Tablet Learning Opens New Horizons in Education

A few decades ago, the thought of students using anything other than paper, pencil and a thick textbook to learn in a traditional classroom was the stuff of dreams. By the late 1990s, computer laptops in the classroom had become the norm. Today, the iPad is showing up everywhere from elementary school to college campuses.

How has the iPad changed the way we learn?

Tablet learning has been touted as the ultimate synthesis of computing with mobile communication, including a keyboard, mouse, graphics and mobile ability rolled into one. With a significant amount of content and numerous applications designed for the tablet, these devices surpass traditional laptops and netbooks with a combination of complex options yet simple, streamlined and intuitive design.

What does this mean for learning? Tablets like the iPad provide an acceptable alternative to high schools and colleges that have not yet embraced the laptop craze but have banned mobile devices as being too disruptive or distracting. The iPad, as the blend of both devices, serves as a perfect way for educators and students to move together into the new horizons of education.

What new options can tablets offer for education?

Tablet learning can open up new horizons for education, including a few you might not have considered. Take the typical textbook, for example. By the time a textbook is reviewed, revised, printed and delivered into the hands of students, much of the material between the covers is already obsolete. With the tablet, fully interactive textbooks can be quickly downloaded by the students for a small fee, then updated as often as necessary by the publishers, thus delivering the most up-to-date information possible.

The cost of e-books is also a selling point. Rather than purchasing a list of books required for classes, students can simply download a popular book at a fraction of the cost. School districts can make the most of this for their students by purchasing the rights to download a particular textbook and provide it to all students for free or at a cost far below that of buying bound textbooks for all their pupils.

Tablet learning also provides a wide variety of media in one place. Rather than watching a video on a projection screen, opening up a textbook to read a passage, or writing an essay on paper that then must be handed in to the teacher, students can do all those activities on the tablet.

Despite their vast abilities, tablets are very mobile devices. They make studying on the move much easier with a wide variety of applications, keep you connected to peers and educators at all times, and offer all of these new opportunities at an affordable price.

What about iPad's competitors?

The iPad and iPad 2 might be the most well-known tablets, but there are other contenders that could be viable options for use in modern education.

The Motorola Xoom offers the option of Adobe Flash, a webcam for video chatting (virtual study group, anyone?) and a USB connectivity port for ease of use with other devices. The Galaxy Tab by Samsung offers seven hours of continuous video playback on one battery charge, the Google Android operating system and support for BlueTooth technology.

The Playbook by Research in Motion allows the user to sync their tablet with their Blackberry, while the G-Slate from LG will have the technology to shoot 3-D video. The HP TouchPad is expected to be a master of multi-tasking by working well with wireless printers and smart phones.

What does the future of tablets hold?

According to a report from Morgan Stanley, over 100 million tablets are expected to ship to consumers in 2012. That growth rate is higher than that of any other mobile device in history, and there is little doubt that the massive influx of tablets into the consumer market has the potential to change the face of education forever.

But what comes next? The crystal ball is already showing a promising future for the iPad and education. At Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts in Providence, Rhode Island, students in the seventh grade are using iPads for everything from editing videos to emailing their homework to teachers. Millstone Township Elementary School in New Jersey plans to buy iPads for third graders to help promote literacy in developing readers.

Though tablets are a very new learning device, the options have become more technologically advanced since the launch of the iPad. By the time current elementary school students are ready to go to college, the tablets they use to learn will likely have become faster, lighter and much more intuitive. The traditional textbook may even be obsolete.

Just as laptops took the world by storm and changed the educational landscape, tablets may now do the same. With increased competition among the companies who create the technology, the future of tablet learning looks promising.


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