I am doing some research for a class and I thought I would get the expert opinions of Classroom 2.0 folks. What are pros and cons of Macs vs. PCs? Thanks for your help!

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I've been on both sides of the coin: teaching and Head of IT Dept. As the Head, PCs are just so much cheaper and easier on the budget. You can get many more computers in the school for less $. You still have to plan for good virus and malware protection though. There is more software available for the PCs as well.

I'm now an ICT teacher in an all Mac schools (except for the business office) and I love them. Much easier to use, fewer viruses but less software available and much greater purchase cost. Still, the software that is available for Macs is great.

I'm looking forward to the middle ground in hardware cost and software like Ubuntu or other Linux/Unix models coming out and becoming more readily available: cheap and secure. Especially with so many free online applications out there like zoho or google apps, this model is exciting. My school is getting me an Everex computer as a test station for next year. We'll see how that goes. If it works well, it may be a cheap way of opening up an auxiliary research lab.
As head of IT at a fairly large secondary school, I put in two new labs- one PC and one MAC. I had to fight hard to get them to put in the MAC lab because of the higher upfront cost. The machines were used all day, everyday by students. After 12 months of keeping stats, I had 1 repair in the MAC lab for every 4 in the PC lab, after 2 years I had 1 repair in the MAC lab for every 9 in the PC lab. When it came time to roll over the machines, the extra upfront cost was no longer an issue!
Hi Bonnie...that's interesting. What brand of machines did you have in the PC lab?
They were IBM (pre Lenovo days) midrange machines. Our main problems were keyboard damage, CD Rom drive damage, hard drive problems. The school did not have much of a problem with malicious damage, but kids just couldn't resist rearranging those keys! It was also interesting to note that when we wanted to reimage the labs, it took us longer to create the MAC image (probably because of our lack of expertise) but it was much quicker to deploy. The MAC lab could easily be reimaged overnight but always seemed to strike problems with the PC lab. This probably wouldn't be the case now.
How can you say that there was no problem with malicious damage, right after you said there was keyboard damage and cd-rom drive damage? These things do not damage themselves! While I do admit, that the cd-rom drive doors on most pc cd-rom drives do require some "gentleness" most of ours last 5-7 years, without any "damage". We have as many problems with students sticking paper clips, pieces of paper, etc in our mac's (cd-drives) as we do with the pc cd-rom drives. I would have to say that our cd-drive failure rate on our pc's are higher than on our macs, but our replacement cd-rom costs are higher on the macs, due to the high price of replacement parts for mac's.
I would also point out that rearranging keys is also malicious behavior and any damage that results from this should be considered malicious damage.
While I do not doubt your statistics, I do think that most of the statistics are probably more due to other factors, rather than Mac or IBM. From the sounds of your main problems, I would say that most of the problems in the pc lab were probably due to poor or no supervision.
I don't even know if most schools could do a fair comparison of the two platforms, based simply on the fact that very seldom are the two used in the same ways. The tasks that the computers are used for, and the teachers knowledge of the platform and software (as well as good supervision) will have more to do with the problems encountered, than the platform or the computer.
Hi Paul
You are right. When I said little malicious damage, I should have been clearer. The students rearranged keys because they could. It was seen as a 'game' and often happened during the last few minutes of lessons. I would add that it was basically the same teachers working in the MAC and PC labs as they were mostly used for middle and senior school IT electives. Most were more familiar and comfortable with the PC platform. One could assume that the level of supervision and tasks undertaken were very similar.
I would still put in a lab of each platform simply because it gave students greater opportunities and experience. In fact now I would probably put in Linux lab with Open Source software as well. (That is if I was putting in labs at all!)
I was simply trying to point out that looking at the TCO of each lab over time was more realistic than just looking at up front costs.
I bought my first Apple in 1990. In 18 years I've owned 7, including the iMac and MacBook I currently own. I've done by own upgrades. Only one repair in 18 years. Not a bad record.
Since 1990 I have went through 10 "PCs", although I still am using 4 of them, and still have 2 of the others. During this time I have went through 3 monitors, and spent less than $7,500.00 total. This includes all repairs and upgrades. I would not consider this a bad record either. Any idea on how much was spent on your Mac's?
Our machines were rolled over after 4 years. I don't have exact figures at hand but when I did a TCO for all machines in both labs at the end of the 4 years, the cost of the MAC lab was slightly less than the PC lab, but not by much.
I totally agree with you that it has as much to do with supervision, the brand of PC originally purchased, and warranty inclusions. One thing I did notice was that the MACs were more sensitive to power fluctuations and as the school was doing some major building work, we reset machines more often. This problem stopped once the building work was complete.
I couldn't agree with you more! One of the problems I do see with using a Mac to run Windows, is the added support and software costs associated with it. If you have MS Office, if you want to use it on your Mac and Windows, you will need two licenses (and it goes on and on). I know a lot of "Mac Users" that boot up their Mac and then start Windows and stay in Windows all day, every day! While I do agree that it is not the majority of Mac users, there are those that "need" a Mac, only to use it as a Windows Front End. What a waste of money. If they need a Mac, then they should get a Mac, and if they need a Windows Machine, then they should get a Windows Machine! Both platforms are completely capable of doing the same things! Contrary to what some people think, you don't need a Mac do to Movies, Podcasts, Desktop Publishing or any other common (or uncommon) tasks, Windows does have the capability, you may need some additional hardware and software, but the OS is fully capable. When you add the extras onto a Mac to make it a Windows machine, for a couple of hundred dollars more you could have a Mac and a PC and two students would be using computers instead of only one!
Personally I think Indiana has a better answer than either the Mac or PC debate. http://www.doe.in.gov/inaccess/ if you are interested! We need to find affordable, sustainable and reliable resources and I think both Mac and Windows do not fit into these three categories! (thats not saying that there shouldn't be any of these computers, its just that neither of these are the solution to educations need for technology!). We need to look at ourselves and try to seperate "needs" from "wants" or "gotta have", and only when we change, will the answers be obvious.
Have a great summer!
Do you teach in Indiana? I just posted a brief article covering the idea of using Linux in the classroom and love to hear how it is going over there.
Hi Lisa, okay in private I like to work on wirth Macs.
But in the classroom I have to use PCs.
Anyway - now we focus on Web 2.0 apps - thus there is less difference!
Cheers
Hans

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