May 7, 2013

Letters to the editor: Laptop switch will cost more than it saves

I was disappointed to learn of the state's (may I say, Gov. LePage's) decision to select a laptop running Windows 8, the HP ProBook 4440 ("Maine picks laptops -- but not Apples," April 28).

click image to enlarge

Students Jessy Brewer, left, and Kiara Neal work on their laptops at King Middle School in Portland in 2012. Apple’s exclusive contract to provide laptops to Maine middle school students is coming to an end. Readers are skeptical about the move to HP and Windows 8.

2012 File Photo/Gregory Rec

It is not so much that the Windows or the Mac OS is better or worse (though Windows 8 has not yet been adopted widely in the business world).

And it is not that the evaluation committee apparently favored a different laptop.

Rather, it is the short-sighted decision to change horses in midstream.

Years have been invested in teacher professional development on the Mac platform, and now teachers will have to learn an entirely new (and not simple) OS. 

I have worked in teacher professional development for a national nonprofit educational institution for 20 years, and I know it is not a trivial thing to change platforms like this.

I find it hard to believe that the Department of Education did not lobby hard in favor of sticking with the Mac platform.

The statements being made that students need to encounter the kind of operating system being used in the business world are misleading. By the time these students get to their first job using a computer, it will have an entirely different operating system.

Whatever "savings" being hoped for from a cheaper machine ($33 per laptop) will be eaten up many times over by the adjustments necessary in schools.

Many school systems that can afford to stick with their Macs will simply pay the extra money and do so.

All it really means is that the state will not reimburse them as much as if the Apple MacBook Air had been chosen.

"Penny-wise and pound-foolish" is the best way to describe the state's decision.

Once again, Maine teachers and students have not been well served.

Harold McWilliams


Few recent operating systems have inspired more contempt from users than Windows 8.

It is an illogical choice as the Maine Learning Technology Initiative platform.

"Epic fail," according to Forbes magazine, as recently as March 14. 

The decision to purchase laptops not currently supported by school IT infrastructure and personnel could potentially cost more than the savings realized by awarding the contract to the less-expensive HP machines. 

These extra costs will be passed to the districts by the state. 

The state will have saved a penny on the HP machines while forcing the districts to spend a pound on infrastructure and support changes.

Eric Hager


Reader urges Mainers to support Clean Elections

This has been a huge couple of weeks for the movement to address the problem of money in politics.

Last week, we Mainers stood up and declared our intention to help overturn many key provisions of the notorious Citizens United ruling, becoming the 13th state to do so ("Maine asks Congress to halt unlimited special interest campaign spending," April 30).

I am extremely proud of our elected representatives, who have emerged in a rare demonstration of multipartisanship to reject the notion that money equals speech in our election system. And I am proud of us as voters, because despite reduced participation in the Clean Election program and record-shattering sums of money spent on privately funded races, we overwhelmingly elected Clean Election candidates in 2012.

This week, we have a chance to strengthen our own model Clean Election program and increase transparency in our legislative and gubernatorial elections with two bills in front of the Joint Standing Committee of Veterans and Legal Affairs.

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