Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update




« BFTP: 7 brilliant things teachers do with technology | Main | Do you complement the computer? »

Tablet or laptop? A literacy Rorschach test

A couple days ago, my friend Miguel Guhlin posted a matrix of popular personal computing devices on his Around the Corner blog. Thoughtful and comprehensive, my take-away from the comparison is that if you work at it, you can get about any device to do what you want it to do.

While I don't really want to fan the flames of what has come down to an iPad vs Chromebook* war among techno-enthusiasts, I'm starting to think that one's preference may be a simple test of how one personally defines literacy.

At the most basic level, some educators see the need for a physical keyboard while some see the need for a rear-facing camera. To me that says writing is a primary skill to be practiced if you favor a Chromebook; transliteracy - communicating in multiple formats including video - is a primary skill if you want an iPad in your classroom.

By virtue of screen readability, Chromebook fans see the ability to read short passages from a landscape oriented screen for a short duration as literacy. iPad's portrait screen orientation and high resolution make it a good choice for reading longer works like, well, books.

Overly simple? Prove it.


* OK, you can extend this to other brands or tablets and laptop style devices.

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (7)

My really simple explanation is that a tablet is an output device. As in, "you want to send things out of it." A laptop/Chromebook is an input device. As in, "you want to type things into it." Not entirely accurate, but simple. I have a personal iPad and we use Chromebooks at school. I really like them both....Can I please have BOTH?

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnnette Mills

Hi Annette,

Unless your school has a lot more money than ours, you're going to have to choose. Sorry!

(However, I use an iPad, a Macbook Air, a Kindle and a desktop computer. The district only provides the desktop and iPad.)


January 9, 2014 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Our district provides desktops and desktops and is switching over to laptops. They're exploring BYOD but our school is about to try their luck with Nexus 7s. I don't know that what device you prefer defines your take on literacy. I think it's more about what you have access to, what you can get and what tool is best for what job. They would have to seriously improve the network, wifi and connect-ability at my school for me to care one way or the other at this point, however.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJim Randolph

I'd stick with my Nexus 7 if I have to choose. I hate reading on a laptop and I'm a heavy Kindle app user. In addition it takes nice pictures and automacially backs them up on Plus. Then the NSA to scan those for unruly activity, like sledding with our kids. Google Docs is much more solid (duh) then on an iPad. I don't often write 7 page papers, but as I prepare to return to grad school this spring I might force myself to write a paper on it. Plus I can get Angry Birds Star Wars II.

I would like to say I app smash and mash but I don't. Perhaps I'm a low end user, but these are the things I do.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathan Mielke

While at home we are tablet-oriented when it comes to casual Internet use and media, we do have some Bluetooth keyboards floating around when we actually need to DO something mobile & productive on them.

Common Core has actually driven us toward the Chromebook for just this reason. The idea of thousands of keyboards floating around, not to mention the same number wireless pointing devices for testing purposes, makes device management issues a central part of the device discussion. With 3rd graders needing to produce ELA products through the year and then be tested on those devices, the Chromebook rises to the level of no-brainer when it comes to all-pupose usefulness. We get much more instructional bang for our buck than we could with tablets for the grade 3-12 age segment.

January 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBill Storm

Hi Ninja,

Not just what one has access to, but what one has experience with seems to dictate preferences. As much as I love my iPhone, my Kindle and my iPad, it's my laptop they'll have to pry from my cold dead fingers. Maybe my theory ain't so good here.

All the best,


Hi Nathan,

Had our district not been sort of early adopters of iPads, I am sure we'd be looking at Android tablets in some flavor. Same concept; different button colors.

Hope the NSA likes my Christmas pictures too.

All the best,


Hi Bill,

Since MN is not a full-bore CommonCore state, we've not really needed to factor this in. My biggest Chrome concerns are the lack of a rear-facing camera, need for constant internet access, and poor screen for reading longer texts. Maybe next year the perfect device will appear that does it all and costs a nickel. And I will win the lottery and Nobel Prize!

Take care and happy new year,


January 11, 2014 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Tablet = consume
Laptop = create

I choose both

January 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>