With the increase in access to technology, more and more students are able to use laptops and tablets to help them learn in school. This opens doors to many new opportunities and allows students to access information and learn new skills that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
However, different schools seem to have different approaches to providing their students’ technology for learning. While some schools provide tablets for each classroom or each student, others favor laptops.
This creates an interesting question: tablet vs laptop for school; which is better? I’ve used both in my years teaching and can certainly see some pros and cons for each technological tool.
Ultimately, I think the decision about whether a tablet or laptop is better can vary from one classroom and school setting to the next. I decided to put this article together to educate you and help you make the decision for yourself about whether tablets or laptops are best for your students.
After reading this article, you’ll understand:
- The difference between a laptop and a tablet
- Various pros and cons of laptops and tablets in the classroom
- Which is the best technological tool for the learning needs of your students.
5 Differences Between Laptop and Tablet
Laptops and tablets may both allow students to access the internet, use educational apps, and type through word processing programs, but there are a number of ways these two education tools differ. These differences center around a few main categories: power, portability, battery life, price, and peripherals
While major advancements have been made over the last few years in regards to how powerful many tablets are, they still aren’t going to have the same power as a more advanced laptop. Depending on your instructional needs, the power a laptop offers may be sufficient. However, if your students will need access to more advanced programs, such as those for graphic design, they’ll likely do best with a laptop. Some tablets may say they’re compatible with some of these more advanced and intense programs, but the chances are they’ll run much more smoothly on a laptop.
Next, think about how important it is to choose an easily portable option for your students. Consider how frequently the students will need to carry the laptops or tablets between different spaces in the room or between classrooms. Also, consider the age of your students and how easily they’ll be able to carry heavier items (without dropping them).
Tablets are lighter and much easier to carry than laptops. You can also put a protective case on a laptop that will prevent it from damage if dropped, which can be a lifesaver in a classroom full of younger students. However, if you teach older students, the difference in the weight of a tablet and a laptop will not be as big of an issue, so you should be free to choose either option based on this factor.
3. Battery Life
Another big factor in the laptop vs tablet debate is battery life. A tablet battery can last for up to 14 hours, while a laptop battery only lasts up to 6 hours, but often less. Depending on how many hours your students will need their tablet or laptop throughout the day, this factor may help you make a decision.
When you’re deciding between tablets and laptops, such as iPads or MacBooks, price is another very important consideration. Buying a class set of tablets will be significantly less expensive than purchasing a full set of laptops. However, keep in mind that if you’re looking for more advanced features with a tablet, you’ll be spending more than you would for more basic models.
Find Julia K Crist’s thoughts on this topic in this video.
Finally, laptops include peripherals that can increase their functionality and ease of use. Peripherals can include keyboards and mouse touchpads.
A physical keyboard, compared to a touchscreen one, can make it much easier to use word processing programs and other apps where students will need to type. Having a physical keyboard can also help ensure students learn typing skills that they’ll need throughout their life. A touchpad or external mouse can also make using a laptop easier than a tablet. While touchscreens are wonderful inventions, sometimes they can make it challenging to click in a more specific spot (such as when trying to get your cursor in the correct space in a word processing document).
Laptop vs Tablet: Pros and Cons
So, are tablets or laptops best for students? To decide whether you want laptops or tablets for your classroom, weigh the pros and cons of each tool. Let’s start with laptops.
Pros of Laptops
- More powerful than laptops to allow more in-depth software programs to run smoothly
- Include higher-performing processors than tablets
- Larger screen size
- Include a physical keyboard and touch mouse pad
- Increased storage space
- Include multiple ports for USB drives, memory cards, Ethernet cables, and more
- Designed with internal fans and other cooling components to prevent overheating
- May be better for college students and other older students due to increased power and the external keyboard for typing
Cons of Laptops
- Shorter battery life than tablets
- Heavier than tablets and not as easy for students to carry
- More likely to be damaged if dropped by students
- Laptop charging stations will take up more space than tablet charging stations (read more about Chromebook charging stations here)
- Not as versatile as tablets
- All laptops don’t have a touchscreen
- Much higher price points
- Expensive to repair and maintain
And now a few words about tablets.
Pros of Tablets
- Lightweight and more easily portable
- Require more compact charging stations than laptops
- Easier to protect against damage with cases
- Longer battery life of up to 14 hours
- Allow for greater versatility (can be used as e-readers, cameras, video recorders, and more)
- Intuitive for most students to use
- Easy to zoom in and out on images using your fingers
- More customized accessories are available for purchase (such as Bluetooth keyboards and protective cases)
- Less expensive than laptops
Cons of Tablets
- No physical keyboard, limited to touchscreen keyboard
- Touchscreen keyboard may be unresponsive at times
- Not as powerful as laptops
- Not ideal to use with more complex software programs
- Limited storage capacity compared to laptops
- Smaller screen size
Which is Better Laptop or Tablet?
Just as there’s a debate about whether students should be allowed to use cell phones in class and the specific cell phone policies each school enacts, there is also debate over whether tablets or laptops are better for students. You can read more about using cell phones in class here and cell phone policies for schools here.
Ultimately the tablet vs laptop for school decision is yours to make. Here are a few tips that can help you decide which tool is right for the students in your class.
Tip #1 👧
Consider the age and technological knowledge of your students. The answer for whether tablets or laptops are best for college students may well be very different from whether tablets or laptops are best for elementary school students. The answer to the question, “can tablets replace laptops” can vary based on the age of your students. Mike O’Brien answers this question in his video.
Tip #2 🎯
Think about your purpose for using laptops or tablets. If your students will be doing a lot of writing, you may decide that a laptop is better. If they’ll be using apps where holding the device in their hand may make accessibility easier, then a tablet may be best. Online vs in-person learning can also impact whether tablets or laptops are best for your students. Their age can also play a role in making this decision.
Tip #3 💸
Consider your budget. Purchase laptops for a class will be more expensive, so tablets may be a more economical option. Laptops are also more expensive to repair and maintain than most tablets.
Tip #4 ⌚
Think about how long your students will be using either tool throughout the day. Since a laptop battery can run out more quickly, you may want to reconsider this tool if your students will be using it for most of the day. However, laptops do have a better cooling system to prevent them from overheating.
Tip #5 🏠
The available space in your classroom can also impact whether tablets or laptops are the best choices. Charging carts for laptops will require more space than a tablet charging station.
- Laptop vs tablet for college students: which is best
- Tablets vs laptops: which is best for online learning?
- 10 examples of modern classroom technology
- 15 ways to use a tablet in the classroom
Laptops and tablets can both be powerful learning tools. Deciding between tablet vs laptop for school and which is best for your classroom can vary based on the age of your students and how you see yourself using the technology in your classroom. You can also always consider investing in a mix of tablets and laptops to get the best of both worlds and give your students experiences using multiple tools!