History – Schools adopt Microsoft
During the 1990s, Microsoft setup a brilliant business structure for selling Windows in schools. This had no learning basis behind it, it was simply an excellent money-making exercise. The Microsoft Schools agreement was a dream to all technicians who could stop worrying about licensing the school computers as they were all covered under one agreement, albeit and expensive one. Within 6 years we had Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, ME and then XP it seemed obvious to keep paying as updates were regular. Then Microsoft stopped releasing updates and schools remained on XP for a decade, while paying millions for simply having simple paperwork. Vista was a disaster and Windows 7 is a good XP replacement but is going to radically change in Windows 8 and most schools will stick with 7 or even XP.
OSX, iLife & iOS change the landscape
But over the last decade Apple have realised they were missing out and in their inevitable style, have produced a beautiful eco-system that is not only easy for schools to delve into but is now specifically designed for education and learning in a way Microsoft never achieved. Microsoft gave us machines that could access the internet and Word and Excel seemed practical. But Apple have given us Machines that immediately:
- Create and edit PDFs without needing to research 3rd party apps on the internet; (PDFs are a default file type that Microsoft virtually refuses to recognise)
- Organise our email (Windows 7 has no email client);
- edit movies; (Far superior to Microsoft’s option)
- have a recording studio; (Not available on Windows)
- manage our photos and music; (iTunes is the default for all these day and Windows users have had to discover Google’s Picasa for photos)
- create eBooks using ‘drag & drop'; (iBooks Author is in a different league to other authoring software)
- talk directly to our iPads and sync the info and files automatically; (IPad schools will miss out on so much for not have a Mac infrastructure)
- integrate Facebook and Twitter into the machine itself allowing for the sharing of work and discoveries with a click; (This will become a big issue)
- Offers us Document/Spreadsheet/Presentation software for 1/3 of the price of MS Office (Apple’s version of Word and Powerpoint are far superior and preferred by my students immediately)
- Connects you computer to the content from the top Universities in the world through iTunesU
- Offer all apps for all machines on a single account through an easy to use App Store;
Microsoft are concerned about the Technicians first, Business people second and are happy if schools find a use for their business tools. As you can see on their website, Office is still their best offering for schools and it’s just not creative or accessible enough for students.
Apple have teams of people who are tasked with only researching school pedagogy and practice (non-technical) and Apple’s educational eco-system strengthens every month because of it.
Are Apple computers more expensive? Out of the box, a Microsoft PC offers so little for schools that time and money must be spent locating 3rd party tools, installing them, hoping they don’t conflict, hoping they’re free or spending extra on software like Office. This is why schools have required so many (expensive) technicians over the last 15 years and why more educational change has happened with iPads than in 15 years of using Office. This has made Microsoft systems indirectly very costly for what they offer from the box. The MS Schools agreement is only worth it for keeping the administration of Microsoft licensing easy but educationally is a huge waste of money.
When removing Mac computers from their boxes, most schools would be ready to go immediately. Even the free and simple Textedit program that comes with a Mac will open and save as DocX (Microsofts Word file format that Windows won’t open without purchasing Word!). There’s no need for buying and researching additional software and so schools save money and have a system that will natively work with their iPads, require less technical assistance (The real money save) and have a lot more fun!
You might spend an extra $200 on a Mac but in teacher and technician time plus software costs, you save $200 before then of your first month.