Computers are now the norm in schools. In fact, there are many educational systems that are now introducing tablets and Chromebooks in the classroom, with many positive and negative points discussed here and there. Some would argue that tablets are simpler to use while Chromebooks are easier to implement and are more intuitive, technology-wise. However, before concluding which is the better device, let’s first stop and consider how exactly are we going to determine which is better for which. Take note that this is not an in-depth analysis, but a simply extended commentary on the most basic criteria that are needed to be considered for each option.
Affordability and Implementation Cost efficiency is investment basics, something that we all already understand even if we’re not economics professors. However, in a school system involving the distribution of portable devices, implementation plays a significant role in estimating the overall cost of the system.
For instance, Chromebooks usually have the luxury of easily implementing its system using various immediately-available Google services, with Google Apps for Education as its primary system framework. The bulk of the system cost usually goes towards the purchase of the units themselves, which is already pretty affordable by default. Take away the uncomfortable fact that a third-party organization handles the data and information for the school, and everything else gets pretty much settled cost-wise.
Tablets, however, depending on the type and model (iPad/Android/Windows 8 and 10), may require a specialized framework to be developed as its access central system. This obviously increases the system’s base cost since its method of distribution, both physical and digital, is not available by default. On the flip side, however, due to the intuitive and rather simple use of tablets, the system itself could be made far less complex. If no system-exclusive apps are required, a standard emailing system and a few Internet access restrictions could offset the high initial price of the individual units, balancing the overall cost of the system.
Integration and Usability Using the device’s online cloud-based system is one thing, but how would it mesh with the schools’ own system? This is where the criteria of integration and usability are introduced. If cost and implementation deal with efficiency, then one could say that integration and usability are instead focused on practicality.
Take the fairly recent LA issue about its iPad school project. The integration and, consequently, usability of the individual units went downhill following an unsuccessful implementation of its system. How? Various news, discussions, and analysis sources point out to some reasons, but one important part of its failure was the incompatibility of the learning material to the system. In other words, the brand new system (curriculum) was unable to integrate itself as a whole with the school’s own learning system. This then leads to the iPads eventually becoming unusable in the way in which they were originally intended.
What’s even more outrageous in this is the comparison that systems using Chromebooks had over such apparent integration issues. The point and solve tactic, for example (introduced by a number of experimental systems at various institutions), seeks out which part of the school system itself would benefit the most from using such devices, instead of introducing a brand new teaching system that enforces the use of the device. It could be a simple creativity tool for students or a point access device for the school’s online media sharing portal – any function that could promote convenience. Integration would then move forward from that point at a slow and steady rate, until the school fully incorporates the devices as standard-issue educational tools.
Finally, there’s the classic laptop versus tablet argument, but since it’s more of a personal use issue, we’ll leave that topic for a more comprehensive discussion about Chromebooks as educational tools.