Apple Tries to Move Back to the Front of the Class

3 min read

As computer usage in the workforce and in everyday life increases, students need to learn the skills demanded by these new environments, including finding resources, critiquing arguments, communicating with peers, solving problems, and working with data.

Students that use computers in the classroom may benefit in several ways. They can collaborate online with others, receive curriculum support and additional information, better organize their schedule and assignments, receive and submit assignments online without printing, receive more detailed feedback from teachers, improve their computer skills, and have more fun learning.

Computers have been present in the classroom since the 1970s when Apple began donating computers to schools. By the late 1980s, computer aided instruction gained widespread acceptance, and a few years later, CD-ROMs and laptop computers became widely available. By the late 1990s, the ratio of students to computers was down to single digits. After investments in networks and Internet connections, many students were provided with personal laptops by 2010. When Apple released the iPad that year, it seemed that the device was ready to take over the education market.


However, Apple’s overall share of the education hardware market has dropped from 50% to 18% over the last five years. According to Futuresource Consulting, laptop PCs, MacBooks, and Apple iPads (22%, 5% and 14%) are still used in US schools, but the use of Google Chromebooks (58%) has increased considerably in recent years.

iPads have several advantages over low-cost Chromebooks. iPads are light and portable. Chromebooks are often lighter than standard laptop PCs, but they are still heavier than an iPad. iPads are very intuitive for young children. They can be used while being held, so students can carry them to take pictures or look up information. They have better build quality, a brighter screen, and a wider range of colors than cheaper Chromebooks. iPads have many more apps designed for its screen, which means they can be used offline more easily.


With all these advantages, why has the Chromebook become so popular? The number one reason is cost. Apple introduced a low-cost iPad in 2017 for US$329, but cheap Chromebooks can be had for under $200. In addition, schools can shop around and check prices from Google, Acer, Samsung, HP and other manufacturers, and Google also makes it easy for schools to purchase and set up Chromebooks in schools. Apple prohibits most third parties from selling new devices to schools, and while Apple has an excellent reputation with customers, it doesn’t deal as well with IT departments. Chromebooks have another major benefit: a keyboard. While iPads can be more interactive, lack of a hardware keyboard makes it difficult to create or edit documents, tasks that students spent a long time doing. Web searches are also much more efficient with a hardware keyboard. Administration is much easier with Chromebooks, as student accounts are linked to the school, which gets full administrative control. Additionally, Chromebooks receive version and security updates automatically. Finally, both iPads and Chromebooks support multiple user accounts, but iPads require more storage to use it.


To counter these advantages, Apple released a new version of the iPad in 2018 with a $30 discount for educators, added more cloud storage, updated its productivity software, and introduced an app to allow teachers to digitally assign work to students and a new framework for developers to make their apps compatible with it. Apple seems to have students on board, but time will tell if teachers and administrators will buy in with these new features.

Also published on Medium.


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