Why are schools using iPads instead of Chromebooks?

by: Nate SwannerJuly 19, 2013

If you think the world as we know it is tech-centric, think about what life will be like when our kids grow up. Those little monsters will probably exist in a space we can’t even imagine, and many of them are often more tech savvy than their parents. Kids are the future, technology is the future, so they should have as much tech as possible in their classrooms, right?

According to Amplify, there is a problem with the execution of getting tech into their hands. The company, which is a huge proponent of Google technology in schools (as are we), recently conducted a survey. They polled 558 educators in the K-12 arena, and found some troubling statistics. As Android and Chrome fans, we’re a bit concerned about what tech is getting into the classrooms. As stewards for the next generation, we find a trend we can’t quite understand.


When asked which devices their districts intended or had already implemented into the schools, a staggering 81% said iPads, with only 31% noting Chromebooks would find a way into their schools. When we examine the Los Angeles School District deal for iPads, we may see a troubling trend developing.

A $30 million deal meant Apple could provide the LASD with 45,000 iPads, at $678 apiece. The tablets would come bundled with educational software, but that price per unit is about $200 more than the average iPad runs. More troubling is that the LASD has roughly 640,000 students, meaning only about 7% of students would see the technology. Even more curious is that Apple notes the contract is for 31,000 iPads, meaning less students will be reached, and roughly $9 million of the deal is going elsewhere.

While iPads are popular, the financial decision to utilize them escapes us.

When we take another look at the survey Amplify conducted, we see that educators note that technology isn’t in all classrooms, much less all schools. The largest saturation was 75% of schools in a given district, with 21% of educators reporting that no technology had been implemented yet. Only 12% say they can get technology in the hands of students, and 51% of those who have some kind of tech report sharing a device cart with other classrooms.

While iPads are popular, the financial decision to utilize them escapes us. For the same $30 million, the LASD could have purchased 120,000 Samsung ARM Chromebooks, or 150,000 Acer Chromebooks. This effectively triples the number of students who can get technology, and probably on devices better suited for productivity. If the form factor were a concern, both the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 are a better price than the iPad.

The goal should be a cohesive learning environment for all students, and mitigating spending issues on a management level. Chromebooks accomplish that.

With over 3,000 schools utilizing Chromebooks, using an expensive iPad smacks of ignorance about the issues. If there is a solution to reach more students with technology, why isn’t it being widely implemented? The goal should be a cohesive learning environment for all students, and mitigating spending issues on a management level. Chromebooks accomplish that, and Android is catching up.

Apple is making a push to get their devices into schools, which is admirable. All schools should have tech involved, but with cash-strapped schools in every corner of the nation, it seems the money would be better allocated with Chromebooks. The educational program for Android, which was announced at I/O this year, is just starting, but we hope for big things to come from it. Whether it be Android or Chrome, we’d still like to see more cost effective tech in schools. All kids deserve that much.

  • Charles W.

    Thank you for this article. Hopefully with more people talking about this we can reverse this trend.

    • HadRice

      It’s funny how simple minded some people can be when arguing for chrome books as the choice for students, using factors such as keyboard, lower cost, etc. The fact is, your web browser does not provide an immersive experience for education. Try running a TI 83 on your Chrome book, graph a function, see a 3D model of it. It’s simply terrible compared to the numerous apps designed for a specific function an offer a much better experience than the chrome book which is lacking in quality education apps and poor performance. The iPad is simply the king of educational content, in a touch immersive, wholistic package. Did I mention the cameras? They are often used in taking pictures of graphs, etc. I’ve only used math as an example but clearly there are much more use case scenarios. And as one commenter mentioned below, the ability to lock the iPad into a specific app, and the simplicity of setting it up is a defining factor as well, and why the iPad will remain king in the classrooms.

      • Piyush

        Leave them they think if Google produces something cheap its automatically better than competition. Like nexus 7, they are not understanding the condition required by school.

        • HadRice

          Lol the Nexus 7 is a joke considering how many broke down or became laugh after a few months of usage and updating. Screens coming off, memory degrading and affecting performance. And they said the iPad mini was “too expensive” lol. Yeah at least I dot have my screen coming off and my memory degrading.

          • Piyush

            and after some usage the performance also degrades due to faulty hardware.

          • HadRice

            Probably, but I wasn’t sure about those issues but definitely memor and screen issues.

        • Charles W.

          Not trolling or anything but what conditions? I need to know this so I can improve the condition of my old high school. Even though I just graduated it still pains me to know that I was one of the few (even among the faculty) that gave a damn about using decent technology to further my education

          • Piyush

            the condition required by not you but for teachers , for eg as hadrice said “the ability to lock the iPad into a specific app”, school student wont get distracted it with other things and teacher may teach without worrying and also simple and initivative of teaching helps them to understand better in which ipad is awesome and have you seen educational apps for ipad its worth it.

          • Charles W.

            Ok fair enough. I see how iPads could be useful in education. I ditched IOS a long time ago so I didn’t know their stance in apps for education

          • Piyush

            i too have ditched ios because lack of feature that android smartphone have but same thing cannot be said about apple tablet and android tablet.

          • mobilemann

            He’s talking about NAND degradation. since the 4.2.2 update, some n7 owners think that it’s the ultra cheap memory asus used which caused their devices to become lag-fests.

          • HadRice

            Yeah, that.

          • abazigal

            Wasn’t the issue a firmware fault in the flash storage that Samsung used, which would automatically cause the device to lock up if the amount of free storage dropped below a certain threshold (~3 gb)?

            It is possible to fix it, but it does involve tinkering with the ROM, and so would be beyond the capabilities of many a user.

      • Charles W.

        Hmmm…I never really thought about it that way. Especially about the cameras. You have a fair point.

      • Cal Rankin

        I work at a high school that is very strongly pushing a BYOD trend. They want to make sure all students can jump online. they are even giving students dell netbooks that have Windows XP, and bogged down with the stupid Novell login. HadRice makes a very compelling argument about what an iPad can do, but Chromebooks are very inexpensive and are easily manageable, since they’re run online. That should work well in theory, especially if there are 2100-odd computers around. However, with what tablets, particularly iPads and Samsung Galaxy Note tablets, can do, I think they could very well coexist. Students for now still need to work with keyboards, but the apps for tablets make reading textbooks easier. Therefore, using both helps enhance the classroom.

        • HadRice

          Unfortunately, no. Thanks for bringing up another point against Chromebooks in schools, they’re very cloud based. Schools simply don’t have the ability to provide internet beyond 50kbps to hundreds upon hundreds of Chromebooks that want to go on the internet and Google stuff, download files from the cloud, etc. I do a lot of model united nations events at different schools throughout Vancouver area and I’d say our schools are pretty damn good, but the wifi for students is a total joke. Maybe it’s just Vancouver, but I’d like to see other parts of the world and see if they’d fare much better than ours. Unfortunately BYOD cannot be regulated in classrooms for Students unless you’re going to lock down their personal phones, which you can’t. It’s already bad enough that people are downloading apps and etc at school on their own phones. My main point is Chromebooks which are highly cloud dependent cannot survive in schools with shit WiFi, which is unfortunately, the majority of schools I’ve been to been to.

          • abazigal

            True that, though my gripe is not the lack of fast internet, but more the lack of reliable internet. I have days when more than half my class simply cannot connect to the network (for reasons I cannot fathom – they are logged on, but websites just can’t load).

            I am not so particular about regulating BYOD policy, since to me, it is more a matter of setting the right rules and expectations with your students. I find that any admin user policy tends to end up hobbling the pupils more than help promote a safe and secure learning environment.

          • Cal Rankin

            I’ve had none of these problems with the network at my school. Many times I’ve checked the Wifi speeds of the network, and I get speeds of around 115 mb/s. Arguments can also be made that the iPad is cloud-based. Yes, there are many things that an iPad can do better than a Chromebook, including reading textbooks digitally. However, that all-important paper that teachers still expect students to write can’t be done with any tablet’s virtual keyboard as well. I’ve tried many times to type long status updates, or comments, and I could not get it done quickly enough. (What made typing much faster for my tablet was when I installed the Google Keyboard. Swiping made it much easier. That is one crucial feature the iPad has not yet received.) My school saves everything to a giant server, so programming any Chromebook to save stuff to the servers isn’t a crucial challenge: we have gotten iPads to do it.

            The Wifi in my school is actually quite good, but our IT department has the brilliant idea that we need to shove Windows XP SP1 onto computers designed to run Windows 7. The reason? Because of the shit Novell login they force us to use. With Chromebooks, at least boot and login times would be in seconds, not minutes. Thanks to the bloated Novell software, 115 mb/s feels like 50 kb/s. It makes it nearly impossible to get anything done. Since Chromebooks run well through the internet, I imagine that logging into one of these computers would be much faster than what we have now. The Wifi in the district is blazing fast. I use my phone and tablet on it and have barely any trouble. The wifi for school computers is very fast for handling bloated Novell-loaded Windows XP computers. They run so slowly that it’s a joke. My colleagues have used Chromebooks and find it great on our wifi. Perhaps I’m spoiled because our wifi isn’t complete crap, but at least I think that Chromebooks could be properly implemented where hundreds upon hundreds of slow PCs connect without a hitch. Don’t get me wrong, the iPad is no slouch for the classroom, but any kind of desktop computing can be done without Windows. If ChromeOS doesn’t work out, many of them can be configured to run a different Linux distro, like Ubuntu, Mint, Red Hat, etc. These have cloud storage options, but might do a better job with older servers and running more offline apps.

          • HadRice

            I’m sorry, you can download a file off of Google Drive at 115MB/s? I mean the internets. You know. Where we have to download data from. If you live in South Korea, well too bad, we don’t have their internet, the US and Canada can’t even get 10MB/s in most homes.

          • Cal Rankin

            actually yes. Sorry about any misconceptions

          • HadRice

            Sorry this isn’t South Korea or wherever you live that has super fast Internet. This is the Americas where even HSPA+ can be faster than the average home Internet much less a public schools wifi shared by over 500 students or more.

          • Cal Rankin

            I actually live in the United States. It must have been a very good day, because I tried again and got 60 mb/s.

  • Tony

    This really does make absolutely no sense what so ever. Chromebooks cost less and they’re better suited for school and educational productivity. What’s become of this country??

    • HadRice

      Really? The Chromebook is better for education? Please offer me thousands of educational textbooks with interactive content. Please offer me fluid and intuitive calculators with graphing abilities on a touchscreen. Please take a picture of the object you’re deriving a function from and put it onto keynote to present. Please offer me the ability to touch my content and interact on it with many students in a collaborative project. Oh wait. Chrome books can’t do that! Oops. Guess the writer never even considered these highly obvious factors when writing this article. Don’t even get me started on the ecosystem.

      • Fievel

        An iPad has thousands of textbooks built into it? Genius!!!!!

        Oh wait, no, it doesn’t. It has an app called iTunes which has a store where you can buy those books.

        • abazigal

          Which the school can then buy and download on the ipad for the pupils for offline usage.

          Or use itunes U / ibooks author to create their own learning material.

          What does the chromebook bring to the equation here?

          • Fievel

            Chromebook brings Kindle Reader and all the wonderful textbooks that Amazon sells in digital form – and………. wait for it…….. (this is going to hurt)………..can read offline.

          • abazigal

            I thought chromebooks come with very little internal storage? How are they storing the books for offline usage?

          • Fievel

            I’ve got the Samsung. It’s got a 16GB solid state drive on it. I never use mine for anything (total cloud user), but that’s where it’d go.

          • abazigal

            Ah, I stand corrected in this regard then.

      • Misti curia

        What happened to the rice?

  • Tony Hoffman

    IPads are cool, that’s what kids will want they said..

    The people at the top of the district of L.A. who pulled the trigger on that deal are in their 50’s most likely and absolutely clueless about technology. Chances are they are still shocked their phone can get to the camera from the lock screen.

    That or their young overzealous network administrator is a Apple fan boy who brags about all the witty answers siri gives him told the head ups Apple was the way to go..

    • Joshua Hill

      What an unsubstantiated load of dribble. Must be hard to go around disparaging people on the Internet with no evidence or facts.

    • Fahd

      Hah.. You really need to peep across and have a look at these over aged decision makers in india..

    • Imran Al-Imran

      Very real in my country. Nokia simbian is too much for them to find the text message option.

  • RaptorOO7

    My taxes should not be paying for “cool” tech, these devices are for educational purposes only and should not be able to run games and crap not associated with learning. Simply put if they want a toy have their parents buy it for them.

    • abazigal

      Chromebooks can also be used to run online flash games, and even easier to hide in a separate browser tab.

      How is this better for the teacher who needs to manage the classroom and ensure that everyone is on task?

  • MasterMuffin

    My school has old Windows computers… Hjalp!

  • Joshua Hill

    Let me preface this by saying I’m an android person.

    As a science and maths training teacher the number and quality of educational apps for iOS is far superior to Android.

    To paraphrase the author such an opinionated one sided article smacks of ignorance.

    I would much prefer google devices in the classroom. However, until the app situation is improved (deja vu) Apple devices are no brainers for educators (let the puns fly :D).

    • John Dove

      When such a small percentage of students actually get to use the iPads does it really matter what educational apps are available?

      • HadRice

        Waste of money crappy experience for all? Or immersive educating experience for some. When’s the last time you had an immersive, fun, intuitive learning experience on your laptop without a touchscreen?

        • John Dove

          The school district my kids go to have a couple of iPads per school but rely more on educational websites that are provide by the textbook publishers than apps. They access these websites through the classroom computer or at home via desktop or laptop . I’ve never heard my kids complain about the lack of a touchscreen either.

          • HadRice

            And I never hear about my friends complain about the lack of a touch screen on the library computers either. Does it make those Dell computers running Windows XP and an Intel Atom processor better than an iPad? Probably not.

            Simply put, Apps are tailored for the iPad, they offer much better design and delivery of content than websites do.

          • John Dove

            I’m not arguing the fact the iPad has great educational apps. I’m saying I’d rather have a class of 25 students have access to technology that helps them learn rather than one or two students having access to a tablet at a time. When I was in school I know it sucked waiting to use the computer. I wanted to play Oregon Trail damn it!

          • HadRice

            I highly doubt that classrooms are only getting 1 or 2 iPads. It’s either, all iPads, or no iPads, or some iPads in select situations, such as my calculus class where everyone sat at a square table with 3/4 people and using an iPad constantly was not necessary. Besides those situations, I doubt they’re doing 1/2 iPads per class, instead they are saturating select classes/schools with iPads, enough that everyone can learn/participate.

          • John Dove

            How do you determine which students get the privilege of the iPads? What about those who don’t get the chance? That doesn’t seem fair or equal opportunity to me.

          • HadRice

            My Calculus class has iPads, my other classes don’t. My school has iPads and Macbooks, a nearby school doesn’t. Another nearby school does. Since when was life ever fair. What are you going to do about the school nearby mine which doesn’t have iPads? Nothing, because there’s not much that can be done. You can’t expect Chromebooks to reach every student either so what’s you point really? 31k iPads aprox. only reach 7% of students.

          • John Dove

            My point is it’s a waste of taxpayer money to buy overpriced tech when cheaper options could have been used to reach more students. They even overpaid for the iPads they did buy. It was a bad use of public money.

          • HadRice

            iPads will offer a return on your initial investment, just look at the trials run with all students being given iPads. I fail to see how Chromebooks will help any more than library computers, especially with all the cons involved with them. They’ll be a frustration more than a help, and the return on the investment into chromebooks will be minimal.

          • HadRice

            It’s like you buy a bunch of Nexus 7 because they’re oh so much cheaper than a 329$ iPad mini, and a year later you have your flash memory degrading and unbearable lag. Yeah “overpriced” my ass.

          • John Dove

            I guess if your were so limited in your scope to just by Apple products, a iPad mini would’ve been a better purchase that the iPad. It’s cheaper and uses the same apps. The lack of a “Retina” display might turn off some stuck up “Mommy and Daddy buy me everything” Calculus taking brat but who really cares.

          • HadRice

            Well I see that since you have no actual argument you’re resorting to personal attacks referring to me as a brat lol. I don’t even own an iPad bro, I use extensively in my class though, and for the record I have a job and I buy all my own things. I wasn’t talking about personal purchases either, I was talking about school buying iPad minis in case you were to thick to get that.

          • John Dove

            No, I understand where your coming from. I’m just tired of arguing with someone who doesn’t get it. Public education is about every student getting the same opportunity to learn. The school administrators have a job to ensure that. There are other cheaper options out there besides the iPad, even in Apple’s device portfolio. Let’s say they went with the mini and were able to buy 5,000 more of those than the iPad. Sure 5K is a small number compared to the student population, but it’s still more kids that are able to use the devices. You want MORE students to get the opportunity.

          • Seth Forbus

            you should work for apple. It amazes me how much time you’ve taken defending the ipad in comments.

      • mobilemann

        when talking about in context of which type of e learning tool should be given to children, um. yes.

    • mrjayviper

      the author in the past has show biased towards Android. He has a very biased tagline in the past. It’s not showing now but I’ve seen it in old articles.

      • Fievel

        Gee…. what is the name of the website?

        • mrjayviper

          I know that but still, you would expect objective “journalism” from any “news” place.

          There’s this guy from AA who does the drop test reviews. I like him cause you know he’ll be objective and fair with his review. I know he would give me unbiased reviews.

          The author here is the same author from yesterday who said Verizon’s new plans are “almost perfect”. And today, his article article is quite negative to the “almost perfect” plans.

          • Fievel

            I’ll give you that that Verizon article was crap, but you have to expect a pro-Android slant (albeit objective) on an Android site.

      • SeraZR™

        this is ANDROID AUTHORITY not iOS crap :P

    • Piyush

      the article is by nate , you should understand.

    • Garett

      You do realize a Chromebook isn’t an Android device, right? You would just be using the Internet, which, last time I checked, has a lot more “apps” available than the iPad does.

      • Joshua Hill

        I was, although my posts seem to indicate I may have been suffering temporary amnesia.

        You are right about chromebooks not having any apps only net access. Whereas the iPad can do both so thanks for making my argument for me.

        The problem is chromebooks aren’t competitors to iPads except in the authors mind. Chromebooks could make perfectly good alternatives to windows desktop PC’s in libraries in schools.

    • rarnedsoum

      If its all about edu apps, Windows has the most of all, even more than iOS.
      And even ‘the cloud.’
      Are you really thinking your position clearly?

      • Joshua Hill

        As I was talking about an article that was specifically comparing iPads and chromebooks, YES I thought that statement through.

  • Paul Allen

    Never used a Chromebook so I can’t comment on them, but I would think the appealing thing about iOS devices (for an admin) is how easy it is to restore them back to factory settings, not to mention the ability to lock them down to the point of being nearly useless. My employer recently replaced all of its BlackBerrys with the iPhone 4 and based on the feedback I’m hearing, Apple hasn’t gained many new fans as a result.

    • Joshua Hill

      Congrats for a sensible comment on an Android site re Apple. + 1 google to you sir :D

    • Dang Ren Bo

      Chromebooks are literally zero-touch to deploy, zero-touch to manage apps on, and zero-touch to “restore” (since they’re virtually stateless to begin with.

      I _have_ admined them, and it’s the simplest thing I’ve worked with outside of true thin clients.

  • ferris

    the problem is not kids, but those adults at school (teachers, admins, principal, etc). either they tech-illiterate, or they don’t want all the hassle with android (or so they think).

    if you’re a parent, you should NEVER spoilt your kids with ipad, no matter what they said. give kids android, it will make them smarter. don’t worry, kids learn faster than adults.

    • Joshua Hill

      What an unsubstantiated load of dribble. Must be hard to go around disparaging people on the Internet with no evidence or facts.

      • Tony Hoffman

        Joshua, maybe not in your case.. in that insurance kudos for youbring top of your know how. 12 years ago I was a network admin intern at a school heavily funded with grants do to its financial system. The head admin had all of the kids using Citrix Metafrme thin clients that were being fed group policy object restarted desktops and took all their test, read books and did home work on them with minimal end user issue…

        Meanwhile Clovis Unified (one of the most distinguished academic districts in California)

        • Joshua Hill

          Anecdotal is still unsubstantiated.

      • Jeffrey Heesch

        Wow, what an identical response you made to the person above. Out of curiosity, are you copy/pasting yourself or a handbook?

        • Joshua Hill

          When people are attacking educators with no evidence I decided to attack back. As the situation was the same as the previous poster I responded to I saved time by cutting and pasting my previous response. There is only so much time I can dedicate to trolling TROLLS!

          • Joshua Hill

            I seem to have lost my handbook but I’m sure it says the only poll that matters is exam day :p

      • Nathan Borup

        You know, it doesn’t surprise me that you are an apple fan… especially after that second comment that says the EXACT SAME THING. You need to grow up

        • Joshua Hill

          If you’d read my third comment. The original comment I made you’d notice I am an Android fan. I don’y own nor have I ever owned an Apple product.

          It doesn’t surprise me that your illiterate.

          • Nathan Borup

            I don’t really care that you said you’re an apple fan. Why are you posting the exact same thing on several people’s comments? That’s just immature, not to mention insulting people and saying they are illiterate when clearly I am not. I actually agree with your comment about android having no educational implementation. When you started saying “What an unsubstantiated load of dribble…” is when i started thinking you were immature. These comments are here for people’s opinions, and if you are going to throw out these copy/paste insults go somewhere else and be a troll. My opinion is that android has huge opportunity in the educational field. You can learn anything you want from the web, from a google search even. It would be simple to adopt a chromebook and use the web as the resources. Ever heard of khanacademy.org? They have a great app on android as well. Best learning tool i have ever used. Helped me learn partial differential equations in calculus

          • Joshua Hill

            You called me an Apple fan on an Android webpage, told me I “need to grow up’ and called me immature. Excellent insults dear troll but when I call you illiterate you get your knickers in a knot. Talk about a hypocrite. Now I think I’ve exceeded my daily limit in feeding trolls. Adieu, I hope you gain some of that maturity you speak so much of.

          • Joshua Hill

            P.S. I love when people say I don’t really care and then go on a rant. Thanks for making me chuckle.

    • HadRice

      “give kids android, it will make them smarter. don’t worry, kids learn faster than adults.”

      Well clearly you must be using an iPad if you’re able to make uninformed, idiotic statements like this one.

  • Yoshi Yosh-Yosh

    There is an issue when you compare iPad to Nexus 7 or 10 or chromebooks. You only consider the choice price wise. I’ve an iPad 1 and a nexus 7 and my kids 8 & 3 yo don’t like the Nexus 7. It weird they say. Not as smooth as the iPad ( they say). So $ is not the only point of view.

  • Matthew Eli Hopkins

    Why are schools using either?

  • Leonardo Baez

    first world problem…..

  • keeley991

    I wish Google would start to really push to get in more school systems. But personally i don’t think your going to make any more apple fans with ipads in every class, hell the first computer i ever used was a Apple II GS and in middle school we had the first gen Imac’s and myself and my family only buy windows computers and android phones.

  • Misti curia

    Can’t download games on chrome books?

    • Android wins!

      You won’t be allowed to play angry birds in the school, neither with an iPad, nor with a Chromebook.

      • Misti curia

        What they don’t know won’t hurt them

        • Android wins!

          Until they try it out and know what it is ;)

  • Grman Rodriguez

    Because rich schools want to show they are rich schools and get iPads and poor schools can’t get neither, add to that the fact that both are not really needed to learn stuff and there is your answer

  • Grman Rodriguez

    In my case it’s why are schools using chalkboards instead of whiteboards?

  • PopeJamal

    AA: “You should get chromebooks for your school, they’re better than iPads.”

    School administrator: “WTF is a chromebook?”

    • Joshua Hill

      In all fairness it’s probably just this author who has his android fanboi hat on. AA is normally pretty good for keeping the Android bias to a minimum.

  • abazigal

    The article above flat out concedes that there are no advantages to using a chromebook over an ipad, baring price. You are investing in your children’s future, and as the saying goes, “You get what you pay for”.

    Say I were selecting a vendor to conduct an excursion for the pupils. The cheaper ones are usually cheap for a reason. They either have some bad track record, or their staff aren’t as well-trained or effective. In the end, while I can say that on paper at least, the students have had a trip to the museum, the reality is that they may not have learnt anything compared to a more expensive, but also better trained guide who is able to make the learning experience a more effective and memorable one.

    I am just one person, but let me share my experience as a teacher in an elementary school using 1-to-1 laptops in the classroom. Let me also preface this by first declaring that I am a self-professed supporter of Apple products, currently owning an iphone4s, ipad3 (which I use extensively in the classroom), macbook air, 27″ imac and apple tv (which I used initially to mirror my ipad to my classroom’s projector, before upgrading to airserver running on my macbook).

    From year 1 to 3, we have laptops (thinkpads with styluses and swivel screens) in the classroom for every pupil, which they draw out to use when the need requires. However, because of admin restrictions, our activities on the laptops are largely limited to office (typically typing reports or creating ppt slides) and whatever free web apps we can find (like socrative or storybird). That is, assuming we can get the laptops to work (between login and network issues, inability to access network drives, the laptops just being very slow or some other random problem). Very frustrating, to say the least.

    In this context, yes, our school may as well have just gone with chromebooks. However, to me, the whole point of ICT is to inculcate 21st century skills (namely the ability to think critically, quick assimilate, analyze and critique information, especially in this age of Internet and Google), and between google docs and the web, I do not feel that the chromebook is the right tool for that task. If they are just going to do online quizzes, then I may as well just print out the worksheets for them and get them to do peer marking.

    Why might I feel that the ipad makes for a better alternative? For one, it is easier to use, with none of the legacy problems plaguing conventional computers. Ipads have long battery life, instant on, require minimal maintenance, and are exceptionally easy to use (so teachers and pupils spend less time fighting with the interface, leaving more time for learning). Its silo’ed nature means no viruses / malware.

    As a teacher with only so much class time, I want my computers “to just work”, and in this sense, I do feel that Apple devices offer the best experience with the least frustration.

    2nd is all about the apps. Standalone apps typically make it easier for the pupil to focus on the task at hand, with less chance of them running some other process in the background. They also don’t have to click or navigate through URLs or put up with annoying flash adverts; just click on the corresponding app and they are in.

    Off-hand, I can think of quite a few productivity / education-oriented apps. itunes U makes it very easy for pupils to access instructional material or create your own. Notability lets pupils annotate on text for building better reading comprehension skills (and this is easier carried out with a touchscreen compared to a keyboard+trackpad). You want to create a DST (digital storytelling), I can think of a variety of choices like educreations or imovie (and the camera removes one step of having to import photos from a flash drive or sd-card). Whatever task you name, there is probably some IOS app which does the job better than the web equivalent (if there even is one).

    Notice I didn’t mention Office, because to me, ICT is not there to teach people how to do word processing, handle a file manager or defrag their hard drives, but as a tool to nurture 21st century skills.

    So to answer the article’s key question, my answer is “Because they are crap”. One might argue that it may be better for 100k pupils to have crap computers than for 30k pupils to get better ones, but that’s more a personal opinion than objective fact.

  • Edward Minnell

    An interesting article and even more interesting responses. Sadly for all the wrong reasons. Different devices have different positives and negatives. What has to be weighed up are the pros and cons of everything and a decision made. I am not a fan of anything. I just look at what is best suited for the job. I am currently converting the schools in my district to chromebooks. Oh no! call the apple people, the pc people and some of the android people. But why??? The thing is I didnt just go for flashy presentations or what other people said (although I sat through both). I started out looking at android tablets. The kids LOVED them. The cameras, the whole finger touchy thing and plenty of fun apps. Also the price was great. I got put off them as they regularly go slow for no particular reason, the cheap ones had no build quality (no real surprise there) and administration of them was cumbersome. Also android has this whole internal/external memory thing happening and that is a killer problem.
    Next was the ipad. Yup, the ipad was more responsive, harder wearing, better quality, lots of good apps. If any school has special needs students I recommend getting them an ipad. Absouely brilliant! But there are issues there too. First, kids treat all tablets like they are toys. All they want to do is play. I also find that although they can do lots of pretty things they start lacking a bit when it comes to real work. And yes there are plenty of apps for the ipad but the free ones are full of advertising that spends more and more time trying to trick users into downloading more apps or you have to pay money.
    Netbooks and laptops are ok but they take yonkies to start up. When a lesson is 30 mins and you waste 5 mins of that waiting for everyone to boot up and login and then little johhnys laptop decides to do an update a lot of time gets wasted. PCs are expensive and space hogs. Classroom space is highly limited, and there is a lack of course of portability.
    So, we went chromebok. Yes, there are issues. They arent particularly powerful, google apps for education isn’t as pretty or has as many features as office. No, there aren’t hundereds of thousands of apps dedicated to teaching students how to count to 10. But what you get is a good balance of cheap, workable, easy to configure devices that students and teachers quickly become familir with and happy to use. I have also found the 90 I have been trialing for the past year (and am about to move to a lot more) have been extremely robust. Ive seen these dropped off desks plenty of times and survive every single time. One of them has a chunk missing out of one corner but its still going. I’ve seen them with bent chassis and still going. One of them had a milkshake dumped in it. It was oozing out the vents at the bottom. Yup. Still goes.
    Setup and configuration is the easiest of all the devices and once you add hapara teacher dashboard they really start to become extremely valuable pieces of e-learning.

    • Paul Allen

      “When a lesson is 30 mins and you waste 5 mins of that waiting for everyone to boot up and login and then little johhnys laptop decides to do an update a lot of time gets wasted.”

      As a late ’80s graduate from a rural high school, I’ve often wondered if this was an issue that classrooms of the last 20 years have had to deal with. You read a million articles about classrooms utilizing technology earlier and earlier, but after 19 years of using mostly Windows, I always assumed there’s no way schools could tolerate the above-mentioned issues with their PCs. It’s no wonder iPads, etc are so popular.

      As an aside, my coworker’s wife teaches 6th grade. Her middle school decided to deploy iPads and iPod Touchs. The guy hired as the school’s IT manager knew so little about the product that he ordered a bunch of iPod Nanos instead of the iPod Touch. Once the devices did arrive, they had to rely on teachers who already owned one to get them up and running. Just a little insight into what some of these schools are up against.

      • abazigal

        Only 5 minutes?

        Here’s a more reasonable breakdown of what you can expect to happen.

        1) Enter class, have students greet you, get the monitors to unlock the computer pushcart.

        2) Pupils take turns to withdraw their laptops and start up. This is usually where problems start to crop up. You will inevitably have some who cannot log in, or their laptops take forever to start up. The default answer is “Force-restart” because chances are, the teacher can’t do much about it either.

        3) After pupils log in, those who are successful to connect to the internet. Again, there will be some who cannot access the network. Again, this means they go to the IT team for help, or “Force-restart”.

        So by the time 15 minutes is over, you will probably still have some pupils who are still not on task (through no fault of their own) and will need to share with a partner. Which can seriously impact their productivity if you are assigning individual work. Or you get random surprises like your pupil telling you that all his work was lost because Word decided to crash halfway, or someone saved over his file stored in the network drive.

        And you will still need to end your lesson 5-10 minutes ahead of time, to give the pupils time to save their work, shut down their laptops and return it to the pushcarts, in preparation for the next lesson (assuming it’s with a different teacher). In the end, all this prep-time can easily take 15-30 minutes of your lesson.

        Compare with the ipad, which the pupils can enter and close in 1 second with the press of a power button. One less problem is the equivalent of 30-40 fewer issues that the teacher needs to troubleshoot with the class.

  • david

    Sorry, but there isn’t one good office app out of my view. Android would be cheaper, but at the moment Apple is with app’s like Pages unbeatable.

  • kascollet

    “The tablets would come bundled with educational software,…”
    End of story.

  • jamie

    Something everyone seems to be ignoring is what kids are going to be using in their jobs when they get out of school, namely, windows. The vast majority of businesses use windows and that is not going to change any time soon. Even businesses going google typically use google apps on a windows machine. Kids who use iPads or Chromebooks or Androids or whatever in school may just get a major shock when they are hired and expected to use (gasp!) windows! probably no touch screen either.

    • Edward Minnell

      You do have a valid point except the students I work with will not be getting jobs for another 10 years so Microsoft will look totally different by then anyway. There is also a lot of companies starting to shy away from microsoft as its too expensive.

      • Joshua Hill

        In 10 years time Microsoft will have succeeded in butchering Windows completely with more Win8 features and businesses will still be running Win XP anyway, lol.

    • abazigal

      Except that not everyone may work in an environment which uses windows or Office. Nor do I feel it is the school’s job to teach them how to use these platforms.

  • Nehtor

    Our school system will have 7k implemented before next school year. The reason why it has taken so long to implement is that the initial price of the older Chromebooks was to high and when the $249 version came out, it was out of stock until this spring. There are some who want an iPad just because its an iPad but with the cost difference, expect Apples share to start to shrink significantly. If apple wants to continue to compete, they need a $250 to $300 10 inch device for the school systems. As a Engineer, I will take a chromebook any day because of the ease of management on the back end. To be blunt, Apples management sucks!

  • abazigal

    May I suggest that the author write another article discussing the advantages a chromebook offers in an educational setting (beyond pricing), and compare it to what an ipad can do in a similar context?

    As it is, I find that this article is very light on specifics, and while it does give us something to mull over, it doesn’t really explain a whole lot.

  • End in sight

    Two years ago people were blasting android for not having enough apps compared to Apple appstore. Know what? They have caught up, or are pretty darn close. And if they are not there today, it’s only a matter of time.

    Same goes for this. Today, ipads might have more content and if you have to pick something for a fall 2013 classroom, iPad might be it. But just wait…in three years, schools will be using Android. Why? Cost and customization.

    Side note: Personally I find it morally reprehensible that my tax dollars are boosting Apple’s $40 billion per year PROFITS (not revenues), when my tax dollars are also paying the teacher salaries. I say use the tax money to pay teachers until we can get cheaper classroom alternatives to Apple’s money gouging, or until Apple/textbook publishers start giving decent educational discounts. There is no way LASD can afford to buy $700 iPads. (It’s like saying we have to buy 20 BMWs for our school drivers Ed program since those cars are so much better designed for drivers Ed immersive experiences. Well if your school is rich and has private donors for such cars, fine, but not with my tax money thank you very much.)

    • abazigal

      With regards to your point about hiring more teachers, note that the money came from a bond issue specifically aimed at raising money for ICT (something like a kickstarter for iPads). That money cannot be used to pay more teachers or increase salaries, nor does it come from the tax you pay.

      To me, customisation would be more of a hindrance than a boon. If I were in charge of rolling out that many tablets, I would want them to work right out of the box, and not need me to fiddle with any more settings than I need to. I don’t see how the ability to customise android tablets allows for a better user experience compared to the ipad, which is already locked down to begin with (you can’t sideload apps, nor can you download additional apps without the password, and that you can’t really do much with the ipad apart from launch apps is a great way to reduce distractions and keep pupils focused on the task at hand).

      Also, I would look at cost less as an absolute figure, and more in the context of whether you are getting value for your money. For example, there are reports of Nexus7 tablets hanging because of a firmware error in the flash storage. These are things you won’t know or can’t tell from the asking price alone.

      Ultimately, you get what you pay for.

  • Logan

    Schools should be using surface rt’s!

  • Harry

    iPad optimized apps, case closed!… Redundant article

  • Colin Matheson

    I spend most of my time thinking about and working with technology in schools. I work in actual classrooms with actual students, teachers, and technology. I find it difficult to justify the additional cost and management issues of iPads. We have used low cost netbooks with an educational version of Ubuntu and are now adding Chromebooks to provide a high level of tech access to students. That being said I have seen iPads used effectively in special education classrooms. I am a big believer in using the best tool for the job.
    Here is my more lengthy discussion on our choices and experiences:

  • carlisimo

    Apple has had a strong presence in classroom for decades now… their familiarity is a huge selling point. All the education app developers and textbook publishers know them, so they have a strong catalog. Basically, they’re well entrenched. Once you’re that deep into a market, you’re not going to be easily displaced unless you screw up big time.

    Google and Chromebook manufacturers should by all means try to break in, but it’s going to be a slow process. First they have to let people know what the hell a Chromebook is. Then they have to explain why giving kids a web browser isn’t the disaster that it immediately sounds like it is. They can do that. Slowly.

  • JEdwards

    As an Apple fan it is troubling for me that schools consider using Android and/or Chromebooks. Especially Android.

  • Random Hajile

    It really is staggering to see money being wastefully thrown towards Apple products when significantly more open and cheaper products can be had for school use.
    However, I believe one of the main issues also stems from the fact that Apple provides some level of service for the products that isn’t seen elsewhere.

  • Gene_nyc

    Chromebooks? Who’s the idiot who decided to put chromebooks in the mix here? And it’s Apple – king of education tech equipment vendors. simple, cheap tablet vs expensive cloud based laptop. People actually are surprised at the results here? I’m typing this from my Nook HD+ on CM10.1, and even I knew this would end poorly for chromebook. Until someone ponies up the nexus 7 or nexus 10 and put out some awesome education apps (i hate the ones i’m finding for my 3 year old daughter so far) Apple will rule the roost here.

  • That Guy

    No matter the bias of the article the main point remains true. More tech in more classrooms at less expense to the tax payer is the goal. If you believe providing an slightly better learning experience to the minority of students should be what we are striving for then something has made you very cynical. Isn’t it better to have updated textbooks in all classrooms rather than 800 dollar textbooks in less than 10% of classrooms?

    Don’t get me wrong. It would be absolutely amazing to have these Ipads with the current educational software in every classroom, but this is not and will never be the case.

    Those small percentage of students getting their immersive learning experience can read all about the lagging nature of the US educational system on their 700 dollar devices that taxpayers and the oh-so altruistic Apple Corporation have provided.

  • iPadWells  Richard

    I have Chromebooks and iPads in the same class and the Chromebooks kids are reliant on the iPad kids for all outside work and filming work. Kids find Chomebooks very limiting in a way that a tech writer like Nate wouldn’t nobody has ever made a short film for their English assignment only using a Chromebook. Chromebook is great on technical grounds but useless in a modern classroom.

  • Otto Andersson

    Chromebooks are a paradox. They are designed cheap to get them in the hands of those with less (financially) but they require an internet connection much more than IOS or Android. Many of the schools I know in the US are middle class and still don’t have wifi accessibility.

  • daniMyl

    Having attempted to put android devices into high school classrooms for several years I can give many details about why it has been all but a total failure, and a couple places where iOS beats Android hands down. And yes, I’m an Android lover/Apple hater.

    Android and Chromebooks are apples and oranges. So far, I’m not impressed with Chromebooks, though I’ve been a Chrome browser lover for a long time. Given the option to use Chromebooks or a wired lab of Windows machines I’ll take the lab any day. Note that my labs essentially have only Chrome for student use! No MS Office. All student work goes through Google Apps and NO PRINTING.

    Here are my thoughts on our many Android attempts:

    1. Forget apps. Apps for the classroom are mostly gimmicks. If the teachers don’t have their own custom content ready for consumption on the web then you have failure from square one. Apps are not a just cause to shift the bulk of instruction to mobile devices. This mindset among teachers will render mobiles a passing fad in classrooms. Apps are an easy fallback because you don’t have to think differently about teaching or make any extensive change in your approach.

    2. The fluidity of the Android OS compared to iOS makes it much easier to write management software for iOS. This is crucial in high schools if the school is deploying the devices and wants control over them. Apple has this ability built in at the ground floor. Making it work with Android is next to impossible for 3rd party management software developers. There’s just too many implementations of Android for them to cover all the bases. Attempts to do this are clunky and can be circumvented by students within minutes. Deal breaker for teachers.

    3. Referring back to #1, the process of preparing content for native digital distribution is a long process. Teachers have not been trained for this and it takes a motivated individual to assemble a vision for doing so and seeing through its execution. Finding lesson plans to incorporate tasks in a mobile web environment is another order of magnitude beyond preparing content for simple consumption on the web. After three years of trying to figure out where the breakdown was in teacher mindset, I’ve decided that the whole thing rests on getting the year’s content onto a responsive website as step one. Without that, the rest of this discussion is moot.

    4. Too many teachers treat computer labs like babysitters for their entire class. They think that having tablets in their room every day is like having a nanny. Then they want to push everything they ever did successfully in a lab into these tablets and this ALWAYS fails. Tabs are not a lab replacement. The primary function they WILL succeed at is consuming content, whether it be text or video. My personal feeling is that the best use of this method is really outside the classroom, on the students’ own devices, and that screen time in the class is not the best way. Tablets are only good at authoring certain kinds of limited content, like raw video and photos. You still need computers to type on. Laptops are just too delicate, easy to steal, with short lifespans, and all kinds of wifi bandwidth issues for any but the highest functioning schools with good budgets.

  • Challenger47

    One of the key factors of this debate relates to the abilities of staff who are tasked with using the devices and the supporting strategy of the school district. While in a like for like scenario, iOS will offer more educational focus (due to volume of available apps etc), the devices will often not be fully utilized due to poor training / tech awareness of instructional staff or due to a lack of BYOD strategy at the district level. So begs the question, why make a $600 investment into a device that will have 60% utilization (in the majority of cases…excluding specialized classes / subjects) when you can make a smaller investment ($300) into a Chrome (or similar) device but still have similar utilization and therefore better ROI. Until there is more of a strcutured BYOD strategy in place, I worry about examples where there are huge investments being made….it’s like buying a Rolls Royce to drive on a dirt track before a proper high quality road is built.

  • iandouglas

    I have to agree with others, the article is pretty one-sided. Granted, the Chromebooks are cheaper, but even using Google’s own calculator on the educational chromebook site, when you factor in administration and such, you’re still only going to afford 31,000 Chromebooks for $30M.

    Why not give every kid a Raspberry Pi instead? There’s a crapload of Linux-based educational software at every level, and at the price point, you could buy EVERY kid in the LASD a Pi plus some accessories.

  • John Scott

    Well, I find any technology in school a risky proposition. As technology advances its very hard to advance or upgrade a tablet. Apple basically has already stopped supporting iPad 1. Would Chromebooks being weak in hardware fair any better? Yes, they are cheaper, and you can buy at least 2 Chromebooks for every one iPad. So initial costs would favor Chromebooks. But then you lack compatibility with e-books for educations with Chromebooks and I don’t see much better results in fixing Chromebooks then iPads. In other words, is technology given many schools budgets a good deal. What is a schools expectations in terms of life span for these devices? My wife a teacher in grade school used Power PC Mac’s for almost 8 years before they switched to PC’s that were refurbs. I don’t see Chromebooks being anymore durable then a iPad and frankly neither in my mind could survive a couple drops on the floor.

  • Anonymous

    I hate Apple, but in my opinion, Chromebooks definitely can’t be used for education in classroom. While library computers and stuff can be replaced by them, for education in the classroom, iPad is awesome/

  • Tony Byatt

    School Districts’ big wigs own Apple stock?

  • Michael Hatfield

    Where can I start looking to get a grant to get Chrome Books in my classroom?

  • WhyDidIClickThatLink

    I think this article and the arguments are pretty mute. As an IT guy there is a reason I stay away tablets more than laptops, and laptops more than Desktops.

    In the grand scheme of things, a tablet (regardless of manufacturer) cannot accomplish what a laptop can, and the same with a laptop to desktop, and desktop to server. That is why there are tiers to technology. You can argue it all you want, even if you could compare apples to apples from tablet to laptop, with the size difference and accessory critical design, you cannot accomplish it as easily or as cost effectively. Granted they are fine and cool devices.

    As for an educational setting… I am more of a computer guy, I hate tablets of all kind, the web browser interfaces are sluggish, the switching from task to task is tiresome, the ability to (typically) only view one thing at a time on the screen is annoying. It hampers my ability to learn and to learn fast. Not that a laptop is much better, usually requiring you to remember a power cord. When it comes down to Ipads vs Chrome books they are both extremely proprietary in what they can allow a user to do.

    I have not used either, mainly because I cannot see them offering a solution to anything I could use in the applicable world. I can access google drive from almost any device I want, and if I really need something from the Apple side of something… I can guarantee I can find a cheaper version that does it better somewhere else (Most of the time). For educational purposes, I think laptops work best, not chrome books… Laptops.

    The larger screen allows a student to utilize more than one thing, the keyboard that isn’t an accessory allows it to be ported over to Social Sciences and English better than hand held devices without the need of disposable batteries etc. As far as administration goes, Schools are running (almost all the time) Microsoft servers, and what interfaces better with Microsoft than its own Operating system (literally people, they were built to do so). I have heard nightmarish things from Administrators with Apple tech and BYOD along with their warranties and service agreements.

    I could throw a lot more points in as well why I think Laptops are more viable than either solution but in the end, even they are not that good of an implementation. I think a lot of good points were made for how an Ipad can help in an interactive (seemingly Math oriented) environment. But the camera is not a justifiable reason for an institution to empty its wallets for a device that can’t really compare to a real computer.

  • jay

    Classrooms are over saturated with technology and children in the U.S. aren’t learning any more than before; arguably much longer less. We need to get back to basics. The rest of the world doesn’t have any where near the access we have (relatively speaking), yet they continue to best us at STEM. You all are focusing on the wrong argument; however one-sided. My daughter is forced to use chrome books in school. They are buggy and slow. The added bonus? No one in the school knows how to work them, including the teachers. Everyone benefits except the kids and that’s a shame…