As a Subject Leader, I have thought long and hard (with my colleagues, and particularly my fellow Subject Leader – of Media Studies – @KRE_ativity) about how we should move things forward in developing teaching and learning in our English and Media faculty. To bastardise a well worn American political phrase the first priority is clear: “It is the quality of the teachers, Dummy!” Quite rightly, the question of technology to enhance pedagogy does come a couple of rungs down the ladder when it comes to importance. Every experienced teacher in almost every school will have suffered the trials of finding ICT room bookings like the proverbial needle in the haystack; traipsing across the school site in the rain; losing the late student who forgot it was an ICT lesson for the crucial first fifteen minutes of the lesson! The obstructions often outweighed the benefits. However, the potential to enhance teaching and learning with the freedoms provided by mobile devices becomes a different story; the capacity to excite, engage and personalise learning is undoubtedly present. With the flexibility and portability of tablet devices many of the former obstructions fell away – the enhancements were only enhanced! The question became ‘which technology could best enhance the pedagogy?’
In the world of tablet technology the warring dividing lines very quickly became the choice between Apple and Android mobile devices.
The research began. The comparisons between apps and general capacity for varied uses were central (see my earlier blog posts), but also crucial was the cost. The question, ‘why pay for the premium Apple iPad product in a time of fiscal austerity in education?’ is obvious. Is the capacity so much better to justify paying extra, or is the iPad a triumph of advertising hype?
Firstly, in addressing the financial aspects, it is true to say that the iPads are at a premium; however, the iPad 2 has seen a significant price drop and its functionality is still cutting edge and brilliantly tailored for exploiting in the classroom as a collaborative tool. Still, they are significantly more costly than their cheaper Android rivals. When investigating the breadth and quality of applications, hardware and operating system maintenance, the dividing lines between Apple and Android were stormed by the better quality and range of the iPad. Crucially, no other Android device provides anything like the scope for enhancing teaching and learning like the iPads, especially when used in conjunction with Apple TV.
Apple’s dominance of the tablet and mobile phone market means that it is the best placed develop educational applications (“Despite lower unit sales following the holiday season, the iPad scooped up 11.8 million of the 17.4 million units sold in Q1 2012 for a whopping 68 percent share.”); whilst being better placed for reliable updates, consistent web browsing, better protection from viruses, and a better range of apps that can enhance teaching pedagogy than any cheaper Android device. Some factors why Apple is better for such a deployment of multiple devices include the following:
- The Apple OS is upgraded and installed much faster and more effectively than equivalent Android OS, therefore apps on iPads continue to get faster and better, particularly in areas like iTextbooks etc.
- The back up, synchronising and cloud storage of iCloud is far superior to any Android equivalent, therefore student work is more secure
- OS support is proven to be more consistent from Apple
- Malware, viruses are considerably more common on Android devices and security on Android devices is significantly weaker. The gatekeeper control of Apple means the downloading of apps is more secure and their system provides excellent systematic protections for multiple devices
- The range of Apple apps is currently significant larger and of better quality (a quality controlled by Apple)
- Apple development and support is more consistent and systematic than Google’s Android model – this is crucial for our needs over the next five years.
 J R Bookwalter, ‘Apple Owns Tablet market, while Android Stumbles’, TechRadar (May 2012)
 Fraser Spiers, ‘We need to talk about Android’, http://speirs.org/blog/2012/3/6/we-need-to-talk-about-android.html