Tim Scratcherd (the School House Partnership) and I were recently asked to write a report for the Oxford Education School Improvement Series on the use of Tablets and Apps. The purpose of this report is to provide practical support and guidance for school leadership teams who are considering the purchase of tablet devices. The report is aimed at school leaders and teacher in England but the ideas within the report are transferable to other parts of the world.
With permission from Oxford I’ll be duplicating some of the report on olliebray.com over the next week. You can download the full report or order a paper copy over at the new Oxford School Improvement Tablet and App Help Centre.
Part Two - Tablets and Apps: How to ensure impact on teaching and learning – What are Tablets and Apps
Tablet computers have been on the market since 2002. However, tablet computing has become more popular in recent years. This ‘tablet revolution’ is partly due to the success of the Apple iPad that was first launched in 2010. The iPad is currently one of the most popular tablets on the market and its success has spawned a variety of competing devices that run different operating systems, such as Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows 8. Some of these devices and their operating systems are discussed in more detail in Jan Webb’s excellent comparison table.
A tablet is a mobile computer that usually has a touchscreen or a pen enabled interface (or both). A tablet computer does not normally have a built in physical keyboard which means that text input is normally carried out using an on-screen touch-screen keyboard. Physical keyboards are often available for tablets as peripheral items. Some of these keyboards, such as the one available for Microsoft’s Surface, also double up as a protective cover.
Tablet computers tend to be less powerful and have less physical storage space than traditional desktops and laptops. They also tend to have a very fast boot up time. Most tablet devices are Wi-Fi enabled and increasingly there is also capacity to connect to the Internet via 3G or 4G cellular services.
As well as their operating system tablet computers also often run apps (see below).
Tablets vs other portable devices
Tablets are great, they are not the only portable device available on the market. Other portable devices include:
- Laptop computers are portable computers that can be used with or without the Internet (eg: Apple MacBook Pro).
- Netbook computers are portable computers that gain most of their functionality through the Internet (eg: Google Chromebook).
- Smartphones continue to blur the lines between being phones and being powerful Internet enabled devices that link to the Internet though Wi-Fi but also cellular networks such as 3G and 4G (eg: iOS, Windows Mobile, Android, Blackberry, etc.).
- Tablet Computers fall somewhere in between laptop-like computers and large smartphones. All are wifi enabled but some also allow for 3G and 4G connectivity (eg: Microsoft Surface, iPad, Android Tablet, etc.)
- eBook Readers in their purest sense are designed for people to engage with text, although many also allow you to check you email and do other things (eg: Kindle, Kobo, etc.)
- Audio and Video MP3/MP4 Players let you play pre-installed content but may also allow you to connect to the Internet (eg: iPod Touch).
The power of tablets in teaching and learning
Tablet technology allows teachers access to a wide variety of resource though the Internet and/or their school VLE. Ubiquitous access to this type of technology helps teachers collaborate with other professionals from both within and outside their own school. This can help with the sharing of ideas, increases professional dialogue and can facilitate collaborative lesson planning. Although other technology may also facilitate the above, it is the portability, long battery life, quick boot up time and user experience that make tablet technology unique and powerful.
Tablet technology also has the potential to develop more personalised learning opportunities for children, where they use their devices to pursue (sometimes with support) their own personal interests and passions.
Tablet technology can also be used to assist with the personal regulation of learning through a variety of built in productivity tools, such as calendar, electronic mail and tasks. As well as supporting learners to self-reflect, track and be reflective of their own learning journey.
An ‘app’ is short for ‘application’, which is another name for a computer program. Apps aren’t exclusive to tablets. You can also get apps for smartphones and more traditional PCs. apps are just computer programmes that you download from the Internet from places called app Stores or Marketplaces.
Apps let your tablet do almost anything that the programmers can imagine, within the technical limitations of the device. Apps often make use of the hardware features of the tablet that they are running off, for example the camera and GPS.
Apps can range in price from free to around £50 for some specialist programmes. But most apps tend to cost between £1 - £3. Most app stores will allow you to browse specifically for free apps, and many of these have some relevance in education. You should check licensing arrangements if you want to install an app on a large number of devices.
The Post PC era
The Post-PC era is a term coined by Apple Inc. to describe a trend in the consumer electronics industry, where the use of a personal computer (PC)
as the primary form of technology is declining in favour of other devices such as smartphones and tablet computers.
The popularity of smartphones and tablets have influenced the economy of the computer industry; sales of traditional PCs (in particular desktops) have steadily fallen since surge in popularity for post-PC devices that was started by the introduction of the iPad upon its launch in 2010.
More about Net Books
A net book can be the same size as any normal laptop or smaller. The key difference between a netbook and a traditional laptop is that a netbooks gets most of its functionality through the Internet. The term Netbook comes from Internet - this means that they are likely to have less physical storage, run less proprietary software and have lower processing power to a normal laptop. A chromebook is the best example - because it is literally just as browser in a laptop shell.
In my next post I’ll discuss what good learning with tablets might look like? – you can download the full “Tablets and Apps: How to ensure impact on teaching and learning” report now for free over on the Oxford School Improvement Site.