First let me start this off by saying that I am a firm supporter of Apple products. I have a Mac Mini, iPhone (since the beginning), Air, iPad 2, and Apple TV. My wife is a fan as well and I’m sure my soon to be born daughter will be begging me for an iPhone much sooner than I can take. I will not be changing from my Apple products any time soon and like having their products in my classroom. I just wanted to make this clear before you continue reading this post.
I was browsing through Twitter last night when I ran across multiple people tweeting about a landmark case for Apple in the classroom. I followed multiple links to this article from the Maine Sunday Telegram where Apple lost out on a substantial bid to provide laptops to the students of the State of Maine. I’ve come across two types of people when talking about the decision: 1) people who feel like Apple must lower their prices or 2) people who cannot believe that Maine would not choose Apple over HP. Both of these stances are non-sensical to me.
High Priced Apple
Ever since I was in college there are two main arguments with Apple products: they cost too much money and are not easily upgradeable. Both of these are true statements. Even if I apply either my educator discount to a new Apple purchase or shop the refurbished section (a great idea by the way) I could easily buy a comparable Windows based machine for much less. It is also very difficult to upgrade almost anything on a Mac other than their Mac Pro tower, but even then you have to make sure it’s compatible with their operating system. I added some RAM to my Mac Mini recently and I felt like I was playing the board game Operation. Speaking as someone who is sold on the Apple brand, these two weaknesses of Apple are not the reason I buy almost all of my computing products from them. I buy their products because I like their operating system, it all integrates together rather seamlessly, and they tend to stay on the cutting edge of technology. I fully realize that I will be paying a premium price for all their hardware, and so do the throngs of people who regularly crowd the Apple Store every weekend. The idea that Apple has priced-out their market is silly to me. There will always be people willing to buy an Apple product because they make quality hardware that just works.
HP Over Apple
While the state is changing their preferred vendor to HP, that doesn’t mean that every child in the state must have an HP laptop. It is not clear from the article what all of the laptop choices will be, but it is reasonable to think that districts could choose to stay with Apple since much of their network infrastructure is already Apple based. What shocked me was not that they opted out of an Apple contract, but rather that they did so with solid reasoning to back up their decision. The lowest priced bid was for iPads for every student, and while they are nifty I would choose for kids to have a laptop over an iPad in the classroom 10 times out of 10. I love my iPad and there are awesome learning experiences to be had on an iPad, but having a fully functional laptop is my preference. In my experience students prefer to have laptops as well, so I tend to agree with Mr. Hamlin in the article. If it came down to iPads or nothing of course I would choose an iPad, but I would rather have a laptop than an iPad. The state also backed up this decision by throwing out the statistic that the HP operating system is most commonly used in Maine businesses. You may not agree with their reasoning, but at least the state came at this from sound logic which was the desire to prepare students in school system for the working world around their state.
My first choice for my personal classroom is to have all Apple laptops. I realize that this is not only a pipe-dream, but a resource drain for the teachers around me in my building. For the price of a class set of Apple laptops we could outfit multiple classrooms with iPads or HP laptops, but in my utopian classroom I’ll have Macbooks. That being said, to say that Apple needs to redo it’s model for producing laptops is silly. Sure they lost out on a pretty massive contract, but I’m sure the impending launch of the iPhone 5S will more than make up for losing a contract. We tend to criticize school districts for not doing what is right for the kids under their care, but as far as I can tell Maine has done just that. They have chosen the most cost effective way to get full laptops into their students’ hands and that laptop directly correlates with the working world in the State of Maine. We might not agree out of personal preference, but kuddos for making an informed opinion.