With an ever-expanding diverse pallet of available devices for educational use, It is important to have a moderate understanding of each option. Too often specific technology is purchased solely based on price, without any idea of what the device is capable of. Preplanning and anticipating which tasks and features you’d like to be able to perform with your tech is vital to choosing what is right for your class. Let’s start by analyzing the most popular devices individually.
Android Tablets/Apple Ipads
Pro: In today’s day in age, it is extremely uncommon to find a student who doesn’t immediately recognize and know how to use a tablet. Resembling a smart phone interface, it gives students (especially very young students) a feeling of familiarity and comfortability. Once it has been formatted and set up properly, a tablet is incredibly easy to use. Tablets leave students with very little room for error when it comes to standard operation.
Applications from the app store/google play store are easy to download, and leave you with the option to try new things whenever you’d like. There are thousands of available education related applications, and plenty of them are free.
Probably the biggest pro for tablets in the classroom are the entry-level prices. Certain tablets can be purchased for less than $100, while going up in price up to $1000 or more for top of the line devices. However, educators typically don’t buy top of the line tablets, and cheap tablets reign supreme in most schools.
Con: While convenient for your students/users, tablets take a lot of work to manage for any administrator in charge of them. First off, your tablets will most likely need to be linked to a Google or Apple account in order to install applications and customize the device. On top of an account, you may even need to add credit card information to the account. This can put the administrator of the tablets at a higher level of risk. Tablets would need to be configured 100% correctly to ensure no student could make purchases on your account.
Each device will also be managed on an individual basis. The administrator of the tablets in most cases will have to touch each device individually just to install new apps or run updates. This problem can be solved by some student training, but is something to consider if you have younger students who may not be up to the task. Consider as well, that you are limited by the available applications from the app store/google play store. If you have specific software you’d like to use in your classroom, it may not have a supported application. You should know exactly what apps or software you intend to use before readying any purchase.
Tablets also do not leave your IT team with many options when they inevitably need repair. Shattered glass on the screen requires specific tools and equipment to repair, most likely involving tools that your IT department doesn’t have regular access to. Often times, you’d need 3rd party unofficial parts in order to attempt a repair on a tablet yourself.
Pro: Chromebooks have exploded in popularity over the last several years in educational use. Chromebooks are able to give you a laptop experience for tablet pricing. For those unfamiliar with what a Chromebook really is, imagine a simplified windows/mac user experience. Google’s operating system by default is a Google Chrome experience, meaning the browser itself is the foundation of the device. However, Google was also able to take advantage of external applications in the same way a tablet would, giving the Chromebook even more functions than before.
Typically, a classroom full of Chromebook users would all have assigned Google accounts. Google accounts grant access to email, drive, file sharing, and the full list of available Google apps. Typically, the school’s IT administrator would be in charge of student accounts. Google has an amazing platform for managing accounts, so you and your team can decide what students should be allowed to do, and what they have access to. Google’s management tools are 10 times more intuitive than any tablet management tools.
What makes the Chromebook so powerful is its ability to connect educators with their students through the cloud. Younger children are able to learn basic computing skills (and typing skills) without the full intensity of Windows/Mac operating systems. Chromebooks are valuable in the classroom all the way from K-12. When it comes to repairs, Chromebooks are easier to work on than tablets, but not as easy as windows laptops. Simple repairs like new screens and keys are done easily, and will save you down time.
Con: Similar to tablets, the biggest issue you may find with Chromebooks is compatibility issues for certain software. Many companies are now utilizing Chromebooks and offering compatible versions of their software, however there are plenty of companies who only offer Windows and Mac versions. Beyond this, Chromebooks have traditional cons and faults that could be associated with any laptop. Chromebooks require you purchase a management license from Google in order to group and management your entire fleet of devices, which averages around $25 per perpetual license.
Pro: Windows laptops or desktops in a lab setting are an important step in a student’s technology journey. Giving students access to what a corporate environment would look like, and training them accordingly can give them a huge advantage in their future career. Windows laptops could be considered comparatively less user friendly than previously listed devices, but grant students more opportunity. It is imperative for students to know how to operate in an unrestricted environment, and find resources for themselves. In our experience, we’ve always considered Windows machines to be an “upgrade” from Chromebooks.
Chromebooks to us serve as the starting point to where we can get students comfortable with a more powerful and universal machine. Not only this, but windows devices are typically more expensive. For a windows device to run efficiently, you will need to spend at least twice per device what you would spend on a Chromebook or low-end tablet. While the price difference is unfortunate, it grants you the ability to run more intense tasks like video editing, game design, coding applications and more. Windows devices should always be considered a more advanced device than tablets and Chromebooks.
Repairs and management are a breeze in the proper environment. Windows laptops are able to be upgraded/repaired easiest out of all devices listed here. Because of this, and because of the hardware inside of these machines, windows devices have a life span of 5-7 years compared to the 3-4 years you’ll see from a tablet or Chromebook.
Con: The greatest pro of windows machines is also its biggest con. When you unleash the endless capabilities of a windows PC, unfortunately the bad can come along with it. Viruses and malware can be a serious concern if you aren’t careful. Knowing which sites and tools you can trust and those you can’t is important information for both educators and students. Having a solid IT team behind you that can manage your firewall and help keep the network safe is always vital, and it helps a lot when you have hundreds of students doing computer research all day.
Another con of windows laptops is that they are not made to be rugged. Certain Chromebooks have education in mind, and make sure to be rugged in case of drops and bangs. Windows laptops will not handle drops very well, and students cannot be as clumsy with them.
Pro: Utilizing Apple computers in an educational environment helps expand the horizon of your students. It is important for them to experience both sides of the spectrum. Apple computers are typically used in a lab setting, compared to a classroom setting. Mac labs are important for the creative arts areas in schools. Elements such as graphic design, music production, video editing, and others are best done by Macintosh computers. Macintosh computers come with a selection of software that can do these things that Windows computers do not come with.
Con: As mentioned previously, it would be uncommon to see a classroom set of Macbooks. These laptops are far more expensive than a typical Windows device, and would not be necessary for everyday tasks. Macbooks also cannot be repaired as easily as a windows device. You have a limited spectrum of what resources are available to you for troubleshooting, and what would require advanced support from Apple. While beneficial to a school that can handle the extra price of the devices, Macs are best utilized in a lab setting that students can visit, versus needing them all the time.
There is no correct answer when it comes down to choosing the right solution for your classroom setting. To make the best choice is to research your options wisely, plan as much as possible based on your needs, and make the best-informed decision you can. We hope the information we have gone over can give you a general idea of what may be best for you. If you have any questions for us, please leave us a comment or find our information on our contact page. The SimpleFly Team is here to support you in any way possible!