Monday, July 6, 2015

A Big Bang for Your Buck: The iPad for $0.38/day: Less than a Chromebook

[Update one year after this post: we sold our iPad2s back to a vendor and use the revenue toward purchasing new devices, bringing the total cost for an iPad per student per school day down to $0.38! More on that here.]

Five years ago when we started our iPad 1:1 program, we were anticipating that an iPad would last three years. The device itself was so new no one really knew how long it would hold up. At the time iPads were introduced, people worried that a mobile tablet device with glass in the hands of children in a classroom would not last. They also worried about how long the inner parts and pieces would function.

We were very pleased last month to finish a fourth year with our original batch of 16GB iPad2s, and even more pleased to be able to use them once again this coming school year, getting a fifth year of use out of these iPads. These iPads have continued to function well, allowing students to annotate digital work, create iMovies, and so much more. At WWDC a few weeks ago it was announced that iOS9 will work on our five year old iPads, too, still allowing our students to have the latest functionality needed for learning.
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An iPad with case costs us about $400.  If you divide that out over five years, you end up with a cost of only $0.44/day! That's less than one Starbuck's medium cup of coffee a week!

$400 ÷ 5 years ÷ 180 school days = $0.44

I realize there are other costs for a 1:1 program, too: some apps cost money, but we are able to keep those year to year regardless of the device. Our mobile device management system has an annual license fee, but that only increases the cost per day a few cents per year. But licensing costs as well as infrastructure and staffing support expenditures come with any device whether it is laptops, Chromebooks, or iPads. 

We have considered reselling our iPads after a few years of use, too, as they do maintain quite a value, but so far have not. It’s an intriguing option, but when considering this, be sure to factor in the hours needed for collecting and redistributing devices, helping thousands of kids with re-set up, etc.  This is not something we have been interested in at this time.  In fact, we had our students keep their iPad this summer and saved ourselves a lot of time.

Colleagues in other school districts with Chromebook implementations have told me about the difficulty they have had finding a well-built device that will hold up to classroom use.  They have had bad luck with the inexpensive models they purchased. We just purchased some Chromebooks for about $260 apiece including the annual device management license (which is much more expensive than our iOS MDM). We are anticipating that these Chromebooks will last  three years. If that turns out to be true, then our Chromebook cost per day will be $0.48, meaning our iPads are actually less expensive than Chromebooks. If the Chromebooks last longer than three years, the costs will be less. But three years from now our iPads could be eight years old and still working, bringing that overall cost down as well... 

Next year we are adding grade five and six students to our 1:1 program, so we will be 1:1 in grades 5-12. A few weeks ago we collected the iPads of our graduating seniors. Those four year old 16GB iPad2s will be redistributed to our fifth grade students in September. Last week we received a delivery of iPad 32GB Airs for this year's grade six students (pictured). If those iPads last as long as our first batch, our current seventh graders will turn them in when they graduate five years from now in 2021.  

Perhaps we will be able to use our iPad2s for more than five years, bringing the total cost down to even less, who knows?  The iPad has turned out to be a great device not only in terms of instruction, but also as a great choice for maximizing the return on our investment.  

Other posts related to iPads

More about Minnetonka's 1:1 iPad Program

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