Laptops vs. iPads

Kate Ward, Staff Writer

The school district spent $1 million on iPads and cases in June this year. Due to COVID-19, the school district bought 2,600 iPads in June, accelerating their plan to make the district one-to-one with iPads over the next few years. While the rush to give students access to online learning is understandable, iPads were not the best choice of technology for high school learning.

iPads really do not make sense in a high school environment, where fast typing and seamless multitasking are essential. When students need to write papers for classes, they currently have to deal with lagging keyboard cases skipping letters. When students are doing assignments, they have to switch between apps to see information or deal with the uncomfortable split-screen multitasking view on the iPads. These two common situations and countless others — make iPads impractical in high school.

Laptops, on the other hand can, multitask, and of course be used to type, without the pains of doing so on an iPad. Laptops are also becoming progressively more like tablets in some key ways. Many laptops today are touchscreen and can fold 360 degrees, allowing them to be used like an iPad, without any of its major shortcomings.

A common argument brought up in favor of iPads is their cost compared to laptops. The school district spent about $294 per iPad on their recent purchase, and about $100 on the keyboard cases, so in total about $400 per iPad, when bought in bulk. The school district spent somewhere around $250,000 to buy cases that attempt and, ultimately, fail at replicating the experience of using a laptop.

While there are laptops on the market in that price range — ones that are touchscreen and fold 360 degrees — let’s compare the iPads to MacBooks. The district spent $386,000 on 270 MacBook Air laptops for teachers last December; that is about $1,400 per laptop compared to the $400 iPads. That is considerably more, but it is important to note that MacBooks last on average five to eight years, while iPads only four. MacBooks are more expensive, but they last longer, can multitask seamlessly, and will not lag painfully when typing. And again, there’s no reason the school district would need to buy MacBooks over cheaper alternative laptops.

Having laptops instead of iPads is not some unprecedented phenomenon. Many high schools in Kansas have one-to-one laptops. For example, Wamego High School has MacBook Air laptops for each of their students, and Emporia High School has Chromebooks for their students.

There is no way that buying laptops for the high school would be cheaper than iPads, but it is hard to deny that they simply are a better fit for the high school environment. So, when in a few years the district needs to replace MHS’s iPads, they should consider buying laptops instead.