What it is: The iPad has been losing sales in schools to ChromeBooks.
Apple has always been strong in education ever since schools started using Apple II computers in the classroom. However, PCs soon took over most schools when the Apple II faded away, and the Macintosh has always been too expensive for most schools to purchase. That’s why most schools tended to chose PCs instead.
Now that same scenario seems to be replaying itself all over again. At first, schools were buying iPads for students to use. Now schools are using much cheaper ChromeBooks along with Google Docs because that allows students to do basic word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations without the need for expensive software like Microsoft Office. More importantly, ChromeBooks are much less expensive than iPads and require less maintenance as well.
That’s why Apple recently purchased LearnSprout, a company focused on education technology. Apple also plans to allow multiple user accounts on iPads so multiple students can share a single iPad. The goal is to make iPads easier to maintain in the classroom.
The ultimate goal is to capture the imagination and loyalty of kids early so when they grow up, they’ll likely use the same technology that they learned in the classroom. Yet what’s more likely is that by the time kids grow up, the technology will have changed. Today’s adults grew up with Windows PCs, but they the world has been flooded with smartphones and tablets. Today’s kids are using smartphones and tablets along with ChromeBooks, but tomorrow’s technology will likely change by the time they become adults.
What schools really need is to teach skills irregardless of the specific technology. What companies such as Apple and Google need to do is develop products that can allow kids to learn easier and more enjoyably than before. Schools love ChromeBooks because they’re cheap and easy to use. Beyond cheap laptops, the real benefit is learning to use Google Docs to get work done.
Students love iPads because they’re more fun and flexible to use than a laptop. Yet they’re also more expensive than ChromeBooks, which limits the number of schools that can purchase them. So schools looking at cost are focusing on ChromeBooks while schools that value something more than just cost are willing to look at iPads.
Maybe a ChromeBook might be better for students in some cases, but maybe an iPad might be better than a ChromeBook in other cases. Schools need to focus on the needs of their particular students. In poor school districts, limited budgets and the danger of theft makes ChromeBooks far more attractive. In more affluent schools, iPads appear more sophisticated than ChromeBooks even if the school has no idea how to maximize their use for student learning.
Most likely ChromeBooks will still dominate the education market and leave Apple with a much smaller share. however, that smaller share will likely have chosen the iPad for specific reasons related to the iPad’s features rather than focusing solely on cost. Schools offering iPads to students will likely be wealthier, which pretty much mirrors the demographics of Apple products anyway.
ChromeBooks are fine for students to learn how to use a computer. iPads are fine for versatility than a laptop can’t offer such as interactive e-books or specific learning apps only available on the iPad. There’s no single best answer for everyone. The ultimate goal is to make technology prepare students for the future, so whatever students learn today will likely be obsolete or different tomorrow, and that’s just the way schools have to deal with technology from now on.