Like many people, I have switched to using a Mac and I love it. I also have an iPad which I enjoy very much. As of this year, my school has begun the process of putting a laptop in the hands of every student. Our machine of choice was the white MacBook. In this post, I argue that Apple has disadvantaged schools when it terminated this model.
A bit of context: I work at a school with a forward-looking IT manager. He convinced us to become a Mac school about five years ago. That was when I bought my first MacBook. It was not perfect and I even had to return it for repairs after the first year. Still, it was the most predictable computer I had ever owned. Slowly but surely, the staff and students grew to love the MacBooks and iMacs around the school.
When we considered becoming a 1:1 school, the school chose the white MacBooks for their balance of power and value. Year 10s would be "given" a machine, mostly funded by the federal government's Digital Education Revolution (DER funds). The school had to subsidise the cost as the government provided $1000 per computer. Year 7s would lease a MacBook over three years.
Recently, Apple announced that it would terminate the white MacBook. It guaranteed Australian schools supply of the terminated product and threw in two extra years of warranty on that model only. The department of education chose that line for those of its teachers who wanted a Mac and offered them a lease over four years. This created a protest campaign, led by the inspirational Richard Lambert, as teachers did not want to lease an outdated laptop and keep it for four years.
What stunned me in all this was that almost everyone I spoke to held Apple innocent. Consider the options they have left us:
- MacBook Air 11": Great, compact and portable machine. Yet, its battery life is limited. A colleague of mine used it for powerpoint presentations for half of one school day and managed to drain the battery in that time. I asked her if she had been playing any videos but she replied in the negative.
- MacBook Pro or Air 13": Expensive and Apple are offering them to schools with a single year's warranty.
- iPad: Some schools are doing great work with the iPad. Still, at a conference I attended recently, students were asked what they would choose if they had a choice and they replied: "a laptop". They loved their iPads but could not wait (their own words) to get home and complete some of their work on a desktop computer.
I spoke to the IT manager of an Apple school recently. I put the question to him: "Am I the only one upset with Apple?" He said he was too! He added that, unless Apple could come up with a solution in the next year, many Apple schools will face one of two choices: Dump Apple or become BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) schools.
I would hate to see my school move away from Apple products. I remain hopeful that they will announce a new line of laptops that fills the "value" gap soon.
Is your school ordering white MacBooks while there is supply? Did you find an alternative? I would love to know what people out there are doing.