Monday, October 19, 2009

Mac to the Future

At a school in Dubai, where I spend my days banging out the rent, an educational experiment has begun that will have interesting, and perhaps long term effects on education in the region.

You see, I'm tapping out this post tonight on a new computer. When I first joined my school, I was told that every teacher was given a laptop, which turned out to be the case, and I became the (proud?) holder of a Dell something or other. To be fair, while I never stopped grousing about the Dell, and casting a covetous glance on all the nicer byte candy out there, I had been using and and abusing that Dell for three years. I had it on almost 24 hours a day, every single day, using it to make documents, create movies, edit and produce audio, you name it. I filled it to the brim with free, open source software that let me do thing only people with much deeper pockets usually could. I burned out two power adapters during the course of my stewardship, and two weeks ago I had to finally bow to the inevitable...

It was time to get my grubbers on a new MacBook Pro.

That's right. That sweet, grey bit of byte candy became mine. I had been eyeing such a purchase for years, dreaming about the day when I would own a Mac again, but always aware that the price was a little too stiff for my family-man means.

It is a good thing I did not buy one in the end, because over the summer vacation, I learned that my school had given up their contract with Dell, and had signed a deal with Apple. Every teacher at my school system's five high schools and multiple tertiary institutes was being supplied with a MacBook Pro 13.1", loaded with a kings ransom in software - Microsoft Office 2008, Final Cut Pro, and iWork. In addition, these machines were given dual boot capability, so in addition to Mac, we retained Windows, and the suite of software we used there.

Some lucky few, or so I hear, are also getting the Adobe Creative Suite, professional version.

Yes we teachers are being spoiled by getting these fancy new machines. But so, it turns out, are the students.

Every student at my school is getting a shiny new MacBook Pro. What that will mean in the classroom remains to be seen, especially considering the powerful multimedia recording capabilities of these machines.

A few high schools in the US and Europe have already implemented a laptop-per-student policy, but usually that means a generic Windows laptop. I don't think I've heard of a similar program where students received top of the line MacBooks usually only used by creative professionals and pretty much every actor on television.

Is it overkill? Will the power and possibilities of these machines be put to good use? How will it affect the on the ground situation in the classroom?

The money being thrown at this program is staggering, and the deal itself was high profile enough to make the national news. The no.2 man at Apple himself flew down to Abu Dhabi to seal the deal.

Whatever the cae may be, I'm just happy that I finally got my own little bit of byte candy. Whatever else is whatever else.

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