Wednesday, 7 March 2012

iPads vs Laptops in Education

We already have laptops, why do we need iPads? Whilst the iPads can clearly be engaging, for them to enhance teaching and learning in the primary classroom they have to offer a different and better learning experience to a desktop PC or a laptop to justify having them.

iPads (2) V Laptops

For me, one of the biggest advantages the iPad has over the laptop as a mobile learning devices is the ease of use and accessibility. The touch interface and the app system makes it so easy to access learning tools (my 2 year old is able to turn my iPad on and switch between apps). On a laptop you have to open the lid, turn it on, wait for it to load, log into your account and then wait for the operating system to load. Not to mention getting on the internet - you have to find the internet icon, hope that a security warning doesn't pop up, type in a web address or click a bookmark. On the iPad hit Safari - done. Need a map?  Hit Maps, it's that simple!

The time saved and ease of use on the iPad is a winner. 1 - 0 to iPad.

Adobe's Flash & Javascript

Since the launch of the iPad, one of its biggest criticisms has been its inability to work with Adobe's Flash and Javascript. Flash dominates so much content on our network, our learning platform (DB Primary) and many of the interactive websites including our subscription to Education City. So, the equaliser for PC ... well not quite that simple. The iPads easily makes up for its lack of Adobe and Javascript through its huge selection of apps, which I'll investigate in more detail in further blogs, especially apps for creative learning, which can produce some amazing results.

The school's heavy reliance on Adobe Flash and Javascript, as things stand, mean that the PC has got one back. iPad 1 - 1 Laptop.

Audio Visual Tools

The iPads 2 has extremely easy access to built in AV Tools (camera, video and voice recorder), which can be used creatively in Apple's own iWorks (Pages, Numbers, & Keynote) as well as iMovies and Garageband, not to mention ebook creating apps, photo editing apps and creative visual story/comic/animation apps. Of course, the laptop has a built in cameras and microphones but they are so much more difficult and time consuming to use. The camera is only really for face to face video conferencing and the voice recording tools are not that good. You can also use other Hardware devices, such as video cameras and microphones but again this is all a very time consuming - you wait for things to connect, upload and find the software that you need - the iPad's already finished the task!

No contest this one! iPad 2 - 1 Laptop. 


Children and teachers read on laptops all the time when using the internet, but it never, in my experience anyway, to read books on - it just doesn't seem to work. On the other hand, iPads work for reading book. You can hold it like a book, it doesn't have distraction and it has other advantages. The iBooks app allows its user to annotate, highlight, look up the meaning of words all with a touch or swipe of the screen.

Final Score: iPad 3 - 1 Laptop.

iPad V iPod

iPods have the same functionality as the iPad (apps, camera, video, internet, voice recording etc) and are a lot cheaper. The obvious main difference between the two (apart from cost) is the screen size, although from the evidence I've seen, this doesn't appear to restrict the children ability to use them to be creative. There are however, a selection of apps designed specifically for the iPad because it has more options and a superior screen size. The latest Apple event has dropped the cost of an iPad 2 to approximately £280 ex VAT (7th March 2012), compared to the iPod priced at around £130 ex VAT. 
The iPod is certainly more mobile - it fit in your pocket and the children could take them on school trips ... well in theory. Whereas, with the iPad you have the option for children to work together or in small groups, if it's appropriate for the task.   
Whether a school, goes down the iPod or the iPad route it has to be a well thought out decision. It depend on how you want this technology to develop children's skills and of course the budget available to invest in this technology.


For the iPads/iPods to work in the Primary School the focus should be on developing the children's skills and know what the skills we are trying to develop are. If it doesn't do that then then don't use it. The iPads need to be in the hands of the IT experts in the school, otherwise the iPad could just become a gimmick, and no better than current technology already in the school. 
IT now needs to be central to children's learning in the classroom with creative well planned teaching. Every teacher using the iPads in their class should be asking; How is this technology going to enhance the teaching and learning in my classroom? Show the children what the iPad can do, what it can be used for, they soon pick up how to use apps through trail and error. Facilitate children to direct their own learning and what skills and knowledge they need to be able to do that. Let them experiment, children will quickly master it. Ask children to blog about their experiences on the iPads - get learning on the iPads to go viral!

Can we have the best of both worlds, iPads and Laptops. Definitely, for the short term anyway, the iPads offers a different experience and many staff may not have the confidence to roll with this new technology, overtime I'd like to see handheld technology a permanent fixture in every classroom in our school.
These iPads just work. Wouldn't it be great to see a reluctant member of staff in your school, present a staff meeting using an iPad? 

So my first blog over. What do you think? Is my iPad bias shining through too strongly? Please leave a comment, I'd be interested in others opinions based on their experiences in their school. 


  1. Can't wait for your next blog.

    1. Thanks for the comment spring. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

  2. It is also about having the correct apps, of course now the offer is big, but kids need engaging games or apps to practice

    1. Thanks for the comment Manolo.
      Indeed, it is about having the correct apps and knowing what skills you want the children to improve and how the app(s) will help to achieve this. However, there would be a danger putting games on iPads in school, yes they are engaging and could be used as a reward, but they could also be a distraction to learning in the classroom.

  3. Have to agree with much of this but how about security. We have policy central on our laptops but the ipads are another matter, how are you tracking use of ipads?

  4. Thank you! New to the subject and have to get cracking on bringing our school into 2014. Currently we only have IWBs and two computers in each class. So I need to put a case forward to our head for possibly 15 laptops on a trolley or IPads. Challenge! I was just thinking of some of the skills the children need to have with the new Computing Curriculum, I am thinking KS1 needing to create a Powerpoint? Can you do this on an IPAD? As I thought Microsoft Office etc isn't compatible? Thanks

  5. Thanks! I am writing a grant to ask for 50 ipads for preschoolers and kindergarteners very helpful!