Apple in Education: Is Anybody Out There?

I’m one of those teachers who just can’t stay away from school during the summer. Part of the reason is due to my being the technology person in addition to my regular teaching duties. Summer allows me to check out each of the 45 computers on our campus, cleaning out the bugs and emptying the student folders. This summer I was also preparing each machine for the leap into networking (more on that down below). This summer I decided to keep a collection of all the faxes and mailings from computer manufacturers. To my disappointment and total amazement, Apple failed to send even one piece of advertising. As a comparison, Dell and Gateway each sent a half dozen colorful brochures. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN THE EDUCATION DIVISION AT APPLE?!!!!!!

In July I wrote a column entitled, “Apple’s Blind Spot“, in which I detailed the virtual non-existence of OSX educational software and a possible solution. I received a tremendous number of emails from other educators across the country equally frustrated with this issue. Usually, I also get a couple of emails from Apple Ed people telling me that their division is listening and reading, and was developing a plan of action (no specifics, ever) to address educators concerns. After the Blind Spot article all has been silent from Cupertino. HELLO APPLE!!!!!!!!

I am all but convinced that Apple has accepted the idea of being the BMW of high school computing. I realize that is a harsh statement, but the facts seem to point in that direction. Talking with high school computer teachers, the Macs are being utilized in video editing and little else. I know that there are many high schools that are heavily Mac orientated. However, the vast majority of high schools across our great country are M$ centric. The domination of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel as the main software applications drives this momentum forward.

It seems as though Apple has redrawn the battle line to be middle schools in view of its Maine iBook initiative. However, this has become and old headline. In the meantime, Dell continues to widen the lead in educational sales. How? By aggressively pricing and advertising to schools. Apple, to it’s credit, quickly blew the dust off a 17″ CRT iMac plan and brought it out as the eMac, to rave reviews. With a powerful G4 processor and a sharp as nails display, Apple seemed to have answered back. But, once again the education division lacked a rudder or sail to take advantage of this fresh breeze.

The other half of the problem is pricing. The eMac, while still under a $1000 to schools, remains $300 more expensive than a Dell or Gateway. In this economy with reduced budgets, that kind of a difference is hard to overcome. Add to that, the Sahara of OSX educational software, the “Mime” sales concept, and the choice for many schools gets easy, M$.

The Solution: Unleash the sales staff along with the necessary funding to go after the schools. Get the sales staff out on the road visiting schools. Leave free copies of Jaguar as a sign of good faith. Take along a tech person to the larger school accounts and offer free tech time for troubleshooting. Offer refurbished eMac’s, iBooks, etc. units to schools at absolutely bargain basement deals. (Other ideas can be found in an article from almost two years ago, “Taking Back the Schools” The education division must understand that this is a war, and wars are won on the front lines not the cubicles in Cupertino.

Building A Network
My school has taken the second step in networking the campus. This last Friday, we held our first wiring party. Since the main building dates back to the 1920’s, a great deal of time was spent probing around for different ways to run the Category 5 wire between the walls only to discover a variety of blockages. After four hours the computer lab, music room, and art room (all in the basement) were done along with the necessary drilling to link the three classrooms and science lab upstairs.

On Sunday, seven of us ignored our desire to watch the NFL and proceeded to pull wire to the three upstairs classrooms and computer wall (outside my room). In addition, we pulled wire out to the first modular classroom. We then ran into a snag trying to use existing conduit. So, this weekend another work party is planned to trench and pull wire to the remainder of classrooms and the administrative office.

As of right now, our iMac lab (Bondi Blue) is connected along with the computer wall. Also, I hooked up a D-Link wireless base station, so my iBook and the Science/Math teacher’s HP laptop are now unleashed and surfing wherever we want. It’s a good day after four years of dreaming, pushing, pulling, prodding, cajoling, etc. to get this quaint country school into the 21st century.

Mark Marcantonio

Leave a Reply