Sunday, April 1, 2012

iPad Vs. Windows Tablet–Please don’t Shoot!


As a classroom teacher, I would love to use the iPad.  As the technology coordinator for the district – it’s a bit problematic.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my iPad.  I don’t love it because it’s an apple product – but rather that it is a well made product.  I don’t love it because it is bling - but because as a tool, it does the job and does it well.

I love the modern tablet, especially the iPad.  It has a 10 hour battery (optimal).  This means kids don’t have down time mid day.  It has access to a half-a-MILLION apps from the iTunes store.  There is a growing community of apps just for education, and some of them are supah-cool!  It has a camera, mic, and speakers, and is easy to use for simple multimedia projects.  Some people have said to me that there is no way that someone would use the iPad to film with, but I have seen it on numerous occasions, and done it myself. 

As the technology coordinator, I am concerned with deploying equipment to kids.  I want reliable, long-lived equipment that meets the needs of kids and teachers. 

The problems with deploying the iPad on a large scale, is that it wasn’t intended for this.  It was intended to be an individual consumer device.  In order to put apps on it, we must create a unique iTunes account for each iPad.  Then, I must install each app 1 at a time.  And I must pay full price for each app, as there is no volume licensing for these apps in Canada.  This will have to be done by the teacher, and if the teacher is fortunate enough to have 30 iPads in a class, then they might have to do this work.  I am told the IT department cannot do this remotely.  Also, repeat this process to do updates. And you need to buy an extra piece to attach it to a projector (called a “dongle” – a name I can’t stop snickering about. )

When students are using school purchased iPads, they must email the work off, if they want to get their work off the iPad.  But if they share iPads (say you can only buy a class set of 15) and you can only put one email on an iPad, who’s email goes on the iPad?  A generic one? How does the teacher keep track of the work?  We can’t save it to our network drives, and we can't upload it to the marking bin on a teacher’s SharePoint website.

It’s doable, as Surrey School district has deployed 1500 iPads this year.

Looking at the Dell ST, I think I have a solution to some of these problems.  It costs more than an iPad, but not by too much.  It currently runs on Windows 7 but it will also run Windows 8.  I tried it.  I have a district wide license for many of the software titles we could put on it, like MS Office.  In the long run it could be less expensive to operate.

The IS department can image them like they image a laptop, and remotely update them. 

When a student logs in, their individual network drives and email accounts are loaded – like a laptop. No questions as to how the student can get their work off, and sharing them between students is easily accomplished.

It comes with a USB slot and an SD card slot.  It has an HDMI port, so you don’t have to buy a dongle – this will work with your projectors. 

It has a rubber and plastic backing, and won’t slide off a sloped student desk. You can access the battery with out a proprietary tool – just use a flat head screwdriver to pop off the cover and Phillips screwdriver to remove the battery.

It has all the strengths of a laptop, and the ease of use of a tablet.  Two downsides.

I have experienced lags in on screen keyboard performance.  This could be attributed to the fact that I loaded an untested Operating System.  If the glass interface was not sensitive enough, and meant that every keystroke didn’t register, that alone would be reason enough not to deploy it, but I would think this is not the case as Dell would not likely make this kind of mistake. 

The second problem is that while Windows 8 can load both programs and apps from the store, there aren’t half a million apps in the store.  Some of those apps provide a really unique educational experience.  There are 65,000-ish according to the Vancouver Sun, but I would call this a growth market. But, still a small number compared to the iTunes store.

This tablet bears consideration.  I think it would be best if teachers knew what each tablet could do and then make an informed choice based on good information. 

I wonder who would choose which tablet for their class and why?