Teacher Hub

Apple Mac computers – can they work in my school?

Written by William Thompson15/08/23

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is about the use of Apple Mac computers in a school that uses Windows computers in the rest of the school. In some cases the school is reluctant to consider Macs at all, down to their perception of the cost (yes, they are usually more expensive!) – but often the challenge is convincing the school IT department that the new computers can integrate with the existing infrastructure.

Not all IT departments have experience of Macs, so it’s understandable that they would be nervous when asked to consider adding them to ‘their’ network! What about security? Who will look after them? Do they need to connect to the school servers?... and lots of other questions, to which most music teachers won’t have answers.

This is not an article about the pros and cons of Apple versus Windows: there are multiple web articles and Facebook posts dealing with this question! However, it’s worth saying that we think the Mac offers the best and most reliable platform for music education - and as such we only offer advice, support and the supply of Mac solutions to schools. That’s not to say that Windows PC can’t offer excellent facilities and be a viable alternative for some schools – of course they can.

For a teacher considering using multiple Apple computers, they first need to decide exactly what it is they want the new computers to be able to do. When you set up a room-full of new computers you have 4 main options, in terms of how they operate on a day to day basis:

  1. Standalone – in this scenario, the computer is not connected to a server, though it may have some internet access. However, pupils have to either store their work on that particular computer (and return to that one to continue working) or store their work on flash drives that they need to use each time. Work stored on the computer can often be accessed by others, so is open to being deleted or changed
  2. Standalone with shared drive – like the above solution, there is no proper connection to a server, but pupils can opt to share their work to a drive that is on the same network (maybe on a teacher’s computer, for example). This presumes that the computers are connected to some sort of network infrastructure, though this can be one which is isolated within the music department, and not part of the overall school network. However, pupils can potentially still see, open and delete other pupils’ work
  3. Music department network with local server – here we are starting to offer a solution which is more like the rest of the school: pupils can log on at any computer, and the music department server ‘sends’ their account and all their work to that computer for them to work on. When they finish, their work is backed up to the server, and the next pupil is able to log on and see their work. However, the list of users (pupils and staff) may need to be entered each year manually, as there is probably not a connection to the main list if users held centrally in the school.
  4. Integrated system – the best solution by far, but also the one that make cause some unease amongst the IT techs in school! Here the pupil data is stored within the music department on a very fast network drive, but as a pupil logs on, the music network is able to authenticate the pupil by checking the Active Directory in the Windows network. So because every pupil will already be on the main school database, there is no need to manage the user list in the music department. Depending on the way things are set up, pupils may be able to see their Windows home folders (so, for example, they could store an annotation related to their composition in that folder, allowing them to access it when away from the Music Suite). We still suggest that music files (Logic, Cubase etc) are stored in the music department on its very own fast drive – this can make things a bit faster when everyone in a class logs on at the same time, especially if they include recorded or sampled audio tracks

Of course, every school’s network will be different, so it’s important to have good consultation, both internal and external, to ensure everything is planned appropriately.

But, the answer to the question at the top of this article is – absolutely yes – you can have Apple Macs in your school!