Why are schools using iPads instead of Chromebooks?

July 19, 2013
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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.

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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.

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