For years, PCs have dominated our upper school faculty and student laptop programs. Most of the teachers prefer Windows, and the year before last, three quarters of the students felt the same. Last year, the incoming ninth grade class went 50-50, half for PCs and half for Macs. We thought we had seen the end of the switch. Then suddenly, the balance was flung to the opposite extreme. Of the seventy laptop orders we have received only 10 are for PCs. That’s right: 60 Macs and 10 PCs, more than a complete reversal of the ratios of two years ago.
Why did this happen? Until we survey the students, we can only speculate. Apple is gaining market share worldwide, due to the success of the iPod and the sleek design of the MacBook. Apple has certainly achieved “cool” status at school, especially for the usability of iTunes. The word has gotten around the school that Macs have fewer software problems (though not as many students have realized that the Macs experience more hardware failures). We have a number of Intel families that now have “permission” to buy Apple computers. Perhaps the most strongest potential causal factor is that we upgraded our lower school lab to brand-new eMacs when these students were in the fifth grade. Last year, these same eighth grade students got to use brand-new MacBooks and hardly saw a Windows computer during their middle school careers.
What implications follow for our teachers? For one, teachers of ninth grade students will have to accommodate the shift. We will provide “Mac basics for Windows users” training so that teachers feel more able to help students troubleshoot email, printing, and file transfer difficulties. Finally, many of the upper school teachers are up for system replacement next year, and I bet that many will take advantage of this opportunity to switch platforms.
Do you have a choice-based faculty or students laptop program at your school? Have you noticed a similar shift?