Episode 96 – iPads Vs Chromebooks in PhysED

In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast, we explore the pro’s and con’s of the iPad (Tablet) & Chromebook’s in Physical Education. In recent years, Chromebooks have been dominating the education market, however, are they the best fit for PhysED? Before we decide the ultimate winner, we battle over a variety of categories including;

  • Affordability
  • App availability
  • Battery life and management
  • Camera
  • Simplicity
  • Portability
  • School Management
  • PE Apps
  • PE Training

Press play to listen to the episode below or listen here. Alternatively, download a full episode transcript here



[00:00:28] Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone and welcome to episode number 96 of the PE Geek podcast and as always, it’s a pleasure to have you here. Now, in the last episode we focused heavily on a debate between Android and iOS devices in the PE context and arrived at a decision on which we believe to be the best solution if you’re looking to leverage them in the PE platform. We went through a variety of different things such as battery life and the availability of apps and


support and all of these different areas and then arrived at an ultimate winner. So, if you haven’t listened to that episode and you’re sort of deciding which platform to peruse go and check it out, there’s a lot of valuable information inside that.

But, the other debate that we commonly hear is this iPad/tablet debate versus Chromebooks. So, what I want to do in episode 96 is debate the iPad verse Chromebooks


in a PE context and sort of go through the same sort of things we went through last episode and ultimately arrive at a winner for the PE environment. So, let’s go. And as always, if you want to follow along with the show notes or read a transcript, you can do that at thepegeek.com/96 for episode 96.

Now, if you can think back to the very first computing experience you


probably had, it probably revolved around the use of a desktop or actual physical stationed machine that you sat at and you worked from. Obviously, because of that environment and because they were stationary and sort of static they really didn’t find their place in the physical education classroom because of the fact that the physical education classroom


tends to happen outside, in a gym, in a place away from these lab style environments that became quite common. It’s no surprise that there was not a lot of reason and logic behind leveraging these technologies in a PE space. That all changed though as technology progressed and as we started to move from having this desktop style environment with labs where you had


to take kids out of a PE situation and put them in that to use it and start to see laptops come in, obviously we could take them to the environments that we were working in. But then the real explosion happened when we obviously moved into this mobile environment where we weren’t dealing with super big laptops anymore, we were dealing with hand held devices such as a smartphone or an iPad and we were able to take that into the environment, keep it mobile,


and draw the benefits that these other devices promised but because of the way that they were it sort of really wasn’t possible without a whole host of trouble and changing what phys ed was. Mobile got to this point in time where it made it, it made it really possible to start to use technology and this sort of coincides with the time that this website actually started. If you look back to the early posts,


we were talking about some of the laptop type functions that you could use at that stage and then eventually we had the iPhone release and you can see the earliest, your early post, very much geared towards what was possible then. Even now, still talking very heavily about mobile environments and the things that you can do.

But, in recent years we’ve seen a resurgence amongst education and amongst physical education as well


with the availability of Chromebooks. Now, Chromebooks represent an entirely new way of thinking about computing in schools. They’ve gone from being devices and laptops that have all of the resources on the laptop itself to essentially just being a window to the internet. And your Chromebook functions as purely one task, being able to get you to get online. When you’re online, obviously,


now the websites serve as what to happen on your device itself. So, rather than having a heap of storage on your computer you’ve now got a heap of storage online, rather than having a heap of specialized software packages like editing suites and so on, you’ve now got all of those up online. And that means that the price of laptops compared to Chromebooks has drastically changed and


a lot of schools who never had devices have really been able to leap forward and finally get Chromebooks in their spaces. That’s meant that there’s a lot of phys ed people listening to this and who work with me and so on, who are actually now starting to get their first ever experiences with technologies simply by having Chromebooks in their facilities. So, we start to see a lot of people


making a decision around okay should I purchase and iPad or an iPhone or, sorry like a tablet device for my students whether that’s iOS or Android, we spoke about the best one last week, but that’s still a decision people make, or should we be looking at a Chromebook style device that we can roll out into phys ed. I don’t think it’s a very simple answer, I think there’s a couple of, there’s pros and cons for each situation and this is what this episode’s going to do, is dive through a couple of categories and


have you think about which is most logical of a decision for you.

Now, the logical first area, and the reason why we’ve probably seen an explosion in Chromebooks in phys ed is because of the fact that they have changed the game with affordability. Typically, iPads are relatively expensive devices. They are more of a premium position


in many ways. You can get iPads on refurbished packages and you can get them reused and so on, but some of the school focused Chromebooks start around the $200 price point. I know I picked up mine at that price point and I was a little bit skeptical thinking that it wouldn’t really be that functional, but it’s been incredible. I’ve been able to take it wherever I want to go, it just immediately connects to the internet.


And I, no joke, when I use it, I cannot tell the difference between sitting here and using my $2000 MacBook pro which I like for other reason, but when I really think about, I spend probably 95% of my time in the Chrome browser and that is entirely possible just by using a Chromebook. So, we’ve got this cost argument. But, the cost argument is hugely important for getting


schools and education area, facilities on board. Its own seen that you can’t do everything on a Chromebook and this sort of ridiculous stuff and that might be true of some high-end functions and specific tasks that only have the ability to run on your PC or mac environment. But, for most of what we make possible with education these days we’re able to do that all from


the web. That means that a Chromebook is a realistic scenario for you to use in education. So, from the cost perspective it is absolutely a no-brainer here. If you’re looking at cost as the reason, and I don’t think that should be the only reason, I mean there’s a lot of bottom barrel thinking that happens in education where people go for the cheapest thing because it means they can get more of it. And I think sometimes that backfires.


But in this Chromebook example it couldn’t be further from the truth. This idea of shortcuts with Chromebooks and so on is just so ridiculous. The winner in this category is the Chromebook. It’s far more affordable, it enables 95% of what’s possible outside of your traditional laptop, sort of desktop scenarios. It’s only going to continue to move towards 100%.


Eventually everything will be on the web, everything will be accessible via an internet connection and we won’t need software installed, we won’t need specialist programs, they’ll just be packaged online and accessible. If you think about it, that’s pretty much what most things are these days and we’re moving into that sort of environment. You can see all the software companies and all the big players are literally changing what they do to accommodate the fact that this is where things are headed. So,


from that very first category it’s clear that the Chromebooks have it won.

Now, the second thing I wanted to think about is this idea of multiuser support. Multi user support basically means that you can have a Chromebook set and be able to give that to a group of students and they can all use it and when they log into it it’s their device and so on, verse an iPad where it’s really only


designed for one student, although because of the Apple education roll out it is now possible to set up user accounts on iOS devices and be able to then have a multi-user shared device. But, from the perspective of which does it better, it is without a doubt Chromebooks that is the winner here. You’ve got, you’ve got the ability to have just have a shared collection of devices


and log in with your Google account that’s probably provided to the students by their schools, very easy, very simple and well managed and a lot of control for Google Admins who are operating at a school level. Then the students can pick up and work just as if they were using their own device, log out and log into another device and they’ve got that seamless access. That’s pretty much the forefront of what makes their shared device


so appealing. Sure, you can do that with iPads as well, but it’s just not quite as seamless and as what Google have made it. So much so that that same level of shared function would even carry over onto the iPad. If you started using a lot of the Google apps on your iPad and logged in with your account then you’ve got this seamless ability to use that stuff and beyond any device. So, for multi user support, shared devices,


the Chromebooks have it won as well.

Now, the next thing that we’re going to compare is the availability, or the availability of your applications and mobile applications that you can use in a PE context. This is without a doubt a win for Apple, there’s no sort of secret here that we absolutely advocate the use of mobile applications


whether that’s on any platform. But, there’s a heavy tendency for us to write about Apple and iOS because that’s where all the development attention goes, the ecosystem that Apple have built the simplicity that they have with only having a handful of devices that developers need to build for has meant that it’s become a very attractive place to build on. You’ll very commonly see apps come exclusive to iOS and they never end up on


any other platform. That has been the pattern and remains the pattern. However, in saying that, we are starting to see a number of things that we used to only be able to do with specialized software that we downloaded and made available for our devices. Now possible just through the internet as I mentioned before. To give you an example of this, now sure you can download an app like iMovie


for your iPad and start editing in real time and it’s quite intuitive, it’s not the super high-end editing suite that we have seen in other places, but it works and you could definitely edit a movie quite impressively. But what we’ve also got now is the ability to edit video 100% in the cloud. There’s a whole suite of tools, things like WeVideo among others, where you can upload your footage and you can do all the sorts of things that you would do


offline with an installed software base. So, while, we’ve got to a point now where general software is pretty much in symmetry, so whether you’re using an iPad you can probably find and an equivalent software tool that just runs in the internet that your Chromebook users that could use, and I pretty much guarantee that you could do that.

But, when it comes to phys ed, there’s really no comparison to


the specific styles and types of applications that you can run on Chromebook verse the iOS iPad space. While there is a lot of stuff that you can do, it’s just nowhere near the same. I’d probably say it’s about 5% of the potential that the iPad platform has. So, if your decision around purchasing a Chromebook or an iPad is because you


want to leverage the incredible PE centric applications then there’s no point getting a Chromebook, that’s completely not going got be something that is going to be able to support your choice. However, in saying that, in recent years some Chromebooks now have opened up the availability to install Android apps onto the Chromebook. It’s a pretty new thing, still in it’s infancy. But essentially


what that means is that your Chromebook device now has access to the millions of Android applications that are available.

Now, there’s a bit of a caveat in that obviously many of the apps that you might be able to use on an Android tablet or a device may not immediately possible to use on your Chromebook, depending on the capabilities and whether the developer themself has actually made it possible. But from my first glance, there was a lot of carry over.


So, my Chromebook could use some of the video analysis tools that are on Android such as Huddle Technique, Huddle Technique being a very popular iPhone/iPad application that I’ve spoken about a lot. It’s also on Android and if your Chromebook has the ability to run Android apps then you can use it on there too. So, that opens a completely different game, but we’re still very early. So, in terms of making a decision around the availability


of PE apps it’s no surprise that the winner without a doubt is the Apple and iOS platform.

Now, the next thing that I want to sort of compare and look at is this idea of simplicity and keeping things simple and straightforward. To be honest this is quite hard to decide, because both of these platforms have inherent features that make them very


simple and easy to function in schools. But, I’m probably going to go with the iPad platform, only because of the fact that really, it’s such a controlled experience. Now, that has some pros and cons in itself but the iPad is a very a controlled experience, you can tap an app and then you’ve just looking at that app and sort of shuts everything else out. That can be quite good for education too if you want to lock down users into one specific things. Whereas a


Chromebook doesn’t necessarily have that capacity, they’re on the web and if they’re browsing and accessing websites to do certain tasks or using different extensions and add ons and so on, they might be doing all sorts of other things because quite literally they have the web at their disposal whereas let’s say your test was, some sort of warm up activity and you’re using an app like Sworkit. The students would have to open up Sworkit on their I


Pad or their Android tablet, but on Android they could something similar but it would involve them going to a website like fittnessblender.com whereby they’ve had to browse to the store and browse through the internet and all of a sudden now they’re on a site they shouldn’t be on and it’s just not quite the same when it comes to that ability to get students connected and in the right place. So, simplicity I’m going to say the winner here is the


iPad platform or the tablet platform.

The next thing I want to talk about is school management and the ability for you to be able to easily organize the things that happen in school. So, that might be classes and be able to compare students and upload assignments and all of that sort of thing. The winner here by an absolute mile is a Chromebook. If you want a platform that


makes it very easy for students to be able to submit work and assignments and homework and so on and not much else and they’re not really working on specialist sort of stuff then a Chromebook’s going to be completely fine. Obviously, you can access many of those same websites and functions and features if you just used an iPad and browsed the website. But because of the fact that it is a Chromebook and it has a keyboard and a laptop makes, sorry, keyboard and other devices, makes it just


that little bit easier to navigate around the web where a lot of those services exist. So, for example, Google Classroom and so on operate really nicely out of a Chromebook. They also operate nicely out of an iPad as well with the Google Classroom app. But, if I had to pick one that sort of makes it a little bit easier to manage in a school scenario it would have to be the Chromebooks, especially when you add the Google apps for education platform that sits


over the top of your campus or your district. With that comes a heap for ability to manage students and devices and access and controls and so forth.

Now, the next area I want to look at is this idea of PE training. So where is, where does most of the training exist related to this? Now, we’ll look at it from two perspectives like obviously the availability of just general training


around the Chromebook environment or the availability of more specific stuff. So, from the generalist perspective I would say that Google have this beat, Chromebooks would be without a doubt so much available support for you whether that’s through Google itself or other companies that deliver Google specific generalist style education training, so whether you want to learn how to use the Google suite like Google Drive and all


those sort of tools, there’s so much on offer support-wise for that. But, if your tasked around trying to look at how you can use it in a PE scenario itself then I would absolutely pick the iOS or iPad/tablet platforms over Chromebooks. Now, obviously we do a lot of training on all of them here at the PE Geek. But there’s so much more on the PE side in the


tablet space because there’s just way more that you can do and that’s a fact. That might change in the future, but it means that our training is very much geared around how we can leverage those things.

If you did want to do some training around how to use the Chromebooks in a PE setting then there’s a webinar for that, it’s thepegeek.com/chrome and you can go and sign up and enjoy it and check out all the different things that you can do which is quite a lot. But it comes down to there


being so much more on the PE side.

Now, the last couple of things that I’m going to talk about, probably more appropriately about the hardware itself and it is a little bit custom because it’s not quite the same for every device, I’m sort of generally speaking here. But, if you were to compare the camera of your tablet device with the camera of your Chromebook, the, your tablet device is going to win hands down, there’s


probably some exceptions to the rule maybe at the end Chromebooks, couple of thousand dollars sort of stuff, but from a general exception you can get yourself an iPad and have a much better camera than you would have on a Chromebook.

The next thing would be battery lift, this is everyone’s big thing to think about. If you’re going to compare an iPad verse a Chromebook for battery life I’d pick a Chromebook over, it pretty much only has one function, it connects to the internet


and has really no move parts, pretty much like an iPad as well. Obviously, it’s a bit bigger so they can put a bigger battery in and that bigger battery can go longer as opposed to your iPad which is a bit smaller, has the same sort of sized screen, maybe is a bit more powerful and probably doesn’t last as long. But there would be exceptions to that rule. You can probably get some Chromebooks on the low end that don’t really have great battery life and your iPad is going to outperform it. But, as


a general rule I would say the Chromebooks have a better battery life expectancy.

Now, when it comes to the really common question I get which is portability and the ability to move around and easily do these things in a classroom setting that is very active. I’m going to pick, obviously, the mobile platform here, I don’t think there’s really a question about that. If you’re out in a gym and you’ve got some iPads


they’re pretty portable, you can get a lot of nice cases for them so that if they get dropped and you’re active and you put them off to the side they’re not going to get damaged. It’s just a little bit more fiddly to be carrying around a device with a full-on keyboard and all of those things and not necessarily, it’s not the same level of simplicity in terms of its ability to be moved around. So, if I was picking a task and I knew that, sorry,


picking a device, and I knew that most of the stuff that we were doing was happening in these practical spaces where kids were active and we wanted the tech to be used in those settings in meaningful ways, I probably wouldn’t pick the Chromebook to be perfectly honest. That’s way more suited to okay the classroom break period where now they do a task that is on the Chromebooks or at the end of the lesson, before the lesson, those sort of settings. But if your


task was to integrate it more meaningfully I’d pick a device that’s way more portable and useable and that would be a mobile device every day hands down.

So, as we go back through that list hopefully there’s been some interesting pros and cons for both. I don’t necessarily think it’s one or the other, I think there’s context and your context might decide that one makes sense more than so than other. But for me, if it comes down to having one


device and I had to have it regardless, I’m probably going to pick a mobile platform, probably no surprise with that but I still think it’s far too early to be able to replicate everything that we have in a PE context on Android, sorry, on a Chromebook. I absolutely fundamentally believe that we will be able to soon and this idea of installing apps will become a thing of the past. We’re going to move beyond that where it’s everything is just


a click away on a website. When we get to that point in time this would be very, very worthwhile revisiting and seeing how it’s changed. But at this point in time, the winner is the iPad/tablet side with some very big things to say about how powerful Chromebooks are as well, and depending on your context, maybe they are the better decision.

So, as you sit down and make the choice, don’t just get iPads


because you see people talk about them or don’t just get Chromebooks because you see people talk about them. There are some inherent pros and cons with both and really it depends on your context and your setting and your scenario as to which one probably makes more sense for you. So, if you have a very specific question about either of these two let me know. You can get in touch with [email protected] or you can go into the PE Geek mobile app which is available on Android and iOS and you can ask a question


and that question can come through to me and I’ll be happy to help you out. At the end of the day it’s all about the teaching, it’s not about the device, but in saying that, we still need to be mindful about the devices that we choose because some are better than others, and unfortunately education is littered with devices that really were not suitable to situations. Hopefully this episode helps you pick the device that is most suited to your scenario.


Alright, look forward to seeing you in our next episode. If you have any questions be sure to get in touch and we’ll speak soon.


The easiest way to listen to The PE Geek Podcast is via our dedicated mobile app, which you can download for FREE for iPhone/iPad & Android. The app will let you know when new episodes go LIVE & allow you to listen to all of the episodes while on the go. We even let you store files for offline playback so you don’t need to use your mobile data. Go download here.

Scroll to Top