Education technology (aka “edtech”) can be hard to keep up with. Rapid change and new options are a constant challenge. Today’s gold standard is 1:1 computing. Providing one device to each student, one-to-one computing has been shown to increase student engagement. Boost collaboration, creativity, and test scores. Plus, using personal tech devices for learning prepares students to participate in a tech-dominated world. 

All of which begs the question: which 1:1 device is best?  Which best meets the needs of student, teachers and school districts? An iPad or Chromebook? 

Rivalry recap: Chromebook vs. iPad

iPads were introduced into the classroom in 2010. They quickly set the standard for classroom learning with a digital device. Across the US, classroom iPads became commonplace. By 2013 the iPad had captured  94% of the education device market. 
Introduced in 2011, Chromebooks offered a low-cost alternative to Windows laptops, MacBooks and iPads. The Chromebook vs. iPad contest had begun. By late 2014, the sale of Chromebooks to schools surpassed iPads. Why? Chromebooks offered something for everyone. 

For superintendents, Chromebooks delivered cost savings in a time of tight budgets. For administrators, they offered a secure, easy-to-manage platform. For teachers, Chromebooks made life easier with time-saving (and free) Google Classroom management tools. They enhanced collaboration and made teaching more dynamic with G Suite for Education apps. Plus, Chromebooks offered the ability to meet Common Core keyboarding requirements while engaged in daily learning. For students, the single-account sign-on to cloud-based computing harnessed the internet for a world of learning content. Robust project creation capabilities. And easy group collaboration. 
By 2017 the tables had turned. It appeared that the iPad or Chromebook question had been answered. Chromebooks reigned supreme, accounting for  58% of all computing devices shipped to schools. Apple devices were down to 19%. 

In fact, the Chromebook vs. iPad rivalry is far from over. 2018 was the year Apple announced its education comeback. For the first time in three years, Apple held an education event . The occasion? The introduction of a reduced-cost, education-focused iPad. By appearances identical to its 9.7-inch predecessor, this iPad offers more. Apple Pencil support. An A10 Fusion chip for powering augmented reality (AR) and other sophisticated apps. Ten hours of battery life to outlast the school day. Plus, it’s available to schools at a reduced cost. 

What’s next in the Chromebook vs. iPad drama? As of January 2019, industry observers are trending toward Chromebook. But the jury’s still out. There are many ways to parse the iPad or Chromebook question. Below, a few of the top topics. 

iPads were introduced into the classroom in 2010. They quickly set the standard for classroom learning with a digital device. Across the US, classroom iPads became commonplace. By 2013 the iPad had captured 94% of the education device market. 

Introduced in 2011, Chromebooks offered a low-cost alternative to Windows laptops, MacBooks and iPads. The Chromebook vs. iPad contest had begun. By late 2014, the sale of Chromebooks to schools surpassed iPads. Why? Chromebooks offered something for everyone. 

For superintendents, Chromebooks delivered cost savings in a time of tight budgets. For administrators, they offered a secure, easy-to-manage platform. For teachers, Chromebooks made life easier with time-saving (and free) Google Classroom management tools. They enhanced collaboration and made teaching more dynamic with G Suite for Education apps. Plus, Chromebooks offered the ability to meet Common Core keyboarding requirements while engaged in daily learning. For students, the single-account sign-on to cloud-based computing harnessed the internet for a world of learning content. Robust project creation capabilities. And easy group collaboration. 

By 2017 the tables had turned. It appeared that the iPad or Chromebook question had been answered. Chromebooks reigned supreme, accounting for 58% of all computing devices shipped to schools. Apple devices were down to 19%. 
In fact, the Chromebook vs. iPad rivalry is far from over. 2018 was the year Apple announced its education comeback. For the first time in three years, Apple held an education event. The occasion? The introduction of a reduced-cost, education-focused iPad. By appearances identical to its 9.7-inch predecessor, this iPad offers more. Apple Pencil support. An A10 Fusion chip for powering augmented reality (AR) and other sophisticated apps. Ten hours of battery life to outlast the school day. Plus, it’s available to schools at a reduced cost. 

What’s next in the Chromebook vs. iPad drama? As of January 2019, industry observers are trending toward Chromebook. But the jury’s still out. There are many ways to parse the iPad or Chromebook question. Below, a few of the top topics. 
 
Chromebook vs. iPad = Laptop vs. Tablet

In some ways, the Chromebook vs. iPad question is an apples-to-oranges comparison. (No pun intended.) The devices do many similar things. Like serve up terrific learning apps. Boost collaboration. Help streamline classroom management. They’re also quite different. Most obviously, the choice between an iPad or Chromebook is a choice between a tablet or laptop. 

Call it the keyboard conundrum. For many educators (and students), it makes all the difference. 

iPad devotees love the lightweight tablet for its easy mobility. For them, the lack of physical keyboard is a plus. These fans praise the iPad’s ability to take learning anywhere. The familiar Smartphone feel makes the iPad easy for students to pick up and use from the get-go. The sleek form makes them ideal as a teacher-held display for younger students on the carpet. Compact, simple, and easy for small hands to hold, they’re an ideal fit for the youngest students. 

For all-around teaching tasks, the keyboard-equipped Chromebook reigns supreme for many (if not most) educators. Put simply: a physical keyboard helps users do more. Beginning keyboarders do best on a physical keyboard. Most experienced keyboarders prefer the real thing to virtual for anything more than a hundred words or so. 

What’s more, the education iPad lacks an Apple Smart Connector. Districts that want to add a keyboard will need to look to third-party products. As for the iPad’s touchscreen advantage, it’s dwindling as more budget-friendly Chromebooks with intuitive touch capabilities hit the marketplace.

 
Cost

Speaking of cost, this is the factor that most often tops the list of Chromebook virtues. For the past decade, public school budgets have faced major constraints. When considering iPad or Chromebook for an entire school or district, the dollars add up. 

Chromebooks are made by most of the big names in computing. Top brands include Dell, Acer, Asus, Lenovo, and HP. Entry-level Chromebooks are available at around $150. Most schools purchase Chromebooks in the range of $250-$300. 

When Apple debuted the new education iPad in 2018, it was specially priced to educators at $299, a $30 savings over the $329 consumer price tag. Educators save $10 on the Apple Pencil, sold separately for $89. Kitting out an iPad with a keyboard and Pencil pushes the price tag over $400. Not including dollars needed to replace lost or damaged Pencils and external keyboards. 

The bottom line: Chromebooks cost less than iPads and deliver an all-in-one hardware solution. 

Bottom line: Touchscreen-reliant iPads are often considered best suited for younger students. Chromebooks deliver all-in-one functionality and ease for any age group. Virtual keyboards may be fine for small tasks. The real thing is a requirement for reports, essays and any task requiring intensive typing. iPads can be equipped with third-party keyboards, for an added cost. 

This, of course, is a many-faceted category. We’ll look at a few of the biggies below. Broadly, however, Apple and Google position their education products around different core competencies. Apple, in particular, takes a unique approach to answering the Chromebook vs. iPad question. 

For Apple, the iPad’s uniqueness is as a platform for creation. No surprise here. Apple products have long been the darlings of creative professionals. Apple CEO Tim Cook reinforced this positioning at the  2018 launch, saying that Apple’s role is to create “products and tools that amplify…creativity.” 

The launch further highlighted how students can use the Apple Pencil to create. From writing poems to creating works of art that emulate sketching, watercolor or oil-paint. From animation to photo editing. Powerful processing and sophisticated AR apps are another points of iPad creative distinction. On display at the launch was the impressive Froggipedia app that lets students dissect a virtual frog. 

Apple’s Everyone Can Create program, launched alongside the new iPad, offers guides and project templates for integrating music, art, videos and more into everyday curriculum. 
Google, on the other hand, emphasizes “doing.” The focus is less on the hardware and more on how the company’s apps benefit students, teachers, IT administrators and school districts. Like the all-in-one Chromebook design, Google’s approach to serving education is broad and holistic. 
 
Capabilities
Chromebook iPad
Content
  • Sky’s the limit. Access web content via Chrome Browser.
  • Add Chrome and Android apps via Google PlayStore.
  • Load apps via App Store.
  • Apple education apps are often considered to be higher quality.
  • Safari browser delivers internet content
Multitasking
  • Easily open and use multiple apps.
  • Tabs can be resized and repositioned for efficient multitasking.
  • A major improvement of iOS 11 was the ability to open and use apps simultaneously.
  • Options include: Split View, Slide-Over, and picture-in-picture video viewing.
  • Good, but not quite as flexible as Chrome.
Touch screen
  • Available on most models.
  • Standard features.
USB Ports
  • Included on most models.
  • Enables addition of mouse, external display, external hard drive, etc.
  1. Enables addition of mouse, external display, external hard drive, etc. 
File Storage
  • G Suite for Education users receives unlimited storage.
  • Intuitive organization, save and sharing with file structure that mimics Windows PCs and Macs.
  • Unlimited storage for G Suite users
  • Improved functionality with 2018 release and dedicated Files app.
  • Still more challenging to navigate than competing operating systems.
  • Includes 200GB free iCloud storage.
Classroom Management
  • Includes popular Google Classroom and the G Suite for Education apps.
  • Google Classroom lets teachers easily create and share assignments, give feedback and communicate progress to parents.
  • G-Suite Apps are cloud-based and accessible via any device.
  • New Schoolwork app is intuitive and easy to use, enabling teachers to digitally assign and manage homework and projects.
  • Students can do likewise, creating and turning in assignments, no paper needed.
Collaboration
  • Accessibility ChromeVox
  • Does not facilitate anywhere/anytime collaboration.
Accessibility
  • ChromeVox screen reader has been updated and is more user-friendly.
  • Many accessibility features available as Android apps.
  • Offers an outstanding range of easy to use accessibility features. 
  • Considered a distinct advantage of iPad for use in special education settings.
 
Device Management

To keep learning on track, student computing devices must be in good working condition. This responsibility falls to schools’ typically short-handed tech staff. We ask on their behalf: which device will save them the most time and headaches: iPad or Chromebook? 


Chromebooks are unique among personal computing devices for their automatic updates. This safeguard keeps the Chrome OS always current against malware attacks and other threats. Users never know it’s happening. Because it takes care of business in the background, Chrome updates don’t interrupt class time or homework. 

Chromebook setup is similarly streamlined and simple. Every Chromebook user creates a single account that lets them access their data via a Chrome browser or app on any device. 

For IT admins, G Suite Apps for Education includes enterprise-grade  management tools that make it easy to manage large numbers of Chromebooks. A cloud-based admin console enables management tasks like policy enforcement, group app installation, VPN configuration and more. 

Apple offers the web-based Apple School Manager portal , which lets IT admins manage people, devices and content. A 2018 enhancement enabled the ability to create student Apple IDs individually or in bulk for an entire class. Not yet as powerful as Google’s management tools, Apple suggests using an additional MDM (mobile device management) solution in conjunction with Apple School Manager. 

Unlike Chromebooks, iPads require active maintenance. Updates are hands on. Students, teachers or IT staff need to periodically perform  manual updates to their iPads. Apple made progress with iOS 12, which is says can update automatically – for the most part. The company covers its bases by stating that “some updates might need to be installed manually.”

staff and users tend to find Chromebooks easier to set up, manage and maintain. However, this is an area in which Apple is actively working to catch up. 

 
Security & Privacy 

The Chrome OS is widely considered one of the  most secure computing platforms. The reasons include some pretty sophisticated tech. Google calls the principle behind the technology “ defense in depth.” Multiple security measures combine for a layered approach. If one layer is breached, the remaining layers uphold the defense. The automatic updates noted above are one important layer in the fortification. 
 
Apple advocates point out that the reliance on the Chrome browser opens Chromebook to the potential for attack via malicious ads or extensions. By contrast, iPads, which serve up content solely via App Store apps, steer clear of this type of threat. Even when schools opt to include the Safari browser, iPads are less vulnerable in this regard. 
 
Privacy is a growing security concern. It’s a key consideration when asking iPad or Chromebook? Apple has made clear that it considers privacy a core component of security. The company has pledged to refrain from selling or sharing student data with third parties – a practice for which Google has been roundly criticized.
 
Bottom line: Google holds the traditional security edge, with enterprise-grade IT lock-down technology. Apple is gaining ground amid growing concerns about Google’s data-mining tendencies. 


Appeal

There are stalwart supporters on both sides of the Chromebook vs. iPad debate. The reasons are as varied as those discussed above. A final consideration is an elusive quality we’ll call appeal. 
 
Apple is celebrated for its achievements in user-friendly product design. As the company sets its sights on regaining a foothold in education, it will no doubt rely on this appeal. Today’s youngest students are growing up with iPads and similar tablets. With their intuitive touch appeal, iPads are well-positioned to gain ground in early primary grades. 
 
No doubt, older students find iPads pretty compelling as well. Keyboards are useful. iPads are cool. Robust AR apps engage and educate in ways far beyond reading a textbook. 
Bottom line: Clamshell Chromebooks can’t hold a candle to the appeal of an iPad. The iPad’s creative capabilities add further cache. Competition on the hardware front is headed Apple’s way, however, with new Chromebook tablets just hitting the market.
 
iPad or Chromebook? What’s Next?

It’s early days in Apple’s bid to recapture education market share. Offering a better overall value and a broader approach to easing the burdens of education, Chromebooks hold a solid lead. Nonetheless, iPads offer some outstanding learning advantages. Time will tell whether Apple can bridge the gap between the power of creativity and the practicalities of US public education. 

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