learning” or the “appropriate technology” don’t mesh with the educator, the whole thing has the potential to wind up going sideways (or not really anywhere at all). The ongoing engagement of the classroom practitioner in the process is critical — and we need to actively seek out what’s working and learn from our peers.

    More consultation, more collaboration, more sharing. Sounds like a great motto for 2015!

    I’ll keep you posted on some of the action items that are bouncing around in my head as a result of your recent posts.

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  2. Regarding the boot times of Windows, I agonize over that every morning when I start up the SMART board computer. It literally takes minutes, running Windows 7. And while one of the computers I work with daily has a literal grinding noise emanating from the hard drive every time it boots, I fear we can’t fault the five-year old hardware too much. The fact that in most cases the desktop Windows OS is booting from a hard-drive based system is perhaps the culprit. In our acceptance of solid-state-drive-based phones and tablets with mobile operating systems, we have perhaps lost our patience for the time it used to take to boot up a full-fledged hard-drive based computer.

    Having said that, give me my SSD-based Macbook over any other device for the greatest range of options in terms of learning. It takes mere seconds to boot, and even fewer seconds to wake-from-sleep. Mobile devices are great for what they do, and they most certainly are game-changers for anytime-anywhere learning. We need them, no doubt. But we also need access to hardware that offers more than just a web-bound OS.

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  3. My Windows 8.1 machine boots up pretty quickly. Though to be honest I don’t restart it very often. Like with my iPad Mini I let it go to sleep or manually put it to sleep. I wakes as quickly as my iPad Mini does. I suspect that most people with iPads don’t really turn them off either.

    At school we have Windows 7 machines and with power saver options we don’t turn them completely off during the day. That would actually be bad for them – too much power down and power up is generally not great on electronics. There is a lot I could not do with an iPad or a Chromebook since I teach programming. Sure I could do TouchDevelop and a few other developement apps but I want to get students using a real IDE and that means a computer.

    I still have trouble seeing tablet only devices as useful for creation. I say that as I set here with a second monitor attached to my laptop as I work on creating curriculum documents. Maybe kids can get by with less but for the stuff I do on a daily basis I need more than what an iPad gives me.

    And as for the start up issue, each version of Windows seems to do it faster. And since I only do it a couple of times a month anyway I have trouble seeing it as an issue. Especially since I don’t see any other value to the learning curve for a Mac, a Chromebook or Linux. BTW I have been a Mac user for decades and I still find it a pain to use. And I first used Unix in the 1970s and wrote it off then. I’m sure it has improved but don’t see a win in changing to it now.

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  4. Thank you gentlemen for the comments, Stephen Downes who commented in his Daily, and Aviva, Jo-Ann, Lisa, and Noeline who had checked in on the topic on Twitter. I love these discussions because I always feel like I learn from the wisdom of others. As Andy knows, I’ve been a long-time user of Windows and have always been able to tweak and configure things to be perfect. I honestly seem to have hit the wall on this one. My computer with its i7 processor screams when running Ubuntu but is so dreadfully slow on Windows. I had thought that it was just me but the confirmation from others is somehow comforting. My intentions are to skip Windows 8 and head to Windows 10 and hope for the best. Since i seem to spend so much time in a browser anymore, an agile OS is very important to me.

    BTW, Alfred, I turn it on and off regularly hoping for failure and an excuse to upgrade. So far, the Sony quality keeps it running.

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  5. No budget for a new computer for me. This one has to last. Fortunately HP makes sturdy stuff. On the other hand I won a Surface Pro 3 for my school. Pretty sure they will let me use it when it comes in.

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