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View from the Classroom
An Open Letter to Cheryl Vedoe
by Steve Wood
February 27, 2001



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Cheryl Vedoe, Apple's Vice President for Education Marketing and Solutions, posted A Letter to the Education Community in January. At the conclusion of her letter, she offered an opportunity for educators to email feedback on her efforts. I took her offer a step further and sent her the following unanswered snail mail on January 16, 2001.

Cheryl Vedoe
Vice President, Education Marketing and Solutions
Apple Computer, Inc.
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014

Dear Ms. Vedoe:

I am a career elementary school teacher and sometimes Mac web columnist. I noted your online letter to the education community with satisfaction. I especially appreciated your comment of:

"The discussion of technology in education needs to be about more than the technology; it needs to be about education...Our goal is to help prepare today's students for the real world of tomorrow, to help each child reach his or her full potential."

I currently teach at Backwash Elementary School in Backwash, Indiana. Backwash was once an Apple Grant school but is now following the increasing national trend of moving to the Windows platform. [Please note: There is no Backwash Elementary or Backwash, Indiana, but I've found it best to keep my school's name out of the press. I did, of course, use the real school name in my letter to Cheryl.]

While in my web presence, I have consistently been an outspoken critic of Apple and Apple Education, I am the leading Macintosh advocate and user at my school. It is with a sense of defeat that I noted the semi-official decision of our school "adopting one system (probably PC) for the corporation."

The decision to go to the Windows platform was one engineered mainly by our school's technology coordinator. Now a close friend, he came to Backwash several years ago with little knowledge of Macintoshes and a general disdain for Apple Computer.

Although any number of pro-Mac teachers and I have lobbied the technology coordinator, often identified as the "evil NT techie" in my column, it seemed that Apple shot us down each time with their cost, lack of suitable product, high cost for repair parts, and most tellingly, incredibly poor representation by the Apple Education Representative for our area.

At one point, I had come very close to convincing the technology coordinator to offer a choice of a PC or a Macintosh G3 All-in-one to our 5th and 6th grade teachers who were due for computer replacements. Apple then pulled the All-in-one from the market without notice or explanation. The replacement iMac, for any number of reasons, was not suitable to our requirements. I was left to start over trying to sell the idea of making the iMac usable through add-ons that only made it less competitive in price. I obviously failed in this endeavor.

Some time ago, I felt compelled to remove myself from the platform wars at our school. As a teacher of special needs children (children with learning disabilities, physical and mental handicaps, and emotional handicaps), I could not be the "squeaky wheel" for Macintoshes, as I desperately needed to be heard on the total needs of my students. To continue to advocate and lobby for the Mac only diluted my efforts for my students. While I continue to believe the Mac is the best choice for assisting in the instruction of my students, I will adapt and cope with the coming transition.

Shortly thereafter, I ceased to help out the technology coordinator with service on our school's Macs. I had, over the years, served as his unofficial Mac mentor, instructor, and helper on in-school Mac service. While this action was necessitated by my primary job responsibilities, it has also hastened the coming transition to PCs. While a good person, our technology coordinator chooses to denigrate Macs when he finds time to fill any of the many standing service requests. Previously, I spent many lunch and prep periods and countless hours after school going to classrooms armed with a bootable Zip disk filled with Mac utilities programs. Our elementary lab, which I painstakingly refurbished last fall, has now sprouted old and new PCs. The old 5200's, which came from the Apple Grant, were to be distributed to classroom (for public perception only), but in actuality have been placed in storage pending their disposal (Out damned spot Mac!).

In a recent column I offered a number of suggestions for Apple Computer concerning the education market. Among them was, "Get the word out to schools in an effective manner that 'Apple is back and we want your business.'"

There have been any number of web postings since the negative figures on Apple Ed became public. Mr. Jobs has been repeatedly quoted as saying that Apple erred in the education market. But interestingly, Apple has not contacted the folks in my area concerning any initiatives in Apple sales and support, other than a rebate on two rather high priced iMacs. There has only been rhetoric from Apple about improving the education situation. In essence, while two months have passed since it became public that Apple had blown their lead in the ed market, Apple has publicly done little to nothing to correct the situation, other than Mr. Jobs's inappropriate profane remarks to Apple resellers at MacWorld.

There needs to be a immediate move of perceptible impact from Apple Education if the current market situation is to be positively addressed. I have no idea what would work -- a $599 iMac -- releasing older systems such as 7.6.1 for free download -- an all new G4/LC? Who knows? I do know that the current rumor of school logos on iMacs won't cut it. (An iMac with a decal -- Whoa!)

I would not have even attempted a letter of appeal such as this, but for the email I recently received from a reader and school administrator in Michigan (email attached). It gave me hope that Apple might make a concerted effort to retain some of its current education market.

I do know what is needed for Apple Computer to sell its first computer in 4 years to Backwash Schools. Someone of sufficient renown from Apple Computer needs to contact the people who make the decisions at the Metropolitan School District of Backwash. It can't be Apple Rep [name deleted], who has totally alienated our school's technology coordinator or anyone from his office. I'm sure Mr. Jobs is too busy. But possibly the new Vice President for Education Marketing and Solutions might make contact with some of the folks below with the question, "What can I do to have Apple Computer products considered for purchase at Backwash Elementary?"

Sadly, anything short of a high level Apple contact will simply be ignored at this point. Many teachers at Backwash Elementary are terribly disappointed that they may soon have to accept Windows boxes or no new computer at all. While I currently maintain several of my own personal Macs at school, the changeover will make their use less and less educationally effective. And...I'm just two years away from early retirement. By the time the changeover to Windows is fully implemented, I'll be selling encyclopedias...or something.

[Names and addresses of appropriate contacts appeared here and have been removed as publishing them would serve no purpose.]

Best wishes in your new position. You face some gigantic challenges, but there is the opportunity to truly serve children's educational needs.


Steve Wood
Elementary LD Teacher
Backwash Elementary School


Send your educational feedback to Cheryl Vedoe at edfeedback@apple.com. Just don't expect any answer!

©2001 Steven L. Wood