Android Authority Doesn't Understand Educational Technology

Nate Swanner:

If you think the world as we know it is tech-centric, think about what life will be like when our kids grow up. Those little monsters will probably exist in a space we can’t even imagine, and many of them are often more tech savvy than their parents. Kids are the future, technology is the future, so they should have as much tech as possible in their classrooms, right?

We are calling our students little monsters now?

According to Amplify, there is a problem with the execution of getting tech into their hands. The company, which is a huge proponent of Google technology in schools (as are we), recently conducted a survey. They polled 558 educators in the K-12 arena, and found some troubling statistics. As Android and Chrome fans, we’re a bit concerned about what tech is getting into the classrooms. As stewards for the next generation, we find a trend we can’t quite understand.

Let me get this straight, a company who sells an Android based tablets is concerned about schools using the iPad? The last sentence should read:

As business owners, we can't figure out how to beat the iPad so we are going to rip it in the following paragraphs.

When asked which devices their districts intended or had already implemented into the schools, a staggering 81% said iPads, with only 31% noting Chromebooks would find a way into their schools. When we examine the Los Angeles School District deal for iPads, we may see a troubling trend developing.

I sense a troubling trend as well, but probably for different reasons.

A $30 million deal meant Apple could provide the LASD with 45,000 iPads, at $678 apiece. The tablets would come bundled with educational software, but that price per unit is about $200 more than the average iPad runs. More troubling is that the LASD has roughly 640,000 students, meaning only about 7% of students would see the technology. Even more curious is that Apple notes the contract is for 31,000 iPads, meaning less students will be reached, and roughly $9 million of the deal is going elsewhere.

I've not seen the details of it, but it's likely going towards an MDM solution (and possibly WiFi upgrades since Apple resells Aerohive). It could also include deployment assistance, teacher training, or accessories like the Bretford carts. I'd guess the additional cost per device includes AppleCare+. It's hard to buy off the shelve products when buying 31,000 of anything. You've got to get the deployment strategy right. This has been true going back to Dell Windows XP deployments.

While iPads are popular, the financial decision to utilize them escapes us. For the same $30 million, the LASD could have purchased 120,000 Samsung ARM Chromebooks, or 150,000 Acer Chromebooks. This effectively triples the number of students who can get technology, and probably on devices better suited for productivity. If the form factor were a concern, both the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 are a better price than the iPad.

Ease of use, battery life, app selection, and hardware quality are just a few things that come to mind. It's not always about price. We shouldn't seek out the cheapest possible solution. We should seek out the best solution and then look at budgeting aspects.

With over 3,000 schools utilizing Chromebooks, using an expensive iPad smacks of ignorance about the issues. If there is a solution to reach more students with technology, why isn’t it being widely implemented? The goal should be a cohesive learning environment for all students, and mitigating spending issues on a management level. Chromebooks accomplish that, and Android is catching up.

So all the schools who've deployed iPads are ignorant? The most expensive deployment is the one that doesn't work. Management of 31,000 devices is complicated regardless of the device or OS.

Apple is making a push to get their devices into schools, which is admirable. All schools should have tech involved, but with cash-strapped schools in every corner of the nation, it seems the money would be better allocated with Chromebooks. The educational program for Android, which was announced at I/O this year, is just starting, but we hope for big things to come from it. Whether it be Android or Chrome, we’d still like to see more cost effective tech in schools. All kids deserve that much.

Apple is making a push to get its devices in schools? Apple is dominating education with the iPad. It's not because it's the sexy new device, but rather that it works. Apple has built up its deployment model and ecosystem to a place where it's much more cost effective to deploy iPads than it ever was for PCs.

More cost effective technology is certainly an admirable goal, but I don't think that's the only goal. You discover your educational goals first and everything else just stems from that. Microsoft recently gave away 10,000 Surface RTs to teachers because of trouble gaining traction against the iPad. If you can't sell them, give them away.

If it's all about price, then we should probably just buy this for schools and be done with it.