Friday, 25 July 2014

The Emperor Is Naked! (and it shows)

Recent figures for sales of computing devices to (US) schools show Google Chromebooks are overtaking Apple iPads. Of course, Apple would rather you were none the wiser so they happily ignored the trend when they reported their own version of the iPad success story.

Suprised? By schools starting to prefer Chromebooks, I mean?

Well, you shouldn't be. At all.

And here's a very good reason why this is so...

Nope, I don't mean Chromebooks are so big and clunky no student in their right mind would want to nick one. And nor is it the fact that, just like this beautiful - and ancient - development station they usually sport, well, not exactly dual floppy external storage, but at least an SD card slot. And a USB one. And a HDMI one, too. All of which are certainly very good and useful - and missing from an iPad, more or less.

No, in fact it's this...

Yup, it's the good old physical keyboard. And, as you can see, even some Apples used to have 'em (I hear some also have 'em now, too, but these, to schools at least, seem to be a bit too large, a bit too expensive - or both).

As you may - or may not - have noticed, long gone are the days where going to school involved sitting down and listening to someone pontificating about this, that, and the other the whole day, day in and day out, broken by an occasional written or, more likely, oral exam.

No, schools are much less about consumption these days, and - luckily - much more about discovery, research and - most notably and most importantly - creation. And while iPad is as good as it gets for satisfying your data and media consumption and even research needs, it's only a foolish, fadish, and fan boyish who can keep a straight face and tell you you can easily write your term paper - or anything else longer than a few dozen lines for that matter - on an iPad. And that's even if you hook it up to a keyboard of some description.

Add to this other things that make a Chromebook more like a real PC than a glorified TV and any wonder at schools slowly regaining sanity with respect to choice of computing devices should disappear quite quickly. That a decent Chromebook is also a lot cheaper than an iPad of any description (and that's before you've added a decent physical keyboard and a stand to it) it is really a wonder why schools had a go at iPads in the first place. Fad and fashion come to mind, but let's leave that to their comptrollers and achievement assessors.

Does this mean Chromebooks are the bee's knees of educational computing? Well, I'm not so sure. But then again, I also think some sort of programming should be a part of many a reasonable curriculum (programming, not coding, mind) so what do I know. Personally, I'd rather see a decent fully fledged laptop (12" or even larger) as a minimum so kids can have a real go at a real thing. However, when it comes to a dilemma "tablet (of any description) vs laptop (of any description)" the laptop/netbook/Chromebook wins hands down every single time. And in terms of tablets, and especially when it comes to bang for buck, an iPad must lose horribly every single time, too.

So, just please, please, please say NO to tablets as educational devices!

Pretty please?

Sugar on top?