Eastern Iowa school districts wrestle with Mac vs. PC question

School districts have historically favored Apple

Patrick Hogan
Published: May 1 2012 | 5:29 am - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 6:30 pm in
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It’s a question home computer users have been asking since the 1980s.

Do you go with the more expensive, but user-friendly Macs, made by Apple Inc., or a cheaper computer running Microsoft Windows?

School districts ask the same question when purchasing computers, and historically have favored Apple. Even during the 1990s, when Macs had a shrinking market share with the general public, they still ruled in schools.

It was part of that reputation that led Central City to lease computers for its 1:1 program from Apple, but after four years the district has changed its mind and is going with Windows PCs for grades 5-12 instead.

It came down to price in the end, according to Superintendent Karl Kurt. The Macs were more expensive, and the district uses mostly web-based software that works equally fine on Windows machines. The savings also allowed the district to purchase a different Apple product, the iPad 2, for grades 1-4.

Kurt said students and faculty are mixed on which system they prefer, but the switch shouldn’t be too drastic.

“At the end of the day, we have faith that they’ll make the adjustment,” he said.

The College Community district is going in the other direction, switching from Windows computers to Macs with their upcoming purchase. Although he went into the decision-making process preferring Windows, tech director Craig Barnum said he and the other district leaders were swayed after listening to vendor pitches.

“Our Windows vendors did a great job, but they talk about the device,” said Barnum. “Apple talks about what you can do with the device. They understand the language of education.”

When asked their preferences, Prairie Point Middle School and Ninth Grade Academy were divided between those who preferred Macs and those who didn’t care what kind of computer they used.

Kendra Gaskill and Sophia Ortiz, both 14, were excited the school decided to switch. Both recently visited the Apple Store in Des Moines to start checking out different accessories and software for their new computers.

Others, such as Olivia Usher, 14, didn’t have a preference.

“I don’t care, as long as it works,” said Usher.

That’s good news to Barnum.

“We’re trying to be device agnostic,” he said.

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