EdTech Digest Interviews Mac to School and Travis Hinman w/ Comal Independent School District
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
December 20, 2013
Helping to get the best technology into the handsof as many students as possible, Robert Baker is the president and founder of Mac to School. The company buys, refurbishes and sells Apple computers and equipment and serves the public and private education markets working with schools and districts throughout all 50 states. Naturally, they strive to deliver the best value to their customers while providing the highest level of customer service.
Travis Hinman is a Systems Administrator at Comal Independent School District in Texas, a 19,000-student school district that is expected to nearly double in the coming decade. Travis joins Robert in answering questions about all that technology in schools and just exactly how refurbished computers provide a workable solution to district needs.
Technology is a tool that helps educators enable learning. Getting the best technology into the hands of students is a key component to their academic success.
Victor: What is your take on the role of technology in education today? And the next 5 years?
Robert: It’s a pretty exciting time for technology in education. There are a lot of new devices and services available for educators. Technology is a tool that helps educators enable learning. Getting the best technology into the hands of students is a key component to their academic success.
I believe that in the next five years we’ll continue to see more variety in edtech devices. The past couple of years the big trend of course has been in tablets. While tablets are here to stay and a great learning tool, we believe that desktops and laptops will continue to be a vital part of the edtech ecosystem. It’s all about having access to use the best tech tool for the job, i.e. reading chapters on your iPad, writing a paper on your laptop and editing video in the iMac lab.
Victor: Your parent company, MacService has been providing refurbished Macs for over a decade, what led to your decision of creating Mac to School to specifically support technology in education?
Robert: When we started MacService in a small shop down the street from Apple headquarters in Cupertino, we focused on providing our individual consumer customers the highest level of service. As we grew into a company with national reach, we started working with schools, businesses and other organizations throughout the U.S.
We found that the same things that were making us successful in the consumer space, pairing quality and personalized service, were also resonating in the education vertical.
We created Mac to School to really cater to the education market. By focusing on working directly with schools and districts we can better understand and serve their needs. We want to help put the best technology into as many students’ hands as possible.
Victor: Can you please expand on your commitment to technology in education and education in general?
Robert: I was lucky enough have some pretty tech-forward teachers when I was in school. Growing up in Silicon Valley, we had quite a few early adopters and tech hobbyists in our school system. Having access to those early Mac labs was pretty fundamental for me personally.
It seems that in everyday life, there are those of us who are either uncomfortable with technology, just keeping up, or ahead of the curve. Having access to technology is the first step in better understanding and using it to enhance learning. That’s where we hope to make a difference, by helping make technology more affordable in order to make it more accessible.
Having access to technology is the first step in better understanding and using it to enhance learning.
Victor: Any words of guidance for school administrators looking in to partnering with an organization – what to look for, what to watch out for?
Robert: We believe that the relationship we have with our customers is our number one asset. When partnering with a new organization, I would look for how well they communicate and deliver on their commitments. Ask to speak with some of their customers, if they’re like us, they’ll be happy to connect current and new customers.
Value and price are often confused. Be on the lookout for new operations that are only interested in undercutting others on price. What will the actual product look like? What happens when there is a warranty issue? Will the company be around in a year or two? It’s the after sales support like warranty repairs where we really work extra hard to shine. Where most companies point you to a policy that says they won’t fix something, we just say “yes” and make the process easy. Time is an educators most valuable resource, we take every step possible to ensure that time is being spent on increasing student achievement.
Victor: Anything else you care to say or emphasize?
Robert: We often get asked why schools should choose our refurbished Macs over buying new Macs from Apple. Our answer is that both refurbished and new can be a part of a school’s technology makeup. New Macs deliver the latest Apple technology while refurbished Macs are a great way to augment existing Mac deployments and increase the number of overall devices available for students.
The device itself is only one component of the technology budget, by saving money with refurbished Macs, more budget is left over for personnel, software, professional development and other IT services. Mac to School is dedicated to helping schools get more out of their technology budget.
Victor: Alright, thank you Robert! Now let’s hear from Travis in a bit of a rapid-fire approach. Hi Travis! First, could you paint a picture of what the technology ‘landscape’ looks like in Comal ISD from a district view as well as a classroom view?
Travis: Technology needs are growing as fast as the population, and as a school district, one has to be sure that our technology in use in the classroom is in accordance to the requirements by the state. As the population goes, so does our demand for more technology and budget expenses. In the classroom, teachers utilize every piece of technology that is available to help enrich the learning environment.
Victor: Budgets are a concern everywhere; outside of budget, what led you to arrive at your decision to implement refurbished Mac’s into your schools?
Travis: Every year, our school district allocates funds for departmental use. With school board approval, we make sure we can purchase as much equipment as possible within our budget. With new equipment, we were limited as to how much we could purchase. After some research, we discovered that we could buy refurbished equipment that meets our needs and still have a warranty that is the same as buying a new piece of equipment.
After some research, we discovered that we could buy refurbished equipment that meets our needs and still have a warranty that is the same as buying a new piece of equipment.
Victor: Were you able to apply the budget dollars you saved by implementing refurbished computers anywhere else?
Travis: Yes, with the money that we saved, we were able to buy more refurbished equipment for other schools in our district
Victor: In the day-to-day use of your refurbished MacBooks, have you experienced any major challenges outside what you typically see with new devices?
Travis: No, the refurbished equipment is comparable to our new computers and has the same warranty options as new.
Victor: Do you feel that this is an option other technology departments should consider? If so, why?
Travis: As school districts grow, so does the need for technology. Given budgets don’t tend to grow as rapidly as the need for technology, why would you not look for options to get you more machines for less money.
Victor: Any words of guidance for school administrators looking into partnering with an organization – what to look for, what to watch out for?
Travis: When looking into refurbished equipment, make sure you find a company that stands behind their products. Even though the machine might be used, it is still new to a school district. Make sure your computer company offers a warranty for the computers so that you have piece of mind knowing you are getting a quality product.
Victor: Alright, thank you gentlemen!
Travis: Thank you!
Robert: Thank you, Victor!
Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org