The device debate: What tablet is right for classrooms?

There are a lot of tablets out there and we at Edudemic are certainly guilty of focusing a lot of our attention on the Apple iPad. That shouldn’t come as a surprise since iPads make up more than 94% of the education tablet market. That’s a big ol’ piece of the pie
Brainstorm By Jeff Dunn
Published on February 19, 2014

There are a lot of tablets out there and we at Brainstorm are certainly guilty of focusing a lot of our attention on the Apple iPad. That shouldn’t come as a surprise since iPads make up more than 94% of the education tablet market. That’s a big ol’ piece of the pie.

But there are a boatload more tablets that teachers should probably consider. The Apple iPad may be the most used at this point, but every teacher is different. Like students, each has his or her own needs, likes, dislikes, and skills.

We have been examining education technology products for more than 4 years now at Edudemic and it’s given us a unique perspective. We’re able to look back at where things were with vivid detail since it’s all documented right here on this site. In fact, Brainstorm launched the same week as the announcement of the iPad! Back in April 2010, though, there was only one tablet. Now, there are a lot of other players in the game.

So let’s get the device debate going. What tablet is right for your classroom? In the interest of providing some real-world concrete examples, we’ve tested a few of the tablets we think would make a decent fit in most modern classrooms. We chose one tablet for each major operating system and tried to ensure each had a price that was reasonable for a school or district’s budget.

Below are some of the newest tablets on the market:

ipad air photo

The Apple iPad Air (iOS)

Summary: It’s the king of the tablet market and for good reason. This is the one that started it all and has influenced how others make their tablets. The iPad is known for being easy to use and reliable. It’s used in 94% of tablet-using classrooms and has seen a tremendous growth rate in the education sector.

Pros: It’s 1 pound and requires just a single cable. The wireless receiver is quite good and it is resilient thanks to the amount of metal on the backside. Just don’t step on the glass with high heels and you should be okay. This means it’s useful for classrooms where students pass around the iPad and – whoops – accidentally drop it on the floor.

Cons: The iPad Air starts at $499 not including the education discount. That’s a bit pricey for your average teacher or student. So don’t plan on any self-bought 1:1 iPad classrooms just yet.


The HP ElitePad 1000 (Windows)

Summary: The ElitePad is as durable as the day is long. You could probably drop one from a one-story building and it’d be ready to go. For all the Windows desktop users out there, this could very well be the best way to transport your life on the go. That’s because it runs both the Windows mobile operating system as well as the full version of Windows. This means it could be a very useful ‘transition tablet’ (a term we just made up, feel free to use it!) for any classroom that had previously been relying on a Windows desktop machine.

Pros: We tested one out courtesy of HP and the battery life was quite good. During a typical full day of use (8-9 hours of various usage), it still had at least a quarter of the battery life to spare. Considering the fact that it can run Windows as well as it does, that’s a big plus. Another interesting side-note is that some apps (e.g. Plants vs Zombies – very educational!) work on this tablet as the ‘Windows version’ rather than the mobile version. This means you’re getting the exact same experience you’re used to from your desktop or laptop, but on your mobile device. In terms of classroom application, the familiar tile-based home screen is welcoming and shows you a lot of news and updates right from the home screen. Personally, I think this is great and could prove to be very useful for students who are studying with the tablet. They’ll get quick no-nonsense updates while writing on their laptop or the tablet. The HP ElitePad can also handle an external keyboard and docking station, so really that student could type away on the tablet using the full version of Windows. Snazzy, eh?

Cons: It starts at $739. That’s a steep price to pay for a product you haven’t used yet, that’s for sure. It’s also about 24 ounces, making it a bit on the heavy side compared to other tablets.

google nexus

Google Nexus 7 (Android)

Summary: There seems to be a new Android tablet out every week but this (as of publication of this post) is the Android tablet to get. If you want a light and quick simple tablet to use for half the price of the iPad, check out the Nexus 7.

Pros: It starts at just $230 so it’s a great deal for classrooms and school districts on a tight budget. Which would be every single one of them, no? The screen is sharp and the tablet feels just about the same as the iPad. I would say the video performance (Netflix and other video-centric apps) is quite good as well. This means it could be a very useful tool for any classroom that uses Skype or other video calling. There is a Micro USB port on the device which means it’ll hook into a lot of your third-party hardware such as a microphone and other popular classroom tools.

Cons: The tablet is actually not that easy to hold onto. The back is not very grippy (similar to the iPad) and can really benefit from an external case. Also, the camera is not the best in the business but, honestly, it’s half the price of the iPad so you get what you pay for. That being said, it’s certainly good enough to take some selfies or have a low-bandwidth Skype chat with another student or classroom around the globe.

So, Which Is Right For Your Class?

Here are our key takeaways in case you skipped over the main meat of this article. It’s okay, we do that too.

  • If you want a tablet that’s easy to use, works well in your Apple-centric classroom, and offers an array of classroom resources: go for the iPad.
  • If you want a tablet that’s durable and lets you easily transition from a Windows-based classroom: try the ElitePad.
  • If you want a cheap and flexible tablet that works well with your Android phone, get the Nexus 7.

What do you think? Which tablet do you think is the best one for YOUR classroom? Weigh in down in the comments! Your favourite tablet doesn’t have to be one of the few listed on this post, by the way.

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