City Middle, High School Students to Get Laptops this Fall

Remember the city’s plan to provide every middle and high school student with a laptop? That’s happening, Graham Moomaw writes in the Daily Progress. It’ll start next school year, giving them Windows tablets—which, since they’re really unpleasant to use otherwise, will be supplemented with a keyboard and a stylus, plus a protective case. The cost per system will have to be determined when the bids come in, but the thinking is that the whole thing should run less than $1M.

The idea is to move to electronic textbooks, rather than continuing to use increasingly expensive paper textbooks. Also, some publishers are simply eliminating paper textbooks in favor of electronic ones, and the school system is concerned that they’re going to run out of decent print options. In theory, the bulk of the cost of these computers should be covered by textbook savings.

23 thoughts on “City Middle, High School Students to Get Laptops this Fall”

  1. I can’t get past the fact that the County’s cell contract is with AT&T and the City’s tablet deal is with Windows.

    I thought we were supposed to be progressive.

  2. I’m not sure who the progressive choice would be for a cell phone contract. Regarding computers, though, I do wish that the city would roll these out gradually, as they’d originally planned to do—all of these computers are going to age out at the same time in a few years. I also wish that they wouldn’t establish a monoculture, but instead have some kids on Macs and some on Windows. I understand that brings some headaches of its own, but using all of one platform is like planting nothing but wheat—it’s great until your whole crop is wiped out by powdery mildew, and then you’re bankrupt.

  3. Uh, I notice that the article says they will be “Windows 7” tablets. I don’t believe such an animal exists. This does not inspire confidence in the overall decision.

  4. A handful of Windows 7 tablets have been announced—are they just not for sale yet?

    Using Windows on a tablet sounds like an exercise in frustration for me. (As would be using the Mac OS on a tablet.) These OSes are created for using with a mouse cursor, with a 1×1 pixel point on the end, not a fat fingertip.

  5. Yep, no official Win 7 tablets shipping, and Microsoft says there is not going to be a Win 7 Tablet OS build. As someone who suffered through trying to use XP and then Vista on tablets of several years ago, I agree with Waldo, this will do nothing but frustrate kids.

    If you must have Windows, buy them netbooks. If you must use tablets, get one with an operating system designed from the ground up to BE a tablet operating system.

  6. I have never seen a Virgina school put new student controlled computer tech in a school (giving a laptop to each student not a computer lab) in a way that made sense- ever. It’s been too much money for little return and the students only seem to learn how to beat firewalls and safety protocols. A Richmond area school tried and failed (years ago) because the plan never made economic sense.

    Where’s the pilot program that proves it will work? No need for that, let’s just fully implement it now! I’m not saying it won’t ever work just that it hasn’t yet.

    Also to you mac types- windows 7 is the stablest platform I’ve have seen. Let’s not trash the new tablets till we see them… you’ll probably be right…again.

  7. I’m booted in Window 7 on my Mac right now. I have the choice between the latest version of OS X and Windows 7 right at my fingertips every day and often switch between the two.

    Microsoft has come a long way by trying to emulate the Mac OS with their latest, but it still pales in comparison and is most certainly not as stable as OS X version 10.6, which is my preferred choice. I would never even consider booting into Windows if it weren’t for a single program that thank god is now being ported to the Mac, in (no surprise) a much better version.

    I can’t imagine a cobbled together Windows 7 tablet system being anything but a major pain to deal with. It doesn’t however surprise me that any of our local official would make such a choice, or think they have made that choice when they haven’t if the info above about that choice not existing is correct.

  8. Cost is undoubtedly the primary reason why the windows OS would be chosen. Not only do computers cost money, but supporting/maintaining them cost money. The installed base of windows PCs and the ubiquity of Windows support professionals make Microsoft the low cost option.

    For all the money this will cost and the inevitable boondoggle this will become, choosing Mac OS would be too costly in many ways. Choosing to support a mixture of Mac and Windows would simply be a nightmare.

    There’s no doubt that Mac is superior. Lamborghinis are superior. Should the city therefore use only Lamborghinis for staff vehicles? It is, after all, the taxpayers’ money.

  9. The Lamborghini comparison is ridiculous. A more apt comparison might be between a Yugo or maybe an AMC Pacer and a Volvo, although the Mac would more closely resemble the Bertone styled Volvo rather than their less sleek models. Windows support professional exist because Windows systems need them just to keep running at all. The cost savings in Macs is largely due to being able to avoid hiring those folks because it simply isn’t necessary. The nightmare in mixing the two would be the presence of Windows at all.

  10. An iPad, at retail, is $499. While there’s no such thing as a Windows 7 tablet right now, I see that the HP Slate 500 retails for…$799. And, again, we’re comparing a product that really exists—the iPad—to ones that do not—Windows 7 tablets.

    What is entirely possible is that the city’s IT staff isn’t prepared to support anything other than Windows. Assuming that one thinks that acquired products should fit the skills of municipal employees, rather than vice versa, then selecting Windows 7 tablets is a perfectly sensible decision. Unless something goes wrong. I’ll be curious to see what happens the next time a particularly nasty Windows virus infects the whole school. The few kids who use their own Apple laptops will be in good shape, but the remaining 98% of kids will be dead in the water.

  11. And then there is the Digital Rights Management issue. As we have seen with downloadable books at the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, some publishers only allow a Windows version of their books to be released, others Windows and Mac, etc. I hope the school system makes sure that all the textbooks they need kids t have are available on their chosen operating system.

  12. I’d like to see the IT folks explain the rationale for their decision. I’ve looked briefly on the City Schools’ site and cannot find reference to the process or rationale.

    As Waldo notes, one product (the iPad) is a reality and the other is not.

    Choosing an inferior product simply because that is what staff can support is an indication of inferior staff.

  13. “Choosing an inferior product simply because that is what staff can support is an indication of inferior staff.”

    We are talking city employees here.

  14. Microsoft has shown an absolute willingness to gain entry to new markets through volume discounting. I would venture a prediction that whatever the retail price of the vapor Windows 7 tablets are, Microsoft will simply not be underbid if they could show that their tablets are being used, system-wide, by school children.

  15. As far as the support issue, I hardly think it is fair to malign city staff for the perfectly sensible decision to purchase products that staff is already trained to support.

    And the city would hardly be the first large institution to make the decision to buy microsoft products based on little more than microsoft’s track record.

    People can bash Microsoft, the city council and city staff all they want, but we should try to be fair in our criticism.

  16. Microsoft has shown an absolute willingness to gain entry to new markets through volume discounting. I would venture a prediction that whatever the retail price of the vapor Windows 7 tablets are, Microsoft will simply not be underbid if they could show that their tablets are being used, system-wide, by school children.

    Microsoft does not now nor do they have any (public) plans to make tablets. They don’t even make a tablet operating system, though Bloomberg says that they’re planning a tablet OS for fall of 2012.

  17. When I taught in the city, all the classroom computers are macs, and all the computers in administrator offices were PCs. I don’t know if that is still true, but at least 5 years ago, the tech people were comfortable providing support to apple products.

  18. I hope the C’ville schools IT support personnel have a plan for providing 24/7 support for an additional 1,500 users (the students receiving these machines). It’s quite a different animal from just teachers, administrators and classroom machines.

  19. My point was that IF Microsoft believed that such a market were a viable one, they would see to it that they were not underbid on such a contract (if it were even on their radar).

    However, you note that there is no Microsoft OS geared towards tablets. Someone must have sold the idea to city staff that Windows 7 on some Jerry-rigged tablet was the way to go.

    Maybe I’m wrong and cost wasn’t the reason. Regardless, for them to announce this, it would have to be the right decision……. That’s sarcasm, folks.

  20. There are just over 3800 students in the C’ville public school system. Even retail price for WiFi, 16GB original iPads would only be about $1.5 million (I say only relative to the $1M cost mentioned in the article). I’m going to venture a guess that they could get that much closer to $1M by working with Apple. Or with Google and Android, for that matter.

  21. “Where’s the pilot program that proves it will work? No need for that, let’s just fully implement it now!” Unfortunately this is a typical example of how city officials make decisions. They gather little information. They hire a “consultant” which is really nothing more than a vendor of a limited amount of products which they always recommend that we buy. That’s why the city is still working on its web site and it seems only the UI has changed. The School Board is asking for another $36M to remodel the schools to move the 5th graders back to the elementary schools. Obviously they think that money grows on trees. Don’t worry, if the new tablets don’t work, they’ll just buy a different kind. Money is no object in this town. Our officials spend a lot of time brainstorming on how to spend money, feeeling that the more you spend the better the job your are doing. Sad that we don’t have enough sense to not vote for them.

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