As school districts work to leverage the latest technologies to improve student performance, many districts are asking which tablet is better for 1:1 in schools. This question is fueling fierce debates in some districts; however, others are simply saying, “both!”
In districts where they are opting to use both iPads and Chromebooks, they are citing varied strengths as the reason for not choosing one over the other.
Spring Lake Public Schools in Michigan, Sioux Falls School District in South Dakota, Winneconne Community School District in Wisconsin, and the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), a nonprofit organization that manages 25 Chicago Public Schools, have implemented or plan to implement both iPads and Chromebooks in the classroom.
These districts have found that iPads and Chromebooks each have their strengths and weaknesses: iPads are better suited to younger kids and subjects such as math, whereas Chromebooks tend to work better for older kids, especially in subjects like English, where assignments require considerable writing from students. All four districts have experienced success with both devices and have not encountered any significant problems as a result of a mixed-platform environment. In fact, they said they see the mixed environment as a huge benefit for students.
iPads for Early Elementary and Math
Even though the iPad costs almost twice as much as the Chromebook, most multi-platform districts are providing iPads for their early elementary kids. “iPads are a lot more kinesthetic, a lot more intuitive,” said Jennie Magiera, digital learning coordinator at AUSL. “So we see our pre-K, K, and grade one kids pick them up and use them immediately without really much support at all.”
“We’ve focused on the iPad for our elementary school and for our special education department,” said George Sorrells, technology facilitator at Winneconne Community School District. “We’ve found that the iPads work best for kids who rely more on visual cues, for the beginning readers.”
Another reason why the iPads are well suited to primary grades is the sheer number of educational apps targeted for that age group. “The iPad’s got a pretty robust stockpile of apps that we can use for kids and teaching, so that’s something that’s hard to look past,” said Scott Ely, curriculum director at Spring Lake Public Schools.
Those apps are engaging for students in the primary grades, according to Sharon Schueler, director of curriculum, instruction, and staff development at Sioux Falls School District. “I see increased student engagement that further involves students in the act of learning, and I can see that they’re providing students with important 21st century skills that we always talk about,” said Schueler.
Even for the older kids, some districts are sticking with iPads for math. “For math, we found that iPads are a little bit stronger because of the kinesthetic properties and the ability to draw,” said Magiera, “so if you’re doing a calculus equation and you have a stylus, you can actually write it out. It’s really hard to type out a lot of those math equations with a Chromebook.”
Chromebooks for Middle and High School
While iPads may be better suited to math class, the districts have found that Chromebooks work better in classes where students are doing a lot of written work. “At the high school level, some of the implementation of Chromebooks has been in English classes, and they’re producing a ton of work,” said Ely. “If the kids are doing a lot of writing, that’s a good tool.”
Winneconne Community School District runs a bring-your-own-device program but also provides iPads and Chromebooks as needed. At that district, some kids who own iPads are signing out Chromebooks at school. “The kids do a lot of writing, and I’ve talked to a number of them at the middle and high school who stopped bringing in their iPads and started checking out a Chromebook because they needed that keyboard,” said Sorrells.