A question I get asked a lot is, “What’s the best tablet for homeschooling?” Honestly, there is no right answer. The one that’s right for you depends on a number of different factors. Some of the things to consider are price, purpose, and performance.
Here are the 7 things you should consider before you purchase you first or next tablet for homeschooling. Keep in mind that your needs are different than mine so you need to weigh each of these criteria according to your homeschooling style and needs.
Choosing the Right Tablet for Homeschooling
1. Purpose – Consider how you want to use the device. Will it be only for a single purpose or do you want something more versatile? Consider these options:
PC replacement? You’ll want something that can multi-task and possibly run some of the same apps on your home computer or laptop.
E-book reader? Honestly, you shouldn’t buy a tablet for this. Kindle e-book readers are inexpensive and the screens are perfect for reading books in bright light (like outside) the reflective screens of tablets make reading books a bit prohibitive. If you’re going to do a lot of reading along with other things, consider an anti-glare screen protector.
Educational apps? The Apple AppStore and Google Play stores have the most educational apps for their devices. Amazon maintains their own app store and Microsoft has even fewer titles.
Entertainment? Besides entertainment apps (Netflix, etc.) you may also want to consider the overall entertainment choices. If you’ve already committed to Apple’s or Amazon’s ecosystem it may be prudent to stick with what you know can be transferred to your new device.
2. Storage – Do you want expandable storage? Will you be installing a lot of apps or downloading movies? Most Android tablets have expandable storage but how it can be used varies among devices. Some allow you to install apps on extra storage and others only allow you to store data like pictures, music, books, and movies. Prices increase as you add storage. Typically storage amounts start at 8GB and go up to 64GB so get the most you can afford.
3. Usage – Tablets are typically designed for one person. Will you share? Sharing is easier with Android and Microsoft. Apple products have yet to incorporate “personalities” or user accounts in their tablets. If your kids will share the device you’ll find it easier to manage the device with multiple accounts.
4. Size – 7-inch screen or 10-inch screen (Kindle Fire falls between). Younger kids find the larger icons of a 10 inch tablet easier to manipulate but teens will have no problems with a 7 inch tablet. The size of the device also affects the weight. The distribution of the weight in the device can put some additional strain on your wrists when holding it.
5. Battery life – Most tablets get about 10 hrs of use from their battery but larger screens generally mean shorter battery life. If you’re traveling a lot with the device you’ll want to choose something that has 10+ hours of battery life or make sure you’ve always got your charging adapter with you. If you plan to use it at home more battery life may not be as important.
6. Wi-fi only or cellular? Having a cellular connection makes it more convenient to get connected to the Internet but increases the cost significantly because not only are you paying for the additional hardware but the data plan too. My recommendation: stick with wi-fi only unless you know you need cellular service. Wi-fi is fairly ubiquitous and you can always add on the option to have your smartphone act as a hot-spot.
7. Cost – Under $299 (Nexus 7, Kindle Fire) , $300-$599 (iPad, Nexus 10, Surface 2), $600 & up (Surface Pro, some iPads). Don’t forget to check for refurbished models. Refurbished iPads cost $50-$100 less but come with the same warranty. Best bang for your buck: Google Nexus 7.
I truly believe there isn’t one answer to this question. What’s the best tablet for homeschooling? The one that meets your needs and budget restrictions. The best and most popular apps will make it to all the platforms. Truthfully, one of the things I look for in apps is whether or not it’s available on multiple platforms. This shows me there is a development team behind the product that’s not just interested in making a quick buck off of iPad owners. Textbooks and other tools are available on every platform and in the end I think it really comes down to 2 things: your budget and your preference.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Music for the podcast by Kevin Macleod.