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Who Will Win the School Tech Competition?

The new Apple iPad vs. Google Chromebook

Apple once again wants to be the most loved school computing brand, but might have a tough challenge ahead to regain classroom domination. Though Apple claims its new tablet can do anything a traditional laptop can, Google’s Chromebook is strongly embedded in schools, capturing 60 percent of the educational market in 2017 versus Apple’s 15 percent slice.

Apple’s latest iPad has an incredibly fast processor, thanks to the A10 Fusion chip, and support for the pencil stylus and cool augmented reality (AR) interactions, but the iPad might not be the most practical choice for educators. The pencil is something students must keep track of (or lose the first day). Teachers also prefer having a physical keyboard and the easy set-up of Chromebook.

Another important factor is cost. Education pricing for Chromebooks is about $300, or less with bulk discounts to school districts including free G-Suite support. A new iPad sells for $329 ($299 for educators), and the least expensive stylus is $49. If you want to add a keyboard to the iPad, that will run another $99, for a total package price of $479.

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Steve Jobs attributed much of today’s computer literacy to putting Apples in school. The company started to donate Apple 1 units in 1975, which transitioned into a strong customer base as those students grew up and purchased a MacBook or MacPro. While iPad tablets are still popular with the K-6 grade set, Google has a firm grasp on the 7-12 and above grades, with strong software packages to support the devices.

Apple, however, is trying to edge in on that older student demographic with inventive apps for the classroom, including ARKit and ClassKit. Just as Apple helped reinvent learning in the ’70s and ’80s, it is hoping to do so again, including using augmented reality or the compatible Apple Pencil to create better and more interactive learning experiences.

Imagine dissecting a virtual frog in 3D, instead of putting the live pond creature to death in 8th grade science lab―an experience that was personally devasting to me. Or, students can fly over and explore America’s wild and scenic rivers and learn with stunning augmented reality models how constructing walls, dams and other barriers can impact species migration for miles around, raising environmental awareness.

While Chromebook can and does add new and immersive software, it seems Apple might be more dedicated to cutting edge new technology. But will it be enough to catch Chromebook?

Google’s educator-oriented software wins out for organizations, scoring high on ease of use. Teachers like apps such as GoGuardian, letting them set which sites can be accessed and what can be blocked, and monitor a student’s browsing history to keep them on task.

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Bottom Line
Google has earned its place in today’s classroom through affordable laptop-styled hardware and easy-to-manage software. Chromebooks aren’t the fastest, but they come with everything needed to get a kid started in a teacher-friendly package.

Apple, however, is clearly envisioning tomorrow’s classroom using AR and apps designed around a stylus. iPads are expensive even with discounts in place, but they are potentially more powerful learning tools.

If Apple continues to incorporate leading-edge apps, it may eventually rebuild its education market share, but for this year, they are too cool, and expensive, for school.

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