View from the Classroom
Going WinTel...for a Month
March 29, 2000
By the time you read this column, I'll be gone. I'll have crossed over to the Windows platform for nearly 90% of my computing for the next month. It's not something I really look forward to, but a requirement of my job. Each year an annual case review conference must be held for each special education student to plan for the next academic school year. Some school corporations spread these conferences throughout the year, while others such as mine, clump them together near the end of the school year.
While creating nearly forty 20-30 page documents called Individualized Educational Plans is a pain, the conferences really are a necessary and productive part of the special education process. Sending one to two letters home with the kids and then filling out at least three pages in triplicate to attempt to schedule each conference are part of the federally and state mandated paperwork blizzard that is all a part of special ed. It's all designed to protect the rights of the kids...or someone's behind. I'm fortunate that many of my parents are frequently in the building anyway. They just drop by my classroom and point at the Claris Organizer graphic display of my schedule and say, "I want to come here!" (Yes, Claris Organizer 2.0v2 still works fine, thank you, with System 9.0!)
A few years ago at a time when my caseload was going stratospheric, our special education cooperative bought into an IEP creation program to ease the chore of creating some of the mandated paperwork. I bought into the thing big time, as there was no way I could complete the tasks required and still remain even a faint acquaintance to my students, let alone my family. The selected software was an Access driven database. Since Access doesn't exist for the Macintosh (Was the deal, "Kill Em@iler in favor of Outlook and Explorer and we'll produce Office without Access and leave FileMaker alone?"), the program is a Windows only application. I've already done one column on the subject of Access for the Macintosh, so I'll leave it alone at that.
When I first started using the IEP database program, I actually did all of the IEPs on our Acer Aspire at home and then hauled the machine to school for conferences. We jokingly called it my 80 pound laptop until some of the staff overheard and started asking, "You have a laptop?"
The original IEP database program was pretty primitive and didn't include a goals and objectives database. I made my own using ClarisWorks for Windows, which I kept running in the background.
With a change in school administration, our school system was finally graced with a principal and superintendent who believed special education teachers should have the tools they need to do the job, rather than using the castoffs of the regular classrooms. The previous administration probably would expect a carpenter to hammer nails with his head, rather than buying him or her a hammer! Among other things, this change meant our classroom received textbooks and workbooks suitable to the needs of our students. It also meant an OrangeMicro PC card for my Mac-at-school to handle the IEP program!
About the same time, I switched from using a Performa 575 at home to my current G3 minitower, which is also equipped with an OrangeMicro PC card. Windows emulators, such as Virtual PC and SoftWindows, were still rather slow at this point and weren't a viable solution to the problem. For educators (and others) facing a similar need for cross-platform computing, the improvements in Windows emulators along with the speed kick from the G3 and G4 series Macs makes them worth consideration.
The annual switch to computing in Windows is probably a good experience for me. My Windows experience is usually limited to "porting" the Mac version of my sharewares to Windows downloadables, tech support for users of the sharewares, and a bit of tech support for the other special education teachers at school when they have problems with the IEP program. This year, we discovered that the IEP program wouldn't install on Windows 98 unless you did it from floppies in Safe Mode! Being required to work almost totally in Windows for a specified period tends to keep me a little better informed as to what's happening in the Windows world. It also tends to moderate any criticisms I might have for that platform.
Several of my faithful readers have already volunteered to slap me around a bit at the end of April and get me back to my Mac senses.
Odd thoughts while shaving between paragraphs:
I gave the folks at Adobe a bit of a hard time in my column last week, Adobe Isn't Making Many Friends. My point was that Adobe had consistently not followed through with their promise to automatically distribute to registered users the updated Acrobat 4 CD without charge. In response to my call (and possibly the column), Adobe got both the Macintosh and Windows Acrobat 4.0.5 updates to me in a week instead of the "four to six weeks" they had suggested. To registered users of Acrobat who want but have not received the Acrobat 4.0.5 update CD, I'd suggest calling Adobe at 1-800-272-3623 and insisting you receive the free update CD as promised by Adobe.
In response to my comments about the removal of the "Create Thumbnails" menu command in Acrobat 4, Will Reiher supplied this solution:
While I began this column with the line, "By the time you read this column, I'll be gone," I could have begun it, "By the time you read this column, I'll be a grandfather!" Caleb Steven Wood was born to Michele and Scott Wood this evening (28th) in Putnam County Hospital. Caleb, his mom, and his dad are doing just great. His Grandpa, however, is about ready to pop with joy and pride!
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©2000 Steven L. Wood