iPad vs Chromebook…the better classroom device is a Chromebook

A team member recently made me aware of this article by Kelly Croy called, “The Best Chromebook is… an iPad.” I realize the post is approaching two years old but it obviously still has a life so I feel the need to post a rebuttal of sorts. My primary issue (beyond the fact the post continues to have a life), even in light of its original publication date, is that the author seems to approach the topic with a bit of bias toward the iPad because he spends no time espousing the virtues of the Chromebook as an educational device. I will point out the biggest winning virtue of the Chromebook in my conclusion but I will first go bolded point by bolded point and address each area of comparison that leads the author to his unfortunate conclusion and why I feel differently.

Myth #1: The iPad is about consuming not producing.” Hardly a myth and here’s why. The iPad was and continues to be a consumer device. Steve Jobs even admitted it in his iPad rollout as summarized by this Wired article…”Most people don’t buy a laptop for the tasks they were originally designed for — heavy office work, such as writing, crafting presentations, or financial analysis with spreadsheets. They use it mostly to communicate via email, text, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook; to browse the Internet; and to consume media such as books, movies, TV shows, music, photos, games, and videos. Jobs said that you could do all this on an iPhone, but the screen was too small to make it comfortable. You could also do it all on a laptop, but the keyboard and the trackpad made it too bulky, and the short battery life often left you tethered to a power outlet. Jobs felt what the world needed was a device in the middle that combined the best of both — something that was “more intimate than a laptop, and so much more capable than a smartphone,” he said.” During his presentation, Jobs threw up a slide that listed the tasks you’d use the iPad for…they were, “Browsing, Email, Photos, Video, Music, Games and eBooks”…for the average user, consumption. So to recap, the iPad’s creator identified the reason he created the device was “to consume”!!! So Myth #1 is not really a myth at all.

Now I will give you a certain amount of leeway here due to some of the more recent app development that does facilitate creation in, on and with the device (which by the way I believe has been a result of and response to the adaptation of the iPad in education)…but the majority of the tasks done on the iPad still today, even in schools, involves consumption.

But I may well take away the leeway for suggesting that creating using the Google Apps is the same as creating on a Chromebook using the Google suite of tools. It isn’t. There is functionality in Google docs, slides, sheets, etc. that simply doesn’t exist in the Apple version of the apps. This idea of using the Google Apps on the iPad as a normal course of action would suggest to me that Mr. Croy has never attempted to create a comprehensive presentation using the iPad only.

“Myth #2: The iPad doesn’t have a physical keyboard”. Hello? Earth to Mr. Croy. This is absolutely not a myth but 100% fact. No one on the planet to date has ever bought an iPad that does have a physical keyboard…no one! Now obviously what you meant to say here is, “The iPad doesn’t come with a physical keyboard…but you can buy one for a mere forty six dollars and fourteen cents.” Oh wait, that’s not a myth either. Ok, so I’m not sure where you were headed with this “myth” but the bottom line is that the iPad doesn’t come with a keyboard but you can buy one if you want.

And frankly I’m puzzled by the balance of his sentences under the “Myth #2” paragraph. I thought I might list every sentence and respond to them individually but frankly, this one is hardly worth the effort. So I’ll just sum them up this way:
Students do have devices with physical keyboards…they’re called computers or sometimes laptops.
The idea that students would/could complete all types of assignments on a virtual keyboard is wrong-headed…I doubt any student assigned to write a 10-page thesis would reach for an iPad to do it. This one covers his thought that only old people think physical keyboards are superior…again, wrong-headed.
Adults are quite adept at the use of a virtual keyboard and the notion that we’re not is a bit demeaning to say the least.

“Durability:” They’re equal, he said so himself.

Portability: Not sure what his point is here. Is it size? Is it weight? Is it boot time? If it is size, well there are Chromebooks that are smaller than the iPad…but honestly smaller isn’t always better, if it were, Mr. Jobs would have stopped with the iPhone. If it is weight, well not all Chromebooks are created equal here either, some are lighter than the average iPad. If it is boot time, well if the iPad is new and running the latest iOS, it will boot faster. But let’s line up a 4 year old iPad and a 4 year old Chromebook and open up a Google Doc to start editing and let’s see who wins. But wait, this is not “boot time” but more the concept of “mean time to productivity” which, in my opinion, is a far more important metric.

“Reading Device:” Really? See Myth #1.

“Apps:” Here’s another one I’ll give him a pass on. The landscape was vastly different a couple years ago when this article was typed on the virtual keyboard of an iPad (Ok, i’m only assuming he wrote it on an iPad but, if I were a betting man, I’d bet he did it on a device with a physical keyboard). The fact is, that just a few weeks ago, Google announced that the entire Google Play Store and all of its Android Apps will be available on the Chrome OS. So, Apps: Equal.

“The Game-Changer:” If the only educational resources available to a connected student was within iTunes University, then yes, this would be both a game-changer and a really sad world. The good news is, the real world is vastly different and there are more educational resources available on the internet right now than there were when I started writing this article a short while ago. And while those resources are in-fact available on the iPad, they are equally available, and often easier to manage on a Chromebook.

“Price:” I’m not sure what Amazon he used to find his pricing. My query returned no new iPads for around $300…add his physical keyboard and you’re easily over $300. I have a quote for a Lenovo N22 with touchscreen that comes in just over the $200 price point. Without the touchscreen, just under $200. Multiply this difference by the number of students in your class or your school/district and we’re talking serious money.

So in summary Mr. Croy, I would have to disagree with virtually every point made in your article. But as you said in your blog’s comments, that’s the beauty of this blog/comment venue.

Stopping here would seem logical since I’ve addressed each of Mr. Croy’s bolded talking points and I’ve addressed a few of the Chromebook strengths along the way. However, the most significant feature of the Chromebook in an educational setting has not yet been discussed primarily because the iPad features in this area pale in comparison, and that is administrative control features.

The Google Admin Console provides an incredibly comprehensive level of control over every functional aspect of the Chromebook. It’s far more than merely blocking websites. It is fundamental machine level control that works wherever the Chromebook is and whomever is signed into the device. Now there is a certain amount of device management that can be implemented for the iPad. However, the best products come from 3rd party vendors (just Google “apple device management for education” and you’ll see 5 companies listed ahead of Apple in the results) and they are far more expensive than the one-time management license with the Chromebook.

Now Apple is clearly attempting to patch this deficiency with bandaids like Apple School Manager and Managed Apple IDs…but these are clearly afterthoughts. The reality is, nobody at Apple saw the education market coming. Google, on the other hand, was in the education business long before the Chromebook launched and, as a result, they were able to anticipate the functionality tech directors like me would want in devices we were putting in the hands of 8 year old students.

In conclusion, beyond consumption vs creation, beyond form factor, beyond apps or device durability, I need to know that I can do everything possible to make the use of any digital device as safe, secure and distraction free that I can for the benefit of my students and my faculty. Google does this well with their Chromebook device…Apple, well like my network guy says, “These iPads are like the Wild West, no law around for hundreds of miles!!”