What is Tablet Computing?

In the past two years, advances in tablets have captured the imagination of educators around the world. This category is led by the incredible success of the iPad, which at the time of publication had sold more than 85 million units and is predicted by GigaOM to sell over 377 million units by 2016. Other similar devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Kindle Fire, the Nook, Sony's Tablet S, and the Microsoft Surface have also entered this rapidly growing market. In the process, the tablet (a device that does not require a mouse or keyboard) has come to be viewed as a new technology in its own right, one that blends features of laptops, smartphones, and earlier tablet computers with always-connected Internet and thousands of apps with which to personalize the experience. As these new devices have become more used and understood, it has become even clearer that they are independent and distinct from other mobile devices such as smartphones, e-readers, or tablet PCs. With significantly larger screens and richer gesture-based interfaces than their smartphone predecessors — and a growing and ever more competitive market — they are ideal tools for sharing content, videos, images, and presentations because they are easy for anyone to use, visually compelling, and highly portable. Tablets have gained traction in education because users can seamlessly load sets of apps and content of their choosing, making the tablet itself a portable personalized learning environment.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Tablets have clearly become important and fairly commonly used tools in our learning landscape, as documented by the two most recent Horizon Higher Education reports. If we're looking for emerging technologies, we probably need to be looking elsewhere at this point without in any way losing sight of the fact that tablets will remain highly valuable in onsite and online learning.- paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 11, 2013
  • In our Faculty at the University of Leeds, we are looking into using tablets to distribute and access content used for meetings i.e. Instead of printing out all of the minutes and papers and distributing untold reams of paper, all members of the committee will access the materials in real time on their tablets before, during and after the meeting, saving time, effort, money and trees in the process, as well as introducing some of the less technologially comfortable members of the team to the joys of mobile technology, which is a real bonus. We are also looking at the possibilities of giving tablet devices to students when they join the university, but this is a lot further off into the distance. Indeed, giving all staff the devices amy well bring the student project into focus. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Oct 14, 2013
  • Tablets are maturing as a content creation tool as it is becoming more feasible to produce rich media projects on these highly portable devices. App creation tools such as InDesign has also made collaborative development projects a possibility for non-programers. - billshewbridge billshewbridge Oct 24, 2013
  • Tablets, particularly iPads by our university faculty are being used to access content, email, our LMS, and to access Web Ex and Adobe Connect conferences. The School of Education and Special Education department have been early adopters. - cchandler cchandler Oct 27, 2013cchandler

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • The "Always On" nature of tablets is their killer app in my opinion. In the time it takes to boot up my Windows 8 laptop, I can open up the smart cover on my iPad, read my emails, respond to my emails, do a little online shopping, and then close it up again. The Laptop is for heavy lifting: the iPad is there for light duties. This is the iPad's major selling point and, ultimately, will be its downfall - it's all about consumption, rather than creation. Answering emails is fine, but who would want to type a dissertation on a virtual keyboard? - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Oct 14, 2013
  • I agree with Damian that the way tablets are mostly used now is in consumption-mode unless students are given projects in which they are critical of the apps they are given and/or try to suggest/create apps to be used on in their area of studies. - bdieu bdieu Oct 14, 2013
  • Very much in agreement with both the above points - helga helga Oct 20, 2013 - lkoster lkoster Oct 24, 2013
  • Always On in the classroom connects as powerfully with the availability of Web tools/content as with apps. This needn't be either/or, but the description feels a little over-awed by apps to the exclusion of the ubiquitous Internet. - dicksonk dicksonk Oct 21, 2013
  • Applications for tablets are not created equal in the android and the IOS world.- cchandler cchandlercchandler
  • Textbook publishers may be missing the mark developing digital textbooks that are costly and too content extensive. Lighter versions of text with lighter prices need to be explored. A PDF is not a digital textbook.

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • Tablets are tremendous onsite resources in that they put access to magnificent resources in the palms of our hands, and they are tremendous facilitators of mobile learning for the connectivity they provide among learners, learning facilitators, and learning resources.- paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 11, 2013
  • When, and only when, we are prepared to give every student a particular tablet as they arrive at our institutions, will we all reap the rewards. At the moment, we have to produce learning materials and apps on several operating systems, but once a decision is made to ensure everyone has the same device, then multiple instances of compatibility will be gone in a stroke. Ultimately, this means that we will be able to us the time and resources to develop bigger and better apps rahter than reworking and remodelling the same things over and over again, and all systems can be optimised to take maximum advantage of the capabilities of whichever system is chosen. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Oct 14, 2013 - This question of if and when decisions will be made regarding operating systems has been on my mind for a while now. My impression so far is that a decision is still far beyond reach and certainly not in the interest of commerce. Looking back, it seemed to be so simple when it was only between VHS, Betamax and Video 2000...- helga helga Oct 20, 2013
  • Basically, every student carries a smart phone or some mobile device. Much of our content may need to be in the form of an App. - michael.lambert michael.lambert Oct 19, 2013
  • What is accessible via a smart phone is critical to the conversation of mobile devices. Devices can be used to interact, poll, respond to a query, and much, much more. - cchandler cchandler Oct 27, 2013cchandler

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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