Most tablets can do what other tablets do, including getting students and teachers to the Internet, which is big for Google schools, especially with Google’s recent announcements to provide more in the way of education apps at their Play Store. But what can separate the right choice in tablets from the pack, today, is what comes with the tablet—out of the box—for the price of the tablet. I know that this may rub some educators the wrong way, who have the time, are app savvy, and consider themselves pioneer technologists as well as educators, but the reality is that most teachers are not doing education technology presentations outside of their own classroom and with and for their students.
For someone, who in his time, was considered a bit of a rogue education technologist, I need to bring a little common sense to choosing tablets, and for that matter mobile learning devices. If a device comes fully packed with apps and solutions that teachers and learners need and can use—out of the box—easily—right away, there are many advantages. I’m not talking simple games, here. I’m talking educationally sound and educationally tested solutions, provided by education trusted and educator-minded providers. This means that teachers and students can use the devices productively without a lot of professional development, and more natural experimenting and interaction happens to, from, and with students—right away. Educators using devices with the right productivity suite of tools, as well as assessment and classroom organization software have an immediate advantage. Everything can add to the daily learning feedback, student-data collection, and in the long run education big data districts need, without spending the time is seeking, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and in other words—without reinventing the wheel.
All that said, I’m constantly hearing educators and administrators say, “It’s not about the device.” Well, to a certain extent that may be true, but if you’re talking about teaching kids successfully in a 40-minute class on a daily basis, you’d better have the right devices, outfitted with the right tools that do what you need to do. If I ask the question of students and educators, “How regularly do you use, tablets, apps, technology in your teaching day?” I don’t want to hear, as an administrator, or school board member, or community member, “Not often… it’s difficult to work into my lessons. I don’t really know how.” Or from students, “We mostly play around on the tablets, I rarely take notes, or use it for classwork. I don’t know why we have them. In some classes the teachers use them and in others they don’t.”
The key is that a few can go out and get apps to do amazing things—right away and on their own—and enjoy taking all the time that it takes to do that, but those are not the many. The many still need reliable, appropriate, trusted solutions provided. They need that dependable start… that education tech-teaching foundation. And for students, knowing you have the right tools, easily accessible makes as much sense as knowing what is expected of you for each lesson and assignment. That saves teachers time, and adds class time and learning productivity. That is gold for students, educators and administration.
With tablets and mobile devices, or for that matter, any computing device, keeping what it does—what it will do—simply and easily understandable is important. “What will it do for me… for students?” is the question to answer for educators, administrators, and students. And there should be education appropriate tools on tablets/devices, beyond Internet access and the never-ending bloatware offerings. Past productivity tools, there needs also to be easy-to-use and easily accessible interactive assessment, interaction, and social collaboration tools. Whether you believe it or not, all of what students need cannot be found working in independent isolation. The learning environment should be more of a collaborative workplace for students and teachers, and if it is, the online extension of that workplace becomes more viable, too. So, it is more than the device—isn’t it? Choosing correctly has to be a best and complete learning choice.