Monday, June 22, 2009

Future of the Web

On April 27th, I posted a video by Microsoft labs entitled A Glimpse Ahead. I have read and seen many people talk about the future of the web. And this dialogue easily leads to the concept of cloud computing. When services and processing occurs on the web, what happens to the local machine? Does platform matter in the future?

In some ways, no it doesn't. Many web services provide great tools free or at a minimal cost to users. And users on any platform can access and utilize them through their web browser. However, I still don't see the end to the local machine. People like to work on their laptops or desktops without being connected. As we are more connected in more places, this may change. But I think it will take awhile...quite awhile. The performance of editing photos or multimedia on the local machine versus the web is a good example currently. However, even simple tasks like typing word processing documents can meet a turned up nose. You can do many things via the web...but the performance often lags behind that of the local machine. The value of running programs locally remains important to many users.

Some people are just plain uncomfortable with the constant need for a connection. They can generate documents on Google Documents but the truth is that they strongly prefer to use MS Word. Perhaps they are stuck in a rut. Perhaps they do not have a ubiquitous connection to the internet. Perhaps some of it is the influence of their computer culture that surrounds them. I am sure there are many reasons for it but it seems to be my observed reality.

With that said, although many tasks can be completed independent of the operating system, the OS will continue to be important in the foreseeable future for both us and our students. Despite the many applications available on the web, our schools have decided to utilize the tools available to us on the Apple OS. It's not best for everybody but we believe it is best for our schools and the learning environment we are trying to create. We know Apple is not well known in Korea but we desire to implement it because of the advantages it brings to our students. My posts on our transition to Apple is not all-encompassing but it does at least give insight to some of the perspectives within our decision-making and transition process. I do hope you have found the information useful, and informative at a minimum.

It is summer time and my posts to this blog will take a vacation, hopefully like myself. I will resume more regular posts about technology and education topics in the fall. May you have a restful summer!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Common Myth #3

Common Myth #3: Everyone will have to learn Windows later anyway so why bother with Apple.

I have heard some question why bother to learn Apple if students have to learn Windows anyways. First, I personally believe students adapt much easier to adults to multiple platforms. Their learning curve is shorter and easier than ingrained adults. If a switch is necessary at a later time, the skills and abilities they have learned are not lost and will be transferred to new learning platforms. In that regard, it isn't a waste. Their exposure to multiple platforms diversifies their experience and widens their perspective.

However, I do not believe a switch is necessary for our students matriculating to universities. Most major universities support both Windows and Apple platforms. They have computer labs of both and their university networks are designed to integrate with both. To say that a student must change over to a Windows PC when they go to college is just untrue.

When surveyed in the fall of 2008, approximately 50% of students that intended to purchase a laptop within the next year planned to purchase an Apple. 1 out of 3 students (or actually higher in some cases) at schools such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Duke have Apples.

As I have recently traveled in airports, I see more and more business people with Apple laptops. To say that a switch over to Windows is inevitable is not accurate nor does it ring true with the data from universities. Regardless, the skills learned should prepare students to use technology as a tool that benefits their learning on any platform.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Common Myth #2

Common Myth #2: Apple costs too much and is a luxury laptop.

I have heard people say that Apple is the luxury machine that is too expensive. This is true in the sense that they do not offer a budget model that appeals to a cheaper market like many other manufacturers such as Dell, HP, or Compaq. But this is a bit bogus because it is not comparing apples to apples...(pardon the pun).

I have also heard individuals say that they can get a Windows-based PC spec for spec cheaper than an Apple. Again, I would tend to agree. If you get the exact same processor speed, RAM, memory, etc., Apple will not be the cheapest.

So it appears that Apple is 0 for 2 and perhaps they are too expensive. However, before I draw that conclusion, we need to take the operating system (OS) into account. To run Windows Vista, Microsoft said you could do it with 512 MB of RAM. They later revised that to something more like 1 GB. If you do some internet reading on the subject, you will find that you can "get by" with 2 GB of RAM but any serious user will probably want 4 GB for the Vista experience. For the record, Windows XP is fine and runs well off of 2 GB. Regardless, to perform adequately with graphics and multimedia, more speed and higher specs are needed. Overall, the whole computer market is seeking to "lighten up" their operating systems with Windows 7 and Apple's Snow Leopard. Whether or not this will really happen remains to be seen and this is good for everyone no matter what computer you have.

As a whole, the Mac OS is a lighter OS than Windows. It does not require the system resources in terms of RAM or memory. As a result, the specs on a Windows machine needs to be higher than that of an Apple for the same performance. This definitely varies by use. Multimedia is a good benchmark because it requires heavy resources and the Apple can handle more on less. As a result, the spec for spec comparison doesn't work out because I can't buy the same machine and run either system on it. Well, with the Apple, I can run both Windows & the Mac OS with Boot Camp or Parallels, but then I need to consider the specs needed to run both.

As a school here in Korea, the real question is what does a good student machine that runs for 3-4 years reliably cost? I am uncomfortable posting our prices in this public forum and will keep those within our community. However, I have found over the last 6 months that Dell, our previous supplier cannot compete with a comparable model at the same price. Context makes a big difference and this may not be true around the world. But in Korea, we are actually saving money, anywhere from $100-200 per computer by using Apples compared to our Dell prices. This is a comparison of the selected base models we recommend to students for either manufacturer. Prices definitely fluctuate, especially with the rapid changes in exchange rates in recent months. Overall, I would predict our student machines with Apple are cheaper right now but will probably break about even in the long run. Our goal is to offer a good student laptop for $1000-1200 USD equivalent and make it a good machine that will last a student 3-4 years. My interaction with other 1:1 laptop schools show this to be common practice and cost to students and parents.

Overall, I'm not saying Dell prices are unreasonable, but it does show that by choosing Apple, we aren't necessarily investing in the "Cadillac" of laptops. Don't get me wrong, I like Cadillacs...but I don't think this myth is an accurate representation of reality for us in our context.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Common Myth #1

Common Myth #1: Apple isn't compatible with Windows.

This is a broad generalization. Let's unpack this and see what is compatible and what isn't.

On the Mac OS, Mac Office 2008 runs just like it does on Windows. MS Word, Excel, & Powerpoint files can all be opened on either machine. I have noticed that once in awhile, an animation in a Powerpoint will get dropped between platforms. However, when this happened, I was also going between versions (I think I was going from Office 2007 to Mac Office 2004). Overall, the MS Office suite is compatible across platforms. MS Publisher does not open on any other application but Publisher. That is a Windows only application.

iWork is suite of applications for use on the Mac. iWork can import in any of the MS Office formats (except Publisher). They can export documents back out in office formats but certain advanced formatting like masking does not export correctly. The main reason for this is that some of the more advanced features just work in a very different fashion than MS Office. When exporting, these features that are not embedded into MS Office don't export correctly. Overall, I have not found this a problem as I bring documents in, rarely exporting out to Office. When I need to share an Apple created doc, I do so via PDF rather than the iWork suite. However, iWork has a beta version of online sharing which allows any user on any platform to access a document from the Web and give comments (but not actually change it).

Most image files come in JPG formats. However, PNG, TIFF, and GIF files are also used in various places. These all work across platforms and applications.

Movie files frequently come in MP4 format or MOV (Quicktime). Both formats work across platforms without difficulty. If one uses Windows Movie Maker, they may create an WMV file (Windows Media file). In the past, this has been a problem to play on the Mac. I have installed Flip4Mac (free plugin to download) which allows me to play WMV files. Although I don't use it frequently, I have not had any issues for close to 9 months of use. Have others had issues with this after getting any outstanding updates?

Adobe PDF files are designed to be easily maneuverable across platforms and computers. I have not used some of the Adobe CS4 suite to check compatibility. However, my Google search says that they are able to move between Windows and the Mac OS. Have any of the readers have any problem cross platforms?

Overall, more compatibility issues used to exist. Now, with the use of the Intel processor in the Macs, compatibility is not nearly the problem it was. Additionally, more and more web applications operate regardless of platform. This makes it advantageous for not only Mac and Windows platforms, but also the addition of mobile devices to access Web. 2.0 tools.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More than just computers...

As we partner with Apple, it is a partnership. Unlike our Window vendors, we are getting more than just computers delivered to our door step. Apple supports our school with training and professional development for teachers and for the IT staff. The IT support includes on-site support for our students and staff as well.

Professional development for teachers has several different avenues to impact teachers in the classroom. Some involve attending conferences with other educators. Other options include having educators that specialize in effective technology integration visit our campus and work with teachers. I have attended Apple Professional Development (APD) training sessions and the facilitators are quality educators that can demonstrate classroom uses. Actually, these trainers are required to also be in the classroom at least part of the time with their full-time job assignments. By utilizing Apple training opportunities, we are able to screen out professional development opportunities and participate in high quality, strategic sessions that move our school forward. These training events do more than just focus on Apple applications. Training includes the use of many Web 2.0 tools that can be used with either platform.

In addition to specific professional development, we are connected with other Apple schools that are implementing similar 1:1 laptop programs. The connections to other schools is a powerful way to network with similar schools and build from each other. We are already connected through associations with Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and the East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools (EARCOS). Although Apple is not a specific association, the network and facilitation of Apple to share ideas between schools acts in similar ways. As a result of our exploration of Apple, we have already begun to build partnerships in other areas like IB with 2 others schools running similar programs.