Maine Chooses…HP Windows 8 Computers?

This past week, the news came out that the State of Maine, along with Hawaii and Vermont, had chosen the HP ProBook 4440 as the computer of choice for its middle school computer initiative, which began with MacBooks in 2002.

From the article, which has bounced around in various forms throughout the Internet (and is already being used by HP for advertising purposes), it appears that Apple has lost traction in the education field. As quoted by the Kennebec Journal:

In making the announcement Saturday, [Maine Governor] LePage said it is important for students to use technology that they will see and use in the workplace. He said the Hewlett-Packard operating system is the one most commonly used in Maine businesses.


Jef Hamlin, technology director at RSU 34, which includes Old Town, Alton and Bradley, praised the decision. He said the HP option is cheaper once the hidden costs that come with Apple products are added in.

For example, Apple iPads do not come with keyboards, so the district would have to buy them in order to use the devices to administer standardized tests, he said.

“In general, the consensus is the iPad is a kind of a 'gee whiz' thing, but there is a lot of stuff you can't do with an iPad,” said Hamlin, who added that his district already uses Hewlett-Packard computers in some of its elementary schools.

However, the Kennebec Jounal makes some interesting points about the decision:

  1. Although the governor of Maine said the HP was the lowest cost device, the iPad was actually lowest ($217 vs. $254, plus an extra $31 per device for installation and service)
  2. The iPad was actually the committee's top choice, getting 93 of 100 points, where the HP was 4th of 5 choices with 79 of 100 points.
  3. There are actually 4 approved devices, and the schools can apply $254 towards whatever device they want to use.

There has to be something else going on when the iPad is your top choice, but the governor goes with the 4th choice–and announces the HP as the winner, when it clearly isn't and schools can buy any of four devices whereas the entire state previously went with MacBooks. I would encourage reporters to see if HP has made any donations into Governor LePage's political activity accounts.

Jef Hamlin also loses credibility when he falls back on the old “iPads are for consumption, and you can't type on them.” This past fall, I was visited by a school that chose to go with the Apple MacBook Air because science teachers said their curriculum wouldn't run on iPads. I asked, “Instead of buying 13″ MacBook Airs at $999 for all your students, why didn't you look at going with iPads and class sets of MacBooks for classes with specific requirements (note: such requirements are often linked to STEM initiatives such as Project Lead the Way, where classrooms already have classroom sets of computers)?” In the long run, this STILL would have been less expensive than going with the MacBook Air for all students, and again, not all subjects–including music–can make good use of Notebook computers within the curriculum and during the rehearsal, when they actually can make good use of an iPad. To contrast Mr. Hamlin, there are also things that an iPad can do that a notebook computer cannot attempt to do.

Mr. Hamlin would have been more credible if he had said, “Students will need a device that runs Flash for state testing, because state tests and MAP tests still require it.” But even if that were the case, schools could install “traditional” computer labs in their schools, and then take tests like most schools, in waves of students in the same computer labs (as a note, most schools using iPads 1:1 see computer lab use diminish to almost nothing other than for standardized computer tests).

At any rate, Windows-loving/Apple-hating IT directors will certainly shift their district computers to HP, and some schools will follow the pack. But many schools will choose to stick with the existing Apple culture in education, and some will go with the iPad, opening new doors to all disciplines, not just the “tested core”:

Crystal Priest, technology coordinator for SAD 4, which includes Guilford, Sangerville, Parkman, Cambridge and Wellington, said Saturday she will recommend that her school district stick with Apple. She said the Apple iPads offer a richer educational experience, and that there are training costs associated with moving to a new system.

It seems like it is a crazy time to be a middle school educator in Maine, Hawaii, or Vermont.



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