iPad vs. Netbook for a 1:1 | EdReach

Here’s an interesting reflection — are iPads worth the extra cost, when compared to netbooks? EdReach says no. (More on that later.)

At Seton Hill, students get a very nice MacBook (and they trade up after two years), as well as an iPad. It’s been great being at a university that is so supportive of the daring decision to leap at the chance to incorporate the iPad. While I have seen and heard plenty of anecdotal evidence that Seton Hill students use their iPads for entrainment rather than work, and I’ve heard several students say their teachers hardly ever use their iPads, I’m also very mindful of the hard-to-quantify changes in the classroom that come when I can expect students to look up a word, find a fact, refer to a book we finished reading months ago, and call up rough drafts, add to email threads, and post to a course blog at any time during class.

Every classroom is now a computer classroom, and just as important, at any time, any room can become a traditional room, because students who are not shoulder-to-shoulder with keyboards and monitors filling up their workspace can just put their gadgets in their bag, and suddenly we have room to spread out a newspaper or just look each other in the eye. In my writing-heavy courses, most students prefer to use their MacBooks, but a fair number choose the iPad to travel light.

An early version of SHU’s Griffin Technology Advantage plan, drafted before Apple’s announcement about the iPad, would have provided all students with a MacBook and let them choose between an iPhone and an iPod Touch. As a device that created a new niche, between netbook and mobile, the iPad has given us a great opportunity to explore.

The talk of saving hundreds of dollars by using ebooks instead of printed books is a bit exaggerated, since interactive ebooks still cost money to design, and simply slapping PDFs onto the iPad is hardly tapping the full potential of the device. (Having said that, I did get the cost of textbooks for an American Lit class down very low last fall, because whenever possible I used free Project Gutenberg out-of-copyright texts, nicely formatted fir Apple’s iBooks app. But those books would have been cheap mass-market paperbacks, easily picked up used for a few bucks, not the 600-page $150 tomes students most frequently complain about.)

Take an average class of 30 students. If you were to get them all a netbook, it would come at a cost of $8,100. If you were to get them iPads, it would cost $17,400. That’s a difference of $9,300. Now consider, what could you get for your class with that additional $9,300? Some possibilities:
In addition to every student having their own netbook, you could get

  • 10 Kodak Playsport Camcorders (shoots 1080p video) $1,200
  • 10 iPads (if you really wanted them for their apps or whatever else you argue the netbooks don’t have) $5,000*
  • Apps for the iPad $500
  • And you’d still have $2,600 left over to play with

Or you could think of any number of other possibilities to do with the $9,300, including not spending it and showing fiscal prudence to your tax payer base.

Or, you could get just a class set of iPads and still need to find the money for the additional apps like Pages, Garageband and iMovie. And have a more limiting web experience and lower ceiling for learning experiences.

Looking at these two scenarios, I just do not see how one could justify purchasing the iPads as a 1:1 solution. Consider if you look at this school wide. The difference between the two, even before considering any costs for apps on the iPad, is $328,600. Again, consider what you could get with the difference. You could get 10 carts of MacBooks (that includes the cost of the cart) for multimedia projects if you wanted and still have $28,600 left over to work with.iPad vs. Netbook for a 1:1 | EdReach.

Here’s the comment I left on the site.

At Seton Hill, last year all students got MacBooks and iPads, and this fall new students will get MacBooks and iPad2s. I find that iPads are fantastic for group work; it also very convenient for me to move around the room, showing things to students (like their attendance record, or instructions on the syllabus) — it’s much better than calling students up to the podium or displaying it on the front screen for all to see. In a lit class, reading on the iPad is much better than reading from a laptop. So my experience of the difference comes from the position of having both gadgets — as well as an iPod Touch.

IPads take some getting used to; the multitouch interface that makes certain apps so powerful is an interface that takes some practice. If you learned to touch-type, you’ll remember that there was a long stretch when it seemed touch typing was slower than hunt-and peck, and figuring out the vagaries of inserting text and so forth on the iPad took me a while. Yes, the keyboard will help, but that will delay the development of the knack for interacting with a the new interface that makes the best-designed iPad apps a joy to use.

Google Docs (free) and the DocsToGo app (about $15) will get your students a very functional word processor, a decent spreadsheet, and a fair slideshow presenter. Maybe there is an educational discount.

Reading e-texts is definitely where the iPad stands head and shoulders above the netbook option. Some of the advanced feedback features of Turnitin.com and the WYSIWYG editing screen on WordPress don’t work on the iPad, so I will likely always think of my iPad as a supplemental device. I am about to go on a business trip with just my iPad and no laptop, and I’m a bit nervous about it, for many of the reasons that are leading you to choose the netbook.

Actually, that’s the comment I TRIED to leave on the site, using my iPad. Instead of posting my comment, the screen showed this:

See that gray “Just a moment…” right underneath “Post as Guest”? I’m guessing the iPad couldn’t handle something on ER’s blog.

I was easily able to take the screenshot with the iPad, and a free WordPress app let me compose the blog entry and upload the image, but it was initially uploaded in the wrong orientation, and I had to go into another room to use my laptop and rotate the image correctly.