Saturday, April 6, 2013

Giving Up My iPads for Chromebooks

I teach in a 1:1 iPad classroom, and I asked to pilot 1:1 Chromebooks for the next school year.

Truthfully, it wasn't an easy choice to make.  Secretly, I tried to squelch my nagging desire to do more with my students.  After all, I loved teaching with iPads, and I'm proud of all the work, creativity, and fun that came out of using them.  Besides, iPads are cool.

But I had to be truthful.  I had to be creative to use the iPad as a creation tool, and I had to find workarounds.  And there were things my students just couldn't do on them.

I teach four classes of 8th grade ELA, and in my classroom, I heavily emphasize writing, analysis, and critical thinking.  A keyboard obviously would've been nice, especially since my students pounded out over 2,600 blog posts over the course of six months alone (in addition to the essays, responses, and online discussions they write for me).  Many of my students cite the lack of a keyboard as a shortcoming, but my school couldn't justify this additional expense, seeing that thousands of dollars have already been spent to build our iPad carts.

Also, I wanted my students to fully utilize all the features of Google Docs - annotating text, commenting, and all the social and collaborative aspect that makes Google Docs - Google Docs.  But these features weren't available on the iPad.  (Note: some months after the writing of this post, the Google Drive app has been updated to include the ability to add comments. However, this iPad version is still lacking when compared to its full web capability.)

Additionally, I'd like my students to create Google Slides, which isn't possible so I had to resort to using other apps.  Then, I had to teach them how to export their work in order to import it to a LMS or a Dropbox folder.  Export work just to import it again?  It seems silly to me...and an efficient use of instructional minutes.

I also wanted my students to create content on Glogster, Nanoogo, Storybird, GoAnimate, and many of the myriad of apps out there that don't work on the iPad.  (Read my blog post on "Using GoAnimate to Fight Bullying" on how we used this great video animation tool in the classroom.)
I can see iPads, with its learning apps, having a greater role in the elementary classroom, and though there are also some great apps for the secondary classroom, it's still a device designed to consume content rather than to create it.

For secondary students, this isn't enough - not for a rigorously, academic curriculum called for by the Common Core.  I've always believed that writing should be a shared, cross-curricular responsibility, and using Google Docs with its full potential is better suited to meet this essential need.

Can students fully utilize Google's core productivity apps with the iPad the way they can on a computer/laptop/netbook?  No.  That's why I wanted to bring Chromebooks into my classroom.  But will my students still use iPads?  Absolutely.

Luckily for me, my current iPad cart will become available for checkout, and I'll book it when I want my students to create digital media projects - on iMovie, Audioboo, Zoodle Comics, and J&C's PhotoStory to name a few.  (Read my blog post on "How to Use Zoodle Comics in the Classroom" for ideas.)  However, for every day use, I plan to fully utilize Google Apps for Education on the Chromebooks, the way it was meant to be used.


  1. You have come up against the biggest drawbacks that I have seen with iPads - collaboration and workflow. The import/open in/export/download/convert/upload workflow is just not convenient at all. It's also hard to consider a classroom truly contemporary if the tools being used do not allow for collaboration -- at all! This is the biggest weakness in my mind. Hopefully Apple addresses this somehow, sometime. Can't Apple & Google just get along? Please?

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Jay. It's great to hear from you! You're absolutely right. Wish it were that simple. :)

  3. You're absolutely right about the iPad being a media consumption device. As a techie (videographer/editor/designer) in the communication media field, it's discouraging to watch the expert media blitz that Apple and its enormous fan base have applied to education tech. The iPad is a great product, but its lack of remotely manageable security features and its closed development/delivery ecosystem make it challenging to implement in a school setting. Did I mention the iPad pricetag?!

    I'm a mostly agnostic computer user, but can't help but think Google's Chromebook and Android OS's coupled with their open ecosystem and lower prices will soon make more noticeable inroads into the ed market.

  4. Alice, you have eloquently expressed what I hear so many teachers saying around the world. ipads are great, Chromebooks are great. Each has its place in the digital learning ecosystem. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I'm about as hooked into the iOS ecosystem as you can be, I think that iPad are fabulous for little kids (my 2 year old niece loves playing with mine). However, I have a keyboard for mine and probably would have went with the Surface Pro if I had waited a few years longer to get a tablet. My husband bought one for work (IT Pro) and he loves it.

    I work in a computer lab and there is no way that my kids could create the content that we do with an iPad only - and our middle school kids couldn't either. iPads seem to work best for skills reinforcement, which isn't really what upper level students need.

  6. Hi Alice,

    I found you via your comment on the GCT forum the other day (about Schoology actually).

    This one is very interesting too. I'm on the other side of the fence (1:1 Chromebooks) and I look over from time to time to see whether the iPad field is greener.

    I came to the conclusion I still have the right tool for my students, even moreso having read your post. I put my thoughts down here:

    Thanks again,


  7. Hi Eric, Jack, Cynthia, and Bruno,

    Thanks for taking the time to read my post. I appreciate your comments and for sharing them on my blog.


  8. Alice,
    Sorry to hear about the struggles, but glad to see that you are making progress around the road block! A lot of consideration needs to be in place of your "current productive environment" in order to make the best tech decisions for the future. Chromebooks are no picnic either (battery, OS issues, chrome browser security, etc...)but if you are already operating on Google Apps in Ed. then you are one step ahead. iPad productivity is immature right now and I couldn't agree more. But I see it developing at a faster rate for an overall user experience than the other platforms do with the ingenuity and simplicity. And the Google Drive app is great, but not for any presentation tools on Google so if that is your main support than I would say you are going on the right path to success. For our schools we are focused on expanding the knowledge of problem solving across platforms and technology boundaries. I am excited to see how your next adventure goes! And, you might have the most flexible technology department in the entire world!

    1. Hi Benji,

      Thanks for reading my post and for responding. We are going to implement Google Apps for Ed at my site and district this coming fall. I'm very excited because all of my students have been working with Google Apps during the year using their personal accounts, and they've benefited greatly from the experience.

      In my class, my students write rigorously so being able to access the full feature of Google Docs on a web browser will be essential to their development as writers. I do also want them to use Google Slides, but obviously I've been holding back since they can't create them on the iPad. Keynote is a great app, but the work flow is so much simpler with Google's cloud-based tools.

      I also want my students to create their own Google Sites next year so the Chromebooks would win the round over iPads in this case.

      In the end, I will have my students work with both Chromebooks and iPads. However, they'll be using Chromebooks on a daily basis while I supplement with iPads for certain projects. It's about using the right tool for the job, and for my particular curriculum, the Chromebooks will be used more.

      Thanks for stopping by.


      P.S. Yes, my tech director is platform agnostic (his words). He's been great to work with, and he's been really receptive to my input. As a classroom teacher and tech coach, I have the best of both worlds. I get be a teacher at my site, and I'm also a part of his team at the district.

    2. AnonymousMay 28, 2014

      "battery, OS issues, chrome browser security, etc."

      I'm not aware of these things being big issues in the Chroembook world.

      Battery? - From just about every review I've read, the Chromebooks tend to get the advertised battery life. Is it a less than an iPad? Possibly. But since most are in the 7-10 hours range, it's usually not an issue. And some even come with removable (swappable) batteries.

      OS Issues? - I'm not even sure what you mean by this. I don't know of anyone who considers the Chrome OS to be less stable than any alternative.

      Chrome Browser Security? - The Chrome browser is routinely rated as the most secure browser available as-is. Add a few select add-ons/extensions and you can lock it down even further. Again, I'm not sure there's a better alternative at this time. The bigger argument would be that there's less "privacy" because of the nature of Google as a marketing/data collecting business.. And that's arguably less of an issue if you're using a Google Edu account.

      Google Drive app is great, but not for any presentation tools on Google? - Again I'm not sure what you are implying here. Presentations work great on Drive.

      I like your statement "For our schools we are focused on expanding the knowledge of problem solving across platforms and technology boundaries"

      That's really awesome and a much better foundation for improving learning and technology moving forward. If more schools did that, we'd be much better off!

  9. I think the conjunction should be "and"... "iPads and Chromebooks," not "iPads or Chromebooks." If I could connect my Chromebook's keyboard, via Bluetooth, to my iPad, I would have a great mobile, dual-monitor system.

    My Chromebook creates a good YouTube video, but using something like "Video Recording Teleprompter" on the iPad produces something even slicker. It is easy to create a "VoiceThread" presentation on the iPad.

    Come to think of it, I might suggest, "iPads and Chromebooks and Windows PCs," because sometimes I need to use "Chrome Remote Desktop" or "Splashtop" to run stuff off of my office PC... and Androids;-)

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for reading and responding to my post.

      Yes, I will be using both Chromebooks and iPads in my classroom so it's not "or" but "and" for me, too. However, because I teach English and because my students will have to produce large volumes of work for me (in addition to creating projects that require a full browser), Chromebooks are more suited for use on a daily basis in my classroom. That's not to say I won't be using the iPads at all. I will, when the tool fits the task.

      I'm fortunate that I have a choice. Because my school is ready to add more technology to our site, I saw Chromebooks as a great addition to our repertoire of tools. Plus, they cost less.

      In the end, I decided that I'd rather go 1:1 with Chromebooks than 1:1 with iPads. This way my iPad cart becomes available for other teachers to check out...and this also means I'll be checking out the cart when the project merits it, too. :)

      Thanks for feedback.


      P.S. I actually use Windows, Mac, and Chrome OS on a daily basis.

  10. Hi Alice, great reflective blog. I am about to embark on a trial of Chromebooks in the classroom so it was great to see things from your perspective. I look forward to reading more of your travels through the Chromebook world. :)

  11. Hi Lorraine,

    Thanks for dropping by. Please stay in touch, and I'd love to hear how things are going for you as you pilot Chromebooks in your classroom, too.


  12. Hi Alice! Great to meet you in person at SGVCUE Tech Fair! The points that you made in your post were some of the key reasons we went Chromebooks for 1:1 at my school. Your statement about iPads being more suited for content consumption rather than content creation (with the exception of video/audio content) was a primary talking point. The high school that I was formerly teaching at went 1:1 iPads and they have encountered a great deal of negative response from teachers who do not see the devices providing much benefit for achieving academic goals at the upper grade levels.

    Kudos to your director for being flexible in consideration of devices. I would appreciate continuing to discuss best practices for Chromebook implementation in schools!

  13. What I want to see is Chromebooks with touch screen and apps to rival those of the iPad.