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Tablets – a must have (in education)?

May 13, 2012

The Horizon Report 2012 put tablets on the near-term horizon.

Tablet computing presents new opportunities to enhance learning experiences in ways simply not possible with other devices. High-resolution screens allow users of tablets, such as the iPad, to easily share content with each other and pore over images and videos on the screen. As people tend to use tablets to supplement and not replace smartphones, they are viewed as less disruptive tools (no phone ringing and no incoming text messages), which makes them ideal tools for learning opportunities. Because tablets are able to tap into all the advantages that mobile apps bring to smaller devices, but in a larger format, higher education institutions are seeing them not just as an affordable solution for one-to-one learning, but also as a feature-rich tool for field and lab work, often times replacing far more expensive and cumbersome devices and equipment.

When I think of tablets I think first off all iPad. Sure other tablet brands are now on the market and even discounters offer tablets, lately.

But will tablets really change education or are they just a nice-to-have gadget?

Apple proclaims that “The device that changed everything is now changing the classroom

“iPad inspires creativity and hands-on learning with features you won’t find in any other educational tool — on a device that students really want to use. Powerful built-in apps and apps from the App Store let students engage with content in interactive ways, find information in an instant, and access an entire library wherever they go. And now, with the introduction of Multi-Touch textbooks, iPad takes learning to a whole new level.

iPad apps are expanding the learning experience both inside and outside the classroom. From interactive lessons to study aids to productivity tools, there’s an app for every learner.”

According to Apple are 1,5 Million tablets in use on German schools and universities. A number that is hard to believe for me. Working on a vocational school discussions about iPad classes are not even on the long-term horizon and without a WLAN not really feasible. But I should not conclude from my experience. In this month magazine from the E & W (education and science / Erziehung und Wissenschaft) there is an article about tablets “iPad instead of textbook” giving examples how the ipad is used e.g. in sports lesson. Parkour is the name of the program and students watch the video that teach them how to perform the single exercises within the parcour. Another example describes the use of iPads for language learning. The principal from an elementary school describes tablets as a tool that support self-directed learning and another teacher state that you want miss this tool once you saw a digital textbook with 3-D-Animation. Apple offers now a new software called iBooks author. It is free to use in your own lessons, yet a commercially distribution is only possible by iBooks store and Apple takes 30 % of the retail price. But Apple also control which digital book will be released. Critical voices also caution that education might become to commercialized by Apple and claim that

“We need to stay players, not become the ball”

The article also provides links to the ‘Blog from the Kölner Kaiserin-Augusta-Schule‘ or the project ‘Digital textbooks‘ among others.

André Spang the project-admin form iPad-KAS (Kaiserin-Augusta-Schule) introduced

“iPaducation” – iPad in teaching”

during last years iMedia. He presented how they use iPads in 5 – 13 grade, which was really interesting. They decided to use iPads instead of laptops and had a lot of success in classes.

This year the vocational school in Prüm presents their use of iPads in teaching and address as well as the subject e-portfolios with iPads. However, compared to the large number of ‘Infoshops’ about LMS (learning management systems) like Moodle, the use of tablets and mobile apps, the topic discussed during the last two weeks is pretty much underrepresented.

Personally, I think tablets are nice-to-have gadgets and a 3G tablet would solve the non-existing WLAN issue and I could use mine to present teaching and learning content which requires right now to switch school buildings, in case the limited rooms with projectors are available and even if we are lucky I cannot present videos from YouTube which is blocked in school.

However, probably I should follow the advice from Doebelli Honegger who presents five theses about tablets stating that

  • tablets only present a new element in kindergarten
  • at a certain school level tablets are inadequate
  • tablets have not yet revealed any didactical innovation
  • impersonal tablets are from no use in education
  • tablets are actually trendy, but the will be relevant for the future only as BYOD (bring your own device) or as 1:1

Well, according to him there I should not be worried about tablet use in my vocational school as they present no new element for my students, they are deficient at the school level (10 grade and higher) and the have not presented an added value so far.

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From → #OPCO12

One Comment
  1. Right now, I think the iPad is the best choice for 1-to-1 provision, and so far no competitor seems particularly close to producing a lower cost tablet that comes even close in terms of features and performance.

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