Which is the "Right" Device? Choosing between iPads, Chromebooks & Laptops

I am often asked by people what they should buy for their classrooms - an iPad, a Chromebook or a laptop (I know there are also Android tablets out there, but I haven't been asked about those in the classroom yet!).  This is a very difficult question to answer for several reasons, but mainly due to the fact that we are focusing on the device not the needs.  You see, these are all distinct devices and each serves a different need.  This is not to say that a person has to actually use all three devices, as there is some overlap.  So the questions we should be asking are “What capabilities do our teachers/students/administrators need from their device?” and then “What capabilities might we want our teachers/students/administrators to be able to do in the future?”  

If we instead evaluate our needs based on these questions, we get a clearer picture of which device is a best fit.  For instance, if we determine that the need is for web-based services then a Chromebook would probably be the most cost effective solution.  Or, if we determined that we need some specialized capabilities that let us customize the device for individual use then an iPad may be the most cost effective solution.  And there are definitely times when the best solution is still a laptop.  

The biggest misperception is that one is a replacement for another. Because each device has different capabilities, one can never fully replace another.  That is why really evaluating needs can create a better fit.  For more information to help you think about user needs and capabilities, please refer to the 21st Century Learning in Schools document as it may serve as a starting point for having these conversations.

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