RasPi Vs iPad - Raspberry Pi Forums (2023)

I think some folks need to get their reading spectacle prescriptions updated. This is a primary school, not a secondary school or university engineering school. Tossing only a pile of Pi boards into classrooms and walking away would be just as much of a waste of money as tossing a pile of iPads in there and sauntering off. This reminds me of how politicians are all hot and excited to spend billions to buy hundreds of the latest-and-greatest sexy fighter aircraft, but then balk at spending anything for fuel, weapons, maintenance, facilities, upgrades, and especially training over the long haul. One teacher wants to start a code club and may be willing to go to the extreme lengths necessary on their own time to become the local Pi/Linux/Python/GPIO/etc., expert and that's great. However, I can tell you from painful experience that teachers willing to do so are few and far between, especially in primary schools.

The main reason for educators gravitating toward iPads is that it's a very convenient way to migrate away from the literally tons of books and ancillary material that kids, teachers, and parents are having to haul around, store, inventory, keep clean, replace, etc. The average textbook costs around $70 today, with those for more specialized subjects going for upwards of $400 a copy due to supply and demand. Eben has joked about how clueless the Foundation members were when they set the goal prices of the Pi at $25/$35 to be around those for a textbook, and most adults are just as clueless. As in any sector, the costs of the infrastructural "tail" are usually ignored when purchasing decisions are made.

For starters, there's no such thing as "just buying a Pi" - it doesn't even come with a power supply, and you can't use any cell phone charger and cable that happens to be available, despite early wishful thinking on the part of proponents. One can't plug in any old keyboard and pointing device and be guaranteed of problem-free operation. No one ever seems to factor in how output from the Pi is going to be displayed, which is much more costly than the Pi boards and all of the other peripherals required, on something that you'll have to look at all day, let alone kids whose bodies are still developing (including their eyesight at primary school ages). Then there's all the options for USB-based filesystems (on flash or hard drives for better performance), the powered USB hub that may be necessary to support additional peripherals, and we haven't even touched on what gets connected to the GPIO port, yet.

Even with NOOBS, someone has to decide what OS(es) will be used, what optional packages may need to be downloaded and installed, what configuration options should be settled on for every software package that's going to be used, and then actually performing the installation, configuration, etc. This has become less painful over time with the continuing evolution of NOOBS and the inclusion of things like Mathematica, Oracle Java, etc., but really only during the past couple of months. Educators generally don't have time to update things as often as technically-oriented folks, so they tend to stick with whatever was in place at the beginning of the school year until the end of the semester or even school year. There's a saying about choosing to fight the enemy you know being preferable to one you don't, and you haven't lived on the edge until you try to run something in front of restless kids that isn't ready for prime time. Yes, there are times when exploration and experimentation are apropos (especially by the kids), but that's not most of the time, especially outside non-STEM classes.

The cost of training anyone to use a tablet is much lower than that required to attain an equal level of proficiency on a Pi, even if you're only talking in terms of time and not money (which, as intelligent people know, are equivalent). This is particularly true for any iPad - Android is nice, but it's designed for people who want to tweak every possible nuance on a device, which confuses those who are less twidget-inclined. Then, there's the plethora of Android versions, each with an expanded "feature" list that geeks, not users, came up with that not-coincidentally require ever-more hardware power (you do realize that software-oriented companies like Google, Microsoft, etc., heavily invest in hardware companies before they make major new releases available, right?). Apple is famous for its educational discount programs as they know that, in addition to making them dirt-simple to use, getting their products into the hands of people when they're younger is one way to combat the advantage that competitors have.

The latter schmooze corporate IT weenies to force employees to use what they deem is best for them, and that not coincidentally guarantees the weenies' continued employment due to the necessity to counter security vulnerabilities, replace and upgrade failed, "cheaper" hardware, etc. Now they've managed to get their long, ugly snouts under the tent in the educational sector, foisting the same insecure, expensive, overly-complex pile of junk on educators that they've been doing to corporate users for decades. Have you ever wondered why there is no Apple counterpart to the literal industry that has grown up for "certifying" technicians to support Microsoft products? It's an entire self-licking ice cream cone unto itself that's generates so much profit that it's a separate cost/revenue center on Microsoft's books.

An additional overlooked feature of the iPads is the free iBooks Author tool which, although it requires a Mac to run (and if MS came up with it, guess what it would require), allows the creation of stunning multimedia educational content that captures students' imaginations in ways that textbooks and other traditional content vehicles can't begin to approach. That includes auto-flowed text layout, assisted image placement, digital video and animation integration, linear and non-linear navigation widgets, and a bunch of other user interface and content manipulation bells, whistles, and gongs, all without the need to know anything about e-book, digital photo, digital video, animation, or other production techniques, hardware, or software. Think of iMovie on steroids and expanded to encompass just about any digital source medium at which you can shake a stick. The results can be published freely or for a 70% revenue share to authors (max educational iBook price is recommended to be $14.99) via the iTunes library and iTunes University distribution systems. I would promote the same thing on Android and other platforms, but there aren't any. Perhaps a version of iBooks Author that runs on the Pi can be developed by students around the world as a challenge project. I'd be willing to lead such an effort if other educators are interested since I've been a SillyCon Valley software engineer and project leader for the past 20 years and another 22 years of doing it for the Navy.

Having said all that (as usual) and being an unabashed practitioner of developing computing technology as well as introducing it into the classroom, the answer is that a mix of the two technologies would be very appropriate. If you already have them coming, iPads make for quite serviceable user input and display devices when running a headless Pi with WiFi, unless you need to display GPU-generated 3-D graphics or stream video, where an HDMI/DVI-D capable monitor/HDTV/projector/touchscreen will then be required. With multi-user Linux and appropriate user accounts, multiple tablets can access any given Pi to view, transfer, and otherwise operate on files and processes running on that Pi. With a lightweight web server such as nginx running on Pi systems, large numbers of tablets or other mobile devices can access information on the Pi systems via browsers or other tools. We shouldn't just be teaching students single-system computing, but distributed computing as soon as they can master the basics on a local machine.

Anyway, that's my buck-three-twenty, which is two cents adjusted for inflation since my inception RasPi Vs iPad - Raspberry Pi Forums (1)

The best things in life aren't things ... but, a Pi comes pretty darned close! RasPi Vs iPad - Raspberry Pi Forums (2)
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." -- W.B. Yeats
In theory, theory & practice are the same - in practice, they aren't!!!

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