Monday, 3 February 2014

Is there a choice beyond the iPad for schools?

The iPad costs more than other tablets, but it is still dominant in sales to schools.  Despite austerity school district budgets, according to Education Week, an education publication, Apple has 94% of the tablet market for K-12 schools in the U.S.

But competitors have hope,  the article suggests:  "Apple's king-of-the-hill position in tablets is being eroded by various players--most recently by Google, with..Google Play for Education."  Google sells education apps using a system that "allows teachers to pay using a purchase order loaded on the tablet."

Many districts make their decisions before they have determined what the educational use will be--as with many technology decisions.  One big push for one-to-one computing in many states is the adoption of the Common Core Curriculum and computer-based testing that is going with it.

The Los Angeles school district has been front and centre for the problems of inadequate research and thought before making a purchase.  The district announced it was buying an iPad for all it students, but has had to back pedal as problems arose.

Computer-based testing was one of the key arguments for a one-to-one purchase.  However, they didn't buy keyboards to go with the iPads and students taking the tests on iPads would be disadvantaged compared to those using laptops or desktops.  The virtual keyboard would cover part of the screen with some of the test material.

The iPads were supposed to block students from exploring the Internet, except for pre-selected sites.  Students, of course, almost immediately found ways around that.  And the district didn't figure in all the overhead costs to the system either.

The range of tablets competing with the iPad, of course, includes Windows-based tablets from several other computer companies.

A note at the end of the Edweek article about alternatives to the iPad says "Coverage of the education industry and K-12 innovation is supported in part by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation."  

In case you might think that promoting options to iPad was the reason for the article being published, the note also says "Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage."

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