Do Apple Products Really Enhance Education?

by Janet Meyer May 30, 2006

On May 26 AppleInsider reported that Apple Computer is designing a new Mac for education. This all-in-one design is said to be the replacement for Apple’s eMac line of computers. AppleInsider believes that the new computer will be moving away from CRT-based displays and towards a design more similar to the iMac Core Duo desktops, including LCD-based displays. The new design should be less expensive to manufacture, package, and ship than the eMac.

Apple has always claimed to be committed to education. In fact, the eMac was originally designed only for school purchases, and the “e” stood for education. Though school sales were down at one point, Apple reports that educational sales increased in first quarter 2006 as compared to the same period in 2005. This is happening despite stories of schools replacing Macs with Windows.

MacArthur Elementary School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is fairly typical of many schools making the change. The MacArthur School PTA raised money for the switch because parents felt that Windows-based computers were a better choice for their children. The PTA vice president was quoted as saying that a key reason parents preferred Windows was because more parents own Windows-based computers than Apples. In this way children would be able to more easily bring their work home, and parents would be better able to help them with problems.

I found that to be quite an interesting statement. We have owned Windows computers in our house while my daughter worked on Macs at school. When she needed to continue a project at home she would either send it via email or save it to her flash drive. In either case, there was never a problem transferring the work.

Windows promoters will tell you that another good reason for children to learn on Windows is because they are more likely to find Windows-based computers in college and, eventually, on the job. I’m not sure why this should make a difference. My daughter is multilingual (Windows 95, 98, XP, and now OS X). She switches from one to the other with ease, though she clearly prefers her Mac. In learning to adapt to different systems, she’ll be prepared for whatever the workplace throws at her someday.

Still, there’s more to technological learning than using computers. When responding to Darcy Richardson’s article about Pearson Education’s purchase of Apple Computer’s PowerSchool, John Koetsier commented that iPods are going to be huge in education. He writes an interesting article explaining his thoughts at bizhack.

Mr. Koetsier has it right about iPods being potentially big. I hope, though, that teachers are able to think outside the box and use them for more than just downloading books or lectures. Already some schools have learned that podcasting can enhance learning. There are teachers who think even bigger than that, though, and use as much Apple technology as they can to teach their students.

I have seen firsthand the advantages of Apple products in the hands of talented teachers. I have been to my daughter’s school after hours and seen how eagerly students continue with projects started during the day. I’ve seen my daughter learn things in ways that increase her likelihood of remembering. I have also witnessed projects that are about real life and about things that matter.

I’ll go more into detail about some of these things next week. Longfellow Middle School in La Crosse, Wisconsin, a school that has a strong commitment to Apple, will be unveiling a gift to the community on June 1. The innovative teachers there have found a way to teach their students to appreciate those who impacted our city’s history. This is a gift that was made possible by the use of Apple products.

This gift is also a gift to the students. In the course of the project they learned a lot of things about creativity, history, and technology, among other things. More importantly, though, they learned about people who make a difference.

Some schools use computers mainly to teach students how to find information. Some also teach how to use standard software such as word processing and Power Point programs. There is so much more possible in education, particularly when a system such as Apple makes it easy.

In the title of this article, I asked if Apple enhances education. I haven’t really made the case for it today, but I hope to next week. It is in everyone’s best interest if schools that have already invested in technology use it to the fullest. Maybe the example of Longfellow Middle School will give other educators new ideas.

Every generation has new tools for teaching. Apple provides powerful tools for this generation. Educators, use them wisely.


  • All good things about Macs in education, unfortunately they’re nothing more than anecdotal accounts.

    What many folks will only look at are the impact on test scores. Hard numbers.

    Before you jump,I was involoved in the computers in our local school district and saw this argument all the time which the districts tech coordinator had to defend. And he was a PC guy when he came to the district, but looked at the numbers. Macs were more cost effective by no small margin.

    After that, it was an issue of teacher training and most importantly, how well(or not) a teacher integrated technology into their daily lesson plan.

    In many schools today, Mac or not, many teachers fight technology. They contend they’re already overworked and underpaid so they resist new learning. Their plate is full. But they miss the notion that technology can make more time for them, ease some of the more tedious aspects of learning and be such a great window to information which is a foundation of learning.

    Then there’s the aspect of making learning fun and engaging the students…

    Just my $.02

    Learner had this to say on May 30, 2006 Posts: 2
  • I agree with Learner - it is always going to be how well the teachers are trained (and how receptive they are to the training & use of computers) that will determine how successful computers will be in the classroom.  There is a huge need to focus on teacher training, providing it at various rates to meet the individual teachers’ ability to adapt. 

    In terms of the Mac-v-PC arguments, I’m one that believes that Mac will have less problems, especially with malware, than a PC and for that reason alone it’s a better buy.  My 4 year old granddaughter plays on my iMac at home with no supervision and has yet to cause a problem.  That would be rather hard to match on a PC.

    MacKen had this to say on May 30, 2006 Posts: 88
  • On a recent “open house” visits to my kids’ private and public schools gave me a glimpse that is a complete opposite to what I had in the 80s. Back then the Mac was the de facto standard in computer education. It was so much easier to use thanks to its graphical user interface. Some IBM DOS machines were used for business-related courses - Ashton Tate’s dBase 4, Lotus 1-2-3, Visical, etc. But Macs were everywhere.

    Now the picture is the opposite where black Dell boxes are nearly ubiquitous and Macs are few and far between (if at all).

    I try to come to a conclusion that schools has become “intoxicated” to Windows and has become too drunk to know how to get back to the Mac. Sure, price wars accelerated the trend but I doubt the blame is all on price difference of an eMac vice Dell’s offerings.

    We should blame Apple for becoming lackadaisical in this space for too long. There were no innovations here both in hardware and software.

    Powerschool is a great bundle but it should be priced with the hardware - meaning FREE as long as the schools obtaining it buys a OSX Server and signs a license to go Mac exclusively. Is that unfair competition? I think that’s good, aggressive marketing - ask Microsoft.

    The first Mac LCs were hardware capable as I have used them in HS. And the original eMac is the first to target the price-conscious district IT head-honcho with mixed result. Apple has to come up with something better here than a $799 educational AIO (all-in-one).

    Enter the much rumored new eMAc AIO based on the iMac Core Solo design. Apple should target a price of $599 for this new eMac. They can also come up with a OOB package of the Mac mini Core Solo with an inexpensive LCD and keyboard/mouse for the same price.

    These are hard price targets but Apple can do this. Black Dell boxes are everywhere and the only way for Apple to compete here is to fight mano-a-mano on their term: price.

    Robomac had this to say on May 30, 2006 Posts: 846
  • Yes, Robotech Infidel, I do think many schools simply will not consider macs because (currently, at least) there aren’t any propah cheap ones. (For some reason the low end mac mini just doesn’t seem a good value proposition… partly coz you can get a dell for the same including crappy-but-adequate dkm)

    Benji had this to say on May 30, 2006 Posts: 927
  • The form factor if this new eMac materialises will be interesting. How wil Apple make it durable, cheap and hard to steal?

    It’s unlikely education institutes will be keen on Mac mini form - too easy to steal.

    A Core Single with integrated graphics and 512MB would also be a problem. Underpowered leaves a bad taste in the mouths of the users which will linger for many years.

    The user experience is paramount for Apple. They want kids going home saying “I want a Mac!” not that Macs are underpowered or buggy.

    Chris Howard had this to say on May 30, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • Sometimes I think schools think too small. They think they have to buy cheap (and get cheap) and have to have one computer per student.

    Longfellow has worked out a sharing solution, and they get some great deals from the Apple guy. They use laptops and wireless. They purchase new laptops each year, though they are not a wealthy school.

    How do they pay for it? One fundraiser each year.

    Other schools could do that, too.

    Janet Meyer had this to say on May 30, 2006 Posts: 36
  • Unless you’re a paid Apple spokesperson, Janet, then this article is extremely sad.  Your sole criteria for “thinking outside the box” and thinking “bigger” in education seems to be using “as much Apple technology as” possible.

    Say whuh?

    What impact does the operating system itself really have in terms of using technology to educate?  Isn’t it really about the teachers, the tools they use, and how they use it?  Is our educational system on such precarious grounds that using OS X instead of Windows makes or breaks whether students learn creativity, history, or about people who make a difference?

    In the course of the project they learned a lot of things about creativity, history, and technology, among other things. More importantly, though, they learned about people who make a difference.

    And apparently, this is only possible on Apple products.  That’s apparently what’s known as thinking outside the box.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on May 31, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Well, over in England, Macs are very few and very far between in education. The school I’m leaving has a grand total of ~30 Macs, compared to ~400 Windows Boxes. And currently, the Macs are all in cupboards rotting. Make of that what you will.

    great_high_wolf had this to say on May 31, 2006 Posts: 5
  • Here’s my comment about thinking outside of the box:

    “Mr. Koetsier has it right about iPods being potentially big. I hope, though, that teachers are able to think outside the box and use them for more than just downloading books or lectures.”

    Often schools use iPods only for downloading or recording lectures when they could be doing more. They use computers just to get on the internet and search for information. They might also teach Word or one or two other programs, but that’s about it.

    Don’t get me wrong, those are good things to learn. It just seems that we spend an awful lot of money on technology not to use it more fully.

    Yes, it’s the teachers that make the difference. Yes, it’s the tools they use.  The schools spend a lot of money on these tools, then later switch to entirely new systems (another big expense) and generally don’t use either system well.

    Longfellow teaches well because they use their Macs for more than just a very large encyclopedia. They use iPods for more than just downloading books.

    That is what I mean by thinking outside of the box.

    Many parents and teachers are questioning the use of computers in the classroom, especially with increasing budget cuts. In a lot of cases, the parents and teachers are right. As much as I like Macs, there are far too many schools that purchase them and then don’t take advantage of what they have to offer.

    No matter what OS a school uses, they can benefit from learning about schools that use computers more fully.

    Janet Meyer had this to say on May 31, 2006 Posts: 36
  • Teacher are creative professionals. Teachers instill onto our children (like us many years ago) knowledge that will last them a lifetime.

    Yet most teachers are not skilled in computer technology as you and me. They view computers as mere tools to help them - teach. Operating systems of any kind is meaningless to them. Give them the easiest-to-use tools to improve their job, D#%N IT! Do not scrimp our tax money to generic crap just so you can proclaim (and take credit for yourself) that you have advanced our children’s education!!! Who are you fooling?? You know who you are, Mr. School District IT Guy…

    Ease-of-use is it. In this regard, Macs should have a clear advantage in that it is very easy for the teachers to navigate without the hassles of XP intricacies. Xp’s filing cabinet metaphor can be very intimidating. There are so many ways to accomplish the same task in XP. This might be a bonus to an XP geek but not to a casual user.

    Plug-n-play on the Mac is, what else, plug-and-play. This alone should tilt the favor to Mac for the teachers’ sake and sanity. There should be no reason to “install” a 1 GB DVD application onto your hard drive just to run an educational program but XP requires you all the time. At least the Mac gives you an option. And attaching peripherals?

    If teachers are given the choice (but I doubt the schools’ IT committees get their ideas from a democratic consensus of their teaching staff) they will, by their creative nature, choose a simpler tool - the Mac vice crap.

    That is why I recommend Apple/Pearson to price Powerschool suite very affordable compared to Dell’s offerings. Dell is only selling cheap hardware here and they’re successful. Apple should be more competitive.

    Robomac had this to say on May 31, 2006 Posts: 846
  • No matter what OS a school uses, they can benefit from learning about schools that use computers more fully.

    That’s all well and good, and I agree, but your article seems to suggest that this is only possible by using as many Apple products as they can, as if one can only think outside the box with a Mac.

    I think the OS is largely irrelevant here.  If the best educational software or tools are on the PC (and I’m speaking hypothetically), then the PC is the best tool.

    There’s much more of a case to be made of the iPod, however, for the very reason teachers and parents like Windows - ubiquity.  The technology is so common, popular, easy to use that expanding its capabilities is much simpler and more feasible.  I’m with you on that one for sure.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on May 31, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Gadgets are there either to make you or brake you. It is really interesting to note that gadgets are really helpful at times but it should be used with care as well because if it is not handled well it can ruin your life also. Technology can be helpful in your essay writing, dissertation writing or perhaps just any project but if it is not used well it could lead also to addiction on games and other apps.

    Tomas Rodriquez had this to say on Jun 29, 2011 Posts: 1
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