An iPad is Better Value Than a ChromeBook...and here is why.

An iPad is Better Value Than a ChromeBook...and here is why.

December 30, 2016

John Rudkin 

The more I hear about the growing popularity of Chromebooks, the more I find myself questioning why?
Why have Chromebooks grown in popularity in Schools?
Has your school, LEA or Trust just backed you into a technology cup-de-sac?
The answer may depend on the questions you are informed enough to ask....!
If you find yourself being presented with a choice limited by someone else, ask them "Why?" quickly;  if you are offered options you can at least look at the alternatives and what they offer; Don't allow yourself to be limited by the potential of a lack of knowledge by someone else.  Make them tell you why; It is time to exercise your thinking...
What matters to you and what you need to do to give your students the best educational opportunities?
Could it be that those making the decisions on your behalf  -about what will be used in the classrooms - are missing some vitally important things in their rush to bring in what they perceive to be the latest, greatest IT solutions?
Or are they simply looking at things from a different perspective to you?  If their decision is about initial purchase price (cost), you can be certain that important aspects of educational need are being ignored!
So, what possible reasons can anyone have in deciding on a particular platform other than from experience and insights into what is possible;  Can Chromebooks offer the best solution or can you assume or assess them as offering anything unique? 
With an interest in ensuring youngsters are best prepared for the future surely the important consideration is to provide a most versatile, flexible solution to accommodate the certainty of change?  The chances are, it will not rely wholly on the past.
Where do we start?
Let's try starting with a simple observation about simple operation.  A classroom or learning environment is not typically like that of a business environment... at least not in the case of the majority active educational activities that young learners engage with.  
How many hands would you use to take part in the learning activity?  A strange question?
An iPad can be operated with one hand, and managing activity on screen is naturally interactive and intuitive.  With a Chromebook, there is a need to use a flat surface (to type on), and traditional typing then comes naturally - but inevitably it supports what might be seen as a 'traditional' expectation of a working style.  This is fine for the office environment of yesterday, but NOT the learning experience of today. There is a distinct difference.  Today, mobility come first and we can see changes in the way young people expect to interact with their devices.  However the future plays out, change means that a choice of approach makes sense - and an iPad can offer virtually any permutation because adding a keyboard is very simple when required.  
Having spent time training schools to use Google Apps, I can see the attraction of the traditional laptop type platform (no, really I can;  it's all about desks and sitting and typing etc),  but the more I listened the more the arguments were based - not on learning opportunity, but on cost.  
Chromebooks look like laptops, so price comparisons are almost too easy - and I believe that perception fools teachers , educators, observers into thinking they are getting 'best value'.  The argument could not be in design... because design seems to have been emergent rather than at the centre of consideration;  emulating an 'expensive looking' laptop is rather easy. 'Free' is another attraction (a dangerous one), but surely one thing that lessons of the past should teach us is that there is no such thing as free.  Anything given away for free has to have a return, and in the case of Google's Apps, that comes at a cost of data.  What seems to win votes in schools where the viewpoint is limited by struggling with falling budgets is the perception of value over hard facts and evidence.  Those should fully understand the differentials and logical comparators are the ones who should demand the opportunity of flexibility of thinking - i.e. they should not be prevented from thinking differently about learning. 
So, what should be the top of the list when it comes to making decisions about what the best platforms for the future should include?;  Cost (of course) is important - but cost must be assessed based on the potential of delivering value and value can only be fairly judged from a fully aware starting point!  
This is not about the simplistic purchase price of a box and services.  Don't compare solutions with business based solutions, such as traditional laptops;  it defeats the purpose here, and that purpose is about finding the best platform for different purposes; Versatility, flexibility, ease of use, practicality of operation, adaptability, creativity, longevity... every one has to be included in any consideration, and not to take these into account is simply slipshod planning.  Teachers have been expected to compensate for poor choices in the past.  That is simply no longer possible.  What ultimate cost is there in getting the wrong solution, missing opportunities to replace other equipment; how do you know you are not going in the wrong direction?   
Yes, Chromebooks LOOK cheap.  They are certainly cheaper than iPads to buy initially (although iPad minis and some other older models can be found that are lower priced), but the true value of the iPad comes when you start to consider that versatility and the retained value the devices attract....
Let's begin with that cost argument - and get it out of the way.  
Consider the longevity aspect of IT equipment in School.  Do you? Do you simply assume that they will be destroyed, lost, worn out?  If not think about these things, you must change your perspective.  
The initial purchase cost of an iPad is higher than that of a Chromebook (so many arguments centre on this fact), but what happens in two or three years time?  The value of a Chromebook at say, three years old can come as a shock, especially when compared to that of an iPad.  Take a look at eBay yourself.
Considering the purchase price and then end-or-use selling price of an iPad and Chromebook:
 iPad Air 2:                                                                             £379.00  (inc VAT)
 Acer CB3-431 Chromebook:                                               £245.00  (inc VAT)        
 Typical price of a 3 years old iPad:                                    £175.00 - £199.00
 Typical price of a 3 years old Chromebook:                        £20.00  -  £40.00
If a school decides to school considers leasing,  provided they work with a leasing company that understands how retained value works, they will find that invariably, against PC and Chromebook comparisons, iPads (and Macs) will be lower in cost.  Why?  Because of the retained value and higher selling opportunities of the latter.  It is as simple as that.
Is that it?
No.  Let's now begin to look at versatility.  How many other devices does your ICT platform provide?  Silly question?  No.
An iPad can literally 'become' one of many devices, simply, quickly and ... that saves money.  Who considers these things?  
You should. 
What is there to lose? 
          Let's look at these differentiators one step at a time:
2) Who doesn't need to use their IT for various projects?  How versatile is your device platform? Can you use it in practical information gathering situations - other than just looking things up on the web, or typing information?
Consider the iPad. Every iPad has two cameras on board.  Two!. Chromebooks have one camera, and it faces the user.  An iPad can be the call centre for communication (as can a Chromebook) - using the microphone, it offers access to video conferencing and includes the remarkable FaceTime application (FREE, but we won't make a big thing out of that).  Two cameras are also supported by two microphones.  Not only can the iPad be a very nice video conference station, but it is also a very competent and high quality video recording device (camera); iPad can become the hub of a studio for filming and capturing content straight into wonderful tools such as Touchcast, iMovie (remarkably powerful video editor - and FREE), Green Screen based effects creation and so much more.  iPad replaces video capture cameras, stills cameras and more.  How about using the iPad as a visualiser?  A simple and low cost stand is easily added...and the iPad becomes a magnifier, a microscope and more. 
This is just the start:
                                                                                     Saved:    Video Recorder:  £100.00
              Camera             :    £60.00
              Visualiser         :     £70.00
              Studio               :   £120.00
3) Creative use of audio comes in many forms.  Every iPad ships with a tremendously powerful application called Garageband (OK, I'll say it - it is FREE).  Garageband can be used for creating and editing music and sounds, but it has the ability to capture and create podcasts, audio notes and so much more.  More importantly, the screen of the iPad can become a keyboard or special effects generator instantly.  There is no way that any other device can compete with this versatility.  The iPad can literally replace musical instruments - pianos, synthesisers, guitars, drums...the options are almost unlimited.
Saved:    Music Keyboard   :  £100.00
                Music Editor         :    £20.00
                Instruments?       :    £XX.XX  - the sky is the limit.
4) Artistic possibilities on the touchscreen of the iPad have blossomed in the last few years.  While the Apple Pencil is a truly professional tool,  the way it functions is not solely limited to iPad Pros.  There are a range of artistic tools, styluses and brushes that can be used.  While never replacing traditional mediums, the possibilities of working on an iPad have grown exponentially.
Saved:      Artistic Media      :  £20.00
Just using iPads to replace 50% of artistic media would save considerably in terms of practical materials and time
5) Science and STEM subjects benefit from the opportunities provided by iPads ability to capture and document experiments and practical working.  Add to this the apps and tools that provide access to the onboard sensors such as audio levels, temperature, acceleration, light levels etc.  Most of these advantageous tools do not require other add ons, but such tools do exist, again reducing the costs to schools.
You can even use iPads to code and operate other devices.
Saved:         Science Equipment:   £50.00?  (understatement!)
I will curtail my look at this point (unless additional information can be drawn upon).  It is clear that there are a number of advantages to using iPads in the classroom, but that those advantages can only be gained by educators willing to embrace them.
Does this help you better understand which platform offers the best value proposition for education?  I hope so.
If not, or if you want to discuss the ideas tackled here - your next option is a simple one.  
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