I was recently asked by a teacher what I thought would be a better purchase for her school–a fleet of chromebooks or a bevy of iPads. This was an interesting question because I am huge fan of the Chromebook platform and also have some respect for the iPad as well. I also have experience as a fifth grade teacher who had a laptop classroom.
In summary, my answer was “it depends”…it depends on what you plan to do with them, and this was really the crux of my response. I basically sent the teacher back to research more about what programs they were planning to use with the devices–its a huge difference between what you can do with a Chromebook vs. iPads.
Most people these days have some level of familiarity with iPads as they have become more ubiquitous. We have all seen happy people playing with various “apps” and reading email on the devices. They are colorful and fun. Since they are a tablet, they have only an electronic touchscreen keyboard. You can of course purchase a keyboard separately, but I bet more often than not, no keyboard is ever added to school based iPads.
I would say most people have never heard of Chromebooks. I think that’s a shame because they’re really great once you understand their limitations and strengths. I own two Chromebooks. They are very light, sleek, turn on and get on the internet in 10 seconds and have very long battery life (9 hours of usable time). The true beauty of the Chromebook is that it is basically a laptop with only one program on it — the Chrome web browser. Because of this, you can’t do anything on it that you couldn’t do in Chrome on your Microsoft Windows or Apple laptop. So yes, there are apps you can get (for instance Google Hangouts, Remote Desktop, etc) but you won’t be installing Microsoft Office or any other Windows/Apple program on it–well, at least not unless they create a Google Chrome plugin for it. The Chromebooks sport a “hardened” OS which means that basically they are virus-proof. That’s a VERY good selling point, btw. You can do word processing, spreadsheets and slide shows on the Chromebook-but it is through Google Apps. In fact, I think you can assume that for the best results, every kid should have a Google Login/email address (something I strongly support) so that they can store their own documents and photos in Google’s Cloud system–Google Drive.
So to get back to the question and my answer: if the school is planning to use an education program with specialized apps that are made for an iPad, well, then your choice is to go with iPads. On the other hand, for web based programs and for better typing / word processing experiences, definitely opt for the Google Chromebook.