Are tablets the next educational innovation?

As promised I’m going to look at the potential for using tablets (ie Xoom, iPad…) in education. So, there are a lot of people who want to know if tablets are the next educational innovation. My first response is: that depends on your educational purpose. When we are talking about technology tools, whether it is hardware or software, it has to come back to the purpose.  It comes down to these questions:

  • What is your learning objective?
  • What is the best ‘process’ to achieve the learning objective?
  • What result will show you that your students really achieved the learning? (and can transfer that knowledge…)

William M. Ferriter (@plugusin and the Tempered Radical) wrote a great article in the February 2011 edition of Educational Leadership entitled ‘Good Teaching Trumps Good Tools’ that really got to the heart of the purpose:

Students sitting in high-tech classrooms armed with interactive whiteboards, iPads, and handheld video cameras but staffed by teachers who can’t craft lessons that integrate the skills needed for success aren’t any better off than their counterparts in unplugged classrooms. Good teacher trumps good tools every time.

So, that brings me back to tablets in education. I created the following diagram that you can refer to when you are wondering if you should use a tablet or other device… With that said, remember often you don’t just need a device for one of these purposes so you will need to also think about your overall learning environment.

2 thoughts on “Are tablets the next educational innovation?

  1. I like your overall perspective, but am very confused by the flow chart. Perhaps you could clarify:
    1) If you do not have access to a wireless network a laptop/netbook/desktop is better? I assume this is because you can plug in – but then again that assumes not having wireless = having wired network.

    1b) This also implies that a tablet is better for accessing and communicating as long as you have wifi – perhaps not true for blogging, checking e-mail, and ergonomics (in some cases).

    2) If you need portability a netbook or laptop is NOT a good choice? I like tablet’s but my netbook is also VERY portable.

    3) If there is a tablet app, the tablet app is better than a netbook, laptop or desktop? There are a lot of fun apps, but for ever good app there are 10 really bad ones. Just because there is an app doesn’t mean you should use a tablet!

    1. @amil thanks for the feedback- I probably should have clarified the areas better. I did not mean for one section to totally dictate which devices are better. (probably should have put ‘maybe’ instead of yes/no) I agree with you that netbooks/laptops would be just as portable and usable with wireless as tablets would be. I was actually trying to make the opposite point (admittedly not very well) that without wireless you can pretty much rule out the full potential of tablets.
      I also think we are actually on the same page here- I totally agree that just because there is ‘an app for that’ doesn’t mean it is the best application for your educational purpose. Many of the apps out there are just like you said, pretty bad. They really are just ‘digital worksheets’ which I certainly wouldn’t say is good teaching or learning.
      My belief is very similar to yours- the tablets to me have too many limitations. I do think that apps for creating our starting to be developed, but we will need a better way to input information.
      Thanks again for the feedback- one thing is for sure the discussion about what is the better device will continue to be hashed out… and hopefully all parties will continue to look at the educational purpose first.

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