Android or iOS and Mobile Learning Philosophy

Twice today I found myself writing an email that felt like a blog post – and both were related to what mobile devices to choose and how best to use them. A friend asked whether he should purchase an iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy S3 for his next phone, and here is a slightly edited version of my response:

If you’ve already got iOS or Android, that would be a major factor, especially if you’ve invested in a lot of apps. You’ll probably want to stick with what you own and know.

Other than that, the super short answer is this: I’ve had an iPhone since the original (and have a significant investment in apps, especially for my boys, ages 4 and 2) but I’ve just switched to Android. I bought the Galaxy Nexus just a few months ago, but just purchased a Nexus 4 today to replace it. That would be my recommended phone – it’s not quite so large as the S3 (a bonus in my book), and coming directly from Google it has (and will get) the latest updates first.

That being said, the main advantage of iOS now is the app library (but only barely). The selection of good apps for toddlers is much better on iOS, but everything I want for myself (and older students) is available on Android. If you have a Mac, iOS would also be an advantage for how well it’s integrated, but I also just ditched my Mac for a Linux Ultrabook so Android works out well, especially with the Ubuntu One cloud service.

The main advantages of Android are tight integration (and single sign on) with Google tools, and of course the variety and choice of hardware and software, especially because it’s open source. There are more and more small things I like about the UI as well, but ultimately the cutting edge phones are very equivalent right now.

Another colleague recently received a set of Nexus 10 Tablets from Google… but she has always taught with iOS devices. She was asking for some guidance and I wound up writing this (again, it’s slightly edited here):

For me, there are three overarching themes to focus on. The first is getting the devices into the hands of kids so they can search (in support of inquiry-driven learning, ideally for project’s they’re passionate about) – incidentally, the built in search App can use audio and images in addition to text searches. Teaching students good search strategies is key here, of course. The second focus is empowering students to collaborate – and all of the mobile versions of Google Apps are great for this, especially Google Drive. The single sign on with Google across all apps on the device is awesome – particularly if each kid has a device (or you have a specific account associated with the device). The third focus is to empower students to create (just as you would on an iPad) with image, audio, and video editing programs – there are many. The curricular apps are a far distant fourth priority in my mind – and the web will beat them for content and flexibility most of the time. I’m a fan of the open-ended tools, and Android is a great platform for that. So you can spend time searching the Play Store for other specific apps (many iOS apps are also there – or else there are equivalents), but I’d recommend focusing on these three things first – and getting kids doing meaningful work they care about. :)

I hope these thoughts might be helpful to others here… and I hope to learn more from all of you in the comments.

3 Responses to “Android or iOS and Mobile Learning Philosophy”

  1. Chris Craft Says:

    I appreciate the balanced response here. I think all too often there is an extreme response in these cases towards one side or the other. For me in working with kids and app development I had to consider the platform issue as well. We are trying to develop for both iOS and android but that is really hard. When developing for android you almost have to focus on the newer devices like these here and forget about older ones, even though they make up the majority of android users. It’s an interesting experiment for sure.

    Thanks for walking the balance beam of this topic and avoiding extremism. ;)


  2. Andy Boyle Says:

    Nice insight. A year ago, I would have said iOS, hands down. But as we learn how students are best using these devices, my opinion is changing. My boys (6 and 8) have been using Google search to help with their homework now more than the multitude of apps they have installed on their iPads. The apps work great for short bursts of reinforcement, but to get them thinking, they need (and use) an open portal to the internet.

    As a side note, we have some schools that will begin testing a new Android tablet in schools here in Atlanta in January. The OS is totally customized for school and all the tablets come with 400 MB of 3G/4G connectivity. The data is pooled so that kids with WIFI at home will not need it. VPS is being used to route all the data through the school serves so that COPA/CIPA is adhered to. It is, by far, the beest tablet I have seen to date (and I have seen a few).



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