Tag Archive for macbook

The Best Classroom Computers

What is the best arrangement of computers to support classroom activities? In our school, it varies considerably by grade level and subject. Once upon a time, laptops seemed destined to replace all computers, but lately we have found desktop computers to be lower cost, more reliable, and quicker to activate, hence the mixed environment in some spaces. Sometimes, fixing a computer to one location is actually a benefit, such as when teaching 22 elementary students in 40-minute blocks, rendering a digital video for hours, or keeping a reliable connection to an inkjet printer.

Upper School

  • 1:1 student laptop program
  • arts desktop computers for video rendering and inkjet printing
  • computer science desktop computers for Linux applications

Middle School

  • three laptop carts
  • desktop computers in arts, English, and World Cultures classrooms and main office

Lower School

  • computer lab for grades 4-5
  • two desktop computers per classroom in grades 1-5 + most specialist classrooms
  • four laptop computers per classrooms in grades 3-5

Beginning School

  • no student computers

Student and parents attend an Upper School laptop orientation.

Fifth grade classroom computer

Lower School computer lab (22 computers)

Middle School laptop cart

Apple laptops not holding up in students’ hands

During summer laptop maintenance, we touch every teacher and student machine to perform updates, change some configuration settings, and fix hardware issues. As of today, we have 40 Macs out for service out of a total of about 200 machines that have passed through our hands. Far and away the leading category of repair is MacBook computers with cracked plastic cases.

I know our kids are hard on these computers, but they also carry them to school, through five to seven periods, to afternoon activities, and then back home each day. We want the kids to use the computers, after all. This repair rate creates hours of additional work for us and days of delays to the students.

Why oh why won’t a computer manufacturer produce a laptop truly designed for highly mobile, high-use individuals like students?

How fragile is the new MacBook?

Update January 3, 2010: It’s been over a year since the unibody MacBook was released, and I am pleased to report that they have held up very well! We have seen far fewer instances of case and hard drive damage than with the white MacBook model. Good work Apple, and please remember this in future redesigns!

I continue to wonder at the gulf between the needs of our student laptop program and Apple’s recent laptop releases. No kidding, they have won the heart of our kids, what with 80% of incoming ninth grade students choosing Mac over Lenovo both this year and last. At the same time, we have seen hardware repairs go way up, as kids drop the Macs, and they crack, dent, and break. I am a solid Apple enthusiast, but I also run a school technology program with pretty reasonable needs.

In recent years, we have cautioned parents and students away from the Aluminum MacBook Pro. Aluminum is a soft metal (it makes great foil and not so good jewelry). Most of our students (and teachers) who have the aluminum laptop have suffered dents and warps, some of which have increased stress on internal components and caused them to fail.

Now we have no plastic Mac to sell (at least once Apple’s inventory of white MacBook is exhausted). I recognize that the new aluminum case is cut from a solid piece of aluminum, but how will it withstand impacts? Will it still dent and ding? Will the hard drive, located right at the corner, take the brunt of the blow? I want to see crash test ratings!

The new glass screen face is another point of concern. We already experience cracked plastic screens, and now it’s covered by a layer of glass?

glass screen

Let me be clear. This is not our students’ fault, but their families get to foot the bill. If I had to move my computer from room to room ten times a day, mine would probably also get dropped or stepped on as well. Congrats to Apple for producing a machine likely to win the hearts of home users, graphic designers, and college students. That’s not enough for our students. We need toughness, too. Why won’t Apple produce a school-appropriate laptop?

Our “Mac tax” is currently $300. Families pay that much more to purchase a MacBook compared to a similarly equipped ThinkPad T61. The ThinkPad is more solid and comes with both a four-year warranty and accidental damage protection for the price. For the MacBook we start with a higher base price, pay a premium to get a four-year warranty that you can’t buy in stores, and then charge another fee to fund a limited, school-sponsored accidental damage protection program.

As the economy tightens, families are not going to accept this different much longer. We may end up with two tiers of laptop purchase, a Mac for those who can afford it, and a ThinkPad for those who want a tough machine for the money. I’m glad that my son is only in first grade.