Toronto school board to stop buying Macs

In an effort to cut costs, the Toronto District School Board plans to stop introducing new Apple Inc. computers into classrooms for general use.


The new internal IT policy could lead to most TDSB students only being exposed to PC computers. The exception to this rule will be for specialized school departments where Mac usage is seen as the industry standard, such as the Media Arts or Music disciplines.


Some TDSB teachers have already been speaking out against the decision, with an online petition attempting to salvage Mac support. The new policy is also being opposed by Michael Coteau, a school board trustee for Don Valley East.


The trustee plans to bring forward a motion asking the board to reconsider its decision and to provide general support to future Mac computer purchases. He is also considering a motion for a pilot project to support Linux-based systems.


“Schools should have the ability to choose between purchasing Macs or PCs,” Coteau said.


“We could save a lot of money doing many different things at the board, but what we should be doing is making the decisions that consider costs, but at the same time, do not limit a child’s exposure to innovative instruments like the Mac computer,” he added.


Coteau added that as an alternative, the TDSB should be focusing more energy on working with Apple to get more affordable machines into the hands of students.


“We need to be better at negotiating and better at dealing with these companies,” he said. “They want to help. We just need to connect with them.”


While the primary motivation for the decision is to cut down on costs, IT decision-makers at the TDSB said the move is actually part of a broader strategy to break away from the traditional approach of “the teacher being the source of all knowledge.”


Lee Stem, the general manager of IT services at TDSB, said the increased availability of equivalent software for both Mac and PC-based platforms, coupled with the move toward Web-based applications, have made hardware and operating systems less relevant.


“There’s been a great deal of convergence, with capabilities that are available on the Mac also largely being available on the PC,” Stem said.


He added that out of the 63,000 computing devices currently supported at the TDSB, only about 5,000 of them are Apple-based.


“It all comes down to the effective use of scare resources,” Stem said, estimating that Apple computers cost about 40 per cent more than PCs to support.


Along with this move to Web-based apps, Stem said the TDSB plans to open up their networks to privately owned devices for use by teachers and students. To do this, the TDSB will work at wirelessly enabling most of its locations over the next five years.