Tablets vs. Laptops in K-12 Education
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Tablets vs. Laptops in K-12 Education

Written by 23 April 2012

Tablets vs. Laptops in K 12 Education

You may already be aware of the in-depth discussion going on inside the Teacher Learning Community on Tablets vs. Laptops for classroom use.  If you haven't taken a look at the discussion yet (catch up and join in here), here's a quick recap.

The comment that started it all...

"Would like to get views on whether tablets are better in the classroom rather than laptops/netbooks." - cyberteacher74

Pro-tablet remarks

"Our elementary schools are gravitating more towards iPads than Laptops.  They're lighter, easier to transport, take up less space, boot up quicker, and will do almost anything a laptop can do.  There are enough integrated apps to solve some of the early issues we were having.  The best part is, we can get 2 iPads for the price of 1 laptop on our state bid list." - ebonhaus

"[The Principals] now want iPads in all of their classrooms.  They see it as a device with multiple uses.  They can do most everything they can do on a laptop and more with the apps and portability.  They even moved iPads above Smartboards on their priority list because with Apps like Splashtop, they can get some of the same functionality.  We will still have about 5 student computers in each classroom and someday a mobile lab for each grade level, but for now, they want the iPads first." -dragontech

"I like the tablet in place of laptops.  Reasons for are the weight, size and cost.
tablets are much easier to care for, weight less and can be put in a small back pack or in its own carrier.  Battery life can be short but for the amount of good it provides I'll stick with it.  Cost is far less than some laptops, depending on what you need." - cross-country-ghs

Pro-laptop remarks

"The iPad will never be a laptop replacement for me and in our district, it costs almost as much as our student laptops.  There are limitations with Android and iOS tablets when dealing with large district enterprise systems and the anticipated life of a good laptop/ cheap desktop, will be much longer than these portable devices." - Howard J Martin

"I do not think that a tablet can replace a laptop as they are made now. I work at a 1 to 1 laptop school who is beginning to introduce ipads.  I think the ipad is great for app usage especially in science class but as a social studies teacher I am still struggling to find apps that do something to replace our computers.  If you had to pick due to budget constraints then you should go with what you can afford.  Some awesome tech will be better than none.  There is still a lot that can be done on the ipad.  I just don't see it replacing the computer any time soon." - Erin

"I have had the opportunity to try both [laptops and tablets] in my third grade classroom.  While it is correct that both have advantages and disadvantages, the interactive web activities requiring flash seems to make me lean toward our netbooks more often" -rherbert

Final food for thought

"My thought process is always "let the needs & goals dictate the device, not the other way around".  iPads are very cool devices, and I love mine, but my iPad hasn't (and thus far can't) replace many of my laptop/desktop functions.  iPads are great for research, collaboration (email, etc), games, art, etc... but may not be the best tool for writing. If writing is your push a laptop might be the better option.  I think the best recommendation is to come up with a detailed plan for use, specific goals you'd like to attain, and then search for the device that will be best suited for those needs." - mrcasal

What is your experience level with laptops and/or tablets in the classroom?  Where do you stand?  Let me know in a comment on this post, or better yet, add to the discussion thread inside the Teacher Learning Community.

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Tablets vs. Laptops in K 12 Education


  • Clay Forsberg said:

    Interesting piece. First I want to dispute Howard Mann’s comment concerning iPads (and the like) not being compatible with district wide enterprise solutions. With ‘cloud’ solutions available now, archaic school district legacy systems should not be considered into any decision when planning for our children’s future.

    Personally I believe this post misses a key point that has to be taken into account when making technology selections for our youth. First, learning requires engagement. And it’s hard to get engaged or excited about technology in school that doesn’t hold a candle to what is available at home, or even on a phone.

    Rather than focus on the laptop/desktop vs. tablet … focus on what the students are going to want to use. Focus on the brand. It won’t make any difference if it’s a laptop or a tablet – if it’s “cool.” And what’s cool is Apple. Just take a look a the market penetration in the youth market for Apple products – iPods, iPads, iPhones and MacBooks. On top of it, the intuitive nature of Apple makes them superior in learning environments.

    I’m sure I’ll get the cost argument, or even the “old-timer” argument: “I’m a PC person, blah, blah ….” The fact is our children are more engaged by Apple products, and as I said earlier – engagement + learning. But if the goal if saving a ‘dime’ … there’s always chalk.
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  • Ruth Catchen said:

    I agree with Clay completely. Meet students where they are. Even in low socio-economic district, many students have smart phones. If they don’t, they are familiar with how they work and what the possibilities are. Laptops do not compare in their versatility to the ipad. I confess I am an apple user and have been for a long time. I also am not afraid to criticize them to make something better. Apple is on the forefront of educational materials and I believe it is the way to go. Kids want to use ipads. They like them and the touch screen and find the educational apps fun. How much more can we do to meet students here they are than that?
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  • Kimberly Herbert said:

    I prefer ipads. My students can produce an Ebook with illustrations or short video all on the ipad. If they were doing extensive typing or writing I would invest in blue tooth keyboards, but I teach 2nd grade and for the length of writing they do the on screen keyboard works fine. Some of the work they have created is posted at
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  • Katiuska Castro said:

    I want to add something in this discussion: IPA or LAPTOPS are convinient options in subjets differents to Technology at the school. But in my case, as a Tecnology teacher I have to say LAPTOPS are the best option. We can’t teach some softwares, knowledge and even tecnological skills just with IPAD. IPAD are visual attractive, but are not appropiate for all the schoolar process. On the other hand, LAPTOPS require more maintenance, but are more durable.

  • Jane Allen said:

    Why not have all types? That’s what we do at home. Why use a laptop if you only need an iPod?

  • Danny said:

    I have to agree with Erin when she suggests that the iPad won’t be replacing the laptop/chromebook any time soon. The iPad is great for input learning, but it doesn’t do well as an output device. I like it and have learned a lot from my kids during this pilot. As a science teacher,the iPads have so many good apps that really engage the students. But, the lack of a keypad as well as the inability to do scripts (sub and super)and symbols makes it less than adequate for doing equations or figures. I can see the benefits in the lower grades, but in the upper grades it needs to have more flexibility than it currently does. As for cool…cool is great, but what happens when the next cool comes up and thus renders the last technology obsolete or undesirable. School can not just move on to the next cool. It’s neither practical nor a good model for our students. I agree that the goals must be set prior and must include goals and objectives that touch on several different key points. Things such as flexibility, need, cost, ‘cool’ factor all matter. Final word…there’s no singular answer for all school, districts, classrooms or students for that matter.

  • anniemasch said:

    Danny says that school can’t move on to the next cool because it’s not practical, but the business world does it all the time. I worked in an office and my computer and software were updated every time something new came out whether I needed it or not! We keep talking about how we are trying to better prepare our students for life in the real world, working at real jobs, but schools refuse to realize that though we’re attempting to upgrade our technology, we’re not holding a candle to what is available in the jobs the students will be doing. Students will work from their smartphones. They will use tablets, laptops, desktops, etc. They need to be taught flexibility across platform and that means we (admin, teachers, tech directors) need to provide them with ways to practice that flexibility.

    And another point: Engagement comes from the authenticity of the assignment not just the cool factor of the technology used to do the assignment.
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  • Anne said:

    It comes back to what is the purpose. What learning need do our students have and which device best helps to meet it.
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