I Use My Mac For Education

We spoke to teacher and former head Dominic Whyte for Issue 257′s ‘I Use My Mac For’ feature. He had more to say than we could fit onto a single page, so here’s the complete interview…

Name: Dominic Whyte
Occupation: Teacher
Location: Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Systems: 13-inch MacBook Air Late 2010
1.86 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 320M 256 MB GPU
Mac OS X Lion 10.7.5

• What Macs do you own and use? What are your favourite applications?
I own a MacBook Air and love it! My favourite applications are iCal and iPhoto; they’re simply perfect for me to organise family events, for example, and share memories really quickly on the web. I also make good use of iTunes and live Internet radio stations. My Mac works flawlessly with Airport Express, and I really like streaming music from Spotify to the stereo.

• You’re a primary school teacher with over 20 years’ experience, including two headships. How do you use your Mac in your career?
I’ve used my Mac for researching programmes of study, planning lessons and also for tracking pupils’ progress using spreadsheet software. I recently used it to help teach simple programming with junior-aged pupils. I use my Mac in meetings, on occasion, and also for preparing presentations for staff. The Mac is fantastic for the admin side of things, organising events, planning schedules, analysing data and of course, saving planning notes and accessing the wealth of information on the web. I’ve also used the Mac to help plan and deliver school assemblies to and to try to keep up with the pace of change in education.

• You’re studying for a master’s degree in education. How does your Mac help with this?
It has come into its own over the past year with my study. I often travel to Worcester University and seamlessly join Wi-Fi networks. I can study, research, plan and write assignments in a wealth of locations. I often have to access ebooks; the MacBook Air’s high-quality screen and above all, its speed has really helped me meet the deadlines. I take my Mac to seminars as it helps with gaining and capturing the knowledge.

• How has educational computing changed since you started out as a teacher in the early Nineties?
Computers and the ICT world in school changed tremendously from 1994 onwards, mostly due to ring-fenced guaranteed government funding. Those days have sadly gone, and we now struggle to keep our hardware up to date. Most schools are a couple or more operating systems behind.

During my last headship, I secured funding for two iMacs for the Year Six class, which the pupils made good use of. The fact that the Macs are ready to go straight out the box is such a bonus, as are the higher quality graphic and creative programs. I also felt it was very important to give the older children a ‘taste’ of the two most common platforms, that of Apple Mac and Microsoft Windows. After all, that’s what many go home to.

Macs would be more prominent, but the price makes it difficult for schools. But this has improved, and Apple products, especially MacBooks, are on our school’s wish list. The seamless integration between Apple hardware also makes it such an important move in the future.

• Why did you choose a Mac and not a PC?
We had PCs for years, but I really wanted a change. I was attracted by the ‘look’, the quality of the hardware and software, the integration with other hardware and the support package available. We moved to a smaller house for a spell and a traditional desktop wasn’t going to fit. The light and stylish MacBook Air was definitely the one, with its silent running appeal. I’ll never buy a PC again.

• How do you use your Mac for your hobbies, such as mountain biking?
I look up the latest trail conditions and the best places to go mountain biking. I download my Garmin stats to the MacBook and subsequently share routes and so on with friends. I recently used my Mac to help me set up my bike’s suspension – no doubt there’ll be an app for it all soon!

• Any other uses you put your Mac to?
Only the usual social networking malarkey.

• Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Only that recently a friend was asking about the best Mac to buy and after two years, I’d still say this is the one, but hey, I’m biased.