After more than a year of remote and hybrid learning, many school districts across the country are returning to in-person classrooms. But digitally delivered learning — and the student computing technology that enables it — remain critical educational tools. As district IT teams reevaluate their approach for the 2021-22 school year, one key question is whether tablets or Chromebooks are the best platform for teaching and learning.

Depending on their grade level and class subjects, some students may be better served by a laptop form factor, while other learners may benefit more from touchscreen tablets. As you browse computing technology for students and teachers, consider key variables such as device and screen size, processing speed, connectivity options and whether a keyboard is included.

For younger students, digital learning is still a new experience, so administrators should focus on choosing technology that can lessen any associated anxiety. Students need devices that are durable, with intuitive operating systems and user-friendly online tools.

To find the best tablet or Chromebook for your students and teachers, consider these questions about their needs and goals:

1. What do learning environments look like in your district?

Before you choose a device type, evaluate the nature of your district’s learning environments — whether you’re still fully remote, back to in-person or taking a hybrid approach. Are students doing most of their work on their own and turning it in once they have internet connectivity? Are teachers still holding live class sessions via videoconferencing? Will students need digital collaboration tools to complete group assignments? Talk to teachers and principals about the lesson plans being employed in your district so you can choose devices that will best facilitate learning in your unique setting (or settings).

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2. When are students taught keyboard skills?

Some schools teach students how to type by third grade, but are your elementary students ready for a Chromebook? Talk with their teachers to determine whether students would be comfortable using a keyboard and trackpad as their main work tools. Remember that students who are still in mostly or completely remote learning environments may have less support to help them learn about new technologies than they do in the classroom.

3. Are students more comfortable with tablets or laptops?

First ask teachers this question, and then consider polling students and their parents for further input. Some students, even in higher grades, may be more comfortable with a tablet than a Chromebook because they’re already accustomed to using smartphones. One way to provide both experiences is with a hybrid device, such as the Samsung Chromebook Plus or new Galaxy Chromebook 2, which can convert from a traditional laptop to tablet mode. Another option is to purchase plug-in keyboards for students’ tablets so they can use them for word processing. Another consideration when weighing laptop options against tablet options is screensize. With a 10.5” LCD screen, Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 provides a screensize that is comparable to most laptops, but within a lighter, more portable tablet form-factor. This makes multi-tasking easy for students, while also providing them a light, easy-to-transport form factor.

4. Is Wi-Fi accessibility an issue for your student population?

If your students are still learning from home, even part-time — or even receiving assignments that require internet connectivity in some capacity, such as research or discussion — and a large portion of them have unreliable home internet access, you may want to consider providing devices with an alternate source of connectivity, such as LTE. Some Chromebooks, such as the Chromebook Plus LTE, come with cellular connectivity built in, as do many Galaxy tablets. Having dependable access to the internet can be a great equalizer, especially for older students.

5. What do your teachers need to make remote or hybrid learning more effective?

When it comes to remote instruction, teaching from a computer is a far cry from standing in front of a full classroom. Make sure you’re listening to your teachers and working to meet their needs in addition to their students’. If teachers are planning to record and edit instructional videos and teach over live videoconferences in the coming year, they’ll need devices with the computing power and relevant accessories to handle those tasks. If they prefer to annotate students’ written work by hand rather than track changes on a word processor, teachers may prefer a touchscreen device with a built-in pen. Tablets such as the Galaxy Tab S7 and Chromebooks such as the Chromebook Plus and Galaxy Chromebook will fit the bill.

6. What are your long-term goals for device life cycles and classroom use?

The pandemic forced educators to focus on present-day needs. But now, it’s worth taking a step back to evaluate your long-term education technology goals. How long does your district typically keep devices before replacing them? As in-person classroom learning resumes, which mobile device features will your teachers and students need the most? Even if your district is back to fully in-person classes, mobile devices are still useful for teachers and students to take home — keeping all their notes, resources and assignments in one place.

Ultimately, you can’t assume that tablets are always better for elementary students and Chromebooks are always better for high schoolers. Many variables will remain unseen until you consult teachers, parents and students directly. Once you’ve gathered a clear set of needs, reach out to a trusted technology partner like Samsung that understands the complexities you’re facing and can help you find devices that will help your schools thrive.

As you look for the right mobile solutions for your students and teachers, explore the breadth of Samsung’s education technology solutions. No matter which technology you choose to go with, you can find plenty of fun and educational lesson plans in this free packet.

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Jessica Leigh Brown

Jessica Leigh Brown is a freelance writer and former high school English teacher who covers the intersection of technology and education. Over the past decade, her work has appeared in EdSurge Higher Ed, Education Dive, EdTech Magazine, University Business, and District Administration.

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