Tablets in the Classroom

How long before your classroom is full of tablet computers?

2011, at least at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), is being called “the year of the tablet.” If you have used an iPad for more than 10 minutes at the Apple store or Best Buy, you know that if it isn’t 2011, the tablet’s year is certainly coming soon. 

What is most striking about the tablet form factor (and the iPad interface) is that non-techies are generally comfortable with it in about a day. Contrast this with the months or weeks that it takes some people to become comfortable with the the big “machines.” When you take a step back, desktops, notebooks, netbooks, etc. really are machines, not consumer devices such as telephones or TVs.

After having used an iPad for a few days, it became apparent to me that laptops are nothing more than an engineer’s idea of a “portable punch card station computer.” Having 101 buttons staring me in the face seems silly. 

More than the lack of buttons though, the tablet form factor is fantastic for K-12 students. It is portable, has a relatively large screen, and while it seems built for consumption, more than a few term papers will be written on them in 2011.

Say that tomorrow is today – tablet computers fill the room. Now what? 

Like the tablet has re-cast what a computer can be, how do we change our view of how to use them? If they aren’t punch card stations or typewriters, what are they? A big graphing calculator? Animated books? Communication devices? Sources of untold knowledge? Are they teaching tools for 21st Century Skills?

If each tablet computer was called a Learning Station instead, now how do we use them?

(In 2011, using a desktop or laptop as your “daily” computer use will be like using HTML tables for formatting your blog posts…)

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