I have had the Google Nexus 7 tablet for about 10 days now and I thought I should probably share what I think about it. Firstly, I am not really a gadget person. Actually I  am, but I am not the person that buys the gadget on the first day of release and then must have the latest update the following year. I have a set selection of gadgets and they do a job. I don’t like spending money on stuff unless I need to. In fact, I only bought an Xbox last October. That’s how late I was to the party. So I don’t personally own a tablet as I haven’t seen a need for one. At home I have a PC (as does Charlie) and that is for work mainly. We also have a netbook but that spends 99% of the time connected to the TV rather than being using in any constructive fashion. Charlie bought it for use when she was at her previous school and the children didn’t have laptops in class, so she bought a netbook for them to use. I have always thought that I am happy with my distinction that my PC is for work and that is done upstairs in the study, the last thing I want is a tablet to work on while sitting on the sofa. Sofa time is spent relaxing (or playing on my phone). All in all, I don’t fancy getting a tablet.

So why am I writing about the Nexus? Well I’m borrowing it from school. We have a range of netbooks at school and these are great (from off to desktop in 4-5minutes) we use them for research of course, but also office stuff, google apps, blogging, scratch, photo editing and so on. They do everything we need them to. But a post from Pete Richardson (@primarypete_) got me thinking about tablets. I hadn’t thought much about them before for a few reasons:

Cost – We were in the third year of our three year leasing scheme so I knew we didn’t have much money to spend. There would be some if we wanted or needed to, but equipment wasn’t really on the horizon.

Apps – It’s all about the apps. Apps are great, but they require a different approach. Different can be good, of course it can, but in the space of two years we have tried to launch netbooks, blogging, Google Apps, Purple Mash, Brainpop, new ICT planning and many other things. Some have worked a little bit here and there but the thought of giving staff new devices with loads of new tools on them just frightened me. I’m all for innovation, but in our school we weren’t there yet.

I think the last bit is key. I was looking at this from the point of view of me, the staff, the children and the school. Not everyone does this. While at the Hampshire ICT conference, I had conversations with 5 different schools that were looking at iPads/iPod touches and all asked for my view on them. Should they buy them? I asked them all one simple question – “What do you want to do with them?” and the answers varied from “I’m not sure” to “the head saw them and thought they looked good”. This is worrying isn’t it? There are many great things happening with tablets but it scares me that many people will buy these devices and not know what to do with them. I went to a school a year ago, it had 30 iPod touches and many, many other devices around the school too. I suggested looking at the apps available for the iPods and the teacher looked shocked as she thought iPods were just for music…..

Anyway. Back to our school and our thoughts. I wrote back in May about our first tablet, the Playbook. We bought one to play with and it gradually made it’s way around the school from class to class. Some loved it and used it to blog photos (such as Reception www.stjohnsblogs.co.uk/reception) and some used it as a tool to go on the internet with. What the Playbook offered was a way of ding what we were already doing (taking photos and blogging them) but in a much quicker fashion. I was happy to go ahead and order more of these until the Nexus was announced. I spoke to the head, bought one and it arrived just before we broke up for school. My plan is still to try a few different devices, put them in the hands of children and staff and see what they think. Then hopefully, find some money to buy some. I still haven’t been able to afford an iPad or find a company willing to let me try one for a month, so that’s not been considered.

So…as the blog post suggests…what do I think?

I am definitely an Android user. My last two phones have been Android and I am happy with it. I haven’t used an Apple device for more than about 5 minutes. I once tried to use iTunes and I hated it and I haven’t gone back. When it comes to choosing a phone, Android was always a bit cheaper than an iPhone so that has helped sway me too. I know I should be more open, but I like what Android does so the Nexus feels normal and comfortable straight away.

It is very much a device for showcasing the content that you have bought. When it loads up you are presented with a splashscreen showing the videos and books you have bought through the Play store. The default browser is Chrome and this works nice enough, browsing in fact is very quick indeed. I liked the fact that when I went home, it already knew what my wireless was called (because of the profile on my phone) so it connected it straight away.

As for price, it is £159 (or £120 without VAT for schools) so that is very much in the iPod touch ball-park but with a bigger screen. Hhmmm….

One major flaw though is the lack of Flash. Now I know that many people hate Flash and see it as the devil that is holding back web development, but many sites in school require Flash. My vision is to use the tablets to watch videos, use Purple Mash, explore Busy Things and so on. All of this is being held back by a lack of Flash and the fact that not everything is in HTML5 yet. In fact, after 3-4 hours of exploring workarounds and different browsers, it is only yesterday after 9 days with the Nexus that I have finally got Flash working through a Beta of Firefox. It’s a big hassle. It doesn’t play properly, but it will do.

Another downside to the Nexus is the rubbish camera. There is only a front-facing camera so taking snaps is a complete no-go. The camera is used for Skype etc and that is about it.

Overall the Nexus is a nice enough device but it just feels like a big phone. Typing on it is not quite as quick as my HTC One X but maybe it just takes some getting used to. I do like it, but I don’t think it offers me much more over the devices I already have at home.

I’ve also brought a Playbook home with me for the Summer too. One of them will go with me on holiday but which one?

The Playbook has more storage 32GB vs Nexus with 8GB, but the apps and games on the Nexus are easier to find and as I said, I have an Android phone so they are all synced already. I think for this holiday the Nexus will win, after all, I will take a camera on holiday so I won’t be using the tablet’s camera. I’ll mainly be watching videos on the plane and using it in case I;m bored if it rains and we’re stuck inside.

But what about for school? The Playbook wins by a landslide. It gives children the chance to have a device in their hands for £150 that can browse the internet (with full Flash), take pictures and blog them, use Google Apps, access YouTube and geocache as well. In fact, at the moment, everything we need from a device is available within the Playbook. I will still give the children the chance to play with both devices when we go back but so far they have loved the Playbook and yes, I know that if I gave them an iPod or iPad, they would love this too, but as I said. Cost has to come into these decisions as well.

What devices do you have in your school? Who was involved in the decision?


Update: During pre-holiday testing, I tried uploading some .avi files to both devices to watch on the plane. The Nexus didn’t play them at all, said that codecs were incorrect and some Googling says that I might need to convert them first or find other players but the Playbook plays them straight away. Maybe they will both need to go on holiday? Playbook for the films on the plane and Nexus for playing games when I’m sunbathing?

2nd Update (4 weeks later): Both devices went with me on holiday and I didn’t touch the Playbook once. Why? I used the Nexus for two main reasons. One was for the Kindle app, allowing me to read multiple books while relaxing on the beach.  The other was that there were superior games available on the Nexus so that when I had finished reading, I could play those too. Now I have used the Playbook on the train a few times since and this has been to watch films that the Nexus didn’t play. I have to say that I like both devices but for school, the Playbook still wins hands-down. The fact it has Flash, a camera and a blogging app all for (Curry’s special rate of) £129inc vat. It’s a bargain and I can’t wait to take them into school and let the children loose with them.