More Schools Finding Ways to get iPads, Chromebooks into Students’ Hands

By Rob Klindt

Educators throughout the nation are embracing hands-on technology in the classroom.

And the tablet computer increasingly appears to be the tool of choice among K-12 teachers because of its simplicity, versatility and availability.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest district in the United States. The LAUSD school board recently voted to spend $50 million in bond funds to equip students at 47 of its schools with tablet computers for classroom use.

While district officials haven’t yet decided which brand of tablet the district should buy, the brands most often mentioned are the Apple iPad and the new Google Chromebook, which has many tablet features but looks like a laptop with its dedicated keyboard and larger screen.

Under the program, which starts this year, tablets will be given to a first wave of about 30,000 students. After that, the district’s goal is to equip all the district’s 650,000 students with the devices by 2014 at a cost of $500 million. That will be just in time to satisfy the district’s commitment to prepare students for an updated technology-based curriculum known as Common Core State Standards set to launch in 2014.

Other districts nationwide are following suit.

According to the Official Google Enterprise Blog, more than 500 school districts in the United States and Europe are using Chromebooks. Among them are the Rockingham County and Transylvania County schools in North Carolina and the Fond du Lac School District in Wisconsin.

Districts embracing the iPad include the Clark County School District in Las Vegas and the San Diego Unified School District.

 Analyzing the Cost and Features

Which device is best suited for the classroom? That depends on whom you ask and how much you’re able to pay.

In a 2012 article on Edudemic, an online blog for teachers and students, editors posted an article asking readers, “Google Chromebook vs. Apple iPad: Which is Better for Classrooms?” Respondents found pluses and minuses in both tablets:

iPad advantages

  • Ease of use.
  • Ability to run programs offline.
  • Large number of apps
  • Access to iTunes Media store.
iPad disadvantages

  • Higher cost
  • Lack of a physical keyboard and USB port.
  • Does not does not support Flash, the popular Web video and animation software.

 

Chromebook advantages

  • Extensive use of cloud computing.
  • Versatility its Google apps.
  • Physical keyboard and touchpad.
Chromebook disadvantages

  • Inability to run programs offline.
  • Shorter battery life.
  • Lack of access to richer local apps that might be found on a traditional laptop computer.

 

 

One point agreed on by most respondents was that the higher cost of iPads over Chromebooks can be a major stumbling block.

A Google Chromebook with 16GB storage costs around $250, while a similar iPad costs around $399. For cash-strapped school districts, higher costs make it more difficult to bring updated technology into the district and to meet national curriculum standards. And for teachers, it’s harder to achieve a goal of one-to-one classroom learning using tablets if there aren’t enough to go around.

Availability and Support

Apple iPads are designed, marketed and sold by Apple, which also controls apps that run on it and requires users to download them from its iTunes store.

Google Chromebooks are licensed and marketed by various companies under the names Samsung Chromebook, Samsung Chromebook 550, Acer C7 Chromebook and HP Pavilion Chromebook. Apps are created by various developers and can be downloaded at numerous sites including the Google Web Chromestore.

Support for teachers and students using each device are available through the Apple in Education and Google in Education programs.

Here’s an overview of the features available on basic Chromebooks and iPads:

Entry-level Samsung Chromebook

  • Uses Google’s Chrome Operating System built to use mostly Web-based technology and apps.
  • Functional desktop with moveable windows.
  • Memory: 2GB.
  • Storage: 16GB SSD.
  • Dual Wi-Fi.
  • Display size: 11.6 inches (diagonal).
  • Weight: 2.5 pounds.
  • Rechargeable battery life: about 6.5 hours.
  • Physical keyboard and trackpad.
  • Inputs include a 3.0 USB port, 2.0 USB port and an HDMI port.
  • Combination headphone/microphone jack.
  • VGA camera, Bluetooth compatible

Entry-level fourth-generation Wi-Fi iPad

  • Uses Apple’s iOS operating system built for exclusive use with Apple hardware.
  • Single static webpage display.
  • RAM: 1GB.
  • Storage: 16GB up to 128GB.
  • Display size: 9.7 inches (diagonal).
  • Weight: 1.44 pounds.
  • Rechargeable battery life: about 10 hours.
  • Touchscreen digital keyboard.
  • No USB input ports.
  • 3.5 mm stereo headphone mini-jack, built-in speaker and microphone.
  • Front and rear-facing cameras.

 

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