Mac & PC: Effective Use of Technology Tools

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I went to an amazing Microsoft conference this past weekend, and by the end of the last session, just after the group photo, I realized that I could no longer call myself a “Mac person.”  This self-labelled title has been a big part of who I am as an educator for a number of years; I now have a good reason to toss the title aside: the greater good of education.

Both Apple and Microsoft (and other companies) have teams dedicated to making their products work for education, but when we choose to stick to just one or the other it becomes a detriment to our students.  This weekend really opened my eyes to an entirely different world of applications, hardware and learning tools for a variety of learners.  Obviously, I’m not in purchasing, nor in a position that allows me to make those “big decisions” for my school, or my district; however, I want to call upon those who are to really think about the tools they’ve chosen for our students.  Did they choose iPads because of the prestige of being labelled an “Apple District?” Do some of our schools run Chromebooks because of the cost?  Are COWS made up of $1000 Macbooks an effective way to get technology into elementary classrooms?  How “long-lasting” are basic PC’s?

This isn’t about promoting one technology over another as I don’t work for Microsoft, Google or Apple (and no one is paying me extra to advertise them on my blog!) but I will ask you to consider the following questions when you are purchasing technology tools for your district, school or classroom:

  1. How many students will this technology impact?  Can this technology be used by kindergarten students as easily as Grade 7’s?  Can Biology 12 students utilize it just as much as English 8 students?  Is it just for main stream users, or can it be modified or used for those students with learning support needs?

2. How versatile is this technology? It is great for just research?  Can it be used a reader and scribe?  How easy it is for students to submit work electronically?  Can they print with it?  Does it multiple controls (mouse, keyboard, stylus)?  How much software does it require to be multi-functional?  How expensive is extra software or programs?

3. Does the price point match the answers to the above questions? Does it make sense to purchase only a few per classroom, or it is more effective to purchase based on a one-to-one application (class sets)?  Can we afford enough of this technology to make it worthwhile for learning?  Is this product a novelty or long-lasting technology?

I hope that I can at least start the conversation surrounding technology purchases and the opportunities available for those willing to let go of the “Mac vs. PC” dichotomy.  In the long run it shouldn’t be about labels, it should be about learning.

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