A little more than 18 months ago I wrote an open letter to Steve Jobs and Cheryl Vedoe, begging them to do something, anything to revive the education division before it was too late. Since that time, much has happened. Apple has refocused on education. The company has aggressively gone after big account such as Maine, creating free advertising along the way. iMove has given Apple a new foothold in education.
Unfortunately, a blind spot exists and it is costing the company true growth in education. What is it? The slow adoption by education software developers of OSX. For all of Apple’s bragging about developers hopping on the X bandwagon, it does not pertain to education. Say what you will about the Classic mode, it is only a band-aid and it’s adhesive is wearing out. Meanwhile, new versions of the Dark Side’s education offerings continue to be pushed out the door. This situation cannot continue if Apple expects to knock back Dell’s assault on education.
The solution, a developers University of X. Apple would invite all education software developers to send a team of code writers to Cupertino. While there, Apple would pay their salaries for up to 6 months. In return, the teams would be required to first Carbonize, then natively code a beta of their software(s) title. In addition, the developers agree to release the Carbon version by the end of the sixth month period as a free update to registered users, and the OSX native addition within one year. Granted, this isn’t cheap. I would venture to say this would be a $50 million dollar investment.
The benefit to each party. Schools and districts finally would have the monetary incentive to migrate to OSX. Talking with other tech people, teachers didn’t want to deal with a “classic” mode program on top of the slower OSX interface. In addition, school budgets being trimmed across the country, migration to OSX has been lukewarm at best for schools. For developers, rewriting code for a 30% market share is a costly decision. By removing salaries from the financial bottom line, companies receive a free ride to bigger profit margins and new consumers. Finally, Apple gets the education market to make the big migration to OSX, including the necessary hardware purchases once the real power of X is discovered.
For those of you who refuse to give Micro$oft your cash, but struggle to deal with Word, Excel, PowerPoint files I have come across a quite useful substitute, ThinkFree Office. I am using the free trial to write this article. This Java based program makes no bones about its amazingly similar interface, and how it’s files are saved in Word, etc. format. The Menu and Task bars look the same whether on Mac, Windows, or Linux platforms. Although it is not absolutely as feature rich as M$ Office, for 90% of us it has all the features one would use. Plus, you can go and get all the M$ clipart online. My one quibble is that the fonts do not display in the WYSIWYG style. Overall, for $50, a highly worthwhile answer to the M$ monopoly.
My school is setting up a multi-platform network this summer. In order to save maximum dollars we are going to Linux Server Software on a donated PC (a savings in software of some $850 over M$ 2000 Server). Several schools in the Portland, OR area have gone the Linux route due to M$ heavy-handed attitude towards licensing of any Windows based machines, especially the multitude of donated equipment that most schools rely on to keep up with the every-increasing technology needs of today’s students. I will keep you informed of our progress.
ADD, My Two Cents Worth
During June, My Mac’s publisher, Tim Robertson, has thoughtfully put the question of the realities of ADD front and center. As a middle school teacher and a parent of learning disabled child, I can’t help but state my own opinion. Tim is correct in stating that ADD is over diagnosed (ADHD is diagnosed much less frequently in my experience). In the eight years I have taught, I have only seen two students who truly fit the ADD or ADHD profile. All the others are just high energy/non-scholarly souls. Thankfully, most of the parents have avoided or discontinued medicating their children after seeing no marked difference in behavior. Of the two true ADD/ADHD kids, one was an excellent student with a tremendous desire involving Greek Mythology. Sadly, in eighth grade a new doctor suggested eliminating the medication without reading the medical file. The young student seized on the opportunity, and turned the rest of the school year into a nightmare for classmates. Matter-of-fact, the kid even forced the family to cut short by several days a grand vacation. My point from this story is that in a few cases the brain is chemically out of whack and can, and should be medicinally be brought into balance.
Many have asked me my personal theory about the skyrocketing diagnosis of ADD. I believe television primarily and our high-speed lifestyle has created the conditions that are ripe for this “abnormal” behavior. I have heard that preliminary research is being conducted based on the following hypothesis. The theory goes on the fact that TV flashes a new image every few seconds, which the brain receives as stimulation. At no other time does a child’s brain receive such a massive influx of visual activity. Without this massive stimulation the mind acts out physically in order satisfy its own cravings. This explains why so many ADD kids are perfectly content watching TV or playing video games. Tim, in my opinion, is right on target saying that the TV is on way too much. I will go even farther in saying that using the TV, as a babysitter is potentially harmful (I was guilty myself). When I was growing up, I didn’t have cable or a VCR (Pong didn’t come out until I was in junior high school) my mom made sure that coloring books, puzzles, toys, and plenty of imagination was the recipe for fun. Nowadays, we keep children quiet by popping a tape in the VCR.
The solution? Although there are no guarantees, I am firm in believing that children ten and under should watch no more than an hour a day. In most cases, no more than 30 minutes at a time. Movies should be a once a week treat during the school year, and no more than twice a week during the summer. For pre and early teen’s ninety minutes is plenty. Older teens are more likely to be too busy to watch any more than two hours, if they answer the phone cut ninety minutes of their viewing day as we know what they will be attached to! I am also a firm believer that children fourteen and under do not need their own bedroom TV, especially, if a basement rec. room or bonus room is home to an additional family TV. Why do we Americans split our family unit by encouraging separation of this nature? After all, television was designed and hailed as family entertainment. I will admit that due to the design and water table, our home does not have a basement rec. room that our seventeen year-old son can use, therefore he does have a bedroom TV. However, besides going to school he averages 25-35 hours a week at his job so his viewing time is right in line with my recommendation.
I have found that trying to make diagnosed student sit and passively learn all the time is a no-win situation. They must be actively involved in the learning process. Mischief occurs most often in the classroom when the body is passive rather than active. Many teachers become frustrated at an ADD student’s constant need for movement. One great solution is a “pillow” that the student sits on. Inside the pillow, are several balls that roll and move like a boat in the ocean. This rolling motion satisfies the child’s craving for movement. Recently, I ran across a gentleman at a Fry’s Electronics who was touting (in a private conversation) a software program that could realign an ADD child’s brainwaves, therefore eliminating the need for medication. I hope to hear more about this “treatment” in the coming weeks.
It is my firm conviction, that before ADD/ADHD is diagnosed, all factors must be considered and examined. This includes: genetics, family habits and history, societal environment, diet, school (including instructional and learning styles), and observable behavior. All other treatment options should be tried before medication is prescribed. All of us must avoid any quick diagnosis of who is to blame for any “high energy” kid. Instead, we must encourage positive behaviors and give support to all those who battle these symptoms in the trenches.