iPads or Chromebooks? An EdTech’s Take on Deployment in a District

As Common Core begins to restructure education from the top-down, some districts across the nation are looking at a major overhaul getting the tenured staff to envision a new way of doing things. From the bottom-up, those same districts face the challenges of also delivering what students need and parents want from their education system. Of course their interests may not align with what Common Core has set forth for a “greater good” beyond a singular district. Couple those two forces with a budget constraints, initiatives to provide a healthier nutrition plan in school cafeterias, ongoing facilities maintenance, increase fuel costs impacting bus routing and given that technology plans are obsolete as they are written, many districts are left wondering what they can do to enhance education towards the “21st Century Classroom” like their neighboring districts. It is time to look deeper at it, and after all the infrastructure, learning management and device management has been squared away by the district thought leaders first, it’s time to look at the part everyone else cares most about: the device itself.

Only One of Them Walks Away…

During that 2010-2011 school year, many schools saw a surge of iPads hit the classrooms after the first generation was unveiled in April 2010. Just over a year later, Google released the Chromebook in a partnership with two powerhouses in the mobile device space – Acer and Samsung. By then, according to the IDC, iPad sales were already accounting for more than 90% of all tablet sales. The Chromebook is NOT a tablet, but in competing for a spot in a student’s hands, the number is staggering enough to show why Chromebook was having a tough adoption rate in schools – people hate change. As district thought leaders and parents of the students themselves started viewing content on mobile devices more than traditional PCs, the level on how these devices can change daily routines was applied to their students and children and how they were going to be educated from there on out. Being technology natives, where most people over the age of 29 in 2014 are technology immigrants, children and young adults have a natural knack for controlling a device. The question still is, where the funds may be tight, yet the learning experience is expected to be top-notch, which device do school divvy out in the fall?

Peripherals for the Pupils

The accessories that come with the devices are a very large factor to consider. Let’s go back to the thought on the Common Core. Chromebooks have the keyboard needed for testing, where the iPad needs an external keyboard added on as the screen keyboard reduces the specified screen size needed. Based on what Wi-Fi capabilities you might have, a safe best is a wired keyboard so that your infrastructure can focus on getting the testing done seamlessly. The school would need to spend additionally for a keyboard if they still employ iPads. Another accessory is a headphone or headset (one with a microphone for speech). I would highly recommend a headset versus the headphones or simple earbuds. At the curricular level, a teacher may want to employ a lesson plan where talk-to-text or voice recognition is needed. The district over all might not have thought of this, so it may be a subject to consider. Microphones will be required in 2016-2017 for the Speaking and Listening testing session for those states that have adopted PARCC standards as it relates to Common Core.

Stop and Check Out the View

How a device is viewed by the students, teachers, parents and even the community paying the taxes is something that has not often given a lot of thought. iPads are advertised as a device for having fun on with its quirky commercials showing just how much fun is in the thin little device. On the other hand, Chomebooks are looked at as a work device due to the fact that education is the only industry that really does any marketing of the product anyway. Apple upholds that level of sophistication of being the top technology manufacture, while Google has thrived since 2012 with is motto “don’t be evil” and is known mostly for its search engine which has the sole purpose of delivery the right information to the right people at the right time. Information and education as sort of hand-in-hand.

“Houston, Someone Will Have a Problem”

Data loss, security and storage are another one of those “#1 things you must think about”. Since all the Chromebook files live “in the cloud,” students could be up and running in seconds with no lost data on a new device upon destruction of the Chromebook. When an iPad breaks, not only does a fairy die, but so does the data on it if deemed totally destroyed. Submersion in liquid is a surefire way to do that. A student can be at a very large loss given how they were storing and backing up their files. The downfall here can be the availability of internet access, so whether a student has access at home to wireless can make the Chromebook a nice paper weight at home. The iPad can at least be used with the software and available offline apps. The data stored can then be synced when the device hits the schools network the next time they arrive at school. However, an iPad requires regular maintenance, where the Technology Department can be worry free with Chromebooks.

Making teachers happier in their profession and ensuring students receive an education that will prepare them for the future is the desired result. Taking a look at what the device can do for both parties need to succeed is vital to a successful mobile learning plan. While each have advantages, there are some hitches. Many school employ both in different grades, schools or learning programs. Finding your proper mix may take some time, and forming a committee is likely what is needed to make the best decision for your school or district.

I am a Business Development Representative for Troxell Communications, an EdTech company which specializes in the deployment of mobile learning plans for K12 schools. When not being a tech junkie, I can be found performing at a comedy clubs or expanding my love and knowledge of horror movies.

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