iPad vs. Netbook for a 1:1

April 1, 2011 4:55 pm

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Ben Grey

As I started writing this post, I quickly realized there was no way I would be able to address everything in a single post.I will make this post our beginning, and I plan on writing more on the topic in the near future.

We are currently exploring the possibility of implementing a 1:1 program at our middle school with our roughly 1,060 students next year. As I started doing my research on which device to use, I explored the options of using MacBooks, netbooks, iPads, or iPods.

My research was centered around the premise that these devices would prove to be both a conduit and source of production for our students’ learning. We will be creating a learning ecology adopted from what Ryan Bretag and Dave Jakes have created in Glenbrook and what Bud Hunt has created in St. Vrain. This means we need to have a device that will provide a good web experience using Google Apps, Moodle, Adobe Connect and a variety of other web-based tools (some requiring the use of Flash). We would also like our students to have the opportunity to create using the device.

After evaluating the devices above, we realized that a hybrid environment will likely be the most effective for our purposes. Even with a hybrid environment, though, we determined we needed one main device for the majority of our students. For that, we’ve chosen a netbook running Linux (for more on the Linux image we’re using that Jim Klein created, see his page here.

In our environment, we plan on distributing a netbook running Linux to the general student population. We will, in some cases with some students who have specialized learning needs, use iPads to accommodate the specified needs if appropriate. We will also have 6 carts of MacBooks (previously purchased) available for teachers to check out should they want to conduct a more in-depth multimedia project. The majority of the student work, however, will be created and engaged on the netbooks.

When we were considering the various devices, the full laptops were ruled out fairly quickly due to cost and size. We were looking at a cost of roughly $800 per unit for the MacBooks. That means our cost for just the MacBooks alone would run us $848,000. That proved a bit prohibitive. We also ruled out the iPods as there was simply too many things that it couldn’t do that the other devices could.

We then looked more closely at the iPads and netbooks.

For our consideration, we were looking for something that would afford our students a strong web experience accessing the web-based tools referenced above. We also wanted them to have the opportunity to build and create with the device. And, of course, we had to consider costs.

Our final breakdown was as follows:

iPad base 16 GB model: $500

bluetooth keyboard: $80

vs.

HP 1103 running Linux: $270

We found we simply had to have the physical keyboard for the iPad based on numerous research pieces of iPad 1:1 implementations and some of our own internal testing. Students reported that anything they wrote over 1 paragraph of text was very difficult without the physical keyboard.

At this pricing point, it would cost $614,800 for the iPad 1:1 and $286,200 for netbooks.

Also factor in additional app costs. The netbook is running Linux and is fully loaded with a variety of educational apps which are open source and free, whereas the iPad would require additional costs for learning apps. Yes, some apps for the iPad are free, but we’ve found that many of the apps that are equivalent to those found on the netbooks do come at a cost. For example, if we wanted a more fully functional word processor (and this is not a completely featured word processor) for the iPad, we would need to purchase Pages. The bulk educational volume price for Pages is $5 per unit, leaving us with a total cost of $5,300 for just Pages. If we wanted iMovie or Garageband, those would add to the final cost as well.

As I continued evaluating, I realized not only would the iPads cost us 2.14 times as much, they would also provide some serious limitations that we wouldn’t experience with the netbooks. I’ll get to those in a subsequent post, but if you just stopped to consider the following scenario based on cost alone, I think it provides compelling food for thought.

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.

And to be fair, even with Garageband or iMovie on the iPad, it still isn’t as powerful an experience as what one can have on a fully powered MacBook. And, the netbooks have OpenShot for video editing and Audacity for audio editing. They also access Aviary through our Google Apps domain, so there is still a strong audio editing presence on the netbooks, just as there is on iPads using iMovie or Garageband. More on the software in the next post.

So, at the foundational level where we began making our decision, it seemed an obvious choice. And one I’m becoming more and more convinced was the right one.

For those of you who feel the iPad offers an experience and opportunity that the netbooks don’t, we’ll talk software, operating systems, and enabling vs. empowering in the next post. But I don’t think that is the case. I believe the netbook can provide the educational opportunities with technology that we want our students engaging in. And we can do so at a fraction of the cost with an open platform that affords students more opportunities than an iPad does. We’ll continue the conversation in the next post.

*based on price of 16BG wifi model without keyboard as students would use netbooks for long form text input

 

What do you think?

48 Comments

  • Matt Montagne

    Just when I start to lose faith in the edtech community, I come across a post that describes a very responsible, powerful and reasoned approach to a 1-1 learning. There are so many unanswered questions about iPads as primary computing devices…these large scale iPad implementations that have few, if any, articulated learning goals and priorities scare me as much as Race to the Top.

    Music teachers, art teachers, PE teachers, drama teachers, etc, should thank you for choosing a reasonable approach that leaves funds for their important mission as well.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Matt. By moving forward with the netbook, it is allowing us to do what we otherwise couldn’t. And I simply can’t express how excited I am for what that will mean for our students.

    • Look up Fraser Spiers from Scotland and the cedars school if you want some real data using iPads in a k-12 1:1 learning environment.

  • Alex Murray

    You only have to buy an app like pages once. You can then sync it to all the iPads.

    It worked at my school!

    • Tom Donovan

      Alex: While it is technically possible to buy one copy and install it many times, by doing so, you are violating Apple’s Terms of Use. Educational institutions are required to purchase a copy for each device through the Apple’s Volume Purchase Program.

      It’s no different from Office or PhotoShop or any other software license.

    • Try playing a Flash video from discovery streaming or any other educational site.

      • Sorry Csgamble … Discovery Streaming has a Web App that is quite functional. http://www.discoveryeducation.com/ipad/ … While the video is not flash based, I have watched quite a bit of content on the device from our district subscription. I wish I had come across your comment in a more timely fashion as you might have been enjoying learning as much as I have from Discovery!

    • Alex, as Tom clarified, doing what you propose is a direct violation of Apple’s Terms of Use, unfortunately.

  • I think this was a well thought out post and I can really respect your decision. Just something to keep in mind, in keeping with UDL it’s a great idea to have different devices available for students. Some may like one over the other (iPad vs. Netbook) and while they may not be able to do it all, it seems reasonable to let them try. I think it’s great that you’ve thought all this out, but we still have to let the kids have some say in what they want to use when possible.

    • Teachntechoo, I agree regarding choice. We started with a district purchased 1:1 program, and have evolved into a “Bring Your Own” model, due to sustainability issues and a desire to allow students to personalize their learning. For those that can’t afford, I think Ben lays out a great model here.

      • Michael, that’s exactly our issue. We don’t have enough kids who would be able to bring their own for a BYOD to work. We will offer parents the option to lease the unit, which will come out to $90 a year. It’s an exciting prospect to be able to offer parents a device at that low of a cost. At the end of the 3 years, the parents can buy the device outright for one dollar.

        • Sounds like a good plan. For those who are not leasing, I would also recommend a $50 to $75 cost for insurance/repair per year. That was one of the issues we ran into with our pilot last year. As Rich Kiker asked during his Educon presentation this year, “How many of you have ever taken your rental car to the car wash?” We take care of our own things much better than we take care of something we’re are given to use. Since we ran a pilot last year, we didn’t feel comfortable charging parents, and so as a result, the kids did not take care of them as well as we would have liked.

          I have some more info on our pilot here:
          http://tinyurl.com/3xusrmd
          Feel free to learn from our mistakes!

    • If the two devices were the same price, I might be more apt agree with you. However, at over $310 more for the iPad than what we are paying for the netbook, and with the netbook actually able to do more than the iPad (I’ll write more about that in my next post), I can’t justify purchasing an iPad over a netbook unless there are specific learning needs that must be addressed (see my comment above to James O’Hagan). We simply couldn’t do the program if we were pursuing iPads.

  • How about netbook running Ubuntu?

    • That’s what our image is based on. See my comment to Ryan above for more specifics about our Linux image.

  • Are you putting any more memory in the HP 1103? 1GB seems awfully tight nowadays. Which Linux distribution are you running?

  • Nice post, well thought-out, but I can’t get past the incredible tactile experience that the iPad offers, and the fact that it is a reader that could eliminate textbooks in the traditional sense.

    • If you are purchasing a reader the Kindle is a far better option and has a battery life that is unmatchable by the back-lit ipad.

    • Thank you. The issue I have with the tactile experience on the iPad is that I don’t believe it merits the additional $310 per unit over the netbooks we’re looking to use. I have both a netbook and an iPad, and while I enjoy the iPad for general consumption and games, I have been frustrated with the web experience (lack of Flash, which might not be an issue in a couple years if sites transition to html5) and the Google Apps experience is limited. I’ve also found it challenging for long-form text input. I also strongly dislike how locked down the device is.

  • So, if money wasn’t an object, would you still go with the netbook, or a more robust laptop? I have a few netbooks running at our school, but it just doesn’t quite get over the hump with assistive tech tools.

    • If there were no concern for money (not likely a scenario to ever be present in public education), I would get the students MacBook Pros.

      I do agree with you about the assistive tech tools. We will definitely use whatever device necessary to meet the needs of our students who have specific learning needs. In some cases that will be with an iPad, in others it will be a MacBook. We’ve been making case by case determinations for those special cases.

  • We got some netbooks for Grades 1 – 5 earlier this year (not 1-1) after testing them in a few classrooms last year. They’re working really well with younger students but the grade 5′s are complaining that they are too small. We’re using Windows on them because we’re still tied to a Microsoft School Agreement at the moment. We’re now looking at ways to provide more access and support. Thanks for this thoughtful comparison.

  • Hi Ben

    It seems like your major reason for going with netbooks is cost. This is a totally justifiable reason in itself, but in the end, your post actually seems to be about why you chose netbooks, and not actually a competition between netbooks and iPads.

    One thing that I think is missing from this discussion (excuse me if you have entered into this in a further post) is student input. You mention some student input into the iPad as a word-processor. On a personal level, I disagree with the idea that an external keyboard is necessary (I use my iPad for composing texts frequently, I have an external keyboard, but prefer the on-screen keyboard). Also, the students at my school who bring iPads rarely choose a laptop over their iPad.

    Would you be able to point me to some of the research that suggests an external keyboard is necessary? I’m interested to know what the academics think…

    If given the choice, yes, many kids will pick iPads because of the ‘coolness’ factor – but ultimately, they are the ones who are going to have to use it. They are the ones that you want to be making personal choices about their learning. I believe that choice is a key element.

    An interesting comparison: how many kids do you see wandering around the mall with a laptop/netbook in their hand, versus how many kids carry iPads/iPods/smart phones?

    Is your school in a position to provide a choice? Are parents paying, or is this totally funded by the school/district? Clearly, if the latter, then you must provide the same for everyone, in which case, the netbook option is a good one. Especially with the open-source software. You will not, however, get access to high quality educational resources for free.

    Tablet computers are installers of change. People do things differently on them, and so teachers need to learn to adapt their ways of thinking and doing in the classroom, to suit the needs of a changing society, in which students are permanently connected. The netbook does not instill change in pedagogy – it is simply a smaller manifestation of old technology.

    The netbook is definitely a cheaper and more functioning device for students in 2011 – but is it a device that is going to prepare them for their entry to the real world in 2017? I’m not so sure…

    • Hi Deon, could you elaborate on your comment, “Table computers are installers of change.” How do they positively impact learning in ways that laptop computers can’t?

      ~Matt

      • Tablet computers take students away from desks and chairs and into more comfortable and natural learning spaces/modes, provided that teachers allow it. Kids ask if they can sit on the floor, and do sit in circular groups when using ipads/ipods.

        They make students and teachers see technological tools as more than just word-processors. If you put tablet computers in a classroom, teachers actually have to think about how they use them – or hand such decisions/ideas over to students.

        They encourage group/collaborative learning in ways that laptops do not: putting a screen flat on the table/floor allows greater involvement than a vertically placed computer screen.

        These are some of the powers of tablet computers, in my opinion and experience,

  • Deon, I think your arguing for the wrong things, and giving undue credit in the wrong places. An iPad is 1.5 pounds of metal, plastic, glass, and sand. A netbook is 2 pounds of metal, plastic, glass, and sand. In and of themselves they bring nothing to the classroom – they do not install or bring change. What they actually represent are mechanisms for enabling and empowering students through access. That empowerment, coupled with the abilities, guidance, and wisdom of the teacher, is what brings change.

    Knowing that, we must then naturally develop a value proposition by evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of particular mechanisms, as I believe Ben has so well done. That proposition must reflect our beliefs about the role of technology, both now and in the future, understanding that we must be as flexible as possible, as that role is continually in flux due to the rapidly changing nature, capabilities, and costs of technology.

    Many would argue that the value of the iPad is in it’s interface and the way you interact with it. While there is some merit to that argument, by and large I would venture to disagree. While the touchscreen offers the potential for significant differences in interaction through its ability to register multiple points of contact, this, in fact, is rarely the way that applications on the iPad actually function. For the most part, the interaction revolves around 1 to 2 touch points, with wipes and swipes, utilizing the same gestures as on a laptop’s touchpad.

    The real value of the iPad is in its ability to provide reliable, all day, continuous access, something for which laptops have been far less effective due to buggy, complex operating systems, short battery life, high cost, and a general lack of durability. The iPad’s features make it a device that teachers and students can count on, which goes a long way towards adoption rates and usage patterns in the classroom.

    That said, there are significant problems with the iPad, some of which Ben covered above. The lack of inputs and the need for a required “companion computer”, the inability to access Flash-based content (the vast majority of the “high-quality educational resources” to which you refer, and a huge swath of powerful Web 2.0 tools), and the general inability to do more than one thing at a time (the “app effect”), leave you with a great tool for gathering, but not so great for creating.

    The argument that “kids prefer them” also doesn’t hold up, as, given access to both, 3 out of 4 choose laptops after 4 months (http://goo.gl/hsEMg). In reality, most advocates don’t prefer them either. I’ve challenged numerous evangelists to a month of using their iPad – and only their iPad – while I use only my netbook. None have taken the challenge, because they know that the iPad alone just isn’t capable enough.

    What Ben is advocating for (and I, of course, know to be true through direct experience) is a model that brings the important characteristics of the iPad to the classroom without the limitations and associated costs. Merging the flexibility of laptops to the reliability of a iPad-like “device-centric” model truly empowers teachers and students to think differently about learning and the classroom. The netbook model is flexible, reliable, sustainable, and scalable, something that the iPad model has not yet proven itself to be.

    As for the future, it seems silly to assume that we will all be using what’s available today in the distant future, and to conclude that all of our tech use will be centered around one device. There will always be different devices that are ideal for different tasks. Our task is to prepare students to be flexible, with the skills necessary to adapt to any environment.

    • Deon Scanlon

      Hi Jim
      We have access at our school to iPod touches, iPads, desktop and laptop computers.

      When every student has a handheld device, one of two things occurs: if teachers are supported effectively, they begin to do things differently – most teachers view the devices differently, which forces them to think about how they are going to use them, and change their expectations. It is what the device can (and cannot do) that causes this change. It is also the impact that the device has on where and when stunts want to use them, that creates change. Or, if teachers are not supported (and do not have the skills to develop their own ideas), they try to ignore them.

      At my school, laptops are generally used for word processing and presentation making (low level, repetitive tasks), handhelds for collaboration, group work. The research you cite is not really relevant to this particular debate, as the students did not have their own iPad, 24-7. That article does say that three out of four preferred laptops after four months, but the students were only using them for a brief time each week, and did not have personal access to them. This is a key feature. Once you personalize the device, it becomes far more useful.

      Arguments for preferring a laptop because they were ‘easier to type on’ is in my eyes a flawed argument – my students do not type a huge amount (on any device) and I would question how much typing middle school students are being required to do, if it is cited as their major negative for using iPads. Likewise, I question Ben’s statement that students said typing was “very difficult” on an iPad for more than a paragraph. This may be true for a first-time user, but I doubt anyone who has an iPad would suggest it is very difficult – although touch-typists always have trouble the first few times they use iPads! It is quite funny watching them put their fingers on asdf, hjk and l!

      As for multi-tasking difficulties – fair call. Some improvements are needed in this area, but the mobility of the device is a pretty good trade-off!

      The transfer of data to/from home problem is irrelevant in a 1:1 setting.

      My key point (sorry if I didn’t make it key enough) is that of providing students with the ability to choose. Students being able to choose the best tool for the job is of most importance for learning to cope with an ever-changing world. I didn’t at any point suggest that students should have iPads.

      The research my school went through in 2008 involved examining the cross-curricular IT components of our state’s recommended syllabus and mappping them into three categories: preferable to complete on a laptop, preferable to complete on an iPod touch, or no preference for device.

      We found that each of these categories had roughly the same percentage of skills/tasks in each. Our decision to ask students to bring an iPod touch for learning was based on this – that two thirds of tasks could be done on an iPod without loss of quality. The iPad brings another level to this, as word-processing is much more practical, multiple-tasking is now possible, it has a camera for video and photo sharing, built-in audio recorder, more effective multi-touch (not that this is a huge plus), video mirroring, screen sharing options, collaborative programs through Bluetooth or wifi (such as iBrainstorm, or SyncPad). So many more uses that were not available in 2008 on a 2nd Gen iPod touch!

      Having a personal, handheld device, with access to other technologies as needed (laptops) would be the ideal scenario, in my eyes.

      My final comment (for now, at least!): I typed this whole post on my iPad, and it wasn’t very difficult.

  • Deon Scanlon

    Ben – thanks for highlighting my ridiculous exaggeration when stating that you won’t get high quality educational resources for free. I’m not sure how I let myself post such an over-the-top statement!

    In retrospect, I think the point I was considering was that if you limit yourself to free software, you are going to miss out on some great stuff. The iOS App Store has some AMAZING stuff, too (amongst a whole heap of rubbish!), but the really good stuff usually comes at a cost.

    I’m going to head on over and have a good look at Jim’s Linux image now… I’m interested to compare with the kinds of things we do on our iPods/iPads/MacBooks.

    • Thanks for the continued conversation, Deon. It’s been both constructive and helpful for me.

      While I still very much disagree with your premise about the iPad being fundamentally different (and I know I keep saying that I’ll address some of these issues in a subsequent post, I just haven’t had the chance to get that post together yet. Still planning on it), I do agree that there are certain cases when the device is a very viable, and powerful, learning device. I just don’t believe it is the right device for a 1:1 for reasons even beyond cost. Though I will admit, that for our case, the price proved a critical factor. I’ll explain further soon.

      For most of what we are going to be doing in our 1:1, our netbook will work perfectly with free tools. If you look at the list of applications listed on Jim’s website that we will include in our image, you’ll see a bevy of free tools that provide excellent learning opportunities for students. Using our Google Apps for Education domain will also be a better experience on our netbooks than on an iPad. We’ll have a blogging platform, online classroom, and a number of other web-based resources that will be both free and excellent learning tools for students.

      We will be providing the framework for the pedagogy to change. My superintendent has written a curriculum plan that focuses specifically on how we will change our pedagogy to meet the needs of today’s learners through focusing both on content goals and communication, collaboration, creativity, problem solving, and critical thinking. We are working specifically with our curriculum team to make this change embedded within our curriculum plan and map. No device alone will accomplish this change. It takes vision and an articulated, focused effort to effective the change we expect to see.

      I’m very glad to hear you’re checking out Jim’s image. I’d love to hear what you think when you’ve spent some time with it.

  • Kathryn Blunt

    I wonder how often professional development is factored into the decisions for 1:1 devices. If you have faculty and students that have been trained in Mac software, like Pages, iMovie, GarageBand, etc., but then purchase NetBooks for them, the cost of training teachers on all new software, like Word, Audacity, etc., needs to be seriously considered along with the rest of the monetary totals.

    • we’re moving away from software specific ‘training’ completely. In our ‘bring your own laptop 1-1 program,’ we don’t require any specific software titles whatsoever. However, we do require genres of software-eg, all students are required to have sound editing software, movie making software, word processing software, image editing software, etc.

      So instead of requiring every student to have MS Office, we require that they have an office suite that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation tool. If students and families don’t want to purchase any software, they don’t have to. This model has inadvertently lead to good pedagogy-eg, instead of focusing on teaching the tool, we focus on concepts and building skills. We’re also finding that this approach is empowering to students-they actually get to make decisions about what tools to use to accomplish tasks.

      You can read up on our BYOL 1-1 Laptop Model at our comprehensive FAQ page: https://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AYwa3i7setUiZGdrbWI4NzZfMjE1c3F3dzM3aGg&hl=en&authkey=CJHqhdYN

      Best,
      Matt Montagne

  • Ndavidovics

    your math is also off…  you can get refurb ipad 1s now for 349 from apple.  Changes the calculation.

    • Ndavidovic,

      You can’t purchase refurbished units of any device in bulk. While I appreciate the sentiment, it does not change the calculations as those units are not viable for large district purchases.

  • Elisabethsochacki

    Totally agree!!! So few people break it down and realize the fundamental cost differences let alone the App charges. Bravo! And so much “free stuff” runs on Flash – it is hard to ignore. Brilliant both fiscally and physically.

  • Ben,

    I think your  analysis is right on, and I have experience.  I’m a library media specialist at a small, rural high school in NE Texas.  I have 3 carts with Macbooks in my library which I check out to teachers.  We also have 3 netbook carts in our Ag and Homemaking depts.  Teachers are very happy with the netbook labs; not so much with the Mac labs.  
         The netbooks keep a charge for roughly 3 times as long as the Macs.  I hear constant complaints that the Macs batteries won’t last through more than a couple of class periods without charging, which becomes a big problem for a teacher using them for 7 periods straight.   They are Windows only, but the Macs are dual boot and used almost exclusively on the Windows side, so they end up being very expensive PCs.  The 2 part chargers on the Macs are always separating in the carts as they are rolled to a classroom, and the teacher usually doesn’t discover that until he or she has several computers with no charge.
         You always hear that Macs don’t break as often as PCs, but that has not been our experience.  And when Macs have to be repaired, we can’t do it at school without voiding the warrantee.  If you have to buy parts for a Macbook, you will probably spend more than the entire replacement cost for a netbook.
         Also consider that you are only looking at the 16gb storage iPad, and that’s probably not enough for a year of student projects, especially if they are working with pics and video.  The netbook with a minimum 160gb hd gives you 10 times the storage.
         If we had a do-over, I’m certain we would go with netbooks instead of the Macs, and probably be able to serve 2-3 times as many students for the money with 1/2 the problems we’ve encountered.

  • No by apple education program you can buy one and wirelessly push the apps to all and now they also support textbooks for 15dollars and push to all so I would say theey are good for the money especially considering photo flash browser is three dollars and net books are slllllloooooowwwww. Also apple gives kids with diabilitys something to use them and there fast and are updated constantly apple does discounts for schools ( apple all the way) (by the way I am writing this on iPad) and I am a high school student we have net books there terrible and almost everyone would rather have an iPad

  • I’m wondering with electronic textbooks on the horizon if you have any further thoughts about netbooks vs ipads?

    • Suzette,

      My honest thoughts about electronic textbooks are that they are not the answer for education. I understand that’s a bit idealistic, but I’d highly encourage you to read Seth Godin’s recent piece, “Stop Stealing Dreams” to understand my position on this. I believe the internet is the best textbook we could possibly have, and we need to teach our students how to become critical consumers of the medium. Because that is what we will all be doing for the foreseeable future.

      And, until that time does come to fruition, we have been piloting several electronic version of books on our netbooks, and students have been fine reading and interacting with them. We even have several young adult novels as a test, and our students have reported that they enjoyed reading them on their netbooks. It’s a small pilot, so I can’t say that we have any evidence beyond the anecdotal with the students participating, but so far the signs are positive.

  • Netbooks are notorious for breakdowns. Wonder if your savings will be eaten up by repair costs. You get what you pay for. There’s a reason those netbooks are so cheap.

    • Dan,

      Please provide evidence for this statement.

      I have been in conversations with a number of districts who are 1:1 with iPads, and their damage has been at around 4%. We are currently at 3%. When an iPad is broken, it costs around $200 to fix. Any damage we have experienced so far with our devices has come at a cost less than $100.

      Hypothetically, let’s say that the iPad never breaks over a 3 year term. We know this isn’t true, but let’s just pretend for a minute. If we continue at our rate of breakage, we would incur an annual cost of $7,500 for repairs. Over the three year term, that would be $22,500. That would still put us $306,100 under the cost of the iPads that have not had one break. Hardly seems to have eaten up the cost of savings.

      And you are correct. You do get what you pay for. In our case, we paid for a device that will allow our students to learn through incredible, relevant experiences. We’re good with that.

  • Jeremy Powell-Middle School Principal

    Ben,

    Thank you very much for your time and consideration to this subject. On our campus, we are beginning to plan for a 1:1 launch in the fall of 2013 and are in the delivery system decision making stage now so that we can financially move forward to our 1:1 goal. I too have looked at the netbooks and am a bit worried about the processing speed, but while the ipads are a bit “sexier” for me, it really boils down to cost and durability and it seems the netbooks are far superior in both categories. Also, I agree 100% with you that e-textbooks are not the silver bullet to fixing education. I look forward to future postings!

  • Visvanath Ratnaweera

    Thx, very useful!

    Also discussed in the Moodle “Lounge”: http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=209639.

  • Mr. Ben Grey,

    I would like to meet you sometime. Thanks for this blog post and your continued follow through.

    Chris Scott

  • Scott Boucher

    In my experience, netbooks tend to be seriously underpowered and very low quality in terms of build. Beyond that, Linux has an extremely limited universe of software available. I know Ben keeps referencing “a variety of educational apps” but, let’s be honest – how much is really available for Linux that is going to keep students engaged and provide teachers with a wide variety of educational tools? The Linux platform simply can’t compare with the iOS platform in terms of variety and quality. Linux is also not an operating system that is well known to most of the public so it would require more time to get everyone up to speed than the more widely available operating systems.

    I’m sure Ben has all the cost analysis down pat but there’s more to educational devices than cost. Sure, it’s a factor but it’s not the only one. If it’s working for others – great but there’s no way I would ever go down that road. Not unless I wanted a full scale riot on my hands.

    • Scott, you would be amazed at what IS available, and is high quality as well. The newer netbooks are dual-core, and come with 4gb of ram. Now I would not attempt to use blender or other GPU-intensive software on them, but then you would not be doing these things on an iPad or Android tablet either.

      On the software front, Linux is anything BUT limited. And flexible. And customizable. No garden walls to bump in to, if you get my meaning. The vendor service provider is unable to dictate to you what you can or cannot do with the device you own.

      The biggest issue is generally with lack of familiarity, since people tend to want to use what they are already familiar with. Some are more focused on this than others. The folks tend to be rote learners who memorize mouse clicks and key strokes as opposed to concepts. And this is almost exclusively an adult problem. The kids have no problem with most anything you put in front of them.

      I would encourage you to try ubermix out. It’s VERY intuitive, and so far our students and teachers love it.

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