Fix Apple Education: The Readers Respond

About six weeks ago I challenged you readers to come up with some ideas that Apple could use to revive its share of the education market. Below you will find in their entirety some thoughtful responses to my query.

Terry McCune writes:
In our school, the tech guys are contract hire, none of them teachers. You win no prizes for guessing their platform of choice. The teachers had little input. The technology co-ordinator was swayed by the fact that we can get used business computers for prices ranging from $20 CDN to $200 CDN. No sound cards, drives, etc – they are “thin clients” If you could see the size of some of these old clunkers, you’d appreciate the irony. They do surf the web, and word process and that’s about all my grade 10 -12 kids want them for. Now two thirds of our technology budget goes to pay technicians’ salaries and hardly any new hardware or software comes into the building.

Of course if you want to talk about creative projects and current educational stratagems, well, we’re out of luck. The art and drama students do the fun stuff with video and iMovie and a small number of iMacs.

I totally agree with you on the advertising/pricing stuff. The faxes we get for rebuilt Dell, Acer, Gateway; Toshiba etc laptops and desktops just blow me away. Nothing from Apple. It’s sad. I’d love to know how many travelling salespeople Apple Canada has on staff in their education division. I’m willing to bet it’s few than 20 countrywide and most of them will probably be in the Toronto – Ottawa – Montreal triangle.

Hmnn …. Maybe I could become a Mac spokesman when I retire a few years from now.

Last year I got to go to the Apple Teachers’ Institute in Vancouver in July. Now THAT was promotion!!!!

If Apple could pull off a few more of those, life would be sweet. They could be shorter, and less luxurious as far as freebies and food go, but with a teacher invited from every school district in the province. What a concept!

Stacey Sandler responds:
We recently (within the past few weeks) updated to system 10.2 and I just
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT (although it took a couple of days to adjust!)!! We have two separate labs in the art department. In my lab we have blue G3’s and Grey G4’s that are used for computer graphics, animation (Photoshop,
Illustrator, Flash) and music technology (CuBase and Sibelius).

Our second lab is for video production (iMovie and Final Cut Pro). That lab is brand new and has eMacs, a high powered G4 w/a 22″ flat panel and a new iMac. I would love to hook up with other teachers who are using Jaguar and see what their take is on it. Can you recommend any good lists/sites? My school email address is
Ok readers, can anybody help Stacey?

David Binnion pulls no punches with his views.
Thanks for picking up the ball and running with it. I hope you don’t become as disillusioned as I have become. Frankly, I think nearly all of the problems of AE are caused by the one who wears black turtlenecks. To put a fine point on it – I believe he doesn’t bother to listen to anyone because he *knows* what education wants and delivers it. The problem is, he doesn’t really know what education wants. If I am right, the fight is hopeless. I honestly believe that the next time my lab is replaced it will be with Windows based computers.

Having vented, here is my shopping list:

1. I can buy 3 PCs for the price of 2 Macs – in some cases it is 2 for 1.
For years we’ve all pointed out that Macs last longer, they have fewer problems requiring Techs…you know the litany. But the fact is that up front costs do sway people. For education, Macs are way too expensive.

2. We all know that computer literacy skills are platform independent but explaining that to people who *aren’t* computer knowledgeable isn’t easy. Apple is the underdog and should be trying harder. As a classroom teacher and department head, it shouldn’t be my job to sell Apple computers. But Apple is forcing me to do exactly that. Okay, I can understand the power of grass root efforts – but instead of giving me the tools to fight, it is putting up roadblocks.

3. The move to OS X is making it hard for me to sell Macs to my school. Two-year-old computers are barely sufficient to run OS X so we have to replace them with new ones and then we have to buy new software. Great – so why should I choose OS X over WinXP? Dell and Gateway are falling all over themselves trying to make it easy for me to dump the Mac but Apple isn’t working to keep me in the fold.

Heck, I spearheaded getting a new Mac lab for my classes – which we all love! But my computers were delivered two days before Jaguar officially shipped. We have to pay $1020 to get licenses for Jag. But my own personal iMac was delivered the same day as my lab computers were and it came with Jag pre-installed. No one at Apple sees a problem here.

Soon Apple will be shipping Macs that cannot boot OS 9 – but where is the OS X education software? Yes, there aren’t many programs that won’t run in Classic but there are many flaws to running Classic. First, many programs run slower in Classic than in OS 9. Second, now we are presenting two different computing paradigms to our students – at the very same time! Third, Classic has to be launched every time students log onto the computer. In a 45-minute period with slower machines, this is no minor matter. Is Apple twisting arms and offering carrots to education software vendors? I see no evidence of it.

4. Apple makes repairing machines more difficult and time consuming than it should be and puts artificial barriers to getting machines repaired. District wide, over 70% of our Macs are out of warranty. At the high school we have a crew of students who are preparing for IT careers. Two seniors already have A+ certification. These students can repair broken PCs because we can buy spare parts. In fact, our techs (student and/or adult) can even do some warranty repair work on PCs. But not Macs. In most cases a broken PC is down for no more than 36 hours – usually less than 24 hours. A Mac under warranty is down a minimum of 3 days and except for a dead hard drive so is a Mac out of warranty. It isn’t uncommon for that to stretch into a week.

I could go on but I’m starting to froth at the mouth . These are my top 4 complaints.

Martin Rheaume laments:
The problem is obviously not the product itself. You and I, as well as the rest of the intelligent world, know that Macs are the best computers for education. No, the problem lies in the administrators and the IT directors and managers. They are the ones who would the key to Apple’s downfall in education. They all have gotten their Microsoft certification. They have either been brainwashed into believing the Apple is useless and will go out of business, and therefore convince the school boards to go WinTel or they no nothing of Apple and their fear of the unknown causes them to buy WinTel. Where is Apple through all of this mass brainwashing and confusion…??? They’re making goofy switch commercials and aggressively attacking the creative industry (print, ads, movie, etc). What SHOULD they do???? I believe if they aggressively attacked the education market, as much as the other niches, they would have gained some ground. What they need to do is train people to go out to every school board and squash old and new myths, educate the IT Managers and Directors. Show, demonstrate and display the power of the Mac to all. Go to the different Teacher Conferences across North America and do the same.

When I showed off the new iMac 17″ to my staff, they were in awe and amazed. When asked about compatibility with Windows, I show them Office X. They were impressed and envious. They wanted one too. But it is not in the districts mandate to buy them. So we are forced with inferior products.

Apple doesn’t need more commercials, because honestly, not everybody sees them. I only saw one Switch ad thus far. So people are unaware of the products and its power. More people Apple, more trained people and go get them.

My name is Martin. I am a teacher in Alberta, Canada. I work in a district where we used to work with awesome computers. Now we are stuck with useless machines that break down more than a broken down Lada.

Finally, Jim Crittenden voices his opinion:
My number one idea is that when a school district, such as mine, buys a million dollars’ worth of Macs (about 300 iMacs, 200 iBooks, 50 G4s with LCD monitors, several cinema displays), it only makes sense to send a techie here as part of the deal to ensure that they are all set up correctly. Instead, we had to pay $1500 per day for someone to come in here and set up the Primary School iBook carts because nobody knew how to do it. The experience has led to some sad decisions by administrators concerning future purchases of Macs. So: Bundle some tech time with the deal. I can only wonder what Henrico County and
Maine must be facing these days.

Otherwise, it’s mainly a matter of “upgrade leapfrog” that we seem to
suffer the most from in our school.

Oh, yes. One more thing. Security. Please give us the option to configure our machines to bypass all the security stuff. It’s really bad on the OS X machines. One teacher put in a password, forgot it, and caused us to have to reformat and reinstall the software. We need to lose the keychain option. I mean a zero security option. This is elementary school- not Wells Fargo! Foolproof is adequate for us, thanks. Over the years, I have formatted more security-proofed computers (At-Ease, Keychain are like viruses to me) than for any other reason.

Meanwhile, my 5 G4 macs are still running great for me. I am still learning great new ways to use them. Right now, My multimedia class is simultaneously editing video footage using iMovie on 4 machines at once. I can barely keep up with them.

Thanks for the chance to speak to this.

The main theme of all of these fine educators is frustration. Not at their Macs, but the parent company behind them. Cupertino just doesn’t get it, STILL. That means that once again it’s up to us, the faithful to rescue Apple from itself.

Mark Marcantonio

Leave a Reply