Why some schools are selling all their iPads

The Atlantic:

For an entire school year Hillsborough, New Jersey, educators undertook an experiment, asking: Is the iPad really the best device for interactive learning?

It’s a question that has been on many minds since 2010, when Apple released the iPad and schools began experimenting with it. The devices came along at a time when many school reformers were advocating to replace textbooks with online curricula and add creative apps to lessons. Some teachers welcomed the shift, which allowed their students to replace old poster-board presentations with narrated screencasts and review teacher-produced video lessons at any time.

Four years later, however, it’s still unclear whether the iPad is the device best suited to the classroom.

It’s an interesting article from the other side of the question. Before you knee jerk react to the headline, read the story. It certainly does make some interesting points.



  • http://www.getsnapcreative.com/ Snapper C.

    Good article. I think the issue is more of how implementation of an iPad works in an education environment. Cost and accessories will also play a major factor. It’s up to Apple to approach the “post PC era” in terms of usefulness instead of market share and profit. The iPad can be repurposed, but Apple will have to figure the best way to do that.

    My guess, at some point, MacBook Air will be pushed as a competitor against ChromeBook, especially with the introduction of iCloud Drive. Time will only tell.

    • http://techanalyzer.net/ http://techanalyzer.net/

      Only price will tell.

      • JohnDoey

        The retail cost of the device is essentially meaningless because iPad costs the same as ChromeBook and yet does so much more, and even though MacBook Air costs 2x ChromeBook, MacBook Air lasts 2x longer, and again, does so much more.

        The real cost of ChromeBook is when you sit down at it and all you do is surf the Web all day. Good luck competing with iPad and MacBook users. Good luck making a return on your ChromeBook investment, while iPad and MacBook easily pay for themselves.

        • http://techanalyzer.net/ http://techanalyzer.net/

          Just a few issues with what you just wrote.

          “iPad costs the same as Chromebook”

          Which iPad? Why are schools that are looking for budget cuts going to the Chromebook instead?

          “…and yet does so much more”

          What does it do more? If it does more, why are teachers preferring the Chromebook over the iPad? Even if it does “more” to your standard, that doesn’t mean it’s able to meet the requirements of teachers as well as a Chromebook can. Keyboards are a big deal for one.

          ” Good luck making a return on your ChromeBook investment, while iPad and MacBook easily pay for themselves.”

          I feel like you didn’t read the article and realized we are talking about teachers and what they think is better for teaching students with. They feel that the return of investment (learning for the price of the learning tool) is better accomplished with a chrome book.

          • lucascott

            two reasons why many schools prefer something like a chromebook are

            1. the restrictions. Since basically everything on a Chromebook is web based it is a lot easier to block access to non school things.

            2. Teachers still have their brains around projects meaning writing a paper. it’s similar to how Microsoft defines work as using Office. Because teachers can’t get past the paper writing thing they find that the iPad isn’t the right choice cause it’s not all that great for long term typing without a keyboard which is one more thing to buy, to keep up with etc.

    • JohnDoey

      Apple doesn’t have to push MacBook Air as a competitor to ChromeBook, because ChromeBooks have 0.01% of the functionality of MacBook Air, and ChromeBooks sell in 0.01% of the numbers of MacBook Air.

      What you said is like saying that Harley-Davidson has to push their products as competitors to home-built bicycles.

      ChromeBook’s actual competition is iPad. But the same thing is true with iPad: ChromeBook has 0.01% of the functionality and sells even less than 0.01% of the numbers.

      • http://techanalyzer.net/ http://techanalyzer.net/

        Can’t and won’t argue about the functionality. I agree 100 percent.

        But Don’t sleep on chrome books. They accounted for 35 percent of the laptop shipments last quarter. Apple’s entire laptop based accounted only for less than 5 percent.

        But we all know who made the most profit.

        If Chromebook has 0.01% of the functionality of an iPad and .01% of the functionality of MacBook Air, does the Macbook Air have the same level of functionality as the iPad?

    • lucascott

      I disagree with one part of this. The ‘its up to Apple’.

      no it is not. it is up to the schools to do their studying and decide if the iPad is the right thing for them and how they are going to use it, etc. Same as with a computer, a projector, a new class schedule or anything else.

  • lkalliance

    I’ve been leery of switching curriculum to tablet format, but I’m an old curmudgeon that remembers pushing a hoop down the street with a stick. I believe that it is important for youth to learn to work with technology for its own sake, but I also believe that most youth ARE comfortable with technology, as they grow up in it.

    I’m afraid that while the “you can’t be productive with an iPad” crowd is overstating things, the “you can be productive with an iPad” crowd works hard at making counter-examples, which aren’t self-evident on a wide scale. I think in the pursuit of teaching kids how to use computers productively, at this time a laptop or desktop is a better tool.

    • JohnDoey

      This article is not iPad versus notebook/desktop. It is iPad versus ChromeBook. It is over 1 million native C/C++ multitouch-enabled apps covering every possible category of human endeavor versus a mouse-driven Web browser.

      If you’re at a Mac or Windows computer right now, download the Google Chrome browser and do not use any other app but Google Chrome for the next week and let’s see how productive you are.

    • lucascott

      That is a key part of the issue. Teachers that aren’t as open minded as you are. Many of those teachers are also not open minded to school projects being not a paper or using creative curriculum. Using something like a zombie apocalypse to teach a lesson would be insane to them. And yet some open minded teachers have done just that kind of thing with a lot of success. It’s fun for the kids, it crosses over various subjects etc.

      And remember that using an iPad etc in class isn’t just about teaching about computers. There are a lot of ways to use those tools outside of computer science.

      For example.

      Biology class. Remember having to do frog dissections when learning about how body systems work. Well here’s little Jimmy who has a letter from his parents that he won’t be doing that assignment because it’s against his religion. If you force him or you fail him that’s a risk of a lawsuit. But there are virtual dissection apps that work just as well and are probably clean and cheaper than getting those frogs anyway.

      Art Class. Many schools are ditching such classes saying supplies are too expensive and they don’t benefit the whole standardized testing etc. But studies have shown that such classes can be highly useful in brain development. There are tons of drawing apps, art history apps etc that can be used to give students something which is better than nothing. Even just stretching their creative side with making movies with freebies like the built in camera and iMovie can be better than nothing.

      and so on.

  • http://300stations.com Mark D Wolinski

    It doesn’t matter if the schools use iPads or Chromebooks, if they’re not setting up the supporting architecture to fully utilize the technology, then they’re setting up the technology for failure. In the case of the Hillsborough school, since Google was providing the cloud storage, the school didn’t need to set anything up for that. If they had, then would their decision have been different? Who knows.

    • Terry Maraccini

      Much better stated than I did further up the page.

    • JohnDoey

      You would be right, if ChromeBooks were better than they are. As it is, they are really terrible. No matter what you do to set them up, they are extremely limited devices.

      So what you said is like this:

      “It doesn’t matter if the schools use 1 million native C/C++ multitouch apps covering every possible category of human endeavor, or if they just use a mouse-driven Web browser.”

      That is clearly not the case.

  • Michael

    I think the market is already starting to show signs that the greater public is thinking along the same lines as the schools in terms of iPads vs laptops. Think about Apple’s last earnings report. iPad sales slumped, about a 16% drop from the same quarter last year, which pretty much mirrors the tablet market in general. Meanwhile Mac sales are on the rise, up 5% from last year.

    I think the iPad is a great product, but as currently constructed I think it is much more of a niche product than people may have originally hoped it would be. If this 12″ MBA rumor that keeps circling around ultimately ends up being a 12″ iPad Pro with a dedicated keyboard I think that could help a bit, but for education I think the price will ultimately push more towards the Chromebook. When you’re Apple and you’re bottom line is centered around revenue from hardware its always going to be hard to compete on price with Google who can make up the difference by mining the data.

    • JohnDoey

      No, that is not correct. Your facts are wrong.

      Yes, iPad sales are down a bit and Mac sales are up. But outside of Apple, tablet sales are up and traditional PC sales are down. Windows runs today on 14% of devices, according to Microsoft.

      And this article is talking about ChromeBooks. ChromeBook sells even less. It sells almost no units. It basically does not exist. It is 0.01% of client computer sales. There is no competition from ChromeBook on any other device or vendor. In spite of how this article makes it sound like there is.

      A ChromeBook is less traditional than an iPad. An iPad runs a Web browser, but it also runs over 1 million native C/C++ apps. A ChromeBook just runs a Web browser. If you put an iPad, a Windows PC, and a ChromeBook on the table in front of you, the iPad and Windows PC are more alike — they both have Web browsers, and they both run native C/C++ apps. The odd one out is the ChromeBook because is only runs a Web browser and has no native C/C++ apps.

      So your sales facts are wrong, and your technology facts are wrong.

      • http://techanalyzer.net/ http://techanalyzer.net/

        From PC World:

        “But get a load of this: Chromebooks accounted for 35 percent of all commercial laptop sales in the U.S. between January and May, according to NPD. Windows notebooks, meanwhile, remained flat.”

  • http://www.nilesmitchell.com Niles Mitchell

    Laptops are not making a comeback, despite what this silly article is implying. Choosing Google over Apple? Apple has a decades long tradition of fostering technology and education. Google doesn’t give a shit about any of that. It wants to sell your information to advertisers, and that’s it. Schools that rely on Google will find out the hard way when their shitty products break and they don’t care about fostering en environment of true education.

  • Terry Maraccini

    So, this is no knee jerk reaction. The article sounds like an advertisement for Chromebooks. So we trade device autonomy for Google Love? I think not.

    The article also highlights districts that sound like a scenario of technology deployment without implementation strategy or curriculum depth.

    It also seems pathetically price driven.

    So, no. No knee jerk reaction here.

  • 11thIndian

    I think it’s all about demographics. With younger students, the direct-touch interactivity of tablets would seem to be more well suited than traditional computers of any stripe.

    But once typing (the defacto form of communication for kids going foreword) becomes a more important part of the ciriculam – then tablets make less and less sense. Certainly for Secondary and Post-Secondary institutions.

    I can’t imagine any “one form factor fits all” device that would equally service PreSchool and University students.

    • lucascott

      there are keyboards you can use with iPads etc. Thus meaning that yes one form could work for all levels, with a little tweaking. many schools just don’t want to do it.

  • GFYantiapplezealots

    Sounds like it came down to keyboard and cloud. Keyboard is a non-issue obviously, and cloud sounds like the admins liked it better.

    However, as a student back in the day, I would MUCH rather of had an iPad to be learning on with the thousands of amazing educational apps I’ve seen out there. Not to mention iBooks.

  • http://www.jphotog.com Hrunga Zmuda

    As someone who creates curriculum for print, e-learning, Blackboard and on iPads, I can guess that much of the problem is a lack of ability to leverage the technology. Second is incompetent IT departments that don’t know how to support iPads, and don’t want to. Next comes network and Internet standards, and tools that are wholly lacking in giving curriculum developers the ability to make compelling, interactive content unless they’re darn good developers as well.

    We have had presentations from a bunch of companies including IBM, Adobe and Quark amongst other heavy hitters in this area as we try to set up a system that’s as close to one original document with multiple distribution vectors. Guess what? IBM was pretty darn compelling, but fell short. Adobe just sent salespeople who are almost unaware that there are still people doing print. The best technology and competence came from none other than Quark with the Quark Publishing System. It’s so far ahead of the miss-mash of Adobe’s set of tools that have no coherent glue linking them together in a compelling package. Not to mention Adobe is very difficult to even get someone to talk to us. Their CEO needs to be fired and someone competent in something besides marketing needs to take his place.

    • lucascott

      i would say that this

      “Second is incompetent IT departments that don’t know how to support iPads, and don’t want to.”

      is the biggest issue.

      Remember the whole LAUSD fail. Kids could remove the restrictions profile because there was no password. iOS updates could destroy the whole system by reseting things back to default etc. That wasn’t so much about Apple as it was the IT folks not really doing their homework and thinking about such issues off the top.

      • IT Person

        I’m an IT guy in Education who has exclusively supported Apple systems for 17 years, including implementing 2 separate 1 to 1 Mac laptop deployments, and consulting on a 3rd.

        I’ve recently been involved with a deployment of 1400 iPads to students, and have even presented at Provincial Tech Ed seminars on deploying iPads.

        With that as background, I need to say the statement about ‘incompetent IT departments’ being the problem is incredibly offensive to me. From personal experience I can strongly affirm that most of the weaknesses that killed the LA deployment are completely locked in ‘features’ and limitations direct from Apple that the IT department has no say whatsoever on.

        Beyond that, I’ve been at an Apple conference where one of their higher ups pretty much told the assembled IT support folks that “we want to make you obsolete and have no user for you.” Apple was burned in the past by MS only IT departments, so I get the animosity, but they have proven to be quite unwilling to even listen to constructive feedback from the people actually deploying and supporting their product.

        Personally, our school district was planning to scale up our iPad deployment to replace some of our 5000 MacBooks, but we’ve cancelled that project for the foreseeable future simply because Apple’s locks and limitations mean that the iPad, at this point in time, simply does not work for us.

        Don’t get me wrong, I like the iPad as a personal device, and with things like App extensions and VPP2 Apple does seem to be (glacially) tweaking some of the settings that have made the device such a poor fit for us. Most importantly, the end user experience has an incredible amount of potential, especially for young users.

        I’ve been to several IT tech conferences, such as MacTech, Apple sponsored sessions, and JAMF Nation and talked with plenty of other people in similar positions to me struggling with the same problems. Some of these folks have successfully and happily switched to Chromebooks, after 2 years of trying to make iPads work, simply because they solved many of the challenges Apple has been deaf to with the iPad.

        At the direction of our District Admin, we will be examining Chromebooks as well in the near future. I personally share much of the skepticism about a glorified web browser, although I have been surprised at how much you can accomplish with them in regards to graphics and even video). Should that exploration be successful, I can sadly see the end result being that Apple will lose a 5000 MacBook + 1400 iPad deployment, and once we’ve gone to the pain of making that transition, they probably will never get it back.

  • JohnDoey

    At the core of the article is a false dichotomy. The fact that you give a student an iPad does not mean that they should never touch a traditional computer. For example, a computer science class that is teaching programming should outfit the room with desktop computers. But a ChromeBook is not a traditional computer. It is an experiment that has not succeeded by any measure.

    Of course a school should have a mix of technology, however: of course the one device that students should always have with them in an iPad. The reason for this is that iPad is just a book. Go back 50 years, sometimes a student might need to use a typewriter, sometimes a piano, sometimes woodworking tools, but the device that they were carrying with them all the time was a book.

    You can rewrite this article by doing a text find-and-replace, replacing “iPad” with “book,” “Apple” with “Gutenberg,” “video” with “text,” and “textbooks” with “memory,” and it still makes exactly as much sense.

    — snip —

    Why Some Schools Are Selling All Their Books

    Four years after Gutenberg introduced its popular tablet, many districts are switching to laptops.

    MEGHAN E. MURPHYAUG 5 2014, 9:25 AM ET

    For an entire school year Hillsborough, New Jersey, educators undertook an experiment, asking: Is the book really the best device for interactive learning?

    It’s a question that has been on many minds since 2010, when Gutenberg released the book and schools began experimenting with it. The devices came along at a time when many school reformers were advocating to replace memory with online curricula and add creative apps to lessons. Some teachers welcomed the shift, which allowed their students to replace old poster-board presentations with narrated screencasts and review teacher-produced text lessons at any time.

    Four years later, however, it’s still unclear whether the book is the device best suited to the classroom. The market for educational technology is huge and competitive: During 2014, American K-12 schools will spend an estimated $9.94 billion on educational technology, an increase of 2.5 percent over last year, according to Joseph Morris, director of market intelligence at the Center for Digital Education. On average, he said, schools spend about a third of their technology budgets on computer hardware.

    Meanwhile, the cost of equipment is going down, software is improving, and state policies are driving expectations for technology access. “It’s really exciting,” said Douglas Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, “but at the same time it’s really challenging for schools to have confidence when they make a decision.”

    Books have so far been a gadget of choice at both ends of the economic spectrum: in wealthier schools with ample resources and demand from parents, and in low-income schools that receive federal grants to improve student success rates. Last fall, enthusiasm for the Gutenberg device peaked when Los Angeles Unified Schools, the second largest system in the nation, began a rollout out of books to every student.

    However, the L.A. district quickly recalled about 2,100 books from students. At the end of the school year, leaders announced that schools would instead be allowed to choose from among six different devices, including Chromebooks and hybrid laptop-tablets. L.A. schools weren’t the first to falter: At the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, Guilford County Schools in North Carolina halted an Amplify tablet program, and Fort Bend, Texas, cancelled its book initiative.

    Hillsborough took a different approach. During the 2012–2013 school year, the district executed a comparative pilot, giving books to 200 kids and Chromebook laptops to an almost equal number. As other schools rushed into programs they would later scrap, Hillsborough took a more cautious approach, hedging its bets and asking educators: How can we get this right?

    — snip —

    The thing is: paper books are going away. The paper is too expensive now. The shipping is too expensive now. This year, there will be less than 10% of the paper books published that were published 5 years ago, and more than half of this year’s paper books will be based on blogs. Students need to be able to read online books in the same way they previously needed to be able to read paper books.

    Also, the old libraries of paper books are going away. I have a friend who looked down her nose at Kindle and iPad and swore she would die with a paper book in her hand. Then her local library got bed bugs and she bought an iPad. And even without that issue, many libraries are closing as fast as the bookstores are closing.

    Further, regarding the technology specifically, there is absolutely nothing that a ChromeBook can do that an iPad cannot do, while there are millions of things an iPad can do that a ChromeBook can’t do. And at a time when schools don’t have musical instruments, the fact that iPad has a complete set of virtual instruments and composition and recording tools and ChromeBook does not means fewer musicians and composers in the next generation. Same for art supplies: you can draw and paint on iPads, but not on ChromeBooks. The list actually goes on and on. And of course, there are over 10,000 mechanical keyboards for iPad that students can use with their iPad whenever a mechanical keyboard makes sense.

    Also, ChromeBooks sell in such small numbers that they don’t even show up in market share studies. They are literally less than 0.01% of computer sales. Students are not going to be applying their ChromeBook skills outside of the classroom. Meanwhile, iPads are everywhere. The idea that an educator would be inflicting the experimental ChromeBook on a student instead of using the mainstream iPad is disturbing. It sounds like ChromeBook is more powerful but it is not.

    Just one example of how not-powerful ChromeBook is comes from one of the guys who writes at the Verge. He was using an iPad to do his article writing, but it can do so many things that he found he was getting distracted from writing by the other things his iPad could do. So he decided to get a ChromeBook in addition to the iPad, and move his article writing to the ChromeBook. The ChromeBook can do so little that he figured it would be a distraction-free place to write, and after all, the ChromeBook already has a mechanical keyboard attached for writing. So he sat down with the ChromeBook and wrote for a couple of hours, and then the ChromeBook ate his writing. He lost the couple of hours of work. It disappeared somewhere between the ChromeBook where he was working and the server where it was being saved, because in-between is Wi-Fi and the Internet. By comparison, his iPad had been auto-saving his work every 2 seconds onto its local storage, and then regularly backing that work up to a server whenever the network was available, and he had lost no work with is his iPad over a period of months.

    So not only is iPad better than ChromeBook in every way, but even where iPad is not all that you need, like in a computer programming class or I-T management class, the answer there is the Mac.

    So the confused educators in this article are just once again trying to bring back the “serious” computery computer, and during the process, they are taking books out of the hands of their students. Your students should be outfitted with one iPad each that they carry everywhere, and some of your classroom should be outfitted with Macs as well.

    I know it is confusing today — why are the only sensible client computer solutions only from Apple? What am I, an Apple zealot? No. Apple is unfortunately the only company that has driven innovation forward in client computing. Nobody else is even trying. HP (a server company) and other Microsoft Windows hardware makers just sell server hardware from a few years ago as cheap clients today, and they will tell you, the only reason they make clients at all is so that they can sell both clients and servers on the same order to giant corporations. The stuff from Google (an advertising company) is just a shameless attempt to get you attached 24/7 to a server at Google, so that Google can watch every bit that moves through your computing life. And the Google stuff is all still experimental (like all Google products) and because it sells less than 0.01% of client computers, it could go away tomorrow.

    So a student without an iPad is a student without a book. And also a student without music and art tools. But unfortunately, some educators are looking at a student with an iPad and seeing a student without a computer. That is absurd. It is easy to set up a lab of Macs for the times when students need traditional computers. And ChromeBooks are not traditional computers — they only look like traditional computers.

    • lucascott

      hey there was a time when learning was oral, done via rote memorization and callback and kids used a piece of slate and chalk to write sums etc on.

      perhaps we should try that method again

  • Moeskido

    Before reading this article, I’m going to guess that, regardless of any school’s ability to select or deploy new technology, there’s no mention of whether any school district discussed has the competence to create its own curriculum in the first place.

    Here’s a hint: it’s a lucrative field for third-party vendors staffed by former teachers who’ve fled a public education system now run by administrators who’ve never taught a damned thing.

  • lucascott

    interesting that this discussion keeps coming back to an Apple V Google fight. rarely does anyone mention other choices like Amplify. Which was a tablet created just for the classroom (unlike the iPad which was created as something of a blank slate and just happens to be used in classrooms among other places)