Queensland bureaucracy stifles Mac choice

Martin Levins
7 May, 2008
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Imagine you’re a principal in our deep northern state, concerned to get the best for your staff. You note that the Queensland state government has introduced a "Computers for Teachers" program. Bravo. Good to see that this teaching and learning tool is being recognised as essential.

The program gives an option for a Windows or a Mac laptop in a seemingly ecumenical way. I write “seemingly” because there are traps: traps that make it difficult — some would say impossible — to get a Mac for members of your staff.

As principal, the first thing you have to do is to mount a "business case" for the provision of said laptop. First, your pesky, Mac-using teachers need to satisfy the eligibility requirements for the Computers for Teachers Initiative. That’s a fair request, and one that would appear to be self evident. Perhaps this is simply an product of the bureaucracy, but read further.

You can’t allocate a Mac to a teacher because of his or her individual preference, but only on a needs basis according to the nature of their teaching duties. Apparently there are some subjects that are more acceptable than others. Education Queensland makes the suggestion that the Mac-requiring teacher is probably teaching music or perhaps an Asian Language. It does add the catchall of "etc" for other subjects, but it’s unclear (as “etc” always is) as to what may qualify here. Perhaps Art, or FTV, etc.

Second: "It is expected that teachers in these roles would already be using an Apple computer in the performance of their teaching duties" No switchers here.

Third, your school quota of computers must already consist of at least 10 percent Apple computers before consideration can be made for a Mac, so no change to the monoculture is allowed — if you don’t already have them you can’t get one. Sound like marginalisation? Or just silliness?

OK, you could raise an argument that a mixture of Macs and PCs is more difficult to manage and maintain than a single platform (I don’t believe it is) but, even if this were the case, getting above the 10 percent threshold would help, not hinder. Your technical support would be less inclined to view the different machines as marginal, different and hence difficult. They become part of the landscape.

But the best example of bureaucracy gone crazy, the absolute best, is the fourth requirement: "The Principal should be satisfied that a replacement teacher will also require an Apple MacBook when taking over the particular teaching role" (my italics).

I’d suggest they need a fifth requirement to help satisfy the fourth: "Only prescient Principals should apply".

How else could anyone state that, should his or her renegade Asian language teacher who wants a Mac suddenly resign, their replacement will have a similar bent in their computing platform of choice?

Allowing this sort of nonsense to persist is crazy. Does Queensland expect its principals to have crystal balls? Or perhaps we could leave out the crystal part. Principals of Queensland: you need to do something about this.

Or is there a lack of principals in Queensland?

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