iPad vs. BYOD

Yes, we are at the beginning of a revolution in Education. Yes, we have witnessed the world going mobile and yes, there is a variety of tools available to help us make learning mobile and personal.

But…

Most of the teachers around the world getting excited about this and offering advice (like me) are tech-savvy people. We have already had a play with many devices, we blog and Tweet all day, researching the best practice around the world. We are comfortable with the differences and know how those differences in features and software might affect a lesson. We also know that BYOD stands for “Bring Your Own Device!”
But “we” account for 5% of teaching staff in the world! (That’s based on at least 10 schools I know in NZ and the UK)

So…

Until the vast majority of the teaching profession are aware of what opportunities students would have with one device over another (at least 5 years), the decision a school makes must guarantee simplicity for the non-technical majority. The decision a school makes must also ensure there’s a strong, easily accessible support system and that getting what you need is straight-forward. This keeps everything simple for a non-tech-savvy teacher and offers comfort in knowing what is and isn’t possible when assessing the students output. The idea of one student saying “I can do this” and another saying “I can’t” is simply not equitable and makes things difficult for “normal” teachers. This leads us to another question:

Why should it be iPad and not one of the others?

The devices are all the same! They all:

  1. have a camera;
  2. have a screen;
  3. can ‘Skype’
  4. access the Internet
  5. do office-style documents

So why iPad?

I think I can answer that in pictures rather than words.

Here is a major section of Apple’s App Store available through the iPad directly focused on the key learning areas, not available on any other system.

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Here’s a separate area of the App Store dedicated to various subjects and special educational areas including a full section for Special Needs education.

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Here’s the Apple website section on education, with iTunesU offering 1000s of courses from every major University. Again, there’s a focus on the benefits of considering special Accessibility options and how they can actually benefit all teachers and students. Through iBooks, you receive both fiction and textbooks, how-to guides and the ability to produce your own multimedia iBooks using iBooks Author on a Mac. This Mac software is free but the absolute leader in ebook authoring software. (iBook is just Apple’s name for eBooks)

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The rival support systems just don’t compare, especially in the eyes of a non-geek teacher.

Android.com offers no education section but does specialise in games.
What is Open Source? Some of the geeky teachers might use ‘Open source’ as some sort of argument when choosing a device. This is where Google offer the code for how a device works to the world of geeky programmers and they can do whatever the like with it. This sounds good, but for schools, it means little. It makes the Android system more buggy and prone to viruses and crashing. These issues destroy both lessons and confidence amongst a generation of teachers trying to grapple with new learning pedagogies.

Google Play’s site (The main Android site) does not place it’s education section on the home page and when you find it in ‘Categories’ it only divided into Free and Paid with no focus on the various needs within education. Most apps in this section are early-childhood based and you have to scroll though page after page to discover what’s available. Not good for a teacher who’s new to this game.

Conclusion

You see, it’s not about the device it’s about the support system you can connect to and how much that system is designed for education. In this regard, Apple is the only company doing anything specifically for schools. Google and Microsoft continue to focus their efforts on business needs and hope that schools find a use for their business tools. A school near me had a technician who was adamant that it be BYOD rather than just iPad. 4 months into the programme, he was preparing advice documents for the following year to say iPads only!

Future
There’s also the matter of statistics and future developments. iPads have been bought by schools and universities in their millions! There are at least 50 iPads in education for every competing tablet of any make , and given the conferences I’ve been to, that’s probably generous to the “others”. The competition is eating into the iPad market but not in education. What does this mean to schools? We can support each other through this tricky transitional period in education’s history, if we are all on the same platform. The developers, who make the apps with an educational focus and offer the support for schools are nearly all iPad based. Over the next 5 years, the gap between what can be done in schools with iPads and their alternatives will increase exponentially and this makes iPads the only truly sensible choice for any school of ‘normal’ staff and students.

P.S.

Oh and the Flash thing. Yes, iPads don’t play all those Flash based educational websites but Adobe, who make Flash have stopped making it! and so the next 2 years will have every website moving away from flash (they’ve already started.) So Flash is no longer an argument and the new Windows 8 Tablets will not play it either. The reason it all came to a crashing end was because Flash running in the background on the mobile device swallows up battery life. Something Apple were the first to recognise and never went near it. The other companies are now realising. Adobe’s given up.

14 comments on “iPad vs. BYOD

  1. Can you provide data to back up your claims that “Open Source [...] makes the Android system more buggy and prone to viruses and crashing”? Also, the claim that “there are 50 iPads for every competitor of every make”. It might be true for individual tablet models, but the overall figures for Android use and iOS use on tablets are far from that magnitude apart. In 2011 iPads outweighed Android 70/30, this year the figures are nearly 50/50, so the trend is actually the exact opposite that you posit here (US figures).

    Open Source software is a powerful force for change, and could be key in driving down hardware costs to make tablets available more widely in schools. This type of post – inaccurate claims backed up with no data – only serve to deter people from trying it. I note that your blog is powered by WordPress, a fully open source piece of software, so you can’t be too worried about the viruses and crashing…

    • Great comment and quite right, o should back up my claims.
      In education now, the iPad to other tablet ratio must be at least 100 to 1. Amongst the 1000s of articles you find in Google about school wide and university deployment of iPads, I genuinely can’t find a single one for another tablet. Netbooks, yes but not tablet. My wife just went to a 3-day edtech conference in Auckland and thought all the rooms were 99% iPad. I went to a meeting held by Apple in regard to schools THINKING about introducing iPads and every teacher in the room (about 200) was iPadding, apart from those using paper. I found one technician there with an ultrabook. Android are holding there own in business and possibly personal use but not in education. I found this teacher’s review of the galaxy tablet and could hardly find anything educational to do with it : http://blog.core-ed.org/blog/2011/12/a-teacher’s-review-the-samsung-galaxy-tab-10-1.html

      He decides on laptop!

      I think my 50/1 tablets in schools ratio needs to be clarified as exactly that but it looks like it is also rather generous to the “others”

      As far as the next 5 years is concerned I think it’s important for schools and students to be able to support each other in this major transition. This will be impossible if the sector splinters into lots of different platforms.

      As far as buggy is concerned I think this article…

      http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/do-you-need-antivirus-on-android/

      …sums up the various anti-virus and security options available to Android, but this further installation of utility software is something I’ve never had to consider for iPad and again has never even cropped up on conversation, even with my Android fan technicians at school. And then there’s things like this:

      http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-19784413

      Open Source is indeed a very important issue and as a concept is really the ethical way forward. But, for schools to utilise Open Source, the amount of technical knowledge and support required is much greater. It can be done but you’d have to have a very well researched technician, willing to roll out a Linux network. The people pushing specifically for open source, often have no idea about what’s important to a normal teacher in a classroom. They tend to have own, purely technical agenda.

    • Oh and yes I love WordPress’s open source approach but even as a tech-Savvy guy there was no way I had the time to download it and set up hosting myself and so went with the option that most teachers would go for. I paid my $100 and got the company to sort out the hosting and domain name for me. The standard approach that most teachers would take. So my benefit from its Openness, is limited to the themes. I even have to know CSS coding to change colours!!

      So WordPress is a great example of the extra technical requirements needed to utilise these tools.

  2. It absolutely is about the content in your last paragraph! And of course the reputation of Apple … Presumably the other suppliers are working to match this reputation (has to be the goal, right???) but Apple’s there NOW!!!

  3. Thanks very much for taking the time to respond – really helpful reply and some good links to follow up on. It’s an exciting time to be involved in education and hopefully there’s room for all players to serve different groups and needs.

    • Thanks Nigel. It really is exciting. I’m trying hard to keep the blog not too geeky. I’ve made changes to the post so as not to report the figures as hard facts.
      Thanks again.

  4. I couldn’t agree more. When I was starting to look for a tablet to aid me in my teaching, I was an Android user (with my phone), so I had lots of experience with Google Play. However after doing my research into the kind of apps I wanted to use, I ended up going for the iPad.

    Why? Becuase there were more apps available for me to try out, lots of people who had tried things out and were able to give me advice, and (after trying out some teaching apps on my phone) better apps available.

    • Thanks for a great comment.
      Another thing is that no teacher wants to waste students’ time configuring or even talking tech, if there are other learning objectives. Apple have done the most to remove the tech from technology.

  5. Are there statistics in terms of the cost/benefit of essentially paying the premium for Apple products in the education sector as opposed to perhaps the additional maintenance, expertise and configuration that may be required in using other “open source” or competing products? I do see the argument with respect of the app ecosystem and lack of platform fragmentation being more conducive to the learning experience. At a time when there has been coverage concerning the inflated cost of education IT procurement in the public sector, it would be interesting to see why, as in the case of my own local authority, there is a predisposition to pay such a high premium. I would say that even in the early noughties when I was finishing school, we still had BBC Masters as well as Macs! In the real world, although maybe outside the more creative industries, cost is king and the PC dominates as a result.

    • Hi, Thanks for your comment. It’s great just to keep the conversation going. I find it funny that people still talk about the Apple premium when referring to iPads. In 2000, thousands of schools were buying PCs with MS Office because they felt they aught to have computers. In todays money these millions of computers cost US$1500 each. Today we are expecting schools to modernize and become mobile by spending US$399 (iPad 2 being the Edu iPad). But for this lesser amount you get the entire education eco-system I posted on, which you never received in 2000 for 5 times the cost. With the iPad system, One technician provides wireless and teachers and students sort themselves out. Android demands more technicians and experts in schools because, as you’ve said, it’s harder to find learning material and time is lost researching (time is money after all :-). Some schools can get a year-group’s set of iPads for the price of one technician. With 70% of US uni students being on MAC (http://osxdaily.com/2010/08/05/70-of-college-freshman-use-macs/) and companies going BYOD, the landscape is very different to even 2005. Microsoft missed Web Search, then Social web, then mobile, and still only focuses on its Office suite when it comes to education. This might soon make them a non-player in education. Given what I’ve said about the edu eco-system, people who imply that the $399 iPad compares with the $200 other tablet is just wrong. Apple have no competition in education at the moment and I would be genuinely intrigued to see another company step-up.
      Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  6. It is kinda sad for us android Indies devs that you think so. I would say our sales have generally picked up more overseas than US recently.
    I still find it illogical that people are willing to spend 500 for what’s available for 200. I hope the financial logic will win.
    I agree that it is hard to find a reviewer who will review android kids apps without prejudice.

    • Thanks for your comment but if it was a matter of price (And your figures were true), schools wouldn’t be buying iPads in their millions. I have pointed out in my post that all the other options provide no educational support system. Plus the price for an iPad 2 is US$399 and the WI-FI only Galaxy Tab 10.1 can be purchased for over $500. The Kindle Fire HD is $299, so the prices are closer than you think, but with basically no learning system attached to them. The iPad is currently Schools’ only option (if they do their research). Android pulls its weight and is eating into the iPad market, but not in education. The others remain only consumption or basic business tools. Not much use to Schools who are experienced in buy computers that are only business tools (Windows & Office for the last 15 years!)

  7. iPad 4 Schools, I wholeheartedly agree with what you are saying and I can say from the full time techies perspective, (I work for a large private school in the US), that we have iPad 1′s still in use and they still have years of good use left in them. We have transitioned the devices to another staff side department and they are continuing to get daily use since upgrading the students to newer iPad 2′s and 4′s. I have seen many non apple desktop and handheld devices over the years and at best we get 3 or 4 years use out of them and then they are either too slow due to internal architecture or obsolete due to no support.

    The iPad started the handheld tablet revolution and has been the standard that others are measured against and try to live up to! No other device can make that claim. They are at the forefront and have been since the beginning!

    Now, is the iPad perfect? No, we still have quirks and issues that we deal with on a daily basis, but 95% of those have to deal with management of 500 devices with different configurations by student grade. We have those headaches with any device in our support system that doesn’t stay in one place. And last but not least, my main argument for using Apple products of any kind is this:

    “If a company makes a device and another company makes the software for it, there will be issues. If a company makes a device and they control all the hardware and software that goes on them, even the third party apps, they can make a device that just works better”

    In Apple’s case, they control all of it and they research extensively what will work, and what won’t, and they design it with the support system in mind. Since the other guys don’t have a support system for business or education, it just makes plain sense to go with Apple. You wouldn’t send your kid to a school that doesn’t have a support system, IE: Lunchroom, cleaning staff, administration, maintenance. Then why use a device that has no support system behind it in the education sector. As a person who guides those decisions in our school. We do not guide any administrator or teacher to devices that have no support behind the product. If we did we would have a large pile of broken equipment on our hands and no way to fix them. Our children are no different, if we do not have a support system behind them, IE: Parents, Teachers, Community, they will end up broken as well. I know this is a long post, but you just can’t put inferior devices without support in their hands as tools to aid in 21st century education. The most important device in the classroom is the teacher that will guide that success no matter what electronics are in their hands. Investing and supporting them is the first step. iPad4Schools I thank you for helping raise the level of technological expertise for teachers globally. I also thank all teachers for what they do for the next generation!

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