iPads and Chromebooks in 1:1 Deployments?

This evening, Erin Klein, a technology integration specialist I follow on Twitter (@KleinErin) posted this tweet, which is a link to THE JOURNAL and an article by Leila Meyer who discusses using both iPads and Chromebooks in a 1:1 deployment.

I find myself completely at odds with the article, having purchased both devices. Meyer’s article is based around two core beliefs:

1. iPads are better suited for younger students and subjects like math

2. Chromebooks are better suited for older students and subjects like English (i.e. kids write so much they need a keyboard–“Kids gotta type!”).

Let me summarize a few thoughts:

  1. This approach ignores the many classes in which a Chromebook is basically useless (including music)
  2. This approach believes that the number one role of a computer in secondary education is to write papers (this is NOT technology integration).
  3. This approach believes that Google Docs are robust apps that are ideal for writing those papers (There are benefits and drawbacks to Google Docs)
  4. This approach believes that other hardware features of the iPad are not necessary in secondary education (Cameras for iMovie and so on, not to mention the wide variety of apps)

I own a Chromebook.  I am writing this blog post on a Chromebook.  I think it is an ideal machine, particularly in school media centers, where the purpose of computers has been for research, writing, and making PowerPoints.  But the Chromebook is so limited as a browser-based system that its strengths lie only on the S (substitution) and A (augmentation) levels of the SAMR technology integration model.  It just isn’t a device that allows for higher level technology integration. And, for the most part, the only people that are buying Chromebooks are schools and individual users who just need a web browser…everyone else is buying iPads these days…quite literally everyone else.  So there is a chance that Google will eventually abandon these devices, as they have other services in the past.

Now, if a school wishes to use a combination of iPads and MacBooks, or iPads and Windows PCs…I’m fine with that and can see the argument about how the Mac/PC better prepares them for the business world (although businesses are buying plenty of iPads, too).  But I’d still argue that notebook computers are very hard to integrate into all subjects.  But to honestly say that iPads should be used in elementary and Chromebooks should be used in Secondary is really limiting what you can do with technology at the secondary level.

Okay…so that keyboard on the Chromebook helped your student write a ten page paper (how many ten page papers do you think your student writes in high school anyway?), but have you seen the interface and resulting documents from Google Docs?  Can you cite things to your school’s standards with Google Docs?  Furthermore, how is that 4 hour battery holding up in class?

And show me the creative projects your students are doing, such as videos (iMovie), musical compositions (GarageBand or Notion), or some of the interesting presentations they have created (Keynote, Haiku Deck, or Scrollshow).  How about the great notetaking apps where students can type notes, draw, or write notes by hand (Notability, Noteshelf)?

Do you see where I am going with this?

The answer, in my brain, is to go with iPad Minis at the elementary level (smaller users, smaller hands) and iPads at the secondary level, and let students buy their own keyboard case (there are several wonderful ones on the market) instead.

The other hidden aspect of the Chromebook implementation is the cost savings.  Chromebooks can be purchased for around $200, whereas you really don’t want anything less than a 32GB iPad these days…at $429 (32GB Mini) to $599 (32GB iPad 4).  You can buy two Chomebooks for every iPad, and sometimes four Chromebooks for every MacBook.  Schoosl typically donm’t buy bargain Windows PCs, either…they buy school units with extended warranties starting around $1000 as well…once again, making it 4 Chromebooks for every Windows notebook.  Add a keyboard case to the iPad, and the financial argument even goes further.

So…the question schools ask: is this device (iPad, notebook, etc.) worth two to four times more than the Chromebook?  If they answer no, they feel the creative and multipurpose nature of the iPad is not worth the cost–and chances are, they are not invested in technology integration, just technology substitution–making a better typewriter.

Should you mix devices in a 1:1?  Maybe, but certainly not in the combination of iPads for elementary and Chromebooks for secondary.

What would I suggest?

  1. iPads in the hands of all students, 1:1 (iPad Minis in elementary, iPads in secondary)
  2. Students provide keyboards if needed.
  3. Chromebooks in the media center, replacing old desktop computers
  4. MacBook labs for specific subjects needing specific notebook programs
  5. Teachers should have both a Macbook (for iBooks Author alone) and an iPad

This model is more expensive than 1:1 Chromebook, and slightly more expensive than 1:1 iPad, but significantly less expensive than 1:1 MacBook or Windows PC deployment.

If you have noticed, I have not discussed Android tablets, as the article is dismissive of that platform.  That would be an article for another time.


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