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  • 1.  Chromebooks vs. iPads vs. MS Laptops

    Posted 04-02-2024 04:04 PM

    We are looking at devices to use with our 3rd-5th grade classes next school year that will allow the students to type, use "real" keyboards to edit and develop presentations, papers, etc. We want a touch pad (allows mouse actions) and real keys that are not rubber bumps.  

    Currently we used iPads in our lower school (K-5), a variety of generations because no one has implemented a replacement cycle. I would like to introduce Chromebooks to 3rd-5th graders for several reasons:

    • Affordability
    • Net light
    • Secure from viruses since executables are not downloaded
    • Boot fast
    • Easy Device Management
    • Neutral computing with Google (use google docs as well as Microsoft office online products)

    I know that others love iPads. If so, what keyboards/cases do you use to make them easier to develop/create on? I also find iPads are not good at detaching from one Access Point to join another when moving classes. The covers/cases/keyboards we use now does not support a true laptop feel since the student has to touch the screen and type too much (no touch pad with mouse clicking). I also fee the cost of the devices with Apple care are pretty expensive.

    FYI: In Middle School we use MS Laptops and BYOD in Upper School. We use ClassLink to roster and sync with Azure. Our SIS, Rediker is sync'd nightly to drive the data to ClassLink apps (Canvas, CommonLit, IXL, etc.).

    We are looking at using Gumdrop cases to help make the Chromebooks more Rugged. I really like the Asus CR1100 Flip with 8 GB of memory and a camera on the screen and on the top of the keyboard to capture homework picks.It is also touch screen, but this isn't as important in my opinion.

    Thanks for your thoughts and stories about your experiences with both.


    Donna Muller
    Oak Hall School
    Gainesville FL

  • 2.  RE: Chromebooks vs. iPads vs. MS Laptops

    Posted 04-03-2024 11:04 AM

    We've had Chromebooks in grades 3-4 since probably 2015 or 2016, but we moved grades 1-2 from iPads to Chromebooks in 2020 as well.  We have been very happy with this setup.  We have a similar model to your proposed hardware at this point, with 2-in-1s (Dell, not Asus) with world-facing cameras (for Seesaw portfolios) and 8 GB RAM, in Gumdrop cases.  All of the reasons you named for using Chromebooks over other platforms are pluses for us, as well, and additionally, there are fewer distractions with Chromebooks than with PC laptops.  Since we were moving from iPads, we implemented a Clever page with our various edtech subscriptions in order to make access easier, especially for the younger students.

    I really like the Dell Chromebooks we've been purchasing since 2021.  Partially due to the protection provided by the Gumdrop cases, we have had very few failures of any type, which is doubly helpful because we're self-insuring our devices.  We currently have a total of 240 Dell Chromebooks (we purchased Lenovos in 2020 and are gradually phasing them out -- they have been much less reliable than the Dells).  We've had approximately one per year get sent back to Dell for hardware failure inside the basic one-year warranty.  Besides that, we've had one hinge failure that rendered a device unrepairable, one out-of-warranty total hardware failure, three webcam failures, and one keyboard failure.  The majority of the parts needed for repair were able to be removed from the two out-of-warranty failures that we kept for parts.  No broken screens as yet, knock on wood.  The Dells are also quite cheap -- we're still working out this year's order, but last year, the all-in cost, including the cases, was $377.46 per unit.

    We've been so happy with this model in our Lower School that, although Middle School is currently BYOD, we've been exploring the possibility of moving to school-issued Chromebooks there, too, either just for 5th grade or for the whole division (5-8).

    David Fulton-Howard
    Technical Support Manager
    McDonogh School
    Owings Mills, MD

  • 3.  RE: Chromebooks vs. iPads vs. MS Laptops

    Posted 04-05-2024 03:44 AM

    This is a great discussion topic! Thank you @Donna Muller and @David Fulton-Howard for bringing this up! Finding the right setup can be difficult, but it's essential that it works for you.

    From my experience as an IT-director and academic tech specialist in several organizations it always came down to 4 factors when deciding on devices for students:

    • Budget
    • Human Resource Allocation
    • Technical Infrastructure
    • Pedagogical Benefit

    It's probably pretty clear, but this was the way to make sure I was setting things up for my end users (staff and students) in the way that was going to be as seamless as possible within the organization. I'll try to go into greater detail on each factor below.


    Sure, initial costs are important to consider, but what probably is the real "pain point" is the cost of the setup that you choose. Are there hidden costs that are coming down the line? It sounded like you both, David and Donna, have thought about this. Will things like peripherals (keyboards, mice, cameras, additional paid apps) be required to make the solution work? One example I can share was an acquisition of a touchscreen laptop with great performance (Dell in this case) that required me to also buy in adapters for staff and students to make sure that everyone could use the tvs and projectors that were in the classrooms... needless to say it became very unsustainable economically.

    You bring up a great example - devices that get damaged easily - purchasing more protective cases or adding extra insurance to devices is also one of those costs that might be upfront, but also show up later on as well as devices without might be getting damaged. Here it was essential for me to have good ticket tracking both internally and externally to see what kinds of issues were arising so that I could scale up or scale back on insurance costs or physical protection for the devices.

    Other aspects of budget are the software aspects when you have a device that might require additional resources to function as a tool for your staff and students. I'll come back to this, but working in several different platforms (Google, MS, Apple) can mean licensing that you might not have expected at the start.

    Human Resource Allocation

    Tied to your budget in some respects there is the human resource element. Working with several different platforms means you have to have staff experienced in setting up these different environments, and that they are ready to troubleshoot several different platforms that might not all work the same way when things like network issues arise. If you can streamline that type of device to match the productivity suite / workspace it might minimize these kinds of situations, and particularly when it comes to how you roll out configurations and apps to student devices.

    The other element to think about here is how staff and students will experience these devices. Training staff to work on several devices can also be challenging, especially if they move between year groups. I often think about those teachers who see students from multiple grade levels. What kind of training do they need? What does their workload look like if they meet students with Chromebooks, another group with iPads and another group with MS laptops? How does it affect their lesson planning and ability to work?

    Technical Infrastructure

    Coming back to having multiple device types or manufacturers - do all these devices play nice with your existing infrastructure or will they cause a need to update or change the configuration? This is a little trial and error, but again if you're running devices from different manufacturers it means you have to account for all those device manufacturers. I can only provide an example here where a mixed environment led to a situation where iPads were bottlenecking one band of all the APs in the school, but it took time to detect and troubleshoot because reports were seemingly sporadic. 

    Pedagogical Benefit

    The last and maybe most important factor is the benefit in the classroom. There are some systems that are just miles ahead when it comes to working with a specific group of students, age group, or subject type. What are staff and students in need of? You've probably asked them, but if not, this is one of those musts before going ahead with a new device or new strategic purchasing plan. Having your staff onboard and maybe even testing out some of the devices (if you are opting for something completely new) prior to purchasing will likely make it easier to determine what is going to work.

    All in all, do an analysis of where those strengths and weaknesses are in what you have presently and where you are thinking about going. I worked in a 6-12 school system and it basically became a necessity to run a single manufacturer that matched well with the workspace we were using. There were some exceptions (media production and music courses) that had their own setup, but this was a calculated cost due to the specific type of program that was being offered.

    Hope this helps a little!

    John Dimaria
    Customer Success Manager (North America)