Tablets or Laptops? Ask the Right Questions.

Ok, it's Spring, so let's make the assumption that this is the year the money tree behind the school finally blooms.  So, do you buy every student a laptop or a tablet?*  This question is being bantered around all over the country (money tree or not).  Here is what I think... it's the wrong question.

Here is what we should be asking... what do we want our students (and teachers) to do?  What do we want them to create? What problems do we want them to solve?

Once we answer these questions, the solution of which tool to purchase should be obvious.  The thing is, I think that sometimes we get a little too excited about all the things the tools can do that we don't fully answer these questions.

For me, and as much as I love my iPad as a learning device, I think the only answer right now is the laptop (at least for kids older than 3rd grade). Basically, I don't think that the range of things that we want students to be able to do can be completely covered by a tablet... yet.  I readily concede that things are changing... but it might be five or 10 years before the switch really happens.

Here are a few of my other reasons:

 

  • You can create a wider variety of content on the laptop and can consume content much more easily, too.
  • I think the lifespan of the laptop will be longer than the tablet
  • Text editing is easier on the laptop (try editing a paper on an iPad only... ick)... sure you can buy a keyboard, but if you want your tablet to be a laptop, buy a laptop.
  • You can only do iBooks Author and write iOS apps on a Mac
  • The MacBook Air has a great battery life
  • You can lease a laptop
  • Kids may already have their own mobile devices, so open up BYOD.  Why buy them things they might already have?

 

* In my head this means MacBook Air or iPad.  Why these two?  They are, in my opinion, the top of the heap when it comes to portability, versatility, reliability, community, and overall cost of ownership.  I really don't see the point in buying non-Apple devices at this point (of course, I always say this).