Tablets vs NotebooksMost educators would agree that a one to one program giving students a mobile computing device is a good thing. What we might not all agree on, though, is which mobile device is a better choice: netbooks or tablets.

The trend, lately, has been to use tablets. However, I think there are some real advantages that netbooks – and Chromebooks – have over tablets. Check out this Slideshare for the quick version, or keep reading for the wordier explanation below.


Three Reasons to Choose Netbooks for Your School’s One to One Tech Program from Brian Rock

I like netbooks for a lot of reasons, but I’ll focus on three today.

Netbooks Are Better For Typing

The keyboards on a netbook or Chromebook offer a clear affordance in the realm of typing. They are simply easier, more efficient, and more effective to type on.

Yes, I’ve gotten better at typing on a touch screen keyboard over time. However, the level of tactile response is not there, and I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to type as quickly or as efficiently on a touch screen. Whenever I try to type at great speed, I end up with a lot of errors. My thumbs are too fat, or the keyboard is too big to span on a tablet, or the autocorrect messes something up.

I’m perfectly happy to type a text message on my phone or to type up a quick note on a tablet. If I have to sit and type a 1,000 word blog post or a 5 page paper… I wouldn’t be happy. Give me a real keyboard, and let my fingers fly.

I think it’s sometimes overlooked, but typing efficiency for me leads to a better thought process. I can think something, and it flows onto the screen because I can type 100+ words per minute. You handicap a kid with an inefficient keyboard, and you’re going to handicap his thinking process as well – he’s got to stop thinking long enough for the typing to catch up. That breaks up the flow of writing.

Tablets also give up a lot of real estate when you’re typing. The touch screen keyboard can eat up a good chunk of the screen, making it very awkward to type into some forms and web applications.

I’m just not sure who could argue that a tablet is the best device to type an extended piece of writing. You’ve got to be stretching the truth a bit to make that argument.

Netbooks Can Support Flash

Maybe this isn’t the best reason, but it’s a realistic one.

A lot of old educational software and websites relies on technology like Flash. Flash simply doesn’t work on mobile devices anymore. There’s been a longstanding feud between Adobe and Apple, and Adobe recently stopped all development of all versions of mobile Flash. So you can’t even get it on an Android device anymore.

It’s kind of ironic. Flash was developed as a cross-platform piece of software, so you could develop applications for both Mac and Windows PCs that worked in a web browser. But now there’s a new platform that doesn’t work, and the old paradigm is broken.

New technologies are coming along, but in the meantime a lot of legacy software created for educational uses relies on Flash. This is especially true of interactive websites that let kids do things with their technology. A laptop is going to give you more flexibility and compatibility in the short run, until mobile apps have replaced all of the old websites you used to use.

Netbooks Are Better at Multi-tasking

I rarely ever work in one browser tab, or with only one application open. It’s not uncommon to see a dozen tabs or windows open on my laptop at any given time.

I’ve got Google Music, Google Drive, my e-mail, my grading system, Schoology, and a couple other tabs open. And that’s just when I’m at school, and I’m not working on any photo editing or web development stuff.

A modern computer is made for multi-tasking. A tablet is made for a fairly linear experience. You go to a website, you go to another. You open an app, you use it, you close it. There’s no having three windows open simultaneously, no quickly switching back and forth.

You can toggle between tabs and apps, but this is an inconvenient pain in the butt. And not being able to have two screens open at one time is a real hindrance on productivity. For example, I typically have a Google presentation open in one window on the left side of the screen, and I have another browser window open on the right to search for info and or images. Then I can quickly drag and drop from one window to the other, or read from one and type into the other.

Can’t do that with a tablet.

What Do You Think?

There are some other reasons why I like netbooks over tablets, but I’m going to stop there. I’m almost up to 1,000 words already, and I don’t want to ramble any longer.

However, I do want to hear what you think. Why do you think netbooks are better than tablets? And if you’re a tablet fan, then why don’t you go read my list of reasons why tablets are better and drop a comment there.