Are Chromebooks or iPads Better for Schools?

Yesterday an article entitled “Are Chromebooks or iPads Better for Schools?” circulated across Twitter, showing up in my feed at least ten times. The article, for the most part, describes how the Hillsborough, New Jersey school district, after a year of piloting iPads and Chromebooks, sold all their iPads and distributed 4,600 Chromebooks. Click here to read the article.

As always, I am concerned about how devices can be used in music education and other electives (this blog, as named, is about technology in music education, and that will always be my primary concern).

As you read the article, notice four things:

1. iPads are highlighted as failues in LAUSD and Fort Bend, Texas–as well as directly linked to the disasterous Amplify tablet rollout in the Guilford County Schools (North Carolina)

2. Teachers are interviewed in the article, but did you notice the subject areas they teach? Jennifer Harmsen, Social Studies. Larissa McCann, Science. No music or elective teacher's thoughts are recorded about the subject.

3. Anti-iPad/pro-Chromebook feedback from Hillsborough's IT Director:

While nobody hated the iPad, by any means, the iPad was edged out by some key feedback, said Joel Handler, Hillsborough’s director of technology. Students saw the iPad as a “fun” gaming environment, while the Chromebook was perceived as a place to “get to work.” And as much as students liked to annotate and read on the iPad, the Chromebook’s keyboard was a greater perk — especially since the new Common Core online testing will require a keyboard.

Another important finding came from the technology support department: It was far easier to manage almost 200 Chromebooks than the same number of iPads. Since all the Chromebook files live in an online “cloud,” students could be up and running in seconds on a new device if their machine broke. And apps could be pushed to all of the devices with just a few mouse clicks.

Hillsborough educators also tend to emphasize collaboration, and they found that Google’s Apps for Education suite—which works on either device—was easier to use collaboratively on Chromebooks.

I have written about these items before: there is nothing wrong with a “fun” device, as long as the teacher simply manages their classroom. A fun device can be used productively, too. New iPad management tools, released as part of the failed LAUSD situation, make the management of iPads MUCH easier. But without a doubt, GAFE work best on a Chromebook, Mac, or Windows computer that has a keyboard. GAFE is centered around the concept of typing (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations). On other other hand, GAFE apps do seem to work better on an iPad than Google's own Android tablet.

4. And most importantly, although hidden in the article:

At Hillsborough, the Chromebooks are currently being supplemented by 3,000 Nexus tablets, handed out by Google as part of a new pilot program.

Did you notice that? The school district was given 3,000 Nexus tablets by Google–I am sure that had nothing to do with their choice of Chromebooks over iPads.

To be fair, there is a positive paragraph about iPads as used by David Mahaley, an administrator and classroom teacher at Franklin Academy in Wake Forest, North Carolina. But the overall message of the article is clear: Chromebooks are the way to go.

I simply urge you to remember that there are other subjects in education beyond social studies, science, or English. Your choice of 1:1 technology needs to be the best fit for all subjects. Please don't forget us! There is more to say on this subject–but as you read stories that are pro/anti devices, make sure to look at all the details and all the angles!



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