Primary (K-12) Education

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Chromebooks vs. iPads in K-12




I come from a self-professed iFamily. You’ll see everything from iPhones, iPads, iPods, Apple TVs and MacBooks scattered about the house like used towels in a high-school locker room.


Before school started this fall, we bought another iPad for my daughter. Her school has a bring-your-own-iPad policy for its 1:1 learning initiative. And with other schools in our neighborhood rolling out similar initiatives, I assumed iPads were the device of choice.


But all that changed a couple of weeks ago. I was talking to a group of K-12 CIOs about their technology initiatives and asked what devices caught their interest. To my surprise, many advocated Chromebooks. So I did a little digging into the reasons behind these choices.


Affordability – Under constant budget pressure, acquisition cost is a huge factor at schools that issue their own devices. This is why many schools are taking a different path by adopting BYOD policies.


Most Chromebooks that include device management and support are priced around $350 for K-12s, whereas iPads start at $400. So the reason why so many of our customers see them as a better value becomes clearer.


Simplicity – Another challenge in K-12 is the limited size of IT departments and a scarcity of resources. Because these brave souls have to do more with less, they lean heavily toward solutions that are quick to deploy and easy to manage.


With built-in support for third-party mobile device management (MDM) solutions, Apple has been so beloved in K-12 classrooms. Google, on the other hand, gives IT a fairly comprehensive web console to manage Chromebooks, which has become greatly appealing to many K-12 schools.


And because iPads and Chromebooks have such simple and intuitive interfaces, there is practically no learning curve and therefore no burden on IT helpdesk when devices are deployed in the classroom.


Rich learning – With higher learning standards like Common Core and the widespread availability of multimedia education tools, it’s becoming imperative that all classroom technology support a rich learning experience.


Chromebooks support Google education apps with all the essential learning and collaboration tools. But iPads are in a league of their own with 40,000+ education apps. Nonetheless, growing legions of schools are using Google collaboration apps on their iPads.


In addition to apps, the user experience only a tablet can provide gives iPads an edge over Chromebooks. Schools invest in them with confidence, knowing that they are providing the best possible learning experience to students.


Reliability – While there is little that is unreliable about Chromebooks or Google, iPads have the advantage of being in the market longer. They are also considered by many to be a more mature and proven learning device, compared to Chromebooks.


Other considerations that carry some weight include:

  • A full-size keyboard. If the onscreen iPad keyboard doesn’t meet requirements, schools must bear the added cost of providing an external keyboard accessory.
  • Offline use. Chromebooks have limited offline capabilities, which could be deal-breaker for some schools districts.
  • Flash-based tools. If teachers are required to use flash-based instructional tools, iPads are off the table.
  • Battery life. The average iPad battery life is about 10 hours and the newest Chromebooks are close behind with an average life of 6-8 hours.


To sum it up, both devices bring something different to the table. But no matter the choice, it’s important to choose a robust Wi-Fi infrastructure that can meet the needs of the next-generation classroom.


As a parent, I’m excited about the simple things. It’s so much easier for my daughter to complete and submit homework. And I expect she’ll grow a foot or two this year since her backpack no longer weighs over 20 pounds.

Aruba Employee
Aruba Employee

Re: Chromebooks vs. iPads in K-12

Just got the $150 Walmart Asus special this week (delivered here to the Aruba office).  I think both have their place, but the interesting thing for me is the tools that are emerging to bridge the gap between the two. Kids can have continuity between devices by using things such as Evernote, Dropbox / Google / Sky Drive, and many others.


I see the dividing line between what's the main priority for that age group -- tactile engagement or group collaboration.  Younger kids often focus on particular education apps, not on the group editing features etc that Google services provides.

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