The following had been written by a Teacher for Teachers. I requested Bret to write plainly because I feel strongly that I was the primary and only drive towards introducing Apple Mac into our school and I wished to offer the opinion and view of another. Bret had been a Teacher at our school and I was therefore aware that he had once been exposed to both and used Apple Macs in another school and that his opinion might be better balanced than my own.
Shifting to a Mac from Windows.
I have always used Windows computers since 1995 I have been at the forefront of using computers in the classroom using chatting and emailing in a classroom in 1997 between students in Australia and USA, creating webpages and online learning etc. In all the time I had only used a windows computer. Mac users were those strange people who seemed as if they were part of a cult, I never thought I would become one.
So when I first came to the Middle East in 2008 and the IT gave me a choice between a Dell windows computer and a Macbook pro it was easy, I said the Dell. When I picked it up I realised that it didn’t have an in-built webcam and I would need one; as at that time my family was still in Australia. So reluctantly, I took the Macbook Pro.
Initially I was a little frustrated, the buttons and programs were designed to operate a little differently. After three weeks most of the frustration had eased as I found the computer worked the way I wanted it to with no crashes, no slowing down and as I was taking lots of photos they were so easy to manipulate. Dragging and dropping took on a whole new meaning. Moving photos in iWorks documents was so simple (I also used office for Mac when needed).
In the two years since then the Learning Centre at school has stopped ordering Windows computers in the school and are completely turning to Macs. The reason is that to keep the Windows computers running and working they had to re-image them at least once or twice a year while out of the 35 Macs only 3 have had to be re-imaged in 3 years and all are still running at the same speed while the Dells are slowing down (although a few that are running the Linux system were doing better).
The trend for the students at Qatar Academy is to follow the lead of the Learning Center on a grandeur scale and supply one- on- one Macbook computers to all students from Grades 6-9 (they have purchased 800 Macbooks). Last year they trialed HP Laptops which unfortunately crashed so badly under the handling of the students that many students were not able to participate fully in the program at times. Many students actually began to bring in their own Macs and did not use the HP’s. I must admit that the HP running Vista was not a very reliable computer and maybe with windows 7 it would be a bit better. Anyway the result of last year’s successes and failures was the student body were surveyed and given an option of replacing the HP’s with a better windows laptop or a Macbook. The students voted overwhelmingly for Macbooks, obviously the generation change for computer choice has begun. At Qatar academy they have decided to look to the future and move to Macs as the Learning Center had in 2008.
What can the Macs do in the classroom? Everything (nearly) a windows computer can do and usually better.
Video editing, photo stories and the like were better easier and “cooler” when done on the Mac. Graphics are easier to use on Macs.
Things we use the computers for.
As collaboration is an important part of the learning focus at this present time and especially in an international school, many tools used are online. The benefit with online programs is that students can collaborate to complete tasks. Also the information is stored in a cloud environment and able to be accessed from home or anywhere the students are.
http://storybird.com/ where students join to write a story using the pictures on the site as the illustration.
http://www.mywebspiration.com where students work on mind mapping activities individually or as a group.
Moodle program used by the school. Each teacher has class pages where quizzes, homework, files web links are place on a weekly schedule. Works fine on the Mac as it does on windows.
iMovie students videoed through the webcam their drama interpretations of stories. Made a Public service announcement video on a social issue. (iMovie uses found it easier to use and edit their movies to a higher standard than the windows moviemaker students although both worked ok).
Garage Band was used to make music to accompany slide shows/iMovie etc. Students are thinking, discussing and evaluating their work on a higher level.
Students found using the Macs easier to manipulate video and photo files. Macs made it easier to save webpage images and pages thus compile a research appendix was a lot simpler for students.
Strangely the students using the Macs found it easier to log onto the student network which was a Microsoft exchange. (The Learning Center is changing to a Mac server in September to trial as they are sick of the crashes with the Microsoft one).
They also found that the computer did not slow down after a month or two.
Issues with the Macs: Students couldn’t load their old windows games. I could not watch AFL footy videos from Australia… only sports videos in the world not viewable on a Mac. (Telstra and Microsoft deal).
Overall I had the most frustrating year with the HP tablets and any thought of using windows has now gone out the door. In two years I have become a total Mac convert, simply because of two factors, reliability and ease of use.
With approximately 58% of US college students using Macbooks in 2009/10 and predicted 70% in the 2010/11 it makes sense that I continue to use and invest my time in Mac’s as it is quickly becoming the tool of the next generation.