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Apple’s Devices Lose Luster in American Classrooms (nytimes.com)
423 points by 2arrs2ells on March 3, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 320 comments

I'm a HS teacher. I was so happy when my school finally phased out iPads as the designated device for our year 7 students. It's such a rubbish device for content creation. The touchscreen is a POS for anything other than web browsing and casual games. Teaching coding, image manipulation, file manipulation was utterly painful or impossible.

Typing on them is beyond painful and of the hundreds of students I taught, fewer than a dozen actually bought a physical keyboard. This meant that every task took 3x longer than necessary.

On top of this they are expensive. To anyone even remotely IT savvy it was clear from the get-go that this was going to be a failed experiment. Unfortunately education, like most other things follows the fashion of the time and everyone had to learn the hard way that a traditional computer is superior in every conceivable way.

Chromebooks are rubbish too, so I don't really see the move to them as a positive either.

> Chromebooks are rubbish too, so I don't really see the move to them as a positive either.

What to your mind would not be rubbish? I'm a Microsoft employee, so I have a vested interest in Windows devices being the dominant choice for schools, but I don't see anything realistic students at the high school or below level couldn't do on Chromebooks.

Also, where do you live/teach? "Year 7" is not high school in the US. That is distinctly junior/middle school.

> Also, where do you live/teach? "Year 7"

I'm in Australia. Nationally we are transitioning to a R-6 = Primary School, 7-12 = High School model.

My school is a little unorthodox. We're a private school with a 6-12 shared campus which is why I had experience teaching younger students even though I am HS trained.

> What to your mind would not be rubbish?

Either Mac or PC is fine in my books. Anything that allows them to install native software is fine. I recently did a small unit on binary data. It was really handy for students to install a hex editor, inspect a flat text file in binary mode and map out the ascii table for themselves. I don't think that's possible on a Chromebook.

I also teach Web dev. We use MAMP which is cross platform. We install VSCode, interact with the FS, create a local DB, file uploads, programmatic image resizing etc. My understanding is that this is not possible without jailbreaking (is that the right term?) a Chromebook.

I'm also opposed to any device that hides away the file system from the user. It relegates a computer to the dumb appliance category which I think is unhelpful.

This is so nice to read after having seen my sister's children receive laptops at school. No one was actually giving them any system knowledge. No programming, no "how does a computer work, what is a file...", no support/teaching on how software can help when e.g. writing an essay. Nothing. They were carrying 10+ kg (no joke) in their bags every day because of course they were forced to bring the (heavy) laptop to every damn lesson. There was no ultimate plan, no knowledgable teachers, just "the kids should have computers, right?".

They could have received iPads, Windows or linux setups... Wouldn't have mattered since there was no plan in place.

I'm at a point where I strongly believe schools should just hand out Raspberry Pis to students to tinker with instead. Add a proper curriculum and let the students fail, mess up their RPIs to get to know the system. Let them write simple scripts. Anything. RPIs are easy to restore.

Maybe other schools are doing better over here, but when my nephew (growing up with minecraft/pokemon go on mobile only) didn't dare to touch most of the stuff on his school laptop due to being afraid of messing up I tried very hard not to scream.

> Maybe other schools are doing better over here, but when my nephew (growing up with minecraft/pokemon go on mobile only) didn't dare to touch most of the stuff on his school laptop due to being afraid of messing up I tried very hard not to scream.

Considering how school should be the arena where you're allowed to mess up (and thus learn from your mistakes), this is so ass backwards (and sad) as it can possibly be.

When a school is no longer a safe zone for learning, you can pretty much just consider that generation pre-doomed, irrespective of topic. What a waste.

Same with my kids' schools. iPads handed out to every kid, but incredibly, they were incompatible with the online Math textbook selected. Millions spent on technology for its own sake, without any real plan.

Honestly I think paper, pencils, and books are still the most effective tools for most primary education.

+1 for pen and paper at school. Didn't touch a computer until I was 15 and didn't do me any harm.

Sounds like the "online Math textbook" was the main problem. How on earth would that not be compatible with an iPad. What the hell was it?

The textbook was the big red flag that this was all a theater production. "See how modern we are, all the kids have iPads"

It likely was Flash-based. All I know is it didn't work in iPad Safari.

My kids didn't use them for much else other than games at home.

Probably Flash. Or may be some JavaScript using mouse or keyboard events not provided by iPad.

I bet no one told you how to code though. I imagine that you probably had some proto computer some time in your past and spent a long time figuring it out?

That the school system wasn't equipped to teach you anything but you somehow did just fine?

It doesn't have to be like that of course and I suppose that there is some neuro elitist aspect to kids just fiddling with the things that interest them...

I couldn't call myself a programmer - most of what I've done are smaller things that help out at work - but I'm slowly improving. If you are implying that there is an abundance of resources out there, you are of course correct.

It was quite different when I grew up. [Home] Internet was not a thing that existed and most data was analogue. When home computers became common I had to learn a bit about the system if I wanted to get some use out of it. I'm not saying user friendliness is somehow bad, it's what we should always aim for! We've come a long way and I like it here. I'm not that old, it's just that I had a childhood before home computers and internet were a thing.

The school system back when did in fact teach me a bit about computers. In my case, in [the equivalent to] high-school when home internet started to take off, our curriculum came to include (very) basic computer science, (very) basic coding in ... prolog? (prolog might be incorrect) We created home pages in class from scratch in html. Not by choice, as most of this concerned every student at my school. Maybe I was lucky?

In my nephews case, they were handed a computer, then absolutely nothing. And I mean nothing. They are still forced to bring the computer to every class but report hardly ever touching it at school. Maybe their bad experience is an exception. I hope so. Back then my teachers definitely weren't the best - or even good - at computer science but they were prepared to try and to learn together with the students.

I apologise, and thanks. You're right we should be doing better. I'm a little ashamed of myself. You're right we should do the best we can for everyone.

I'd like to see RPis in schools - they're cheap, just $5 or $10 for the wireless models. Providing the accessories required to use it is more costly, but kids can't really hack screens and $3 keyboards. RPi's are ideal for learning basic computer usage and programming, IMO. Slow though, but the RPi 3 should be fast enough for that too.

The $5 and $10 models are limited to one per customer and out of stock much of the time - not something you can equip a classroom with.

If a state decides to introduce RPis in all classrooms, I suspect that they could get a nice deal.

Also the entire purpose of the Raspberry Pi project is education. I'm certain they would work with anyone using them for that purpose.

Education and a 1:1 program are vastly different usage models.

You're not going to be able to take a Rasperry Pi, a monitor keyboard and mouse home with you in your backpack to do your homework on.

You could take home a pi, keyboard, and mouse though. Assuming you have a TV you can plug your pi into.


Personal attacks tacked onto generic dismissals are not a thing we need more of on Hacker News, so please leave these ones unposted.

There are Chinese knock-offs which are available.

Thanks for clarifying.

I agree that Chromebooks are not the ideal learning device for coding. I was thinking general schooling and glossed over your earlier comment about teaching coding. I think they can probably work there, but you're right that a "real" computer is a better choice for that.

We are possibly entering the age of thin clients for coding soon. With ssh and remote desktops being the best use of laptops and Chromebooks for coding. I do that now with a personal server that I remote into when coding at different locations.

There is a HUGE divide between production and consumer devices that keeps increasing every year. People don't have multi-use devices. Many of my peers use their iPad for everything or even just their phone.

Other than coding and video editing Chromebooks are pretty just as capable as a laptop in terms of production.

Example: I needed to re-image my laptop at work (I have 3 desktops, 2 iPads and one laptop) and I realized that my use of the laptop is the same as a Chromebook. I had absolutely no files on the computer that I needed to get off before re-imaging. Everything was Bit Torrent Sync and Git and the rest were just a few programs that were easily installed or on the "cloud" aka Google and Amazon's computers.

My own use of computers has always been desktop for video, image editing and coding (I need that screen space and a reference screen). I find laptops to always be very limiting for my production and that a Chromebook becomes a thin client with ssh and remote desktop. My $1,000 laptop is used like a $300 Chromebook.

But will the average school be able to afford and administer servers For every student to ssh into?

One server and one instance could easily do one class if not hundreds of students. Actually to have it done with a container would be very cheap and wouldn't require a high tier server. So it would cost less to do Chromebooks with a server for instances when they need more horse power or build tools.

Why would they need to? https://c9.io

It should be cheaper than giving full desktops/laptops to students. After all, it consolidates all the computer power. The pendulum is swinging back to mainframes. Have 1 server for all the students and spin up VMs or a single Linux instance.

I'm running a coding class right now that is almost entirely run over ssh on chromebooks to a linux server. Works beautifully.

No fancy IDE, but lots of actual learning to code.

I have found that notebooks like Jupyter (http://jupyter.org) and especially JupyterHub (http://jupyterhub.readthedocs.io/en/latest/) are made to teach languages with a REPL from the browser.

> "With JupyterHub you can create a multi-user Hub which spawns, manages, and proxies multiple instances of the single-user Jupyter notebook server. Due to its flexibility and customization options, JupyterHub can be used to serve notebooks to a class of students, a corporate data science group, or a scientific research group."

I have grown less and less fond of Python but I still use Jupyter with other languages and I have it running on my personal server.

Have you considered online tools such as Cloud9, replit etc.? If so, is the problem missing features, workflow or pricing?

FWIW, amid the talk about Raspberry Pis, the (fully open) BeagleBone Black/Green has a default experience for casual-tinker-friendly programming where it spins up an on-board Cloud9 instance for the user to poke around.

It's slightly more expensive than its Pi contemporary, but that's expected when everyone keeps flocking to the Pi and the alternative can't make use of the same volume discounts and self-fund engineering to put new board revisions out every year. And even for all that, it's a popular alternative—you're not left hanging out in no-man's land with some exotic hardware. Check the hackerboards.com surveys from over the years that show it trailing the Pi(s).

Eclipse's Che is also very interesting. I hate the name, but it was super when I tried it.

If I were teaching, I would definitely look at something like Cloud9. I'm in the process of going through Michael Hartl's Ruby on Rails tutorial based on Cloud9 and I'm blown away by how good it is.

What are they writing code with? Is it lots of learning to code, or lots of fighting with vim? Or are you using a REPL?

Does X forwarding work? Or has someone got some kind of screen-scraping client that runs in a browser?

I have never used chromeOS, does it have a terminal or is there some sort of ssh as a service?

There's a chrome extension by Google that provides a supported way to ssh on ChromeOS, from the device. There's limited support for SSH keys built in, and there's also a mosh extension.


(It's pretty easy to enable developer mode in order to allow unsigned code to run, and then Ubuntu/other Linux can run it in a chroot, though education/corporate deployments can/should prohibit that by policy, so isn't relevant to the larger discussion, though it means personal ChromeOS laptops can be quite functional.)

It has a built in terminal called crosh, which might have an SSH client built in (I'm not sure). What most people do is download a chrome extension like Secure Shell[1] that lets you ssh from a tab.

[1] https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/secure-shell/pnhec...

Sadly, ssh was removed from crosh just recently.

    crosh> ssh
    The 'ssh' command has been removed.  Please install the official SSH extension:

Me neither, but this looks interesting:


I might pick one up at Fry's today just for giggles.

Update: Tried to run the NaCl Development Environment on my macbook to get a taste and it just crashes on launch. Seems like a lot of people have the same problem on chromebooks too: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/nacl-development-e...

So maybe I'm not so excited to run out and buy a chromebook for development just yet.

There's an ssh client in the chrome store($0, I think it's published by google). It runs as a chrome tab (one tab per connection), which means you do waste some screen space for browser UI that doesn't make sense, but it's workable.

You can (or could, anyway) force it to open in a window (right click the app icon and select "open in window"). This allows you to go really fullscreen and fixes control keys (C-w works again rather than closing the tab).

I would expand coding to include general computer use. Sure, you can teach biology or physics or English using whatever device is most convenient. But if you're trying to teach the workings and use of computers (i.e. what most people will have on computer classes), using iPads and Chromebooks is teaching them lies that come from user-hostile pseudoabstractions.

> using iPads and Chromebooks is teaching them lies that come from user-hostile pseudoabstractions

Absolutely. Most 12 year old kids don't know about file size units. Relative file sizes, converting between units etc. There's so much incidental learning that occurs too. The other day i was discussing file sizes with a student and we observed that there was a difference between a file's reported size vs size on disk. This led to a great little segue about physical disk structure, tracks, sectors and clusters. The boy was fascinated with some lower level detail. All that learning would have been lost if we were using a gimped cloud based FS.

> This led to a great little segue about physical disk structure, tracks, sectors and clusters.

These days, those are abstractions as well. That's basically the API that the mass storage controller presents to the OS. I'm not sure you could explain a hard drive to a lay person anymore. Most of the time, I'm kind of surprised that they work at all.

> using iPads and Chromebooks is teaching them lies that come from user-hostile pseudoabstractions.

Only if you are using them wrong; while I think iPads are poor tools forany purposes, including that one, from a UI perspective (or, at least, inefficient by the time you address the interface issues), iPads and Chromebooks don't restrict the ability to teach full-spectrum computing, as, they are perfectly capable tools for accessing and interacting with general purpose computers.

Now, clearly, the exact details of how you use them in that teaching and th supporting infrastructure might be slightly different than if you were giving students PCs, but then, you need a network environment with educational infrastructure if you are teaching full-spectrum computing with modern relevance anyway, and the detail are going to vary by what you use on the front end. That doesn't rule out any front end choice, it just means that the front end choice impacts other choices.

Someone has undertaken getting VSCode builds for Chromebooks.[1][2][3]

I understand that you're (probably) not on the VSCode team, but if you have any influence to get somebody who can reach out there, that'd be swell. Anyone using VSCode on Linux seems to be relying on MS's freely-downloadable-but-technically-not-OSS builds, and just building wrapper installers around that. I might be wrong. Something like diverse builds that aren't dependent on Microsoft would be the first step to getting VSCode into various distros' system images so you can do "sudo apt-get install vscode" on Debian or possibly find it in the default install on Ubuntu.

1. https://headmelted.com/why-we-need-the-best-tools-on-chromeb...

2. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12956597

3. https://github.com/headmelted/code-builds/issues/10

There are a couple of Chrome apps that can run offline and do coding. I've used Caret and Advanced REST client on occasion for things. It gets a bit tricky if you need something that can't work without a real webserver but there's a lot of beginner stuff you can do with it.

crouton unlocked a bit more functionality giving you the possibility of a Linux base layer, albeit likely not a great idea to have kids put the machines into dev mode. But that might be workable if staff did it.

I've dogfooded a bunch of the Web Development content we make at Udacity using either a pure Chromebook or Chromebook + Crouton.

> crouton

Correct me if I'm wrong but is this not the hack where every time you boot your system it tells you to press a key to reset it and if you press that key it instantly blanks the partition.

This seem absurd even for an expert user to use full time let alone school kids.

That's not crouton. That comes from Google's coreboot-derived firmware. See https://www.chromium.org/chromium-os/2014-firmware-summit

It's true, though, that the whole process needs to be made more straightforward and easily circumventable. It's just not a part of crouton.

Ok but one press of space during boot on this scary looking screen [1] and the whole system will need to be reinstalled and all data on the linux partition will be lost correct?

Just finding it ridiculous that HN users suggest this with a straight face every time we have this discussion.

[1] https://www.howtogeek.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/os-veri...

Yes. It's stupid and is worse than it needs to be. See my last paragraph. I don't know what else I can say.

Please describe your PURE Chromebook setup to take the Udacity Web Development Course.

Also is there a PURE Chromebook (or Chromebook+Android apps) setup to take an Udacity Android course?

Apparently ChromeOS devices are so useful that everyone has to force developer mode with Crouton to make use of them.

Never got the point of a browser based OS.

A browser only OS isn't for everyone, but it does work well for the many people who literally never use anything other than their browser. If you know someone who never uses office applications and is always ending up with three layers of malware, a chromebook might be good for them. Video chat is a bit iffy too, if you don't care for google hangouts.

No, everyone does not have to force developer mode on. If you need the extra functionality then it's an option for some people. As for the point of Chrome OS, well, it's for people that don't need the bag of hurt desktop OS's provide.

A cloud IDE like Cloud9 (https://c9.io/) works well on a Chromebook.

If I were teaching programming today, I'd probably start with something like GoMix (https://gomix.com) or Scratch (https://scratch.mit.edu/) - neither of which require a download.

Not saying there isn't value in installing native software... but it's amazing what you can do in a web browser these days vs. 2010 when I was teaching middle schoolers intro programming.

To be honest though, I think these environments make new programmers go through the trouble of learning a platform which they can never ship a real application in; except maybe Cloud9.

Scratch has been around for about 15 years now, and 12 years in a workable state. And while it seems superficially to be helpful (none of that fussy text editing!), I have never met a programmer who got their start in Scratch.

I think what you're saying is true in a sense but misses the point of this part of their education. I think the idea is less about making grade school students into career-ready programmers and more to expose them to programming concepts in general. They're increasingly useful in a wide variety of fields, even if you don't end up being a programmer or touch code again.

I'm not saying it absolutely prevents people from moving forward. I just fondly remember my first programming environment being an HTML file with a script tag.

It was a real environment, people were doing real things, and I learned based on the (at the time, quite bad) example of professionals. It also made it easy to go on Wikipedia and directly transfer concepts into my program from the pseudocode or C. Learning first in a real language gave me the opportunity to read many real programs very quickly.

I think GoMix and, to a lesser extent, Cloud9 give you a real language environment. I think that's a good step, though I have some minor qualms about the quality of the integrated text editors (which is really the web's fault).

Forget career-ready, I want naturals to never need to be told or convinced to program.

just teach traditional logic. programming naturally falls into those basic concepts. School is about basic education and thinking. Yes its fine to be exposed to the current modern tools but a mistake to be teaching current tools as they are always constantly changing anyways.

I got my start in Scratch! And so did everyone else whose first programming experience was CS50 (http://cs50.tv/2016/fall/).

Don't want to threadcrap too much, but I deeply believe that most programming in the future will happen in environments like GoMix, in the same way that a ton of programming today happens in Visual Basic.

Do you mean Visual Studio?

GP means Visual Basic, probably as in the VB macros that you can write within Word/Excel/Access etc., in which there is surely a huge amount of code written by otherwise non-programmers.

I started programming through Scratch (then I shifted to Python).

I think the key reason tablets were chosen wasn't that it was the best learning tool, but it was the best learning tool that won't cause a maintenance nightmare for school IT when kids go crazy with viruses and bricking their laptops whenever they were late for a homework assignment. Ipads are relatively hard to fuck up fron a software side, and if they do you just do a reset.

This does match my usual experience of IT philosophy in educational institutions that says that the easiest way to maintain infrastructure is to not let people use it. That it defeats the whole raison d'être of that infrastructure is apparently beyond their care.

It's like a city would give a company a long-term contract for repairs to a stretch of important road, and the company started by locking it down and deciding that they'll profit more and work less if the road is not used and thus won't require so much repairs.

Educational institutions ? I currently work for one of the biggest resource companies in the world. It generates many billions of dollars of revenue each year. It spends millions on infrastructure and then refuses to allow anyone to actually use it.

A thousand chinese state hackers on adderall can not disable a network so thoroughly as "Infrastructure Security" can, I don't even...

It is my personal belief that the same thing happens in big companies. I decided to elide that thought in my previous comment.

At a company where I used to work, we jokingly referred to our Networking Support office as "Notworking Support", since the policies they had to implement pretty much all involved making sure we could not do our work.

Back in my day (this was like 10-15 years ago), the Windows machines at an elementary school I worked at for a bit had a piece of software installed that undid any changes done to the computer after a reboot. IIRC that was more effective than locking the system down with all kinds of hacks.

(we famously circumvented a block on using the browser in a very locked down windows machine by opening up Notepad or whatever, opening a file, right-clicking and managing to open an Explorer screen, which changes to IE when entering an URL)

I'm going to guess that was Faronics Deepfreeze. I was a big fan of it as a student and later as a part-time admin, simply because it seemed a better relationship between administrator and user.

Windows XP had Windows SteadyState software that did the same thing.

I suppose the utility of this depends on your definition of learning.

No one I know "produces" content on an ipad but it's fine for HN comments or management emails. So maybe that's what we want to teach, not sure.

In theory I suppose the lesson is that if you are a "regular" user, IT is brutally unhelpful, and put your content on removable media or cloud storage.

This is not such a bad lesson, and the kids who care about owning their data will eventually figure the other side our for themselves.

I still think using general purpose computing devices in general education has value, mainly because then the kids who don't see that at home will get a chance. When you do it's like the whole world changes if you're made like that.

"No one I know "produces" content on an ipad but it's fine for HN comments or management emails. So maybe that's what we want to teach, not sure."

Yet there are thousands of content creation apps on the app store, many of which are very successful. An iPad Pro with keyboard and pencil is extremely capable at content creation. On mine I regularly use mine to write long form fiction, do web development, do iOS prototyping in swift playgrounds, draw and sketch art (pixel and comic book style), sign and annotate pdf's, and sometimes produce electronic music. I'm a software engineer by day and a indie game dev at night. For many of the content creation tasks I need the iPad Pro is among the best tools available.

iPads with Apple’s stylus are amazing tools for illustration, hand-drawing diagrams, sketching out ideas, proofreading PDF files, taking technical notes, doing mathematical scratch work, and so on.

Think of it like a notebook/scrapbook with pens/markers that doesn’t take any consumables, takes up less space in a bag, allows undo/redo, and makes sharing the products digitally a snap.

Works best when used alongside a laptop, rather than as a replacement, at least for me. I certainly wouldn’t want to write code on it full time.

Agree, it's wonderful except for thinking clearly about things and clearly expressing them in other terms than a diagram. And in the iPaid view of the world, if you write a responsive comment, only paid subscribers will see it. Because that's "premium content".

I have no idea what you’re getting at with “iPaid”, “responsive comment”, “only paid subscribers”, etc. Seems like a weird off topic rant that has nothing to do with my comment or the thread in general.

For pen input, the iPad (display, stylus/digitizer, software) is better than anything you could buy for 50x the price a decade ago. For me, it’s not as good a general-purpose computer as a 10-year-old laptop, but it’s also not really supposed to be. There’s room in the world for more than one vision of computing to exist side by side.

Yep, this is exactly what I do with my Surface - except then I do code on it, which is why I picked it instead of an iPad pro. This one device has replaced my MacBook pro while still letting me sketch and draw and annotate.

I tried a few versions of Surface, but I found the Apple stylus to have about half the latency (or maybe less), with better precision/accuracy, and the signal processing done by the software I tried to convert pen inputs to strokes/lines seemed more polished/effective.

I’m sure there are some customers / use cases where those differences aren’t a deal-breaker. Personally I really appreciate it. I have been very impressed with the iPad pen input. It’s clear their hardware and software engineers collaborated closely to make a really impressive device and experience. (Again, as long as you mainly are using pen input.)

It’s possible there’s other software out there that does a better job than Microsoft’s first party stuff or the couple of third-party apps I tried.

It's not very enterprisey, but Tiny Core Linux works great for this -- runs completely in memory, doesn't even mount the partition with the OS on it. Real Linux, but also pretty hard to do permanent damage by mistake. (Easy to make the system not bootable on purpose, but just as easy to restore.)

I think jailbreaking is for when you're doing something the device manufacturer deliberately tries to interfere with.

There's a package called "crouton" which makes it fairly simple to run a full Linux distribution alongside Chrome OS, as long as you switch it into developer mode (which is simple*). The trouble there is that it's not the sort of thing you would want to administrate in bulk.

Chromebooks are capable of running custom operating systems by design. Granted, you need to void the warranty (take out the firmware lock screw) to make another operating system the default boot option, for security reasons.

And of course, to manage custom images on Chromebooks for a general classroom environment could be hard.

Personally I think that the idea of the "school computer" is terrible. Schools should issue laptops which are maintained and administered by the student; otherwise students are just being taught helplessness. The only problem with this is that school boards typically buy a wide range of abysmal proprietary packages which are usually locked to a single OS vendor.

jailbreaking is when you thwart a freeBSD style jail. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FreeBSD_jail

> install a hex editor

> I don't think that's possible on a Chromebook.

First google result for "web hex editor": https://hexed.it/

Took me 10 seconds to open, including googling for it.

That relies on a Node.js back-end... don't think it's possible to install it onto a Chromebook. You'd have to have to go to the web page.

If you have any experience with a large class of children, I'll bet you can guess how long most will be patient sitting in front of a web browser at school without thinking about loading another page.

This doesn't seem like a tech problem, then.

Not being able to install apps to a machine absolutely is a tech problem.


Doesn't seem necessary on any level, though. Nothing about hex editing needs to be an app instead of a web page. If that were true, my computer education would have been crippling--especially in high school. I think you're projecting on your students.

> I'm also opposed to any device that hides away the file system from the user. It relegates a computer to the dumb appliance category which I think is unhelpful.

Depends on the use case. So in your case where you teach programming, it makes sense, but there are legitimate cases where it makes sense to not expose the filesystem directly and disallow native apps. This has the benefit of better security.

> there are legitimate cases where it makes sense to not expose the filesystem directly and disallow native apps. This has the benefit of better security.

I always found the better security argument to be a red herring in a school environment and always pushed back against it. If a computer breaks then re-image it. malware spreading? Wonderful! There's an amazing learning opportunity!!

The point is moot at my school now though as all students are required to bring their own device (Mac or PC), and of course they have full control over their own system. As it should be ;)

That's a much better situation than I've seen at many schools. Good on 'em. The school computer has been the worst one since the home computer started being practical.

It's a school, and people are there to learn. Knowing how to maintain a computer is a pretty darn useful life skill.

Indeed but in a class on geography it can make the teachers life easier if the students can focus on the 3-7 applications you want to use throughout the year and those are 1 click away rather than a download+install procedure away. Not every class will want/need to teach computer maintenance.

If you want teachers & students to use tech it needs to be truly frictionless.

I love my daily typing with the elevator. (me)->floor[6+1]

The schools I went to we had 1-7 in a primary school, and 8-12 in high school. Sometimes there's also college which is for years 11-12 (and sometimes 13), so it depends on which state and schools you go to.

Also we never really did any programming at school what so ever when I did it, I learnt it all myself at home hacking around doing useless things on my home computer. The closest we got was learning a few features and formulas for Excel, and a bit of databases in Access. There was a tiny bit of Visual Basic as well but that might have been tied together with the Access stuff.

What I found about your story most interesting is how you teach them how to look inside files with a hex editor. That sort of stuff seems like fundamental knowledge for people that use computers, and learning it could de-mystify computing somewhat.

I'm not sure if that's something people should have to learn though. For example, not everyone knows how the engine of a car works, and that's okay. For using computers, I feel like getting comfortable with a phone or tablet is useful at a younger age, and maybe get introduced to a mac or windows machine when they're a bit older, provided those are still main stream by the time they get there. Not everyone needs to be a developer. Though maybe I'm wrong with the way automation is going :)

I know, I had the exact same thoughts while writing it, so it's heavily influenced by what I do.

But on the other hand car engines aren't that complicated either, not a lot of people tend to look under the hood and tinker with their engine either. But at least knowing the components of a system gives you some confidence in using it. It's not necessarily the engine but knowing how to change a car tyre, or a light bulb is helpful and can feel empowering.

> I also teach Web dev. We use MAMP which is cross platform. We install VSCode, interact with the FS, create a local DB, file uploads, programmatic image resizing etc. My understanding is that this is not possible without jailbreaking (is that the right term?) a Chromebook.

Sure, you can't do that locally on a Chromebook without breaking out of the default system paradigm (I'm not sure it's technically jailbreaking, but that's not really important to the point.)

OTOH, if you aren't attached to locality, you can do most of it from a Chromebook without doing that, if you are running appropriate software on the backend to support it (e.g., for pretty much all but the "install VSCode" part, running something like Eclipse Che.)

If I can ask you, what do you find the benefit is of teaching this as a standard curriculum? It makes sense to me for people wanting to get into development or IT. But not everyone is going into tech, and may not benefit from it. Most non tech people I know only use a computer at work, and get by. Otherwise they use phones, tablets, etc. I agree that the iPad is awful for the kind of things you're teaching, but for standard school work, I feel like it or the chromebook (due to price and a keyboard) are fairly good choices.


By the time you get to your second half of schooling, isn't the point more to expose you to a variety of topics to broaden your base and allow you to explore what you like and what you don't?

You could ask "what do you find the benefits of teaching this as standard curriculum?" about pretty much every middle/high school class:

- Trigonometry? Most people don't need to know how to calculate the pythagorean theorem, only need to occasionally measure stuff with a tape.

- Chemistry? Most people don't need to know the periodic table, only not to mix bleach and ammonia.

- World History? Most people are never going to use all that Byzantine knowledge, just stick to more recent events.

- Foreign Language? Most people are never going to need more than enough to get by on vacation for a week.

- Music? You're never going to pick up that instrument again after graduation.

Now that computing has become an enormous part of life, doesn't it make senses to pull back the curtain a little? It's not like it's going to do them any harm.

Well, it appears that you teach something more akin to CS basics, which is definitively not suited for being taught on an iPad or a Chromebook, indeed... For the rest, I think both devices are fine, especially for younger students. The big issue is content created by the big players in school publishing, that might not be up to par or just come from a quick porting job of older paper content to digital.

I use a Chromebook as my primary college as a CS student in college. Look up Crouton, it lets you chroot into Ubuntu and Debian distros. From there, you can install native programs with ease, and you still get the Chromebook price.

Wow, that's impressive. Computer education in the 80-90s in the US seems somewhat lacking by comparison. For me 3-5th grade was Oregan Trail, 6-8th was Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, and 9-12th was typing using the Edit command in Dos and saving to a floppy.

I think it depends on where you were. I was in Minnesota and we had these guys: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MECC

We had LogoWriter in elementary school. We were programming at a very young age without really knowing that's what we were doing. (We also had this typing software with monsters or something that was easily gamed; it didn't check for errors. So you could type quickly, erase everything you typed, then type it correctly and you'd get something like 350 wpm.)

(I moved to a new district between elementary and middle school.)

In middle school I vaguely recall doing some kind of programming on commodore 64s.

In high school we had a BASIC programming class and also an AP Computer Science class in which we learned a little bit about programming Pascal. Some students did an independent study to learn C, but failed miserably - probably had no real support.

But honestly, I learned the most when I would stay overnight at my cousin's house and hack away at my uncle's computer (PC w/ I think MS-DOS) unsupervised. I broke it a few times, but was always terrified enough to figure out how to fix it. He had a few manuals, and I went through trying all kinds of commands. Figuring out why UNDELETE never worked taught me a bit about how hard disks were used by the OS, stuff like that.

For me, (rural PA, early 1990s) it was exactly that, but we had one teacher who was kind of into computers and they let him run--for grade 12 seniors only---a very, VERY basic programming class consisting of old (for the time) IBM PCs and UCSD Pascal. As the rest of the class was struggling to put the floppy disks in the right way, I spent the first week finishing up all of the year's worth of assignments so I could use the rest of the year to screw around and try to make games, write joke programs to mess with fellow students, etc. Fun class, got me excited about structured programming languages as opposed to BASIC, but pretty inadequate if your goal was to prepare future software engineers.

> "Year 7" is not high school in the US.

Maybe we could all agree to just use pupil age in these discussions, to avoid the international confusion between "year 7", "4th grade", "primary 6", "middle school", "6th form", and all of the other country-specific nomenclature.

I don't think that's entirely reasonable in a discussion about schooling as curricula in different countries differ considerably. A 17 year old Chemistry student in Victoria, Australia might be learning about how to read NMR spectrograms and some common industrial chemical processes [0], a 17 year old Chemistry student in Texas, USA might be learning about the chemical processes involved in genetics [1].

0: http://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/Documents/vce/chemistry/Chemistry...

1: https://www.kleinisd.net/users/0138/Chemistry_Scope_and_Sequ...

Different places teach different things at different times, so I don't think equating ages works very well.

Can't speak for OP, but in Australia we only have Primary (K-6) and High (7-12) school.

Edit: Yup, their website lists them as being in Adelaide.

"Year 7" is not high school in the US. That is distinctly junior/middle school.

Year 7 is also the first year of secondary school (high school) in the UK.

High school in the US == 6th Form in the UK.

No, 6th form is from 16 to 18 years.

Which is almost exactly what high school is in some parts of the US (that is, in places where it is 10-12 grade.)

The thing is, while the US tends to have the Elementary/Middle or Junior High/(Senior) High split in most places, the grade levels aren't the same.

I've seen (and this may not be exhaustive) the splits with the following grade levels:




Two more splits: In my hometown (in Tennessee), the split was originally K-3/4-8/9-12, but around 2000 they completed the construction of a new high school, so the old high school became the new junior high and grades 4-8 got redistributed so that it was now K-2/3-5/6-8/9-12.

While you could always run python on windows have the WSL is a big deal for education. You can get away with running a pretty modest system and still be able to run ruby on rails and mysql or postgresql on even a modest atom based laptop.

His user profile shows he is in Australia.

Chromebooks are the best, my school has them, and they're 100% usable in all non-tech classes. Battery lasts forever, great for typing, and everything is a web app anyway.

We had iPads at one point, but luckily the school realised those were bad and I haven't seen them this year at all.

I also see comments about programming on them, that'd be painful. For everything else (that matters at school) though it's 10/10.

Isn't programming on a chromebook just a guacamole session away?

I could see giving kids access to a unix system via guacamole or a similar shell-in-browser solution and letting them run riot.


For younger programming classes I try to lean towards using Scratch which is in browser. For the older classes I'll usually set up a terminal server and let them login to it.

To help smooth the process of having them program on their own, I send home a writeup with how to install everything on a home computer for different operating systems, how to ask questions on StackOverflow and give an email address I have manned by other students that like responsibility.

I've worked off of them a few times, they're basically useless without internet is the only major drawback - if you connect to a RDP session the battery will last forever.

> I also see comments about programming on them, that'd be painful.

There are plenty of programming-in-a-browser tools available that are far from painful, plus now that they support Android apps, there's plenty of Android-based programming tools that are non-painful.

Not really. It's quite easy with Crouton installed.

Crouton is not ChromeOS.

I didn't say it was. It's an option you can explore if you need to extend the functionality of the Chromebook.

Surface RT's were an amazing step for our school. Had full office suite, a stand with a magnetic detachable keyboard, usb port, and was the same stuff we'd be using on the desktops. So, we could write up essays right on our desk, or do research, right there. Could then transfer that data to another computer at home if we wanted, or plug in a mouse to do some quick research.

But, Microsoft refused to fix the problems with them. Sometimes you'd push the power button to put them to sleep/turn off the screen, and it wouldn't come back up without turning it off, losing your work. They refused to allow domain policy, so the school had to manually configure each one of them. For our small school, it was doable, but a larger school I could not imagine that.

They were cheap, productive, compatible, and problematic.

Microsoft had their chance at education, and they shot it down, hard.

That's a big one. How do you sell a computer in an enterprise or institutional environment and not allow that.

Wife is a HS teacher that has access to Chromebooks (CBs): Yes, they are useless. Even if you could get the 35+ kids per class to stop sending each other pics of their sex-organs during class the CBs are still futile. The district has mandated that you cannot use a CB without logging into the main district server. That is fine and dandy, but the wireless routers only have so much bandwidth, so you can only have ~15 kids per router logged on until they are auto kicked off. That then starts a ring-around-the-rosy of kids trying to log back in and kicking others off the wireless. Bonus points because there is only 1 router per ~5 classrooms. The CBs are also on a cart to be used and so my wife has to push that to each class she is in, so trying to get all the CBs out, set up with the lab, logged into, made actually useful, then logged out of and put back, charging, and ready to be pushed to the next room is difficult to do in the allotted class time. There are not enough classrooms in the school for the kids, so they have many 'lunch' periods that kids alternate in so some can be in class while others sit in the hall. Again, this clogs up the wireless routers too. Also, the Mirai botnet clones are still attacking the central district server and causing havoc with trying to log into it to make the CBs useful. As such, its a total gamble if the CBs will function at all on any given day and between classes or within a class period.

Maybe the CBs are not the culprit, but the whole system has made then useless to everyone but the company that sold them to the district. iPads are just finessed off to pawn shops for cash by the kids, so they never really took hold to begin with.

What I find the most frustrating on ipad is content selection. Particularly in the browser, where I do that a lot when I want to google what I read about. The text selection in safari is absolutely useless.

...and non-existing in many apps. I really hate how it is up to the app maker to allow/dissalow text selection.

There's two strong separate issues here:

1. pricing, no-brainer.

2. The two sometimes noticable conflicting goals of making no/low-effort admin computers and teaching kids to handle computers/do general things with them

nr2 there's no all-around answer to but my bias is towards something like the chromebook atleast even if execution might be flawed.

If chromebooks had the option of plugging in a usb drive that could open "portable apps"-style programs + save files it would be a really great option for classrooms (or, really, anything)

Those crazy web-only restrictions hit fast

The biggest problem I saw was the inability to mass-create Apple ID's for all the iPads. Leading the classroom through doing so was very frustrating.

Our kids just brought home a sheet of paper together with the iPad, detailing the instructions for creating the Apple IDs, which was left as a home exercise with parents. I don't remember it being especially difficult; but no idea how many families ended up contacting the teacher to get over a problem.

You're probably right about the schools, but I want to disagree with you about content creation in general.

I'm using my iPad for painting, writing, video creation every day. It is extremely useful and convenient for my purposes. It has a specific niche, and might not be for everyone, but I very often prefer it for specific tasks.

At this point, writing(in Editorial) for me is pretty much as convenient as writing on my laptop. I wouldn't code on ipad, but for notes(which I take a huge amount of) and fiction it's perfect.

And since they've introduced the stylus, it's insanely great for painting(in Procreate). I have a wacom tablet, but I still use my ipad all the time. And I can record the video tutorials, or stream my painting process on twitch, it's really cool.

And if I need to, I can use Pinnacle Pro to edit my videos, narrate voiceover over them, and publish them on youtube.

So the whole creative process - script writing, video recording, editing - can be done entirely on my tablet. I find it extremely cool.


For example:

- Here's a video I've made entirely on the ipad:


(sorry for the annoying voiceover, I'm working on getting better at it)

- And here's the collection of my favorite art made by other people:


Fiction writing on touch screen keyboard is as good as your laptop's keyboard? I can sort of understand the painting/video creation even though I don't do either. But I would guess you would be a special minority in the writing department.

He probably has a keyboard, but students don't.

Even then, he's wrong. There are power tools such as Scrivener which have no equivalent outside the PC ecosystem.

What? Scrivener has LONG had a iPad version


Also Bear is another amazing iPad writing app. As good or better than anything on PC IMO. Clearly he's not "wrong", it's almost like people who like the iPad for content creation actually may know what they are talking about.

Leaving aside that I'm on Android...

That's still version 1. It won't even open my files.

The versions are different across platforms. Version 1 on iOS WILL open desktop version 2 files. Here is their site where they talk about that: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener_ios.php

Also we are talking about iOS and Apple in this thread not sure what Android has to do with it.

I borrowed an iPad and tried it. The app crashed on trying to open one of my files.

What they claim to support, and what they actually do support, are not necessarily the same thing.

Yes you're absolutely right, the IPad is great for creative/artistic work. My comment reflects my own bias. I'm an IT teacher so I'm teaching computing fundamentals, coding, game dev, web dev etc, and for those activities an iPad/Chromebook is not up to the job.

My kids used iPads at a previous school and I was initially thrilled, but that faded immediately when I saw one of them trying to type an essay on it. I think iPads can be useful tools for some things (reading, studying, learning), but even with an external keyboard they suck for writing/creating anything.

> Chromebooks are rubbish too, so I don't really see the move to them as a positive either.

You get what you pay for with Chromebooks. The school my kids are at now started giving Chromebooks to older kids and the initial ones were seriously underpowered with terrible low-res screens. We ended up buying my oldest an Acer Chromebook for $300 (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MHX6TIA/). It has a full HD screen and can actually handle multiple tabs and apps running in the background.

For anything other than a serious programming class I would highly recommend Chromebooks for schools, but you need to push for a usable one.

Anecdote on keyboards & iPads: My brother was attending a high school that was experimenting with iPads for students, and humanities classes especially felt this. I bought him a decent external keyboard case and he told me his friends all followed suit, as it was like the "missing link" to making the iPad accomplish like 90% of what he needs.

Separately, I think that the better market opportunity would be for a cheap-ass Surface model -- essentially sitting below the Surface Pro line -- that could be marketed at the education market. I know MSFT has been pushing OneNote for classrooms, agnostic to the medium for how it's accessed, but the Surface pen + keyboard + tablet combination is something I WISH i had in high school

So the Surface 3, then.

Too bad Intel canceled development on that processor line so they can't make a new one.

In my children's schools, I get the impression the iPad is meant to replace textbooks, and not to be used as a general computing device.

Now, it doesn't replace a textbook with an eBook or iBook, but rather with a plethora of crappy web pages.

My kids use chromebooks and for writing papers, managing accounts, etc I can't think of any better option.

>Chromebooks are rubbish too, so I don't really see the move to them as a positive either.


But what's the point of that ? Why not buy any laptop if you want to run linux ? If all you are worried about is cost, a thinkpad from a couple gens ago will cost about as much, and will do a lot more than a chromebook with a shitty processor and possibly soldered ram + hard drive.

To have the benefits of ChromeOS full time and the option to use Linux part time.

What are the benefits of ChromeOS compared to standard GNU/Linux ? The main benefits are 1) Better security model and updates 2) Easier to use. 1) Goes out of the window once you flip that developers switch. Not to mention crouton/vm/dual-boot etc. are fine for mucking around. You can't use that in any sane way if you have to deploy and maintain hundreds of machines for a school. Regarding 2), I can't comment on usability since I haven't used ChromeOS, but I don't think there's going to be a world of difference compared to a modern distro.

Yes, a mass deployment of Crouton may not be feasible, but in edge cases where a teacher wants to use the additional capability of Linux for their curriculum then it's certainly a manageable and viable solution. And the ability to instantly flip back and forth between the two OS's is icing on the cake.

If it isn't running ChromeOS it isn't a Chromebook experience any longer.

Actually, it is running ChromeOS. You can switch back and forth between Linux and ChromeOS quite easily because they're both running simultaneously.

That Linux experience isn't a ChromeOS feature, rather something that one with developer experience needs to dig on Google forums and not exposed to the regular users that buy Chromebooks.

No one said it was a ChromeOS feature. It's an option for the more technically inclined to expand the functionality of their Chromebook with the added benefit of being able to switch back in an instant.

Have you tried EndlessOS ? I haven't, but I would be curious to know what people involved with education think. It is probably better suited for places which don't have good internet, but that aside, I still think it looks promising. I saw their promo video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgUzdb3S2uA), and it has that vibe that Ubuntu originally had when they were new (with the whole linux for human beings thing and free CDs). It also has some new ideas regarding package management with ostree + flatpak.

For the topics of stuff like coding, image manipulation, file manipulation, etc... would a raspberry pi cover your teaching needs (That IS what they were made for).

The pros I see would be: size, price, similarity to desktop environment vs iOS

The potential flaws I see would be: Linux isn't windows, speed (maybe for image manipulation an issue?), not mobile (this would have to be an a computer lab), would require someone to set up.

My mother's school toyed with iPads for a few years. According to her, the biggest problem is that trying to print from them was a nightmare. I dunno whether that is a lack of driver support, the school IT being too ignorant to set things up properly, a combination of the two, or something else, but it didn't Just Work.

I've been skeptical of mobile devices in the classroom for awhile now. They just seem like distraction machines. Which I admit sounds weirdly luddite for someone who makes a career working with technology.

I think you are right to be skeptical. In my experience (sitting near/behind students with laptops in class), the laptops are used more for web browsing than for note taking. This distracts multiple people because your eyes can't help but look at the laptop every time the screen changes. My experience is from college and graduate school. But, I can only imagine that high school students are more prone to distraction and will always be able to find the next chat/messaging client before administration blocks it.

Yeah, typing on glass screens is probably the worst thing about tech today. Autocomplete is pretty good, I'd say, but it doesn't matter.

If you see iPads as a hindrance to education, you are a terrible teacher. If I had been given access to an iPad at age 10, I would have been completely, endlessly obsessed with the possibilities of it. As it was, I had access to a TRS80 at that age, and I had to fight the fussy old math teacher to get access to it, let alone any meaningful instruction or encouragement to match my curiosity. Meanwhile, the same teachers kept an Apple II in their office strictly off limits from students except their favorites. Even if it isn't your favorite tool in 2017, an iPad is literally the kind of thing I dreamt of when I was a kid. If you can't make that work in the classroom, you're failing.

Can you code (and teach how to code) on an iPad in an efficient and effortless way? The "terrible teacher" didn't just bash on the device, they listed some use cases for which it is clearly not the best tool around.

> If you see iPads as a hindrance to education, you are a terrible teacher.

Personal attacks are frowned upon here.

People who live in glass houses...

> If I had been given access to an iPad at age 10, I would have been completely, endlessly obsessed with the possibilities of it...

You could have very well made the rest of your point without the personal attack, which was quite unnecessary and unfounded.

I remember the huge push when the iPad came out and all the talk about how it would replace textbooks and exercise books.

It could only be because school administrators were won-over by the engaging user-experience - completely overlooking practicalities - back in 2010 even into 2014 iOS lacked decent enterprise-management tools that would enable staff to lock devices down as they're obvious distraction devices - things are made worse by Apple's decision to not have multiple user-profiles on the iPad and confusion with how Apple IDs work. I understand they've gone some way to address those issues - but other concerns still apply, such as the vision of a wide range of high-quality (and interactive, no-less!) iBooks to replace textbooks - simply hasn't happened due to massive cost of authoring even a single iBook. But the main blocker I feel is that staff (both teachers and school district IT folks) just don't want to have to manage them. I know an IT contractor who resigned his job at a private school after having to deal with setting up hundreds of iPad Mini devices for every student - he just simply hated the work involved.

As Apple is neglecting the desktop market, they're just as well neglecting the education market: remember when Apple had massive education market penetration in the late-1980s? Now there's not even an equivalent of the old eMac unless you count the now 3-years-old Mac Mini models.

It blows my mind that Apple has basically put no effort at all into supporting the multi user business/education market. Our company rolled out our first LOB mobile app last year. Only six devices are involved, but they're basically in use 24/7 and are handed off at shift changes. The amount of hoops we had to jump through were absurd both in terms of device management setup and adding some features to the app to make it feel more "multi user".

There's supposed to be an intrinsically safe iPad Mini case available later this year (IIRC), and our manufacturing areas are salivating over the possibilities... But we might have to disappoint them, because the overhead of trying to manage hundreds of iPads would be truly insane.

Have you been able to try the multiple user features launched in iOS 9.3? https://appadvice.com/appnn/2016/01/apples-ios-9-3-features-...

No, unfortunately it is only for schools. When it was announced I was really hopeful that it meant general multi user support would be in iOS 10, but...

It really is absurd, isn't it? Multi user iPads would be incredibly useful in the home as well.

Would it help making households buy a second iPad?

Even if it is not the main reason, it sure helps keeping the priority low. But the iPad is an offshot of a phone and those are so personal (the real personal computers, just think of the place where people water-damage their phones) that it would be questionable wether spending "UI bandwidth" on user switching would be worth it even if implementation was free.

  Would it help making households buy a second iPad?
I'd argue yes. Multi-user profiles mean you have a set-up that's yours. You're more likely to invest in it, which means you're more likely to want to interact with it. If someone else is using the device, you can't—so you buy another one.

I think that's more compelling than the argument of, "I need my own iPad so I can have my own space." Many people haven't realized they want their own space yet.

The real trick would be keeping everything in the cloud and making the devices interchangeable. So I could have 3 iPads and pick up any one to login.

Schools are always looking for ways that teachers can teach without doing work and students can learn without doing work, and computers are the magic tool that promises to do that.

It's like using a forklift to raise the barbell. Sure, the barbell goes up, but you don't get any stronger.

Yes. However, if your goal is to learn to lift up large masses, learning to operate a forklift is a good thing to do.

(I cannot write about a "forklift operator" without asking if you have seen this German "educational" film. It starts slowly, but... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oB6DN5dYWo )

No need to put the educational in "". It was originally a parody of the edu-videos (the narrator is famous for doing "Der 7. Sinn" which is a serious edu-series) but is actually used quite often as an introduction to the safety stuff for a fork lift license. It's not an official video or anything but in practice you have ab out a 50% shot of watching that movie from anecdotal evidence.

So, it started out as a parody of educational videos, and became an actual educational video?

Anyway, I appreciate it. Who said the Germans don't have a sense of humour?

... but gets gory. I mean, just-above-Monty-Python level gore, but still maybe not what you're expecting.

Well, you spoiled it, but that's it, the tone change from dull German workplace education film to a full Monty-Pythonesque parody creeps in so that you don't really know when it exactly set in.

That escalated quickly enough. :))

As a middle-school student in the early 2000s, I helped part-time with IT at a Mac-only school. Macintoshes, iMacs, eMacs.

People were less familiar with Macs than PCs, but from an IT perspective, it was heaven. There were only a few models, they were reliable, and everything "just worked" together. The most common snag was attempting to get floppies to work with people's PCs from home.

Sad to see the Apple desktops gone.

>Sad to see the Apple desktops gone.

Nobody goes to the Apple Stores anymore, they're too crowded.

Apple need to take a long hard look at the nose dive their customer service has taken in the last few years. I love Apple kit, I really do, but Apple the company are starting to become increasingly difficult to like and do any sort of business with.

I have many personal data points on this, but below is the worst i've encountered in any retail store in my life:

I went into an Apple Store to purchase 3 (yes, 3) Macbook Pro's (old style, they were in stock at the time) in early December (for some new staff that were starting), knowing exactly the model I needed. I was told I would need to make an appointment and come back in 90mins. Really? A customer comes into your shop, looking at spending over £7k without hesitation and you say go away?!?

I said to the store member that I thought this was unacceptable, it would take someone literally 2 minutes to go into the storeroom, pull them off the shelf and swipe my card.

The response was that it was now the lead up to Christmas and they were very busy and there was nothing they could do about it. My response was that they need to tell their boss(es) to hire more staff for busy periods.

I walked out without purchasing and didn't return.

Did you end up purchasing the 3 Macbooks anyway If so, Apple's bet that you want the machines enough to tolerate that behavior was correct.

I like this story, I like the part where you walked in thinking buying THREE laptops they would fall to their knees in joy.

So did you buy online or.... ? ;)

TBH, the fact it was three doesn't alter my perception of the situation. I didn't expect them to fall at my knees because of the quantity. If I had walked in sure of the fact I wanted to buy 1 iPod touch or 1 Apple Watch and knew the model, I would have found the same level of frustration with their inability to just sell me what I want. In fact, the frustration might have even been amplified.

I get they have a lot of people who need help making a decision around a purchase and they want to assist those people, but they have to realise some people just want to walk into a retail store, pay, and get out as quick as possible. I don't have 90+ minutes to hang around waiting in a shopping centre on a week day afternoon just to buy something.

I'm unaware of any other standard retail store where you would need to book an appointment to make a purchase, even high end jewellery & fashion.

To answer you & the sister comment - we didn't. We purchased some Dell laptops instead - cheaper, worse build quality, etc. but the staff are largely desk based and use Windows anyway. Performance is as good. We've since started buying less (almost no) Apple hardware as we are happy with the quality / price compromise in most instances. We would generally spend £50k a year with Apple, this year it will be more like £10k.

I can't speak for the UK, but in the US, if you go to anything other than a luxury boutique, they will jump all over you for a $7k sale. That customer may change their mind or take the sale elsewhere if you put them off for 90m.

I get the reference but they may as well just be Facebook stores because that's the only thing people are looking at in them.

Seriously. The Apple store on the north side of Indy is in an upscale mall, and you can walk halfway across the place to get to a Microsoft store. The Apple store is always elbow-to-elbow. The Microsoft store is always crickets. The difference is embarrassing. I almost feel bad for Microsoft. (Almost.) I imagine it's one of the few places that a Microsoft store is so close to an Apple store, but I could be wrong. It's a wonder they keep it open.

No, even in our local mall in a Maryland suburb, the Microsoft store is a few doors down from the Apple store.

I think this is a common strategy.

Is the traffic at the MS store there anywhere close to same as the traffic at the Apple store, or is it night-and-day, like Indy?

It's night and day :) The MS store is always empty. It was even empty when the apple store closed for months to expand and renovate.

The neglect of markets where they've had record sales the past year or two? Not to mention, the massive increase in mobile devices weighing into the equation. It seems a little off to me.

Apple doesn't have that many engineers - they have a chronic shortage, I'm told - a friend of mine at Apple worked on a major built-in iOS app and said his team was only "8 people, including PMs" - and given iOS devices alone are the majority of Apple's revenue it makes sense for them to allocate resources where they're needed to maintain cashflow, which necessarily means neglecting less-popular lines (namely the MacPro).

...which is further evidence of the amazing foresight Apple had in basing macOS on an open-source core (BSD): it means Apple doesn't need to expend resources on maintaining critical functionality that isn't central to their profit strategy (e.g. BSD userland) (and it's why I believe the open-sourcing of key parts of the NT kernel and userland will happen eventually)

> which is further evidence of the amazing foresight Apple had in basing macOS on an open-source core (BSD):

NeXT did it, not Apple.

And the goal of the time was just to help bring UNIX software into NeXTSTEP as they were competing against the likes of Solaris for market share.


The whole NeXT architecture has very little UNIX on it.



I replaced my kids' iPads because of the awful hunched posture it precipitates (as shown in the 2nd picture in the article). Also, after an initial enthusiasm for iMovie and Swift Playgrounds wore off, they gravitated towards the more distracting apps and games, youtube and netflix, etc.

Having them sit upright, with good posture, at a desktop computer puts them in a different frame of mind when it comes to what they do on the device. I also have more input on directing their attention to being interested in computing, playing different types of games, and programming (dabbling in python mostly). My hope is they get a broader picture of computing, which won't be inhibited by the handicaps of iOS.

Interesting, personally I think mobile devices and laptop/desktops have differing roles and both have their place. Funny you should mention switching to a desktop to teach them Python, I'm teaching it to mine using Pythonista on iPads because I do a fair bit of coding for fun with it on the train.

No one device can be the be-all and end-all. Yes my daughters watch a lot of dreck on Youtube, but my youngest recently got really excited and showed me her 'favourite video'[0] and told me about this great channel she'd found called numberphile. My eldest watches tons of Anime, but recently got into AMV (Anime Music Videos) and is working on one for herself using Garageband and iMovie on our desktop. It's not the tool that matters, it's cultivating the mind and attitudes that count.

On devices in formal education, I don't think any good can come from kids carrying around any device to use in classrooms all the time until at least high school age. I'm a big fan of using computers educationally, they have specific places and roles to play in that process and one solution simply doesn't fit all cases. iPads, Chromebooks and 'proper' desktops and laptops all have strengths and weaknesses. I'd no more outfit a school entirely with one or the other than I'd replace everything on the road - lorrys, cars, buses - with one kind of vehicle. Tying kids permanently to one specific device just makes no sense to me.


> Also, after an initial enthusiasm for iMovie and Swift Playgrounds wore off, they gravitated towards the more distracting apps and games, youtube and netflix, etc.

Wouldn't this happen on a PC as well? ASCII games got me into computers years ago and led me down the path of wondering how to create them.

I think what's really happened is that we geeks do not understand why every single person does not want to know the inner workings of a computer. People are creative in different ways, many of which work great on an iPad.

I agree with this pretty much, though a good posture is often not really present with using a computer either. Still better than the hunched posture, but you should pay attention to the ergonomics then of how your children are sitting (not slouching) in front of the computer.

It does kind of fascinate me how children today are so used to technology. My youngest relative is almost two years old, but he can find "youtube" on the iPad and can click on the peppa pig videos that he likes to watch. Or when he is in the mood for another app that tells stories, he can click on that.

Maybe I just hugely underestimate children, but it did surprise me that he can find the apps he wants.

I hope that when raising my own children, I can give them a broader picture of computing in the way that you are doing.

> I replaced my kids' iPads because of the awful hunched posture it precipitates (as shown in the 2nd picture in the article)

This is funny to me, because I was a bookworm as a kid. I often had a stiff neck because I was free to sit/lay in awkward positions as much as I wanted, as long as I had a book and I wasn't playing my NES.

Finally. It was always so hard to see schools spend millions on expensive Apple tech when there was equivalent equipment available for half the price that met their needs equivalently well. We really don't need to be spending $400-500 per tablet to outfit a classroom with 1 device for every 3 kids, when each kid really needs their own.

It's telling that MIT still lectures with blackboards while other universities spend oodles of dollars on expensive electric whiteboards, projectors and whatnot.

Depends what is being taught. Electric whiteboards, displays and projectors can provide obvious benefits and time-saving for things like updating values, neatness, illustration, demonstration.

Ever noticed when a lecturer writes a sentence on the chalk board, the only sound in the room is the sound of chalk? That isn't efficient use of time.

Most professors, you really gotta slow them down. This is their life's work and they know it bottom to top. If you let them run at their natural clip, you're gonna miss stuff. Making them write it down is great for that. If you let them use slides, you gotta ask them questions and break their rhythm or they'll just roll right over you.

Thank you, somebody other than me finally said it. I hate lecture slides with passion, so much so that I barely even go to lectures anymore. I mean, what's the point if all they're going to do is read them out loud? I can do that at home.

If your professor is just reading text bullet points from a slide, he sucks at public speaking and presentation skills.

Don't blame the medium for poor public speaking skills. I was just in a 2-day classroom setting this week and the presenter was brilliant - switching from slides, which they annotated with a digital pen while presenting, to whiteboard, to discussion seamlessly, without losing interest or focus from the students.

Public speaking is a skill like any other that any educator needs to be good at. Don't blame the medium for your educator's poor public speaking skills.

Using powerpoint (or related tech) enables sucking at public speaking and presentation skills, in a way that lecturing in front of a {black,white}board does not.

One of my favorite education-related blogs is University Diaries, by Margaret Soltan (an English professor at George Washington University). She writes quite entertainingly and excoriatingly about the use of PowerPoint as an alternative to teaching: http://www.margaretsoltan.com/?s=powerpoint

I had a philosophy prof that would put up his lecture on (relatively) dense slides and then proceed to stand in front of the slides (not looking at them) and give the whole talk exactly as the text on the slides. It was quite amazing. And since he wasn't actually reading them, it was a good presentation.

We've had the tech to box up big lectures since VCRs went mainstream. That's the easy (and cheap) part.

It often is in practice, because students need time to think and digest the material.

This is very true in practice. I lecture as a part-time professor every so often, and this is one of many good reasons why you should never lecture via powerpoint. The act of writing down a thought as it's spoken is an important thing for many people.

I do use an electronic Wacom tablet when possible, so that I can at least give out pdfs of the lectures.

It's super awesome, especially when the professor is effectively just transcribing the textbook onto the blackboard while mumbling in a monotone. Really demonstrates the value you're getting for that $40-50k tuition.

That is work, he could just project the same slides he wrote down 20 years ago on to the wall and tell you to copy them down. I guess that's what I get for not paying $40k, lazy profs.

But MIT records most lectures and has great online companion resources, which is where the tech in teaching thing is really helpful

Yeah, but in my book thats "technology done right".

No hype, no expensive toys, just the right tech to solve the right problems without getting in your face.

I doubt that MIT eschews computers for project based work. No MATLAB on a chalkboard.

Similarly, when computers are used sensibly in the classroom they are tools applied to certain parts of the instruction, and not the only medium of instruction.

That's true regardless of the equipment manufacturer.

I question the underlying premise that " each kid needs their own". Every time there's a pilot program that gives every kid a laptop or tablet, it seems to be a complete failure after a few months. My aunt is a teacher in a public school district, and has seen a number of such programs come and fail over the decades.

They don't need to give the kids laptops or tablets to take home, but having each child be able to do individual computer-supported exercises at their own desk—in effect, turning every classroom into a computer lab—has important benefits for lesson planning.

Such as?

I think having computers at home is the one compelling reason for all the "let's give everyone laptops/ipads" initiatives. It means that everyone has a device they can do typed reports or homework research on. I'm much less convinced that computers in the classroom are a clear value-add in many cases.

>It means that everyone has a device they can do ... homework research on.

I've known a couple of families where the children received take home devices they were expected to use to do further research or school work on, but who were unable to due to the lack of internet. A few had dial-up which can be unusable with some of the education sites (all the js resources take too long to load, time out, and leave the page useless), but some had no internet at all. Some of these families had no heat/ac, to give an idea of the level of poverty. There were no libraries within walking distance either (nor public transit options).

I think the devices are a good thing, because it gives some of these kids exposure to computers they wouldn't have otherwise and if the school handles it correctly they can be used to do work from home (have all needed resources already loaded on the device), but I've seen multiple teachers not be able to account for the most impoverished students lacking internet action (I somewhat suspect the teachers don't always have a choice in the matter either).

Internet access is an good point. That would seriously diminish the "equalizing" factor of giving every child a device.

The idea is that you're no longer constrained by planning around the use of a shared computer lab space. Instead, any activities that benefit from computer use can be used immediately.

You don't have a "pencil and paper" lab that is used the entire school day and scheduled around, and now computers have reached the commodity price point where they don't need to either.

I don't think the vast majority of education gets much value from a computer lab, either.

Well it's probably for the best that hacker news is not in charge of teaching our children. They'd be learning go or rust or JavaScript instead of how to read books.

> has important benefits for lesson planning

If computers help learning, why have school results essentially been flat since 1970 or so?

Perhaps the curriculum has changed. Almost certainly the tests have?

The premise is that when you to inject tech into teaching it is unarguably better and always an improvement. Why it's better is rarely explained sensibly and so far as I know never really supported with data. I think there are good uses of tech in classrooms, but much of the time it's forced and pointless and expensive.

Its really situational.

Every student at my school was given a laptop (2005, but that practice started years earlier) - but we were in a special situation being a boarding school. Every student having a laptop meant that teachers could reasonably expect every student to write/research papers, install/run software, use email, etc - on their own time (nights/weekends/study times, etc).

My laptop lived in my dorm room, and if I needed it for a class or to go study somewhere I could take it - but that was a 2-3 times a week thing, not every day and certainly not every class. Day (non-boarding) students had it a bit rougher, as they were bringing their laptops back and forth from home every day, lugging them around from class to class.

Even in 2005, I don't think campus could have operated with the efficiency it did without every student having a laptop. Important information was sent out via email constantly (Lotus notes...), BlackBoard for class documents, lecture notes, etc.

But that was our situation. At a day school, I imagine technology is probably a nightmare. If 1 class each day needs kids to have a laptop, that means every student is walking around with their laptop all the time for no good reason. Sounds like a recipe for failure.

Not to mention the effect of "students have this technology so let's go out of our way to use it whenever we can"

I'd just be happy if students had digital only textbooks. Would save a lot of back pain and locker trips.

I can think of several areas that having a computer for every child would help- but it requires training and adaptation by the teachers.

1) A large pool of free, open e-textbooks that teachers can customize and contribute to for the needs of their class. Textbook publishers are the scum of the earth and most of their textbooks used in education suck terribly.

2) Access to video explanations/lectures, etc.

3) Adaptive assignments and exams like Kahn Academy that allows students to work on solving problems that are at their level and progress at a different pace than the class as a whole.

4) Easier for students, parents, and teachers to track progress towards educational goals over time.

5) Learning about computers. (Keyboarding to programming...)

Might be some other ways to use computers in education that would pay real benefits, please comment :)

When I used to see all schools turning to iPads I was one of the naysayers. I saw my nephew working(playing) on his school iPad and I thought this was the worst decision the school system ever took.

But now looking back, I am glad they went through it, call it a phase if you must. The American school system (or government) is always last to adopt any tech. You can still find outdated technology barely holding together in some schools. But this time they did something different. They took a risk. They adopted something that hadn't been tested yet. Well now they tested it. We thought iPads were inferior to laptops or desktop, but now we know that they are, at least in the classroom.

Money was wasted, time was wasted, but at least now we know through experience.

I'm glad that they took the risk of trying something untested. And I hope that in the future they will do so again with whatever tech that looks promising in improving education.

I work in the public sector, albeit in digitization an architecture in the central administration in a Danish municipality, but I can assure you the lesson won't stay learned for long. We've gone through the same shift, but it wasn't because IPads were unfit for classrooms, it was because chromebooks were cheaper and are easier to administrate for the IT department (also a major financial saving).

Our school system is at a whole a lot better than the American, yet even here it's typically cost and business needs which define what IT makes it into classrooms, rather than educational needs.

Apple is unfortunately for Apple technically and financially unfit for most enterprise, and in the modern world schools are becoming enterprise.

> When I used to see all schools turning to iPads I was one of the naysayers. I saw my nephew working(playing) on his school iPad and I thought this was the worst decision the school system ever took.

Personally, I think the attempts that school IT make to prevent playing are great! They're the best way I can think of to create a generation of flexible problem-solvers who penetrate security for fun.

I was the Director of Technology at a school overseas when the hype first began -- and over there the pull was even stronger because in addition to all of the reasons American schools were swooning over the iPad, the fact that this was an "American" thing was yet another factor over there.

I was lucky to be at a place where my principals listened when I suggested that we pass -- for many of the reasons stated here. What I think most people don't appreciate, though, is how much of a marketing tool these iPads became in this space. There wasn't a parent who would come in for a visit who didn't want to see that the school was "innovative," and the surest way to (pretend) show that was to point to your iPad initiative. We held our with laser focus on our educational mission, but I saw many of our peers spend a ton of time, money, and effort, to try to use iPads in one way or another. Marketing was -- and often still is -- the real driving force behind the adoption of these devices.

> “At the end of the day, I can get three Chromebooks for each of the Mac devices I would have purchased,” said Steve Splichal, the superintendent of Eudora Public Schools.

Not choosing a Mac for school students should have always been a no brainer because, as mentioned a) cost, b)what benefit do Macs provide over say Windows laptops or chromebooks for high school students?

Apple did a real good job marketing their products to schools all over the country though.

I imagine high school students require a device to do basic coding, assignments, office applications (presentation, word), browsing and maybe basic image editing. Sure, in professional settings I can understand people choosing Macs, but but for high school students it just seems overkill for their use case.

Anyway I'm glad to see schools coming to their senses and move away from apple devices...into another (cheaper) walled garden.

Macs definitely have less downtime, shorter startup time and better battery life than windows machines. Windows has certainly gotten better over the last few years, but 5 years ago it would be taking a minute or two for windows to wake up and log in between each class. Mac is pretty much instant (Chromebooks are fast too). Before you say that a minute isn't much, consider that you have 25 teenagers in the classroom, with a minute of boredom.

Also, build quality, effective lack of malware and other system problems mean students (and teachers) don't have to deal with broken computers nearly as often.

It's only the last couple of years that windows has come close, and for hardware the compares in terms of durability, you'll be paying as much as Apple anyway (which schools are hesitant to do as they are underfunded)

I speak from years of experience as a teacher and IT manager, and as an apple hater.

No malware on the Windows PCs I manage because I authorize every executable that can run.

Wake up times depend on sleep state mostly, not going to take more than 10 seconds anyway. Login times can be improved/made terrible by the IT department.

Build quality just depends on how much you spend, same with battery life.

Main problem with Apple is cost/lack of choice/ability to fix hardware.

> 5 years ago it would be taking a minute or two for windows to wake up and log in

OS boot time depends mostly on storage speed, not just the OS itself. My 2012 MBP takes 90s to boot before I upgraded it to SSD.

I'm not talking about boot time - I'm talking opening the lid of a suspended-state laptop. Which is something a highschool student has to do at least 5 (but probably more) times a day. Windows is better now (my shiny new Windows laptop takes around 5 or 10 seconds) but Mac is pretty much instant.

> “At the end of the day, I can get three Chromebooks for each of the Mac devices I would have purchased,”

No brainer, really. A device's cost and what value you're getting from it are very important, especially in a classroom environment.

I worked in Education IT as my college job, and Apple provided zero value added with regard towards educational software. For every piece of software that instructors requested such as stat analyses, whiteboards with note-saving capability, standardized test-prep materials, and math visualization it was often non-existent, cost-prohibitive, or a available as a free web app. Campus labs virtualized Windows 7 on iMacs to run side-by-side in order to allow compatibility with 90% of the tools educators need.

While I think that we're doing an excellent job at preparing tomorrow's teachers on how to educate kids; technology largely remains a point of friction in keeping kids focused because of the lack of good tools in the ecosystem. My high school district always received the short end of state funding and we never had any good tools available for physics simulations, art & design, CAD, or personal finance to name a few. Anything we did end up using was available as a web app with no OS dependence; and I see school districts pay extra for mac systems without any competitive advantages to the platform. It's largely a market mismatch that Apple's failed to address, and were largely being phased out because of this.

I don't quite understand why people thought iPads were good for content creation in the first place.

Also, I think Apple really missed a trick by not going after the education market with a more suitable device. With Windows, you never know what havoc the next update around the corner is going to wreak. And Chromebooks are still quite limited in many different things. By merely having a serious presence in this market, Apple would by now have had a best in class device because this is turning out to be the classic case of the one eyed man being the king of the land of the blind.

It seems Apple is not to interested in any special market. What I am reading they are losing their strong position in Audio and Video creation too.

They are living too well with their generic phones, tablets and laptops.

Never have really used one of each.. but why is a Chromebook more limited than a iPad ?

The Chromebook has USB Ports, it has a Keyboard, you can add a mouse easily. In my experience tablets are just good for passive media consumption, light web browsing and light gaming. It is more limited than a PC, but more versatile than an iPad.

In my local school district, gDocs is the key for our switch away from iOS devices. We don't even need the chromebooks, Docs will run on older PCs as well.

I don't believe any newer/cheaper hardware from Apple will help here.

Shouldn't computers in schools be used for more than just teaching students how to use office tools?

Teaching only boring stuff has great potential to suck the fun out of computer use for them and does not encourage them to explore what it is they might want to do with a computer.

From my personal experience watching my own children use gDocs, they're extremely comfortable working with computers in general and the operation of the tool itself is nearly transparent.

They open a document and start typing. They open a slide presentation and start moving pictures and words around. Collaborative work is automatic and they kids don't even think about it. I can remember a time when simultaneous editing of a document was something only CS PhD students dreamed about in their theses. Now my 7 year-old is doing it. And she finds it kind of fun, actually.

It doesn't need to be an indoctrination into corporate life and I haven't seen one iota of that in the classroom. They're just tools like everything else in their school.

Is writing on a whiteboard training for the business world, or just an easier/cleaner way to write so the whole room can see it? How about using a video projector overlaid on the whiteboard? Sitting on an exercise ball to minimize fidgeting? Standing desks? RFID cards in the lunchroom? Maybe they're all just applications of technology that have positive uses with the kids.

> gDocs is the key for our switch away from iOS devices.

This is what I've been seeing as well. And I think that it's scary - Google Docs/etc is helping to lure in a lot of users. The district is on Google email, Google Drive, etc. What's scary to me is that the younger children do not recognize that there is such a thing as "email" that is not "Gmail." They expect everything to function just as their Google apps do.

Hook 'em young is working for Google. Offer the school districts the massive Google backend for a cheap price, and they're hooked. Then sell them Chromebooks "for compatibility" and they're really hooked.

My county in Virginia was one of the first national pilots for computers in high schools. Every student was given an iBook. I also worked on the help desk, so I saw the administration side as well.

The school system experienced all the challenges you'd expect from giving several thousand 14-18 year-olds expensive tech kit. Broken screens, porn, integrating technology into the curriculum, etc. (But, oh, those heady days when we knew more than the admins and played multiplayer Quake 3 or CroMag Rally—the latter came pre-loaded on the first images!—in the back of classrooms over school wi-fi.)

They switched from Apple to PCs in 2007 or thereabouts, but it was generally regarded as "worse" (more issues, more hardware problems, etc.).

I suspect Apple's strategy changed. They used to own primary school, but I think in the mid 2000's they started to back off that. Macs were becoming popular, including the rise of the iPhone, and the kiddie image wasn't in line with Apple's brand. Not to mention the hardware expense as schools a) bought more volume and b) went with lowest-cost options (like Chromebooks).

My wife's school used the iPad 2 in classrooms, and my wife generally disliked them. They don't do a whole lot for content creation as others have noted, and they went obsolete fast. It's a nice box to check (particularly for a private school) - "We have iPads" sounds nice. But the reality wasn't so great. This point might be a little more moot now that iPads have matured a lot and Apple has started to push for better content creation, but that stuff is still on the higher-priced end of the platform.

I'd have to think that the lack of repairability is a problem for some schools as well. My school district was one of the first to distribute laptops to junior high students (this was around 1999...and pre-WiFi I guess, since we all pointed the tops of our laptops to the infrared caps in the ceiling! [0]), and I remember seeing the IT guy with a stack of computers in the tech room, replacing screen after screen.

[0]: https://www.cnet.com/i/ne/pre/Pcnews/12_97/kidntbk.jpg

The passing of Steve has affected the iPad product line the most. iPads have pretty much stagnated since his demise and Apple has alienated the education market with their laptops too. I mean look at the Pro features of the iPad - split screen multi-tasking and 100$ pencils. Its a joke.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro (32GB, Wifi only) is selling for $1,049 CAD. Who are they kidding?

32 GB storage on a 1000+$ device is mind boggling. The cloud storage situation is even worse.

Every Pro device (MBP or iPadP) should come with atleast 100GB cloud storage IMO.

To be honest, the only Pro thing about the MBP and iPad Pro is their name.

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