Chromebook vs iPad in Education

When I look around the education technology space, it’s hard for me to deny Google’s Chromebook has a leg up right now in the classroom. When you combine the fact that Chromebooks are incredibly easy for an IT staff to manage with the fact that Chromebooks are incredibly affordable, it’s easy to see why so many schools are choosing these devices.

My school is going to be making a transition from a BYOD program to a 1-to-1 program hopefully this upcoming school year. As part of our preparation for this change, we tried to make an honest comparison of Chromebook and iPad. The one rule we gave ourselves was to not make a decision solely based on price. Full disclosure: I expected to choose Chromebook as the device that would be best for us.

Chromebook Advantages

Price

  • I can get a Lenovo Chromebook device for education with the management console license for around $220. Even with the iPad’s recent price drop to $299 for education, that’s a big difference when you are purchasing these devices in bulk. This doesn’t even include needing to by a case and the Apple Pencil for the iPad to make use of all of its potential.
  • Repairing Chromebooks also has the potential to be much cheaper. iPad repairs are pretty much Apple Store / Apple Authorized Provider only. I could do Chromebook repairs in house for what seems to be a cheaper price.

Google Accounts

  • Our teachers and students already have Google accounts. Students would use the same login they already know to sign into their Chromebooks. No need to create another account.

Familiarity

  • We already have a couple of carts of Chromebooks, so the students and teachers are already familiar with these devices.

These three advantages are definitely good reasons to go Chromebook. But I said I wasn’t going to make a decision solely based on price, and I don’t want to make a decision based on aversion to change. Chromebooks seem like a good pick but I’m not sure they’re the pick.

iPad Advantages

Portability

The iPad form factor is more portable. I know the Chromebook is just as easy to carry from one class to another, but what I mean is the iPad can be used easily while walking around. If a teacher wants to have class outside, the student can be using the iPad while standing up. Doing this with a laptop form factor is nowhere near as easy.

Interaction Methods

The iPad’s multiple interaction methods seem to naturally make it more creative to me. You can use the touch screen, a keyboard, or the Apple Pencil – or any combination of the three. This would let a student that does better writing notes by hand do what works best for them, while a student that can do much better typing notes gets to do what works for them. Apple Pencil (and the education only Crayon) are hands down better than anything else on the market. They’re game changers.

Teacher Resources

The only way to successfully roll out a huge technology change like this is to make sure the teachers get the training and support they need. It seems clear to me that Apple has more resources in the area. They’ll come on campus and train your teachers for you.

Teachers also need good resources for classroom management, and the Classroom app is another game changer. The amount of control they will have over the student iPads is awesome. I love this app.

Content Creation

I know there are ways out there to edit videos and music on a Chromebook, but this is an area where Apple really shines (and has shined for a long time). Also, the iPad camera is better than what you’ll find in a ~$220 Chromebook. Student projects thus can be much more creative and engaging.

Our Choice

So what is our choice going to be? The Chromebook has some advantages, but after making this list it became clear to us that the iPad is a much stronger option than we had previously realized. I’m not sure what the outcome will be, but right now I’m leaning towards iPad.