It seems like there is constantly a debate about whether iPads (and other tablets) or laptops/notebooks are the best choice for schools. After working in schools with both as a classroom teacher, I prefer iPads, and this is why:
They are actually brought to school.
In my MacBook classroom, not everyone had a MacBook because they were simply too expensive. Even second hand, MacBooks were touching on $1000, which is a lot of money, especially for families with numerous children in a 1:1 school. This meant that quite often children simply did not have a MacBook. Even students who did have MacBooks would sometimes deliberately leave them behind because they were too heavy to walk to school with, or to bring with the on their bikes/scooters.
The only time iPads are left at home at my iPad school is if they are in for repairs. They are not too heavy for students to bring. Every student also has an iPad or iPad mini, because $380 is a lot more achievable than $1000 for most families. Because all students have access, it means that we can use them consistently (instead of worrying if we plan a lesson with integrated technology that we will have to scrap it when the students don’t bring it)
iPads are much easier to collaborate with. Yes, collaboration can be achieved through tools such as Google Drive, but it is much more difficult to find a space where small groups of students, and their MacBooks, would fit in the classroom. This is a non-issue with iPads, as students can sit wherever they need to, or wherever there is a little space, without worry that they will not be able to type. It also means that students can collaborate face to face, as well as online, which is just as important as a life skill.
The school does not need extra equipment.
Filming and taking pictures is hard using any kind of laptop. Schools with 1:1 laptops also need video cameras or digital cameras to create multimodal projects. If the school uses MacBooks this is particularly difficult, as not all cameras are compatible, which means extra software is needed. With iPads, the school can save the money spent on those necessary extras, because they are built in. The time spent transferring the videos and images on laptops is also saved. Students can work on their filmed content immediately.
There is so many free apps available for the iPad. While there are free apps available for MacBooks, it is not to the same degree as iPads. Word processing suites, photo editing apps, maths apps…so many of them are available for free. While there is the occasional paid app that it very important (iMovie comes to mind), it is possible to spend very little adding apps to create a very usuable iPad for the classroom.
On the learning…
I have an unusual stance on iPads and learning, especially given I run this tech integration blog. Students with good teachers will learn, whether they are outside with chalkboards, inside with the newest tech or somewhere in between. iPads alone do not make a student learn. iPads with good pedagogy and a teacher who is willing to give technology a chance, though, will increase student learning. This is not because of something inherent in the iPad, but because it can be changed to suit students’ individual learning needs, and is more engaging. Good teaching is still the deciding factor, which is why any school introducing iPads needs to ensure their teachers use them to enhance their pedagogy, not replace it.
And on the Flash question
There has been a lot made of the lack of flash capability on the iPad, but this is no fundamentally a non-issue. Many sites that need flash now have apps (such as Mathletics) or can be viewed through an app such as Rover. There are also generally an alternative available in the form of a different website or as an app. It is no longer a reason to select laptops instead.