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Apple & Google Are Releasing New Tablets. How Do I Choose The Right Device?

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Technology
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April 2, 2018

If you’ve been keeping up with the world of education and tech, you are probably aware that we have some new devices from two tech giants. Apple has been promoting an educational event for some time with rumors focusing on lower-cost iPads to compete with Google’s low-cost/high-value Chromebooks. And the day before Apple’s event, Google released some news of their own. Let’s dive in.

New Apple iPads for Education

At an event last week, Apple unveiled a new discounted iPad that still works with its coveted pencil. The iPad isn't as discounted as some hoped, but at $300, it's still a good discount. On top of that, they announced that Logitech is releasing a third-party stylus that's $40 cheaper than the Apple model. Most of the bug updates come via software with a new version of iWork that supports the Apple Pencil. Teachers will be able to mark up students' work, and the word is that real-time collaboration will come as well. You've probably used that feature already in G Suite or Microsoft 365.

Apple also announced a new app at their event: Schoolwork. This app helps teachers create a digital classroom that works with their iPads. It seems to be in the same vein of Google Classroom and Edmodo, with the exception that it's built to work with iPads. Now you can assign students with work in another iPad app, and when they click on it, the app they need opens up for them. It's also supposed to be easier to manage devices and students via student iCloud accounts. Lastly, they announced a new curriculum centered around creativity called Everyone Can Create, and it looks pretty amazing. All in all, Apple has brought some cool new hardware and software to the table for educators!

The Google Chrome Tablet is Finally Here

The day before the Apple Education event, Google tried to upstage them with a Chrome OS tablet announcement. The rumors of one coming have been swirling, and Google did not disappoint. Acer will make the first tablet, which will retail at $329. The Acer Chromebook Tab 10 will have a 9.7 inch display (1048 x 1536 which is the same as the iPad) with cameras on both the front and back. It will also include 4 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, a USB-C port, a microSD card slot and a headphone jack.

The Tab 10 will also come with a stylus (Wacom stylus) that won’t require charging. You will have the ability to manage apps and devices through the G Suite admin console. For schools that already using Chromebooks, this makes adding in tablets easy to do. The Tab 10 will also run Android apps. This allows you to provide a lot more content for your students.

So Which Tablet Should I Buy?

This is a great question to ask. I would start with another question: should you even be buying tablets?

The standard thought on tablets vs. laptops comes down to splitting up your user groups into two categories: content consumers and content creators.

Content Consumers

Content consumers tend to be your younger children. Pre-K through around 5th grade fit into this category. These children aren’t writing papers or making digital projects. They aren’t creating content; they’re consuming it. They use the device to browse through apps and websites to consume content and data. 

When you think about it, as adults we consume the most content through phones or tablets. It’s easy to browse the web and social media on a small handheld device that doesn’t have a lot of moving parts. Touch interaction is easy and simple. It’s easier for your younger students to use these kinds of devices.

Content Creators

Content creators are not only consuming content, they’re also creating it. They’re writing papers, building presentations, working with data and keeping notes. It’s so hard to create content on a tablet because a digital keyboard isn’t as user-friendly. If you have to write a 5-page paper, you want a device that has a keyboard. So we tend to buy these students devices that have a keyboard.

Are there exceptions to this rule? Sure! If you have enough devices with keyboards in your districts, then you can buy tablets for student research and digital curriculum access while using in-house devices to create. But most districts in Oklahoma don’t have that kind of money.

It Comes Down To This

We typically buy tablets for our younger kids to make it easy for them to consume content. If you’re buying devices for your kiddos that young, should you get iPads or a Chrome tablet?

Well, it depends on preference. iPads are so much more difficult to manage, including loading apps. But on the plus side, Apple has a better variety of apps in its store, and they tend to be of higher quality. The library of content almost feels endless.

The Tab 10, however, can be managed right along with your Chromebooks, and you won’t need a full-time tech staff to keep the apps updated and the devices managed. There are pros and cons to both devices; just make sure you’re buying a device that makes sense for the student to whom you’re giving it. When these companies hold events, they tend to hit schools hard with marketing. Make sure you’re asking the right questions!

About the Author

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Ben Parker

Director, Technology

Ben serves as Director of Technology for the OPSRC. In this role, he will provide support to schools on technical issues and training on pressing technology topics. Ben will assist partner schools with trainings, comprehensive technology plans, e-Rate applications, technology purchasing consultation, and other school and district technology decisions.

Prior to working with OPSRC, Ben was the Director of Technology for the Locust Grove Public School District. Ben implemented a 1:1 tablet program in Locust Grove that saw 6th-12th graders go paperless in the classroom.

In his free time, Ben likes to read and play the drums.

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