Though the economy is tough right now, Apple is very pleased overall with the response its getting to its educational products, Cheryl Vedoe, Apple’s vice president of education marketing & solutions, told MacCentral. In an interview with MacCentral at this week’s EDUCAUSE education conference, she talked of Apple’s success, platform preferences and the iPod.
“Arguably — or perhaps I should say objectively — we’ve got the strongest laptop line in the industry,” Vedoe told MacCentral. “The iBook has seen incredible strong acceptance in the education market and our laptop sales are growing tremendously in this area. We believe our AirPort wireless technology plus our laptops have great potential to change education, since the wireless infrastructure simplifies things.”
Though some folks complain that the iMac is getting a bit long in the tooth, Vedoe said that it’s still garnering a “significant amount” of business for Apple in the education marketplace. Though laptops sales are increasing in this market, desktops still account for 80 percent of educational hardware sales, according to IDC studies.
Vedoe said that Apple’s digital media products have also been “very well received” by K-12 and higher-ed institutions. K-12 students and teachers tend to use digital media in implementing learning exercises relevant to the students’ world, she said. In higher-ed, it’s more often used to prepare students for the professional world, she added.
“For the design and creative areas, the Mac is the professional world,” Vedoe said.
Vedoe also feels that Mac OS X 10.1 is “ready for prime time” in education. It’s already seeing a great deal of acceptance in higher-ed, and this is the year that Apple is working with K-12 schools to plan the transition, she added.
“We’ve assumed that the migration to Mac OS X in the K-12 world would be slower than in some other areas,” said Vedoe. “One reason is funding. Another is the buying cycle. Schools don’t make a transition like this in the middle of a school year. So we’re working to help K-12 schools prepare for a transition at the beginning of the next school year.”
Of course, right now, the hottest buzzword in the Mac industry is “iPod,” Apple’s new digital music device (which is actually much more). Vedoe thinks that the new digital device has a variety of applications in the education world.
Of course, high school and college students use their computers for entertainment, so the iPod is an extension of this, she said. It also fits the needs of students for light and portable items, in the same way that the iBook does, she added.
But the iPod offers more possibilities than portable entertainment. Audio files aren’t necessarily music files, Vedoe points out. She said that famous speeches by John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King could be stored on an iPod. So could an audio of Dylan Thomas reading poetry.
“And we think that that iPod could also be an ideal device for foreign language instruction, an area that’s currently served by cassettes and CDs,” Vedoe added. “We think that it offers the same potential for educational users as do DVDs, digital cameras and digital camcorders.”
With Apple’s advances in laptops and digital media, Vedoe thinks schools will increasingly consider what Apple offers when it comes to educational product purchasing. She said she hopes that educators look at the return on investment when purchasing technology and not on merely initial cost.
“Whether you’re talking about education or the business world, the right investment is the one that provides the right solution for the needs at hand,” Vedoe said. “We believe that those in education need to look for the right technological solutions for specific needs. Take digital media, for example. If you’re looking to take advantage of modern technology to motivate and inspire students and help them express themselves, it’s far more easily done on the Mac than any other PC platform. The cost to make effective use of technology is significantly lower for the Mac than any other platform.”
She said that the same argument applies to wireless capabilities, an area in which Apple also leads. Vedoe said that the bottom line comes down to one question: what gives teachers and students the best tools for learning in the classroom?