This widespread consumer adoption of tablets has also lead to its proliferation in the business world with employees bringing their own tablets to work. We now see CEOs, physicians, lawyers and others begin to use the iPad or other tablets in their daily business activities on a regular basis. Companies have initiated pilot studies to determine the feasibility of tablet usage in their organizations from a security, manageability and productivity standpoint. So considering this trend , how has the adoption of the tablet been in the education sector? Are the tablets ready for the classroom? Just viewing Apple’s iPad commercial, one can begin to appreciate the potential uses of the tablet in a classroom. And as more manufacturers come out with their device, the options and possibilities that arise will definitely increase. Potential benefits of using tablets in the classroom are:
Enrich the learning experience and instructional level
Technology is an enabler and the goal of implementing technology should be to enable the organization to meet its goal. The main question to answer in the educational setting is whether the introduction of the tablet enriches the student learning experience and/or increases the instructional level in the classroom. Some schools definitely think so. Educators say that the flat tablet computers offer a variety of benefits.
They include interactive programs to demonstrate problem-solving in math, scratchpad features for note-taking and bookmarking, the ability to immediately send quizzes and homework to teachers, and the chance to view videos or tutorials on everything from important historical events to learning foreign languages. They're especially popular in special education services, for children with autism spectrum disorders and learning disabilities, and for those who learn best when something is explained with visual images, not just through talking. Some advocates also say the interactive nature of learning on an iPad comes naturally to many of today's students, who've grown up with electronic devices as part of their everyday world.
Tablets are thin, lightweight and always on. They easily in to student backpacks and can even easily be carried in hand from one classroom to another. Most students are now used to the touch factor, having some sort of smart phone or other touch device at home.
Less weight to carry around
Reading textbooks on tablets can be very interactive experience. Instead of a diagram and explanation of a scientific theory, the student can view an animation of the process. They can take notes, highlight important parts and even share their ideas with each other. Even though the current tablets do not have the processing power of a full size laptop or a desktop, they are adequately equipped to deal with most common student tasks. The student does not have to lug a bulky backpack and the school district might save money on the cost of textbooks, while providing a richer 21st century experience to the students.
Colleges and universities have begun to adopt cloud based solutions that enable students and faculty to access their data and applications from various devices. The tablet fit this trend extremely well given their portability and rapid connectivity. Students at Columbia Independent School have been using the tablets since the beginning of the school year.
Administrators bought dozens of the $500 tablets at a discount rate from Apple and loan them to sixth graders through seniors.School officials said iPads work better than laptops. Columbia Independent School Teacher Doug Sept said, “We’ve seen a lot of advantages as far as portability goes. The students are able to access their files easier because we are using so many internet-based options and cloud computing which allows students to save files wirelessly.”
The iPad ecosystem is extremely large, diverse and robust; with over 500,000 available for download. There are numerous applications that educators can use for elementary as well as higher grades.The Android tablet market place is also growing extremely rapidly and educators can leverage these applications to deliver a truly enriching experience for the students.
The costs of textbooks is spirally upwards every year. Average college textbook cost is around $100. The average student spends almost $1000 a year on textbook with little or no use later on. The iPads generally cost districts between $500 and $600, depending on the exact model purchased. However, the competition in the tablet market place is starting to drive the purchase price downward, resulting in substantial savings when compared to the total yearly cost of the textbooks.
The USA today article also mentions that Apple officials say they know of more than 600 districts that have launched what are called "one-to-one" programs, in which at least one classroom of students is getting iPads for each student to use throughout the school day. Nearly two-thirds of them have begun since July, according to Apple. In Massachusetts, every student at Burlington High School near Boston will also start the year with new school-issued iPads, each loaded with electronic textbooks and other online resources in place of traditional bulky texts. Burlington High principal Patrick Larkin calls the $500 iPads a better long-term investment than textbooks, though he said the school will still use traditional texts in some courses if suitable electronic programs aren't yet available. He also feels that the iPads will give the kids a chance to use much more relevant materials. The iPad adoption is also on the rise in many urban districts in New York City, Chicago.
The iPad and the tablet category certainly have a tremendous potential as a game changer in the education sector. The two videos embedded underneath show how schools are using the tablets in innovative ways to increase instructional quality, increase student involvement, engagement and overall learning experience. The full benefits of the tablet in the classroom will only be realized when we give the teachers and students the opportunity to use them in a meaningful way. I believe that tablets will open up new methods of teaching and learning and will be a great asset in the educators toolkit. Testing the use of tablets in a pilot study test environment before a full rollout will help school administrators determine the right infrastructure needed to support these devices. It should be noted that the iPad or other tablets are not the end all in providing our students with a great learning experience. The devices themselves and the technology are only an enabler. They certainly have benefits in the classroom, however they cannot substitute the need for strong curriculum and skilled teachers. Ultimately it is the school curriculum, the instructional methods that use technology in an innovative and appropriate way, and the students desire to learn; all coupled together that make education a really rewarding and enriching experience.