Maine offers Apple MacBook Airs as swap for school iPads

“After hearing students and teachers overwhelmingly say iPad computers are used to play games in class, while laptops are better for schoolwork, Auburn and other districts are sending iPads packing and returning to laptops,” Bonnie Washuk reports for The Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal. “The Maine Department of Education and Apple are offering Maine schools a ‘Refresh’ swap offer at no additional cost.”

“Laptops and iPads ordered in 2013 can be returned for new and improved Apple MacBook Air laptops, which cost less than the Apple laptops three years ago. Schools can also opt to get new iPads since both devices have been improved,” Washuk reports. “Before Auburn decided what to do, the district surveyed grades seven through 12 students and teachers, Auburn School Department Technology Director Peter Robinson told the Auburn School Committee on Wednesday night. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of laptops: 88.5 percent of teachers and 74 percent of students favored them over iPads.”

“In the ‘Refresh’ swap offer from the state, Auburn’s iPads are going back and 1,718 laptops will be delivered in the fall to Edward Little High School and Auburn Middle School,” Washuk reports. “Apple came up with better priced and designed laptops and iPads for Maine schools after hearing complaints about iPads, and after a number of schools opted for less expensive, non-Apple computers such as Chromebooks three years ago, Maine Learning and Technology Initiative Director Mike Muir said. The state ‘underestimated how different an iPad is from a laptop,’ Muir said. Laptops do better coding and programming and allow students to do more, he said. Student use of iPads could have been better if the Maine Department of Education encouraged more teacher training, Muir said.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: In some ways, this is a step backwards and an illustration of the discomfort Steve Jobs predicted six years ago:

Steve JobsWhen we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks, because that’s what you needed on the farm. But as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers, cars got more popular. Innovations like automatic transmission and power steering and things that you didn’t care about in a truck as much started to become paramount in cars… PCs are going to be like trucks. They’re still going to be around, they’re still going to have a lot of value, but they’re going to be used by one out of X people… The transformation will make us uneasy because the PC has taken us a long way. We like to talk about post-PC era, but when it really starts to happen it’s uncomfortable for a lot of people. – Steve Jobs, June 1, 2010

Unfortunately, this is also an illustration of Apple’s inability to move quickly enough with iOS and iPad hardware (lack of RAM, for one example) to provide a reasonable alternative to traditional laptops for certain use cases (until recently; iPad Pro goes a long way to addressing the issues and all schools should give them a a proper try – meaning have a plan, don’t just throw iPads at the teachers and students).

Lastly, as we wrote near the end of last year:

Imagine an “iOS Pro” mode.

Turn on iOS Pro on your iPad Pro
1. Tap Settings > General, and make sure iOS Pro is turned on.
2. There is no step two.

Hey, we can dream, can’t we?

Shouldn’t such a thing already exist? Where would iPad sales be if it did?


  1. If this doesn’t cause Apple to wake up and appreciate the Mac nothing will.

    This is exactly what I have been hearing from students and teachers now for several years. The iPad is great toy! Not so great for creating written content.

    Students summed it up best:

    “The ipad is great for reading, terrible for typing homework on.”

    “I’d rather carry a laptop if I am going to have to carry an iPad and a separate keyboard.”

    Disclosure: I own a 12.9 iPad along with three Macs. In total I have owned five iPads and they are great devices for reading and research. However, they are NOT a Mac or PC replacement.

    Apple is dreaming or has fallen victim to the believing their own propaganda if they believe otherwise.

  2. Are we really going to be still carrying around laptops in ten to fifteen years time when these kids will be moving up the scale at work? If so that is pretty depressing I would say as its a form factor that purely reeks of the 90s way of doing things rather than the way things are or should be going today. Some of this is undoubtedly Apple’s failure in sitting on once burgeoning iPad sales that they were desperate to not see milk Mac sales. Trouble is once those sales started to level out we saw that fundamentally the product was only a mildly improved version of what it had been a couple years before with no attempt to make it a true laptop replacement. Now belatedly they are trying to do that but once the momentum has stalled its difficult to re ignite it. Only now is iPad becoming a device that can perform both functions but the products still has some way to go to truly to do both jobs. However for most kids today eventually and likely when they are still young, touch and voice is going to be the norm not the laptop paradigm. thats simply becasue they will be using it constantly in terms of car, home, media, travel and other functions in their normal lives, so a device like a laptop will just look stone age if it doesn’t already.

    However what I find strange is that some of the criticism made against tablets were equally or even more true of Chromebooks, it simply has a more traditional look so one can’t help think that there is an awful lot of confusion in the tech educate field presently. However Google concentrated upon giving teachers control and flexibility and that is one area where Apple just did not focus through either laziness or fear of damaging its profit margins, very short sighted as it turned out.

    1. You assume there are only two options: iPad which he become a gaming toy in school, or a 90’s style non-touch laptop.

      We’ll likely be carrying around a Surface, the device that prompted Apple to release the iPad Pro as a feigned response.

  3. Some of the complaints of the iPad not doing as well as a laptop for spreadsheets, word processing, and such leave me absolutely floored. I have used iPads at work since I purchased my iPad2 years ago. I just upgraded to a 9.7″ iPad Pro. As there is a tiny bit of credible criticism when referring to an iPad/word processor task, I’ll state that I’ve always splurged on getting a keyboard case. The keyboard isn’t strictly necessary to operate an iPad but comes in particularly handy when doing things like typing this comment, or lengthly document text. Pages and Numbers are at least as efficient and easy to use on an iPad as on a Mac. The interface is cleaner and unless I need conditional formatting, I’ve found my iPad does as well on spreadsheets/word processing tasks as my macMini or my MacBook Air. There’s really only two applications that I still do solely on the Mac. Web design and I have a League Scheduling app that has no counterpart on the iPad. Otherwise, the best platform for me is my iPad for spreadsheets, work processing, and personal database tasks (I use two, HandBase and Ninox). Additionally, my work involves record keeping on an enterprise web based asset tracking platform. My company gives us Windows PC laptops. I simply RDP back to my work laptop to give me an iPad that handles all my work’s asset tracking (only works on a Windows IE Browser). This lets my iPad which is about a 1/4 the size and weight of any laptop from work or home allow me to do almost anything I need it to do and do it all day long without charging. Maybe my use case is confining for others. I’ve never found it to be so for me.

    1. I have one more comment. I was careful to clearly depict the uses and some of the useful apps that I use every day at work. My iPad is my go to device for home and work. A ton of effort is being put into some of these comments representing the iPad as a toy or gaming platform. 85% of my pad time is spent in productivity or business apps. I didn’t get my pad to use as a gaming platform although it does pretty well as one. In fact, the most frequented game I’ve got is Solebon Solitaire. I use my pad at work because it makes things easier, either through ease of use of the apps, or less device to lug around. The argument by PC’ers regarding Macs in the past was a continual reference to how many more things you could do on a PC vs the limited software on the Mac. Especially when you were talking gaming. Well, I didn’t buy my iPad as a gaming platform. If I wanted a great gaming platform, I’d probably have gotten a PC.

  4. As time goes by I find less credible the argument that iPad vs iMac use is a generational thing. My 9 year old son loves his iPad. But when it comes to doing written homework, he begs me to use my 27″ iMac. This is from a kid who has no preconceptions.

    It may take time to admit it but, ultimately, Apple is going to have to think different again.

  5. We expect students to drive both cars and trucks. Learning can be mostly with cars but putting it to use often requires trucks (or construction equipment). The world needs trucks so that the cars have a place to go and way to get there.
    Apple can tell me I only need my car, but they’ll have to pry my F150 steering wheel from my cold dead hands.

  6. duh. iPads are for entertainment only. There is no file system. iCloud is not a viable place to keep documents that need to be accessed in a school with 500 kids all trying to use the same woefully underpowered Internet, or at home where there be intermitent or no service.

    Of course it is stupid to try to raise excellently educated children by giving them crippled tools.

    Here kids, here is your netpad with no keyboad nor place to save your work, and different command structures for each app. Go type your term paper, go program a website, go edit a movie, go do some animation. These are all common needs in modern education and the best way to teach critical thinking skills.

    Why would you tell kids to build a new world but give them a ruler instead of a hammer?

  7. I am not surprised. Nothing actually works as well on an iPad. Every app is a cut down version of the Mac app. Mail can’t be sorted on an iPad, and there are no rules. There is no file manager so you can’t group your work together. Editing text is the biggest pain in the arse because there is no pointing tool (no the mic key mouse keyboard kluge doesn’t do the job).

    I am so glad to hear the next generation feels just the same as me and prefers the Mac. Tim Cook can shove his iPad and if Apple don’t refocus on the Mac they will lose their core supporters to Wintel.

  8. This article is factually incomplete and very poorly researched and written, and definitely slanted. As a technician and MLTI Tech Lead at a Maine school district I would like to add some facts. MLTI is offering a device refresh. The opportunity to upgrade devices a year early compared to the standard 4 year contract. The refresh offers the option for schools to choose either the latest macBook Airs or iPad Pros. At a training seminar I attended with MLTI reps and the Apple project office they presented the new Apple Classroom app for iPad and the fact that school districts will now be running their own instance of the Casper Suite that will allow them to black list or white list the apps on the iPad. I was told by an Apple presenter that after finding out about these developments many districts are staying with iPads or switching to them from laptops. No idea what the percentage will be in the end but I suspect they will hold there own against the laptops. I could go on presenting many more unreported facts but I don’t have time. Just understand that this story is click bait by a small local newspaper.

    1. The reasons schools buy iPads is price. Given the choice of Cheap PCs or Macs, they will buy PCS. Given a fluffy kid friendly tool that kids will love but not be able to do real world work on, they will buy that tool if it costs less. And for the money it is a good choice. If they could afford, or get IT and Admin to sign off on real Macs that would be a much better choice.

      Twas always thus.I was an Apple Ed AE in 4 states in the 90’s. We were able to sell Newton based eMates to districts because the price was right. There was almost nothing useful they could do but they were better than nothing. And you could drop them on the floor and they wouldn’t break.

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