….. it will be two years this June since (again) I have been working, managing, facilitating and developing an Information Technology Program as an IT Director here in Prague….in many ways in tandem with this journey has been the re-acquaintance with the Apple platform after a 5 year hiatus, last time I was in a similar position and working with the Apple platform was in China. So why a blog entry for this…..I am an avid reader of the Economist, and ironically last Friday after spending an afternoon with Apple CZ General Manager over lunch, discussing various ways to move forward with their support of our program, starting a 1 to 1 Laptop project at my school, I got back to school and in my mailbox was the issue….after reading the leader and supporting articles, it got me to reflect on my own personal experience with Apple, the platform, the machines, the concept and innovation associated with the company… and hard to describe the kind of wooaa factor that seems always to come into play in the press, and with users I support and work with.
In a school, any school which engages in having a information technology program, the machines, hardware, and peripherals you decide to work with can quickly come to play a critical role in you moving forward in support the systems, process, pedagogy and innovation for the school. International Schools often have the odd challenge of being located in areas of the world where your hardware choices are dictated by market forces, the basic fact that one brand, or type of machinery is only available to you. So you make do with what you have and move from there…. I feel today with the globalization of markets, this is less the case and in tandem some excellent local products being available the choices are greater.
So back to Apples….I left China and managing an IT program with Apple products at the end of the pre-OSX era 99-2000, and did not find working with Apples and maintaining the machines, and often the frustration of trying to collaborate with Microsoft servers a pleasant experience. Lots of bugs, issues and limitations. I personally felt the cult of Apple was not enough to keep the platform so much in the limelight….there also was the terrible after sales service and often frustrating pricing which we had to deal with. I often got the feeling Apple really could care less about the school market outside of the US, and even though we had a few people from Apple swing buy with promises little ever materialized. The feeling I developed was if you work with Apples you kind of are on your own.
Moving to Tokyo and then walking into the world of Dell and IBM, seemed almost refreshing, okay the machines are not sexy, there is not the cache of Apple look, but the service side ,and great prices supported by three year warranties, and in Japan a 24 turnaround time, made managing over 1000 machines that much easier for all of us involved. There is no doubt in my time there, the almost mandatory process of having to re-install drivers on a regular basis, being completely shut down for three days due to virus attack, and at times the temperamental nature of the Windows OS and the applications living on it, provided hectic days.
Prague, and back to the Apple platform, and to be honest at first with my own memories of the difficulties of the days before OSX…..OSX and the new life Apple seemed to have put ( thanks Steve J) into everything it touched. No doubt the ipod was and is the catalyst to this transformation but also in parallel the new laptops and desktop seemed to have the consumer in mind, with the thought, let us make it easy, smooth, and simple simple…..fun, and give us all a feel we can make a cool movie or sound track with a drag and drop philosophy…..which is a perfect fit for any school. I could go on, and not sure I need to…. all I know we have over 459 machines, one full time technician ( hats off and credit goes all to JS) and one network manager, and the over 200 laptops (ibooks and Macbooks) and daily the stability, reliability, and ease to manage issues is great…remote desktop is a huge help, also lots of front loading with our users both teachers and student: expectations for use, a somewhat locked down desktop and laptop…sorry users… and a big belief that as an institution we provide the learning portal…( ie internet, hardware…) storage back up etc… is the users responsibility.
for me always…..if you expect people to learn, move to the other side of the paradigm shift that of information technology integration…the tools need to work seamlessly, easily and be intuitive.
Apple seems to do the trick…but then again is it not the case that many of the Web 2.0 interfaces and many of the cellphones etc… it is now about the consumer and in many ways making sure the lowest common denominator can use these tools, feel empowered and free to be part of the digital landscape.