Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Benefits and Challenges of Using Tablets in Classrooms

The incorporation of digital devices for students and instructors is becoming a major trend in education. The recent appearance and early adoption of tablets by young people is pushing the acceptance of these devices into the classrooms which, in turn, have been broadly presented (at least by the media) as the “next step” or the “natural evolution in the wave of future education.” Even though there are potential promises of educational impacts of tablets, educators should weigh the potential challenges as well before utilizing tablets into teaching and learning. Below is the list of some of the benefits and challenges of using tablets in classrooms with the resources where they were discussed.

Benefits:

1. Tablet computers, like the iPad, are interactive communicator and book-reader tools. They are also an imminent second wave of “must-have” technology for students. Their large screens (about 10 inches diagonally) and large memory (16 GBytes minimum) and similar processing power to Netbook PCs differentiate them from mobile phones and give them a different IT dimension: they are not just communicators, or toys, they are computers. http://www.bsrlm.org.uk/IPs/ip31-1/BSRLM-IP-31-1-20.pdf

2. A Tablet’s functionality potentially allows it to behave as a paperless combined textbook/notebook/test-paper/progress-record. A textbook may be downloaded and stored for use as needed. The Tablet’s interactive property allows the textbook to function as a notebook- meaning the user can make notes, highlight, and even look up the meaning of words. The progress/recorder allows attempted work to be automatically logged and all marks awarded to be automatically entered from the instructor’s machine. http://www.bsrlm.org.uk/IPs/ip31-1/BSRLM-IP-31-1-20.pdf

3. An Extensive library of apps are available either free or reasonably priced, as compared to computer software which is usually quite costly, allowing the student experience to be easier and more affordably accessed. http://www.pcmag.com/reviews/software

Challenges:

1. Drawbacks of usage. A seven-week-long study by the University of Notre Dame found that students did indeed like learning with the tablet computers, but that they used the devices differently than was expected. The students also identified some drawbacks of bringing iPads into the classroom, such as the difficulty of taking notes on the tablet. The auto correct typing function can create very interesting passages as well as frustrations. In the study, more than half the students reported feeling frustrated when highlighting text and taking notes within e-books on the iPad. Another drawback was the fact that multiple “windows” or files couldn’t be kept open, side-by-side, on the iPad, unlike a full-fledged computer. http://www.forbes.com/sites/elizabethwoyke/2011/01/21/pros-and-cons-of-ipads-in-the-classroom/

2. Monitoring use.  Though tablets allow students to learn at their own pace, some educators are worried about how to handle a classroom full of independent learners.  Many educators expressed concern about monitoring students while they use their tablet. The biggest problem with tablets is students’ visiting sites other than those for learning. http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/top-3-problems-with-tablets-in-the-classroom/

3. Incompatible Applications - Until all tablets can use all applications/websites there are limits to how well the tools can be used in the classroom. (http://chronicle.com/article/iPads-for-College-Classrooms-/126681/). As faculty, we must select tools that are compatible with the greatest number of devices – especially if one allows a BYOD environment.

In sum, it is worth experimentation and identifying whether or not a tablet will help your students consume course content and learn. Even though there are potential promises of educational impacts of tablets, educators should weigh the potential challenges as well before utilizing tablets into teaching and learning. At the end of the day, if using a table is helpful to facilitate student success, we should embrace it to the extent it facilitates the learning process and causes no harm.

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