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I have taught my class through my laptop every day for the past 10 weeks of distance learning. I have also supported students and parents with the various different kinds of devices that they use. I’ve learned a lot about what kids need in a device for distance learning with iPads and Chromebooks being popular choices. I decided to take an in-depth look at which device is best for kids doing distance learning and what the pros and cons are for kids using an iPad and using a Chromebook to learn remotely.
A Chromebook can be a versatile and affordable device that can suit online learners of all ages, especially if a big screen and a keyboard are important for a child’s learning. Make sure to go for a touchscreen for younger learners and consider having more storage capacity for older kids when choosing which Chromebook is for your child. If your child needs something more compact but still with brilliant capabilities that suit online learning, an iPad is another very well priced option. Larger storage capacity is available for older distance learners and accessories, although expensive, can extend the functionality of the iPad depending on your child’s needs.
What is a Chromebook?
This is something I didn’t know either. ‘Chromebook’ is the name of a new type of device rather than a range of devices from specific companies as I had thought. A Chromebook is a type of laptop that runs the Google Operating System and is mainly used for accessing the internet through the Google Chrome browser. Their design is the same as how a normal laptop looks although some have a 2-in-1 or ‘convertible’ design which means the screen can be pushed all the way back so that only the screen is used, like a tablet.
What to look for in a laptop for school?
If you’re thinking of buying your child a new device for the purpose of doing distance learning, you might be wondering what factors are most important to consider in your choice. There are so many options out there these days and many are very child-friendly, especially as companies pick up on the increased need for children’s and student’s devices. Durability and robustness are going to be important especially for younger children as we know that electronics are delicate things which can easily be damaged by accident in the hands of our little ones, especially if they’re going to be used on a regular basis for schooling.
For most students or home learners internet access, video conferencing and distance learning platform access are going to be important. Having completed 10 weeks of distance learning now I definitely recommend a device with a touch screen and, even better, one that is compatible with or comes with a stylus pen too. Several times I have set activities that have been amazing for kids with touch screens but a little awkward and not that enjoyable for kids who are having to just use a computer trackpad or mouse.
A device for a child should be compact and light but the screen size should not be too small. Younger children are still developing their fine motor skills which means that the smaller, more precise movements that a small screen requires are still a little difficult for them. Price-wise, children’s devices don’t need to break the bank. They don’t need fancy features or massive amounts of memory, they just need to work well, and there are so many options out there regardless of whether you decide on a laptop, Chromebook, tablet, or some kind of hybrid device for your child.
For the purposes of this post, I’ll be referring to the specifications of the Lenovo Chromebook C340, whose predecessor the C330 was rated the best overall Chromebook for kids over at watchdogreviews.com, and the Apple iPad 2019 which laptopmag.com points to as the best iPad for kids.
Is a Chromebook cheaper than a tablet?
Generally, iPads are slightly more expensive than Chromebooks although the Lenovo C340 is at the lower end of the price spectrum for Chromebooks and there are many other models that cost much more than the iPad. A Chromebook could definitely be a more cost-effective option for a home learning device.
It's always best to check what the current prices are which you can do using these links: iPad vs
Size & Weight
Chromebook 0.7” x 11.4” x 8.2” vs. iPad 9.8” x 6.8” x 0.29”
Chromebook 1.2 kg/2.64 pounds vs. iPad 483g/just over 1 pound
Being a tablet, the iPad is obviously the thinner option (less than half the thickness) compared with the Chromebook and is far smaller overall, weighing less than half of what Lenovo does. A Chromebook is definitely bulkier than the iPad but it has a keyboard whereas the iPad doesn’t.
Another thing to remember is that this is one of the smallest Chromebooks out there with some other options being much bigger. So if a Chromebooks big screen and built-in keyboard aren’t important for your child’s distance learning needs then you’ll just be getting unnecessary bulk and something lighter and slimmer would serve your child much better.
Chromebook 11.6" vs iPad 10.2”
The displays on these two devices don’t differ massively - both devices have IPS LCD screens and the iPads is only slightly smaller compared with the Chromebooks. The Lenovo’s 11.6” screen is the smallest you generally find in the Chromebook category, so if you feel like an iPad screen isn’t big enough for your child you’ll find much bigger options in the Chromebook category. Bigger isn’t always better though and I would say that the smaller screen certainly makes the device easier to handle and more child-friendly.
Is a touchscreen Chromebook worth it?
The school laptop that I currently have is a touchscreen and I remember when I first got it I wondered why I or anyone would ever need a laptop to be a touchscreen. Surely if you wanted to use a touchscreen you’d just use a tablet or a phone? Ten weeks of distance learning later I have had several opportunities to use the touchscreen in teaching and learning. I most often use the touch screen to model writing with my finger for my students to see. If this wasn’t possible I’d either have to awkwardly draw the letters using the touchpad (which doesn’t make it easy to write neatly) or just type on the keyboard. I’ve noticed that students who have touchscreens get more digital writing opportunities that have benefited their reading and writing skills during distance learning.
How many GB does a child need?
Storage capacity: Chromebook 32GB vs iPad 32GB
The devices themselves may be equal in terms of storage capacity but the Chromebook comes with 100GB extra cloud storage whereas Apple provides just 5GB iCloud storage for free. If your child is simply using their device to access the internet and their distance learning platform but isn’t storing much in terms of files, then 32GB + cloud storage should be plenty.
Older children who might be working with photos and videos may need more storage space for their work. Storing these kinds of files on the device itself for editing will probably require something with a bit more capacity. The iPad 2019 comes only in a 32GB and 128GB version so if you’re looking for a tablet with a storage capacity in between these then another brand might be best for you. The good thing about Chromebooks is that there is a range of storage capacities available and since this is a big factor for pricing, you are able to buy one with just as much storage as you think you’ll need without spending more than necessary.